***Part Nine***

Buffy was lying on the couch at home bored out of her mind. Dawn and Xander had picked up pizza and some movies to watch for the night. Her sister and her friend were treating her as if she was going to break. Buffy just wanted to scream at them to treat her as they normally would.

"Great movie, huh, Buff?"

"Yeah, sure," Buffy said mindlessly. "Gotta love Tom Cruise. He's a hottie." It was what made Mission Impossible bearable.

"Yeah," Dawn agreed.

"Great. Remind me next time to get action flicks that star homely guys."

"Why bother?"

"What? I don't want you two girls drooling over a guy on the TV when you've got me right here."

Buffy laughed lightly but stopped when she noticed Dawn blush. Dawn had a crush on Xander when they first moved to Sunnydale and had it not been for Anya probably still would. Maybe she still did. Buffy really had not bothered to ask Dawn about Xander or much of anything since she'd come back. She had not bothered to ask anyone much about their lives at all. Had she really become that closed off and uncaring? She had thought Spike was the only one to suffer from hurtful Buffy, but apparently he was just the only one who she had physically lashed out at. She was reaching out to him in some demented way, but just had not known it until it was too late and he was gone.

A knock at the front door brought her from her thoughts. She did not like thinking about the way she had acted the past year and hoped she could make amends to everyone, including Spike. "I'll get it," she said, suspecting it was Spike. He would have gone to the hospital at sundown only to find she had been discharged.

"No, Buff, I'll get it," Xander said as he stood from his spot on the floor. "You stay put."

Dawn paused the movie and stood. "Do you want more popcorn, Buffy?"

"No, thanks. I'm good," she said, standing from the couch.

"What are you doing, Buffy," Dawn said.

"Spike, what in the hell are you doing here," Buffy heard Xander ask from the hallway.

"Trying to stop World War 3," Buffy murmured.

"You knew he was back," Dawn asked. Buffy heard her but was more interested in what Xander would say.

"I'm here to see the Slayer, whelp," he said tersely.

"Yeah, he was at the hospital last night when I came out of the coma."

"And you didn't tell me?"

"You're not welcome here, Spike. You've done more than enough damage. We've been just fine without you."

"Not now, Dawnie," Buffy said with a shake of her head.

"Ask the Slayer whether I'm welcome," he said. "I still am I see," he added and Buffy knew he had come inside. "Think she would have taken the time over the last few months to disinvite me if she shared your opinion, don't you, Harris?"

"Maybe she just forgot or hoped you'd gone and gotten yourself a suntan without any SPF 10,000."

"Real funny, mate," Spike said his eyes fell on Buffy when she walked to the doorway leading to the foyer. "Slayer," he said softly.

"I'm home."

"I gathered that when I went by the hospital and they said you had checked out." He held out the flowers he had been holding at his side. "These are for you. Figured no need to waste them you could use them here. Put them on your table or by your bed or whatever."

"I don't think you need to think about what's by her bed, Spike."

"Harris, get over it already."

"Buffy, are you going to let him just come here with flowers acting like he didn't try to rape you?"

"Xander," Buffy shouted and wished she could do something to ease the pain she saw in Spike's eyes and wipe the smug look off Xander's face. Xander looked away, Spike looked towards the stairs and then looked at his feet. "Come in, Spike," she said, taking the flowers and handing them to Xander. "Why don't you take these into the kitchen, find a vase for them and help Dawn with the popcorn."

"Buffy," Dawn said exasperated.

"Kitchen. Both of you. Now. Flowers. Vase. Popcorn. Drinks."

"I thought you didn't want popcorn," Dawn said.

"But you do, so go make it."

"I can't believe you want to be alone with him, Buffy."

"My choice, Xander, I made it. Deal with it. Now go, both of you." Buffy saw the look Xander gave her and emphasized her point by placing a hand on Spike's forearm. She felt him tense at the contact then relax when he realized she was not going to hurt him. "I'll be fine."

"I'll go, but I don't like it."

"You don't have to like it, you don't live here."

"I don't like it either, Buffy," Dawn said.

Buffy released Spike's arm and missed the contact almost immediately. She had forgotten what he felt like to touch. "Well, when you're older than me and the one paying the bills around here I'll start taking your opinions on my social life into consideration."

