***Part Eleven***

Buffy was downstairs waiting for Spike to come down. She did not want to think about what he might be doing in her room to rectify his predicament. She felt the heat of a blush on her face again even worse than in her room when Spike had told her why he would be a few minutes behind her.

"Guys," Buffy said softly. Neither Xander nor Dawn heard her apparently. "Guys," she said again louder.

"Yeah, Buff," Xander said. "Where's Spike? Did you dust him," he asked. Buffy laughed lightly at the hopeful tone in his voice.

"No, no Spike staking tonight. Listen, I need to tell you guys something and I need you to listen. Just listen, okay? Can you do that?"

"Sure okay," Dawn said, reaching for the remote control to turn off The Mummy.

Buffy glanced back at the stairs not sure if she wanted Spike to hear this or not. She took a deep breath and then figured she had to start somewhere.

"I know you're both mad at Spike, think that he hurt me and that he's an evil bad man because of it."

"Well, yeah, Buff, he tried to," Xander said, but Buffy cut him off by holding up her hand.

"Just listen, remember?"

"Sorry," he mumbled.

"But there's more to it than that. More to what happened between us. Before that night, leading up to that night. I was sadly kind of hoping Spike would never come back so that I would not have to admit them. Think about them anymore. Buffy was abuse girl after Sweet left, and Spike was on the receiving end of Slayer abuse again and again."

"Buffy," Dawn said, but was silenced by the look Buffy gave her.

"This is hard enough for me to say. So please just let me say it and be done. I'm not going to talk about it again. I'm not going to answer your questions, because what happened, what happens, between Spike and me is between us and it's none of your concern."

She traced a pattern on the knee of her sweatpants and sighed. "I'm not saying Spike was justified in doing what he did here in the bathroom. No one has the right to rape anyone. But our relationship was based on violence. It always has been. We fight and we get turned on by it. I don't get turned on fighting any other vamps. Only Spike. Well and Angel, but not anymore."

"Buffy," Xander exclaimed.

"Sorry. Too much information. Anyway. That's what we'd do. The chip stopped working after I came back. He could hurt me. So we'd patrol together, we'd fight and then we'd end up having sex. I kept telling him no, kept telling him each time was the last time. I knew he loved me and I used that to gain power. I had power over him and I loved it. And I used it."

"The day Riley came back I went to him. I needed to hear that he loved me, wanted me. I was hurt that Riley had gone off and found someone else so soon. Yet I was stuck here, stagnant. The only time I felt alive, felt complete was with Spike."

"I'm not going to go into details because it's not important really. But I discovered that I love Spike, that I was using his being a vampire against him. Was using it as a way to shield myself from admitting my feelings for him. Vampires can't feel, can't love, can't be kind creatures. He has no soul so he can't possibly amount to anything but being the blood sucking fiend that he is who would go back to being the scourge of Europe if he lost his chip."

She shrugged again and looked away from them. "But I'm through denying it. I understand if you can't like him, I even understand if you can't forgive him like I can for what he did. But if you can't forgive him then you can't forgive me either. I led up to that night. My actions led to that. Led to him believing he could convince me that I loved him by doing what he always did, give me good sex."

She met Dawn's eyes, saw the pain and confusion there. "I'm sorry, Dawn. So sorry. You loved him until Xander told you, so nothing's changed. He's still the same Spike. And he's going to live here with us until we can find him a place to stay."

"He what," Xander said standing, a fist clenched. "He's just using you. He's using thrall or something to get you to do this stuff for him, say this stuff."

"No, Xander. He's not. It was my idea. It's time for Buffy to face up to things. To face up to what I was doing last year. You know I realized before Spike came here tonight that I don't even know anything about you two anymore. I have no idea what you do with your lives. Xander, I don't know if you and Anya are together or not. Dawn, I have no idea if you have friends or what you did with your summer."

"That's just because you were sulking."

