by L.A. Ward

Buffy had wrapped her arms around herself and stared
into the night.  The graveyard was quiet as. . .well,
as quiet as a graveyard if the graveyard was anywhere
but Sunnydale.  Spike must have been doing a good job
of slaying in her absence.

Great, another thing to prove she wasn't really needed.
They now had Spike the *Vampire* Slayer.

"Buffy," Spike had said quietly into the dark. "I think
there's something you need to see."

She had shivered. "Oh no. The last time I heard that..."
Spike had what? Pulled her head out of the sand?  Shown
her what Riley had been doing behind her back? Lead her
to a truth she had ignored but needed to see?

Gathering her courage Buffy had asked, "So where are we

"First off, to my crypt.  Need a change of clothes.
This blue goo is rank."

Buffy had smiled.  "I noticed."

"Don't grin, Blondie, you're covered in the stuff
as well."

After arriving at Spike's crypt Buffy had drawled,  "So
one of the great mysteries of Sunnydale is about to be

Spike had rummaged through a wooden chest behind the
sarcophagus but had paused long enough to shoot her a
questioning glance. "And what would that be, pet?"

"Whether you actually own more than one set of clothes.
What's the truth?  Is there a stack of black t-shirts
and jeans in that trunk?"

He had pulled off his shirt and tossed it to the
side. "What do you think?"

Buffy had thought for a lean guy, Spike was amazingly
well sculpted.  Really...amazing.

Oh!  She had *so* not meant to notice that. She should
have been struck blind for noticing that. . .even if it
*was* hard to miss.

"You should see him naked."

God, Buffy had the suspicion the Buffybot had been right. 
She bet Spike looked good naked, but seeing him naked?
No. Never. That would be *wrong.*

Buffy had quickly turned around and stared at the candles. 
Lots and lots of candles. Spike had dozens of them. It was
a fire hazard...and kind of atmospheric. Out of the corner
of her eye she had seen him walk across the room and push
back the cover to--

Buffy had squeezed her eyes shut. Oh no, not there. Not
down there.  She had opened one eye and seen Spike
disappear into the tunnel and all the reasons she
should *not* have gone to his crypt had tumbled through
her mind. 

"Spike, what in the hell are you doing?" she had

He had answered but Buffy had been unable to make
out the words. . .and was that *water* she heard?!

She had stepped cautiously toward the opening to the
tunnel.  "Spike," she had said warningly.  "I am never,
let me repeat *never,* going to go down there so what
are you doing?"

"I *said* I was taking a shower. Are you deaf?"

A shower.  Well that made sense. Wait.  No.  She poked
her head through the hole to the tunnel.  "Did you
just say *shower*?"

"Uh, yeah, that would be the word. You recognize it?"

Buffy had glanced around. The tunnel had looked much the
same as before--sans Buffy shrine and, yes, she had
thanked God for that--but Buffy hadn't seen a sign of Spike
or a shower. . .another thing for which she should have
given thanks.  Buffy hadn't wanted to see a naked Spike;
and, yes, she had been aware of the double entendre; and,
no, she hadn't been lying to herself despite what the
little voice in the back of her head had said.  She had
only wished that voice would stop reminding her of how
nicely sculpted his chest had been...and his back...

"Spike, how can you have a shower down there?"

"How can you have a shower in your house?  Tap a water
main, find a hot water heater, visit Home Depot for the

"And terrorize a plumber into installing it for you,"
Buffy had quipped as she sat back on her heels at the
edge of the opening to the tunnel. "'Cause most crypts
don't come equipped with hot and cold running water." 
Or electricity and television sets for that matter,
Buffy had privately thought.

"Didn't need a plumber.  Did it myself." Spike had
emerged from the tunnel dressed in black t-shirt and
jeans. Must have been a short shower with no time spared
for a hair dryer afterwards.  His scruffy platinum blonde
head was soaking wet.  At her incredulous look Spike had
shrugged. "What can I say, I'm a handy guy to have around."

