Disclaimer: Not a blessed thing in the Buffyverse belongs to me. It's all the property of Joss and Mutant Enemy.

Author's Note: Thank you so much for all the amazing responses so far! A special thanks to all of those who have read and reviewed! I really enjoy hearing your opinions and comments. Thanks as well to anyone who followed or made a favorite of this story.

Note, this chapter contains brief language, but it should still be fine for a T rating. It also contains dialogue from the episode Chosen, written by Joss Whedon. Here's chapter 5.

Spike knocked back another shot as he contemplated what Angel had instructed them to do. Well if it really was the last day of his unlife, he might as well get drunk. There was one thing he knew he had to do today, if it really was his last chance, his last day alive. But even old Jack wasn't doing much to calm his nerves as Spike stared at the phone before him.

What had he done on his last day before the most recently averted apocalypse? He'd been filled in on the plan for the calling of the new slayers, and heard Buffy give an inspirational speech or two. All of those details, except the joy of his morning waking up wrapped around Buffy and the sound of her voice had become blurry with memory.

Before the soul, after the soul, Spike had never imagined that Buffy would allow him to touch her again. He didn't deserve to. Holding her in that abandoned house all night had been more than he'd ever imagined.

Then Angel had showed up and though Spike swore he would never lay any claim to her, it had cut him deeply to see them together. Spike remembered pummeling a drawing in the basement because hitting the real thing would have hurt her too much. Acting in possessiveness would have meant he still harbored the idea that she would love him someday. Truth be told, he had given up on the blissful fantasy long ago.

But then she had surprised him again.

"Faith still has my room," she said coyly, glancing up at him with hopeful eyes.

"Well you're not staying here. You can't buy me off with shiny beads and sweet talk. You've got Angel breath. I'm not gonna just let you whack me back and forth like a rubber ball. I've got my pride, you know," he responded.

"I understand," she said and turned to go.

He skirted around her, making her stop. "Clearly you don't, cause the whole 'having my pride' thing was just a smokescreen."

Buffy laughed in relief. "Oh thank God."

"I don't know what I would've done if you'd gone up those stairs," he said.

She lay her hand against his cheek.

"Let's not find out," she said, the hand on his face stroking softly. To his shock, she closed the gap between them, her lips meeting his.

He kissed her back, but only barely, only as long as she wanted. The minute she pulled away, he stopped, didn't touch her. He didn't ask for more.

Buffy frowned, searching his face, and almost pouting. God, he wanted her. Spike wasn't sure what to expect, but Buffy coming closer and winding her arms around his neck was not it. Slowly, he wrapped his arms around her waist, breathing in her scent, despite the lingering traces of Angel.

"You aren't mad then?" she asked, her voice muffled against his shoulder.

"About what?" he asked. He dared to kiss the top of her head.

"The Angel thing," she replied. "I wasn't—"

"Shh," he stopped her, touched that she cared enough to spare his feelings. "Don't have to explain anything."

"But I do—"

Spike shook his head. He pulled away slightly and stared at the dark circles under her eyes. "You look tired."

Buffy laughed and began shrugging her jacket off. "Try exhausted. They're going to have to invent new words for how tired I am."

She caught his hand in hers, winding her fingers around it.

"You want to go to sleep then?" he asked, his voice low.

Buffy nodded and stepped forward to give him a brief kiss that had him more confused than ever. "Yeah, just let me change."

She rummaged through a box and pulled out a pair of sleep pants. He turned away.

"You don't have to do that, you know," she said, finally dressed and moving to turn off the light.

Spike sighed and sat on the cot. "I know."

Buffy sat next to him and clasped her hands in her lap. "Why'd you go all shy guy on me then?"

Spike inhaled deeply. "You know why."

Buffy shook her head and reached up to gently caress his face. "Don't do that. Don't pull away from me."

He caught her hand and held it before lying down. Buffy curled up in front of him and squeezed his fingers gently.

"Buffy?" he asked. "What does this mean?"

"I don't know…" she mumbled, giving in to sleep. "Cookies…"

Spike rolled his eyes at her sleep talking and kissed her forehead. "You rest now, love."

Spike took another shot, lost in his memories. She had cared enough after Angel left to try to comfort him, to try to spare him the heartbreak of seeing them back together. At least, that was what he told himself. It was enough that she finally trusted him, trusted him enough to sleep wrapped up in his arms.

Spike stared at the amulet in his hands. He could feel the power emulating from it, a strange sort of pulse. With that came a small measure of dread. Yes it was very powerful. Volatile, Buffy had called it. He might very well die the next day and though there was a prickle of fear attached to being dust, with it came acceptance.