"I was sulking because Spike was gone. A part of me was gone," she admitted. "Don't you see? He did the one thing I expected he would do. He left just like Dad, Angel, Riley and Giles. But he came back. He's here. I can't let him go again. I'm so tired of being alone. Of being scared. Of not giving into my heart. I want to do that again."

"But can't you pick someone normal? I liked Riley."

"I liked Riley, too, Xander. But that was the problem. I liked him. I never loved him. I don't think if I truly loved him Dracula could have had the power over me he had. If I was truly happy, I wouldn't have been as susceptible. Dracula knew, Spike knows, I need that darkness. It's in me. I'm the Slayer, there's no doubt about that. But I need their darkness. They balance me somehow."

"There's nothing evil about you, Buffy."

Buffy smiled at Xander and bowed her head slightly. "I didn't say evil. I said dark, there's a difference. I'm a huntress, Xander. I hunt demons and vampires, that's what I do. You don't do that without having something inside of you that is dark and probably is the border between good and evil. I saw things when I fed off Dracula, I'm good. It's my true nature to use that darkness to do good."

"But we've helped you," Xander said.

"You have helped me and you patrolled for me when I have been gone. But you can walk away from it. I can't. I can't stop. It's what I am. Who I am."

"Well, this is just too much to digest," Xander said. "Have you forgotten about him and Anya?"

"No, I haven't forgotten, but as I said you had broken up with her and I had broken up with him. I can't hold against him what he did before me or after me."

"Yeah, like the killing of hundreds."

"He hasn't done that in years, Xander."

"Without the chip he would have kept on doing it."

"It doesn't matter the why, it matters that he doesn't. And hello? Master, evil vampire. You think he would have let a thing like a chip stop him from accumulating a little army like the Master did to do his dirty work?"

"I never thought of that," Xander said, looking very downtrodden.

"Dawn," Buffy asked. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. I just wish you'd told me all this before instead of letting me think he'd tried to hurt you. I mean, the chip not working. That changes everything."

"Well, I wasn't forthcoming girl with myself so I couldn't be with you either."

Spike cleared his throat from the hallway. "Sorry to interrupt the heart to heart. I'm going out to have a smoke."

"Thanks," Buffy said, offering him a smile. She knew Spike would have stayed if she had asked him to, but this was her battle.

"So he comes back says he's sorry and you're going to take him back," Xander said once the back door had closed.

"I said I was sorry, too, and I'm lucky he's willing to take me back. It works both ways."

"Buffy, he's a soulless vampire, you have nothing to be sorry for."

"That's not for you to decide or judge, Xander."

"I don't have to like it."

"No, you don't. But if you're going to be rude to him, or to me, then I don't want you around either."

"Excuse me? You're going to choose him over me?"

"Well, yes and no. We're not in high school anymore, Xander. You have a life, a job away from me and Dawn. I like having you here, but let's face facts you're not going to be here forever."

"All you'd have to do is tell me you want me here forever, Buff, you know that."

She lowered her gaze. "I don't love you like that, Xander. I love you as a friend. That's all."

"I know. I can't compete against the likes of Angel or Dracula or Spike. If Dracula had turned me I wonder if you'd feel differently about me."


Neither noticed Dawn stand and leave the room. Of course she was used to that, going unnoticed. If Spike being back would mean Buffy would pay attention to her again Dawn was all for it. She felt like a ghost sometimes. She went out the backdoor and found Spike sitting on the back steps his back to her. He looked over his shoulder, a look of apprehension in his eyes when he saw who had come out after him.

"Hi," she said, pushing some hair behind her ear nervously.

"Hey, niblet."

"Can I sit?"

"Your house, don't need to ask me, but be my guest." He was quiet and she was not quite sure why she had come out here. "They still in there fighting?"

"Yeah. He's always loved her you know. I used to hate her for it."

"Really," he asked, turning the cigarette around to stare at the glowing end.

"I had a crush on him and hated that he would never see anyone but Buffy."

"Thought he dated the stuck up one for a while?"