Yeah, real handy.  "So you can give the glorified
brick layer a run for his money?"

Spike looked at her blankly. "Why would I want to do
that?  Not my style."

Not his style. Right. . . but he had still installed a bathroom
in the tunnel.  Could things get any stranger?

As she and Spike had exited his crypt, Spike had chuckled. 
"In this our magic world filled with beasties, baddies, and
resurrection spells it's my having a shower that confuses

"Not confused, exactly."

"Demon," Spike had warned just as the last remaining
Lazuli chose to make a sneak attack. 

Pivoting swiftly, Buffy had landed a roundhouse kick
squarely in the demon's solar plexus just as Spike hopped
to take a seat on a gravestone off to the side.

Buffy had glared at the vamp. "Aren't you going to
help?" The Lazuli had regained his footing and was
charging toward her.

"What? And get blue stuff all over my nice clean togs?
I just took a shower, y'know."

Buffy had punched the Lazuli in the nose and kneed him
in the groin but had kept her attention focused on
Spike. "So what happened to 'handy guy?'"

"I'm still handy."  Opening his jacket Spike had removed
a gleaming machete and tossed it to her. 

Buffy had caught it by the handle and with an effortless
turn decapitated the demon with one stroke. She looked
down at herself.  "More blue glue.  This outfit is a
total loss."

Spike rose from his seat.  "I always thought so.  All
bulky and not figure flattering. Really, Summers, what's
become of your sartorial style?"

"Remind me why I keep you around."

"I'm handy, remember?"  He had approached her, an elegantly
graceful predator of the night, but his smile hadn't been
predatory. It had been smug and somewhat pleased.  "Now
admit it. You enjoyed the fight. Made you feel alive."


"So enjoy it--being alive, living. The alternative, while
peaceful, doesn't offer many opportunities to get your
juices flowin' or make you feel all tingly. It's not
very challenging and doesn't make your senses buzz."

And Buffy had admitted to herself that Spike had a
point.  It hadn't been about the fight or the violence.
It had been about the heady pleasure of existence and
its physicality. It just *felt* good. 

As Spike had led the way out of the graveyard Buffy had
watched him more closely than usual. Had Spike given her
a glimpse into why he did so many of the things he did?
Was that why he embraced action and battle in addition
to things like hot chocolate, spicy chicken wings and
sex? Did those things make him feel alive? No wonder
he was such a hedonist.
"So what's next?" she had asked.

"Next, Revello Drive and a shower for the Slayer."

"And then?"

And then had come the long, dark drive to L.A.--not
that Buffy had known L.A. had been their destination. 

They had fought over the CD player.  Spike had wanted
the Sex Pistols. Buffy had told him that listening to
that screeching only gave her a headache.  Spike, of
course, had been outraged that she had called it
'screeching.' He had then whined about her most probably
wanting to listen to those wankers N'Sync.  Didn't she
recognize third rate, pre-packaged pop when she heard
it?  Spike had then spent ten minutes complaining
about their latest CD until Buffy had pointed out he
knew *way* too much about N'Sync.

Spike had muttered something about hanging around
Niblet too much. It had actually been a comfort, though
shockingly not a surprise, to know Spike had kept his
promise to watch over her sister.

When Spike had parked his car in front of the Hyperion,
Buffy had been clueless about where they were and
why.  She had looked at the mostly dark building then
widened her eyes and theatrically gasped.  "It's a
building!  We don't have buildings in Sunnydale!"

He rolled his eyes.  "Could live without the sarcasm,

"I always thought sarcasm was one of my better qualities." 
Then she had noticed that something Spike's shadowed gaze
meant that he was being serious. "Where are we and why?"
she had asked gravely. For once her voice had been
completely devoid of suspicion. Somehow she just knew
he was doing this for her...whatever 'this' was.