He stood when he heard her come in. It still amazed him that she wanted to be there. This could be her last night alive and she came to him. They stood at opposite ends of the basement. Buffy strode forward, faster and faster until she caught his face in her hands and kissed him. It was different than the way she had the night before. That had been soft and sweet and hesitant. This was urgent and pleading.

Spike broke away. "Buffy, you don't have to—"

She kissed him again, pushing him backwards until he stood with the cot at the backs of his knees. Buffy caught his hand and brought it to her waist. He pulled her closer instinctively.

"I know I don't," she whispered, closing her eyes to kiss him again. "I want to. I want this."

How could he say no?

The memory of making love to her on that small basement cot would never leave him, never fade. It had given closure to the violence of their past, he had found forgiveness.

It had been a pity fuck, Spike realized as Buffy lay sleeping, warm and curled against his side. The thought was heartbreaking, but it couldn't have been anything else. She had been worried for him, she knew the amulet was dangerous. Buffy had wanted him to have that closure in case he died. He had contented himself with the fact that she would never love him, care for him perhaps, care more deeply than he had ever dreamed she would, but never love. It was enough. That last night was enough. It was her way of forgiving him for the unspeakable thing he had done, and Spike vowed to never push her for more if they both survived. Spike knew that live or die their last kiss before leaving for the high school would be just that, the very last.

Then he had started to burn as the amulet worked its magic. She had said it, the three words he had been waiting to hear her say for years. The shock of it had been too much. He rebuffed her and told her to run. Only when he saw the hurt in her eyes and the pain of rejection, then her retreating back did he believe. It dawned on him, Buffy loved him. The best moment of his life. He had died laughing, and loved, and at peace.

Well that was all good and buggered now.

Ever since his time with Angel had planted the first seeds of doubt, Spike had wondered. Did he misinterpret her final words to him? Had it been as he originally feared? While he was burning he had been sure, so sure, but now...

It had been nothing more than giving him what he wanted to hear.

"Oh, bollocks," he whispered, his fingers dancing over the phone. Say she had meant it. That was then. She was with the Immortal now, he'd seen her dancing in that club, which was evidence enough that she'd moved on. Another thought struck. Would she ever forgive him for not telling her about his resurrection sooner?

This is your last chance, he told himself, you're gonna die tonight. This is it.

In an instant he was dialing. Each ring of the phone was a step closer to hanging up. This is Buffy, he reminded himself, It's Buffy.

Then her voice was in his ear. Spike's heart leapt to his throat and immediately crashed back down.

"Ciao, hi! You've reached Buffy and Dawn. We're not home right now, but leave us a message and we'll call you right back."


Spike took a breath. A needless, useless breath, but somehow it helped.

"Buffy," he said and cleared his throat. "I, ah...I don't really know how to explain this to you, I'm still not completely sure about what happened myself. It's me, Spike, back from the grave."

He paused. "If I'm still around tomorrow, I'm calling again, and I'll spell it all out, plain and simple. Trouble is, it's not likely that's gonna happen. I, um, well I wanted to hear your voice, hoped I'd talk to you a bit, but the message machine's enough," he paused and blurted out, "I'm probably going to die tonight, a real dusty ending this time. Won't be spit out by any amulet. Although, I guess you don't know anything about that... I just wanted to let you know that I'm sorry I didn't tell you before and that if I could change things I would do this different," he stopped for a moment, "and that I love you."

Spike sighed, unwilling to hang up just yet. "Bye then, love."

The phone met the receiver. It was done.

"That felt a bit poetic," he mused, knocking back another shot. With that, he headed out to find the nearest bar.

Buffy stood in a gate of Long Beach Airport, Dawn at her side, watching as passengers flying in from Mexico City filtered off the plane. They had arrived there that morning after a quick phone call to Giles, another to Willow in Mexico, and a third to Xander in Africa. Now it was late, the sun had already set, as they waited for Willow's plane to arrive.

"I hope she's not mad about the huge change of plans," Dawn said.

"Well, you did call her in the middle of the night to tell her I was in unspeakable danger," Buffy said, "only to have me tell her about all of this an hour later while she was packing. I'm sure it was no biggie. Possibly completely stress free."

"Good thing she needed to pack," Dawn commented, ignoring Buffy's grin and craning her neck to see over the flood of people. "We need her for this one."

"You're not wrong there," Buffy said, standing on tiptoe with Dawn, eyes searching.

Red hair stood out from the crowd.

"Willow!" Buffy yelled, running forward to catch her up in a tight hug. Willow dropped her luggage and hugged back. "How was Mexico?"

"Extremely fun and very sunny," Willow said with an extra tight squeeze. "I met up with this amazing coven in Mexico City. They were unbelievable. Those sisters really knew their stuff."