"Buffy, he tried to hurt you. I don't know why you're just welcoming him back. But then you did the same thing with Angel, so I don't know why I should be surprised," Dawn said flippantly.

"It's not up to you to wonder why. He never did anything to hurt you so just let me worry about it. If I say I trust him then I trust him. So please go to the kitchen."

Xander turned to leave and Dawn followed after a moment's pause. "You didn't need to get into it on my account, Slayer."

"I know. But I couldn't stand here and let them treat you that way."

"I deserve it and then some."

"No, Spike, you don't," she said softly.

"I just wanted to make sure you were really all right and they didn't kick you out due to lack of insurance or anything."

"I'm fine. Slayer healing goodness. Add onto that there was nothing wrong with me to begin with. No reason to keep Buffy any longer than necessary."

"Nothing wrong with you? Slayer, you were in a coma."

"I know. I don't want to talk about it now, okay? Not in front of Dawn and Xander."

"That bad, huh?"

"No badness, just weirdness. Slayer weirdness."

"Is there any other kind?"

She chuckled lightly. "I'm not sure anymore, it doesn't seem that way. I don't know that I can even remember what I considered weird before I was the Slayer."

"It hasn't been that long."

"Long enough. A lot has happened. Good and bad."

"I suppose so." He looked uncomfortable and Buffy felt for him. "I suppose I should go, let you get back to your videos and popcorn."

"You could stay," she said quickly. "Xander picked out the movies. So it's Mission Impossible, The Matrix and The Mummy."

"Sounds like he got stuck in the M section."

"I guess so. At least two of the movies have hot guys in them."

He scowled. "You think so?"

"Well, yeah. Tom Cruise and the bald guy who plays the mummy. And the Ninja guy was, too."

"Figures," he said with a wicked grin.


"The second one, he's sort of an undead big bad type of bloke. Though I kinda thought you liked your men with hair."

"Short, blonde, spiked and gelled you mean?"

"Well, yeah."

"Um, Spike, maybe I shouldn't point this out, but Angel, Scott, Riley and Parker. All dark hair."

"Yeah, well, they don't count. They're pansies and couldn't make you nearly as happy as you deserve to be."

"And you can?"

"I did my best," he trailed off, his gaze moving to the stairwell once again. "Well, up until then."

"Spike, listen, it's in the past. Months ago. So over and done."

"Not to me it isn't. I close my eyes and I see that look on your face, hear your words. I don't blame you for not loving me. I wouldn't love me either."

She closed the distance between them and kissed him lightly. He did not respond at first, in fact he stiffened much like he had done when she touched his arm a few minutes ago. She drew back, breaking the kiss and brought her hand to his face resting it against his cheek. "Over and done," she whispered, her eyes never leaving his.

She got so captivated in his eyes sometimes she wondered if he had thrall capabilities like Drusilla and Dracula had. If he did he did not seem to ever use the ability on her. They were so blue and so damned sexy he did not need thrall to ensnare someone.

"No, it's not that simple, Buffy. I hurt you. It's one thing to do unspeakable things to people at random, but not to someone I care for."

"And I hurt you. Do we really need to talk about this right now? Can't you just watch some movies with us? I'll make you some hot chocolate," she said pouting.

He smiled, the smile he could charm a basket of ornery snakes with. "Well, since you offered."

She smiled and offered him her hand. "I think we even have marshmallows somewhere, too." The scarred eyebrow arched upward at her offered hand. She held her breath afraid he would reject it, but after a moment's pause he took it.

"You sure you want them to see us like this?"

"I know we have to talk, but if nothing else you're my friend. That weird Slayer experience taught me that much. And I want them to treat you that way."

"I don't deserve it, Slayer."

"Well, see, that's the neat thing. I think you do and this is Buffy's house. So what Buffy says goes."

"Yeah, I've heard that tune sung before."

"Well, this is a different tune. This is Buffy's done being mopey."

"Oh really. And you decided this when?"

"Well," she said, almost ashamed to admit the truth. "It started after you left," she admitted. "But last night during my experience and seeing you were not just back but showed yourself to me."