"This--" Spike had gestured toward the hotel. "--is
Angel's new digs."

Buffy's head had snapped around.  "But I thought..."
She frowned. "Didn't he live somewhere else?"

Spike shrugged. "After the thing with the hellbitch
Red came to tell the poof..."  Spike paused and fiddled
with the CD player, turning the sound way down. "Anyway,
turns out magnificent poof moved some time last year."

Buffy had studied the unfamiliar building. "I don't
understand.  Why did you bring me here? I mean *you*...
You hate Angel."

"Yeah. But I don't hate you."  God, when had Spike ever
been capable of looking so solemn?  "You need this,"
he had told her in his soft, rich voice.

Buffy had searched Spike's face trying to figure how a
supposedly soulless creature was capable of some of
the acts of generosity she had seen in Spike.  There
were humans who couldn't make the kinds of selfless
gestures that Spike sometimes performed with astounding

His features, so sharply chiseled, so startlingly handsome,
had remained gentle.  "You said that the Scoobs had gone
on without you.  They had changed.  That's only to be
expected in the young."  Spike had looked at the building
while Buffy studied his profile. "Four months feels like a
lifetime to the young. But to a vampire, it's a heartbeat." 
The deep timbre of his voice seemed to fill the confines of
the car and envelope her with a curious warmth.  "A single
heartbeat."  Spike had tilted his head slightly. "Go on, love."

"Aren't you coming?"

"Phaw! You're kiddin' right?" Spike had shaken his head.
"Nah, I think we'll save the fang gang reunion for another
night. This is for you."

He had reached across her, and unlike the last February
when she had jumped and pulled away, Buffy had remained
still and all too aware of the scent of soap and old
leather.  If Spike had been human she would have felt
his body heat as he had opened the passenger door.

When he had pulled away Buffy had stepped out of the car.
"Wait!" she had said before he moved to close it behind
her. "Where are you going?"

"You don't need me here."

"Yeah, but..."  Buffy had glanced back at the unfamiliar
building.  "What if Angel's out fighting evil and helping
the helpless or something?  What if no one is home? I
wouldn't want to be stranded alone here."

"There's a light inside and I've seen shadows moving

"Yeah but..."  Buffy had shifted uncomfortably on her
feet.  Honestly, had she actually tried to talk Spike
out of leaving?  "What if I need a ride home or something?
Dawn is supposed to be back first thing in the morning
and taking a bus is--ew."  Not that the DeSoto hadn't
been. Buffy didn't want to contemplate what half the
stains were on the seats.  Okay, that was a lie.  Buffy
didn't want to contemplate what *any* of the stains
were on the seats.

Spike had grasped her hand, his fingers pleasantly cool
against her skin.  Out of his pocket he had produced
a felt tip pen and, turning her hand over, he had written
an address on her palm.  "I'll be there if you need me."

They had remained transfixed in the moonlight for
several moments. A lot of improbable and generally
assumed impossible things had happened to two of them
over their lifetimes.  Spike had been turned into a
vampire.  Buffy had become a Slayer. They had both
died in some form or another and been brought to fight
another day.  Yet the most astounding thing to Buffy
was that  after everything that had happened they had
stared  silently at one another in the moonlight. She and
Spike had once been mortal enemies and now. . .
they weren't.

Buffy couldn't name what it was between them. She
knew Spike loved her, but his love didn't a relationship
make.  There was no title or definition for what
ran between them and held them together, it simply

One thing Buffy had admitted to herself when Spike had
finally shut the door, was the simple fact she didn't
want to see Spike go. Spike was the one who didn't
leave, who *never* left. As hard as she sometimes
pushed, he refused to go. It didn't seem to matter
what she did or didn't do, Spike stayed. It was 
comforting in a frustrating kind of way, and it felt...right.