"Yeah, the beauty queen." He took a drag on the cigarette and exhaled, blowing the smoke away from Dawn.

"Yeah, that would be Cordelia," Dawn said scornfully and frowned.

"Didn't care for her much either, eh?"

"No, she went after Angel for a while."

"Had a crush on him, too, bit?"

"No," she said with a light laugh. "I just hated seeing Buffy so unsure of herself, thinking that Angel would go for Cordelia instead of her."

"As if," Spike said with a soft grunt.


"I missed you, Dawn," he said simply, his voice barely a whisper. "Sorry I left like that, sudden and all, wasn't there when you all needed me."

"It's okay. Why didn't you ever tell me?"

"Tell you what? What I tried to do to your sister? That I loved her so much I was willing to be her punching bag if it meant getting a crumb of affection from her? I hated it. Kept hoping she'd see that she loved me and it would change, get better. Besides, wasn't my place to tarnish her spotless reputation."

"I might have been able to help you."

"I doubt that, li'l bit, but the sentiment is nice and appreciated. I'm just glad you're talking to me." He flicked the cigarette out into the grass after extinguishing the cherry between his thumb and forefinger. "You going to be okay with my living here? If you're not, I won't no matter what big sis says."

"You're not going to hurt her, are you?"

"No, bit, I'm not. I've changed since I left; I'll leave before I hurt her again, even though that would hurt her too. I still love her, so hopefully no more hurting will be in the picture."

"Yeah, I think that was what she was mad at you about most honestly, that you left. I didn't really understand it, but I knew."

"Dawn," Buffy said from the back door. Dawn turned to look at her, saw the worry on Buffy's face. "I thought something happened to you. You just left."

"You and Xander were getting into it I didn't want to stick around for it."

"Yeah, sorry. He left. You can both come in now if you want."

"Actually," Spike said as he stood. Dawn saw the pained look in Buffy's eyes and knew she thought he was going to leave. "I guess I'd better get my things if I'm going to be squatting here. Don't want anyone to steal what I have."

"You've got stuff here," Dawn said.

"I know, bit, thanks. Don't know that any of that stuff suits me any longer but I'll look through it another time." He looked at his boot that was toeing the wooden step he stood on. "Care to go for a drive, pet?"

"I shouldn't," Buffy said.

"I know you shouldn't. I'm not going to let you patrol, just go for a drive with me. You can't tell me you aren't going stir crazy."

She smiled at that and stepped outside. "Dawn," she said in protest.

"I'm fine, Buffy, go ahead."

"You sure?"

"I'm sure. Go."

Spike held his hand out to Buffy, offering her a charming smile that always melted Dawn's heart. How Buffy had resisted him this long was beyond Dawn. Dawn could not remember evil Spike. She remembered seeing him once or twice at the house, but Dawn's memories of Spike were all of him with the chip. It was scary to realize that his trying to rape Buffy was not the worst thing Spike had ever done. That was part of the reason Dawn had been so mad at him, she had wanted to believe he was good and on their team now. Dawn let out the breath she had been holding when Buffy took his offered hand and descended the steps with him.

"Don't wait up," Buffy called back over her shoulder.

"I won't," Dawn said with a sly smile creeping to her mouth. She had to call Janis and tell her about this. Janis and Dawn both had a crush on Spike. Who wouldn't with his hair and his accent? He was a hottie. Dawn was a little envious that Buffy always got the hot guys, but she knew that she would get her own one day. And he would be human.

Dawn sat at the computer desk in her room. She had waited downstairs long enough to hear the engine of Spike's Desoto fire up. She booted up the computer and signed online. It was too late to call England now, well too early there to call anyway. So she settled instead for sending Giles an email to tell him of Buffy coming out of her coma, Spike's return, and Buffy seeming to come out of her four month long funk because of it. Giles would not be thrilled that Spike had returned, but if it made Buffy happier and therefore a better Slayer he would accept it. He was no longer Buffy's Watcher so there was little he could say about it anyway. But Dawn knew that Giles would want to know.

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