"Was going to say, pet, I've had my eye on you for a month or so now and I haven't noticed any lack of moping."

"Well, if I was mopey girl, it was your fault. You were gone. I didn't know where to find you."

"Sounds like you might have been worried."

"I was," she admitted.

"Haven't you learned by now I can look after myself?"

"Well, sure, but I missed you."

He stepped toward her, the big bad predator like and on the prowl. And she was the prey. This was the Spike she knew and loved, confident, sure of himself, not letting something like the past stop him from pursuing what he wanted. Buffy's breath caught at the intensity she saw in his eyes and she saw a pained look on his face. Realizing he thought she was scared of him she relaxed.

"Say that again," he murmured, hovering over her.

"That I missed you?"

"Yeah, that," he said, sounding quite victorious and proud of himself. "Never thought I'd hear those words come from your mouth, Slayer. To what do I owe the honor?"

"Nothing, I just did. Ask Xander and Dawn, I've done nothing since you left. Well, there was the stuff with Warren, Jonathan and Andrew and Willow, but after that."

"I know. I've heard enough to know you've been reclusive."

"And you didn't think it might have something to do with you?"

"Well, I did, but bad things not good things. I heard what happened with Red," his voice caught slightly before he continued. "And you. I felt bad for that, that I wasn't here for you then, but I wouldn't have been of any use to you. Not the shape I was in."

"I know. I was mad, but not for that reason, just," she shrugged. "You left like everyone else. You left."

He inched closer to her, backing her into the wall with her palms flush against it. Buffy was not sure if he was going to lash out at her or kiss her. Both of his hands met with the wall on either side of her head and he pressed the length of his body against hers. "I'm not Angelus, I'm not Riley, I'm not your old man and I'm not your Watcher, Slayer. I left because I did not want to hurt you, I left because I love you, I left to try and become the man you deserve."

Briefly she was aware of Xander and Dawn still in the kitchen. They would probably begin to wonder what was taking so long, but she did not really care just then. "What makes you think I deserve you," she asked softly.


"I know you heard me, vampire hearing and all."

"I heard you, but don't know what you're implying. How could you not deserve me? You're too good for me if anything."

"A good person would have saved you when she could have."

"Saved me?"

"Yeah, saved you. I had a chance to save you, Spike, to stop Drusilla from turning you."

"I think we should ask the doctor if you have a head injury, Slayer."

"Do you care if we don't watch movies?"

"No, not really. Not really looking forward to Xander and the li'l bit scowling at me all night."

"Okay, then let's go talk," she said, pushing him off of her but taking his hand in hers. She led him to the stairs until he stopped following her. "What," she asked, turning to look at him.

"I can't go up there, Buffy. I can't. Not yet."

"Spike, I've had to look at it every day for months, you're here, we're talking, you can't avoid it forever."

"Where are you going," Xander said from the living room.

"We're going to talk."

"Upstairs? Are you crazy, Buffy?"

"Yes, I'm crazy, I want to talk to Spike alone about things."

"Then go outside and talk to him."

Buffy glared at him. "Hello? Just got home from the hospital."

"Oh, right. The kitchen?"

"So you and Dawn can hear everything we say? I don't think so."

"This would be a bad thing, us being around when he's here because?"

"Because he's not going to hurt me, Xander. I know you don't understand, but please get over it, okay."

"No, I'm not going to get over his trying to rape you and for taking advantage of my fiancée."

"She was your ex, Xander. I don't think any advantage taking was involved. I had told Spike no more, so he was my ex too. No blaming. It's not like they're still having sex." She gave Spike a questioning glance. She had tried not to think of seeing the two of them at the Magic Box. Had he come back and gone to Anya? She had not really thought of him doing that until now. That was just, ew, no, he wouldn't do that. Would he?

"No pet," he said softly as if reading her mind. Her eyes widened in surprise. "Not that hard to read your thoughts on that one. Didn't work anyway. Obviously," he said dryly, glancing at his feet.

"You guys watch the movies. I'll be fine. It's up to me who I invite into my room."

Buffy did not miss the grin Spike directed at Xander. "Come on before you have him attacking you."

"I suppose now is not the time to tell you that I always wondered what it would take to get you to invite me to your room."

"Probably not."

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