As Spike had driven away Buffy had known he wasn't
really going.  He would be in Sunnydale tomorrow. He
would annoy her at The Bronze tomorrow night.  The
scary thing as the antique car turned the corner, was
Buffy's realization that at some point she had come
to depend on Spike's always being there, on his being a
constant in her life.  She also had come to realize
it would hurt to ever see him go.

Now when in the hell had *that* happened?

"Not the most talkative couple I've ever seen," Gunn
muttered dragging Buffy back to the present.  She
looked up at Angel--*way* up at Angel. She had always
felt so damn small around him.  Angel could hold out his
arm and she could walk under it just like she had done
with her father when she was ten.

Angel seemed so broad and physically imposing.  It
wasn't a strength thing. Buffy knew she could throw
him across the room--not that she would.  It was just
he was so tall that she never felt she could look him
straight in the eye, not like. . .

Buffy pulled away from the thought but even as she did
the question which had haunted her all night rose again
in her mind.  Why was she here?  Was she here because
she had needed to see Angel? Because she had needed to
tell Angel she wasn't dead?  She was tempted to say it
was to lessen Angel's grief and guilt, and maybe she
had done that.  But Buffy had to admit that his friend Gunn
had done a better job of dragging Angel out of guilt mode
than she had.  

Was she only here because Spike had brought her here
and left her at the door?  Uh-uh.  No way.  She would have
had to have faced Angel.  She had wanted to see him and
would have. . .if not tonight then soon.   Then it struck
Buffy that it was less of a mystery why she was here than
why Spike--Spike of all creatures--had brought her here.

Buffy knew she could be oblivious to others' feelings,
but when a guy was willing to be tortured to death because
of his feelings for her, even Buffy tended to notice. 
Spike could not have  *wanted* to bring her to Angel's door
so why had he?

"Three months feels like a lifetime to the young, but
to a vampire it's a heartbeat, a single heartbeat."

Buffy had complained to Spike about how the others had
gone on with their lives without her.  It was selfish
she knew, but it was honest, visceral, and real.
Anya and Xander planned a wedding.  Willow and Tara
attended school. Dawn had begun piecing together a life
as a real, live girl.  They had grown, changed, and
moved a few more steps toward their future. It wasn't
their fault that Buffy felt as though she was out of
sync and out of place.  The world had revolved without
her and now she was no longer sure where she fit, where
she belonged.

"To a vampire it's a heartbeat, a single heartbeat."

Buffy looked at Angel. Was that what Spike had brought
her here to see? That Angel hadn't changed?

Her gaze fell to Fred and Gunn. If that had been the
point Spike had been trying to make he had failed.  Angel
*had* changed. Oh, it had taken far longer than three
months.  It had taken years, but Angel had changed. He
had friends she didn't know.  He lived in a place she
had never seen.  He had *smiled* and the smile had
reached all the way to his eyes.  Buffy couldn't
remember ever having seen that before.

Angel had changed, and it was a good change, a healthy
change, a change she had no right to resent. But it
separated them in a way the curse never had.

Angel had a life in L.A. He had friends here.  Friends
who did him a world of good.  Friends he depended on for
perspective while those same friends looked to Angel for
help. This was Angel's life. His. And it was going
somewhere.  It was leading him to happiness--a non-evil
Angelus happiness. Buffy wasn't sure how, but it was
written all over him as he listened to something Fred
was saying to him. 

Suddenly Buffy knew.  She just knew. Angel had a future,
and it was here and wasn't her.

God, why *was* she here again?

"To a vampire it's a heartbeat, a single heartbeat."

Damnit, Spike, you were wrong!  I know you haven't seen
Angel in years so you couldn't know, but you were wrong,
Buffy silently raged.  Angel has grown. He's changed,
and he's done those things without me.

She glanced at the address written in her palm.

You know, Spike, I hope you're sitting there waiting for
me to show up because I'm going to. I'm going to tell you
just how wrong you were.