"You didn't drink the water, did you? Because I've heard some pretty scary stories," Buffy said, pulling back to look her over.

"No, no I bought bottled like a good girl," Willow affirmed. "Cross my heart."

"Good, because I need non-germy Willow with me on this one," Buffy said.

"I can't believe it, The Apocalypse, and in L.A. of all places," Willow mused, retrieving her fallen suitcase. "I always thought that Sunnydale would be the place for the Big One when it went down."

"I know, I can't believe it either," Buffy said.

"So what do you think will happen?" Dawn piped up, falling into step with Buffy as they walked to the next gate.

"I don't know," Buffy said. "But whatever it is, we'll be prepared."

They stopped outside of the next gate and waited. Almost all the people were off the plane, wearing bright shirts that screamed tourist, and mulling around the airport.

"Where's—Xander!" Buffy saw him first. She ran over, Willow and Dawn close behind.

"Good to see you, Buff," Xander said, squeezing her tight. "Watch the eye patch."

"I call next hug!" Dawn said, throwing her arms around his neck.

"Hey, you're all tan," Buffy observed.

"Yep," Xander said a bit breathlessly as Dawn squeezed tight. "The sun over there will do that to you."

"And ooh, look," Willow moved in to hug next and patted his arm. "You're more muscley."

"Gee, ladies, you're making me blush," he said.

"So fill me in, you never did," Buffy began, taking one of Xanders suitcases and began walking. "What were you doing in Africa?"

"A little of this, a little of that," Xander said nonchalantly. "Thought it was about time I had my own adventure."

"Adventurous details please," Willow said.

Xander thought for a moment and snapped his fingers. "Oh, I met this shaman who could only use demonic energy to heal foot scabs that had started to ooze."

"Yuck," Buffy said, "To the energy and the…foot thingies."

"Hey, don't knock it until you've been walking through the desert in highly uncomfortable shoes for two days," Xander said.

"Did you bring presents?" Dawn asked hopefully.

"All in good time," Xander replied, but patted his carry on bag knowingly.

As Dawn pestered Xander for a souvenir, Buffy fell into step with Willow and turned to head to the terminal where the slayers waited.

"He seems better, don't you think?" Willow asked in a hushed voice. "I mean, on a scale of how he was before to now, I'd say, better."

Buffy frowned as Xander allowed Dawn to hop on his back and ran her through the crowd. His smile was just a bit too bright. He was trying so hard for them.

"Give him time," Buffy said softly. She picked up the luggage Xander dropped when he started running. "How have you been Will?"

"Oh, a little broken hearted, but no worse for wear," she replied with a nervous giggle.

"Do you need to talk about it? You totally have my permission to cry," Buffy said. "I mean it, ice cream, sappy movies. The whole girly heartbreak package."

"Nah," Willow said. "I'm mostly over it. I never really thought that it would last too long. Kennedy was my…"

"Rebound girl?" Buffy prompted.

"Yeah," Willow confirmed. A goofy smile bloomed on her face. "But it was pretty great while it lasted."

Buffy caught the glint in her eye. "Dirty details later, lover girl, right now, I've got some speechmaking to do."

"So we're really going in?" Willow asked as they entered the terminal. "Fighting in the Big One?"

"Well, they need us in L.A.," Buffy said briskly.

"But they don't know we're coming?" Willow asked.

"No, not exactly…"

Willow cleared her throat. "Buffy, I heard…about Spike."

Buffy froze.

"Dawn told me this morning," Willow explained.

"Does Xander know?" Buffy asked quietly.

"No, I didn't tell him…I thought you might want to," Willow said. "I'm not sure how he'll take it."

"I know he didn't like him. Like at all—"

Willow shook her head. "It's not that. It's the," she lowered her voice, "the Anya thing."

Buffy didn't know what to say. "Oh."

"Yeah," Willow said. For a moment they were silent. "How do you feel about it? Seeing him again? I, uh, I know how you felt about him."

"Honestly, Will? I'm just hoping he isn't dust before I do."

"Let's go make sure that doesn't happen," Willow said with a smile.

Buffy was shaking. She couldn't help it. Standing in the middle of a crowded terminal, laying out a plan for the Baby Slayers, and earning weird looks from travelers heaving heavy luggage was a surreal experience. Even more surreal was what she was proposing.

"They need our help in L.A.," Buffy continued on. I'm getting rusty at this speech thing, she thought. "Angel may think he can handle this on his own, fight this unspeakable evil. But he can't. He needs slayers. He needs us. That's why we're going to help."

The slayers murmured in agreement.

Maybe not so rusty.

"So, let's get out there. Beat down this Dog, Cat, and Bunny, or whatever," one of the slayers, Veronica, said.