And then that little evil voice, the one that told Buffy
things she didn't want to hear, just *had* to speak up
one more time.  It just *had* to ask, "Was he *really*
wrong or did it depend on his point of view?"

Buffy closed her eyes.  Okay, it didn't take a genius
to figure this thing out.  Buffy may not have finished
her Psychology 101 class without her professor going
psycho and creating a Frankenstein monster who had wanted
to kill her, but Buffy had stuck with the class long enough
to know about transference.

Spike probably had believed that Angel's world had stopped
when Buffy had died. Spike believed that for a vamp like
himself four months was nothing more than a heartbeat.
It was just the vampire Spike had been speaking of
hadn't been Angel.  It had been himself.  It had been
Spike's world that had stopped.

Buffy swallowed.  She had known that, right?  She had
known it from the moment she gazed into Spike's eyes
when she had found him in the cemetery.  She had known
it when he had given her that sad smile in the moonlight
before sending her inside to see Angel. 

Buffy read the address written in her palm and knew
that Spike was waiting for her, not because he expected
her to show up but because that's what he did. He watched
for the moments when he might be needed and he was there.
He waited.

Buffy blinked and her chaotic emotions seemed to settle
into some sort of order. Looks like she wasn't out of step
with *everyone.*  As she stood on tiptoe to kiss Angel lightly
on the lips, Buffy discovered that she had many of the
answers she had so desperately needed to find.  Angel
hadn't given her those answers. Spike had provided many
of them, but it had taken seeing Angel for her to realize it.

"I'm happy you're back," Angel told her, and Buffy could
see the truth of it in his sherry brown eyes.

She remembered Spike reassuring her, "They missed you,
Buffy.  You weren't forgotten."

No, Buffy hadn't been forgotten and, yes, she had been
missed.  But life went on.  Angel's, Willow's, Xander's,
and Dawn's lives had gone on, and Buffy didn't resent
it any longer.  Envied it a little, but she didn't resent it.

Now it was time to get on with the living.  Time to
face new challenges and strike new paths.  She couldn't
spend forever holding onto the past, or just sitting
stagnant in the present because she was frightened that
the future would take her to a place she had once thought
she would never go. Preconceived ideas of where she
belonged fell away because life couldn't be planned in
exacting detail.  Life had to be lived, to be experienced,
to be enjoyed.

Buffy smiled at Angel, her fingers still touching the
silk of his shirt, her lips still feeling his kiss. It was a
sense memory, but that was all it was.  And that was
*not* a bad thing because with the acceptance of the
memory came the knowledge that her pain was no
longer there.

Before, when she had looked at Angel she had been
filled with hurt, hurt over what they couldn't have, for
all the things that could never work.  Now, Buffy could
look back and remember the good times they had shared. 
She remembered the bad times as well, but she also
remembered that the world hadn't ended.  She hadn't
been destroyed. Not even the bad memories packed the
punch they used to because they were only memories. 
Buffy wasn't in that place any more.  It wasn't her
life any more.  Her life was in the here and now and
somewhere in Sunnydale.

"I needed to see you," Buffy murmured as she became
filled with self understanding.  "I needed to tell you
I was alive, that I'm okay now."  She knew her smile was
big and glowing smile and free of pain.  "And I need to
go back to Sunnydale." 

Buffy stepped back, Angel slipping out of her reach
but she was okay with that too.  "I'm glad things
are going so well for you here in L.A." she told him. 
"It's great to see. I'm glad you've found friends,
and some happiness and a purpose."

Angel looked perplexed but agreed with her assessment
of his life.  "I'm glad you're back."

Buffy laughed.  "So am I.  For the first time since
I've been back, I'm *glad* about it."  She rushed
forward and gave Angel a peck on the cheek.  "But
now I've really got to go.  Someone is waiting for

Buffy made it out the door, before she realized she
had to go  back. A few seconds later she peeked through
the Hyperion's door. "Could someone call me a cab?"