"That's the plan, but first, ground rules," Buffy began. "From what I know, Angel's team has certain people not of the human persuasion that you cannot attack under any circumstances. First, Angel, yes, he's a vampire but—"

"He has a soul," Dawn finished, rolling her eyes. "Well if you've heard it once you've heard it a thousand times," she mumbled, a sort of apology, in response to Buffy's less than happy expression.

"Yes, thank you, Dawn," Buffy continued, fully in speech-mode. "He also has some demon friends, I think. In the thick of the fight, if they're fighting your enemy, they're your friend in this one."

"What if they attack us?" another slayer asked. "Are we just supposed to sit there and take it?"

"Well, make sure they know you're on their side. If they keep going, defend yourself," Buffy said and paused. She glanced down at her hands, unsure of how to continue. "There's another vampire. Bleached hair, this tall. He's also soul-having. Don't touch that one."

She met Xander's shocked eyes. Could she have more terrible timing? Did it make her a coward? Buffy pushed those thoughts aside and continued, but not before shooting him an apologetic glance.

"Any one of you lays a finger on him, tries to hurt him in any way, and I'm the one you'll be dealing with. The wrath of Angel will be the least of your problems," Buffy said. She saw the slayers shift and mutter, but make no comment.

"Everyone understand the plan?" Buffy asked, hands on her hips. A couple of girls before her squirmed, as if contemplating whether it would be wise to ask questions when Head Slayer got that glint in her eye. "Yes? Good. We leave in twenty"

The girls mulled around, gathering their bags and carry-ons up from where they sat. A few passengers eyed them boldly, clearly confused by the crowd of teenage girls sitting cross-legged in the terminal.

"I remember the blond vamp," Buffy heard as she passed one of Sunnydale's original potentials. Most of these girls hadn't been there. They didn't fight in Sunnydale's last apocalypse.

Buffy tried to ignore the babble of whispers that broke out at the slayer's comment and made her way through the crowd to Xander. His back was to her, he just stared out the large airport window at the early evening sky. Buffy came closer and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Xander, I wanted to tell you before, but there was no time," Buffy said softly. "I didn't mean to shock you, I just—I didn't know what to say."

"Oh, no worries, Buff," his voice was too cheerful. He turned to face her. "I'm happy for you, really."

"Xander, you're crying," Buffy said, sick with herself.

Xander laughed, a maniacal giggle. "Am I? Really?"

Buffy wrapped him in a tight hug.

"So what does this mean?" Xander asked, pulling away. "The guy you loved, back from the dead? How long do you think it will take before you two to start with the major pain again? Before everything falls apart?"

"Xander…" Buffy said, hurt by his angry tone.

"I mean it, Buff," he continued, raking a hand through his hair. "You know, you care about someone and all you do is hurt them. Isn't that what Spike did to you?"

"Xander," Buffy said again, this time catching his hand in hers. Her voice lowered. "Please, I need you to help me. I need you to be with me on this one."

"Buffy, I don't know. This changes things," Xander said. "It's not like you really need me here."

"I do need you. I need all the help I can get," Buffy explained, voice rising. "The world is coming to an end, Xander. I'm going to go down fighting for something."


"But before that happens I'm going to find Spike," Buffy said firmly. "I got a second chance at this and I'm taking it, with or without you."

Xander sucked in a deep breath. "A second chance," he paused and shuddered, wiping at his eyes again. "All right. I'm in."

"That's what I want to hear," Buffy said, slinging an arm around him for another squeeze and steering him back to the girls.

"Although part of it is only because I just spent a few grand on air fare. Flying in from Africa on five minutes' notice ain't cheap, Buffy. Remember that next time there's an apocalypse," Xander said with a genuine smile.

"Ah, of course," Buffy said and grinned. She had missed his jokes.

"Everything good?" Willow asked tentatively when they rejoined the group.

"Stellar," Buffy replied. A shiver of anticipation ran up her spine. They were really doing this, rushing straight into the actual Apocalypse with a militia of slayers to beat back the armies of hell.

"Oh my God," a slayer said.

Buffy turned quickly to see what they were all staring at.

"Breaking news from Los Angeles," the CNN anchor said. "There have been reports of intense earthquake like tremors from the downtown area. Los Angeles is experiencing strange weather phenomenon as well. Reports of extreme thunder and lightning have rocked L.A. There have already been some evacuations in the wake of the earth quakes—"

"No," Buffy said. "It was supposed to be a day or two away…it's too soon."

The slayers all looked to her.

"What do we do?" one asked.

"Buffy?" Willow piped up.

"It started," Buffy said, slightly dazed.

"Buffy, what do we do now?" Willow asked from behind her.

Buffy turned to face them and said simply, "We fight."