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Cleveland Ohio

Slayer Central

Buffy stretched her sore muscles as she returned from one of the few training classes that she taught along side Faith and Robin Woods. This session had been particularly grueling with two of the girls arguing constantly and another girl who liked giving her a hard time. On days like this, Buffy often wondered why she had left Rome at all. Dawn had been happy there, and she had been almost happy herself. She was free from being the one and only slayer. No more having to stop apocalypses and fighting a never ending stream of monsters. Yet there had been something missing. Something that kept Buffy miserable.

At first, she had thought it was the lack of slayage, so she had come to Cleveland and accepted Robin’s offer to help train the ever-growing number of slayers. However, that hadn’t worked for long. Buffy was still depressed, more then ever before. It was now obvious that the only thing that would make her happy was the one thing forever out of her reach.

“Buffy!” a girl with long ebony hair waved, standing in front of the door leading into Buffy’s apartment.

“Paige? What are you doing here?” Buffy greeted the woman that was now Willow’s new love interest. Buffy did not know what had happened with Kennedy. The brown-haired woman was long gone by time she had arrived in Cleveland and Willow had declined any questions asked. This was fine with Buffy. She had not liked Kennedy all that much and Paige seemed to be good for Willow. She was a fellow witch and seemed to understand and accept for Willow for who she was. She also made the red head happier then Buffy has seen her in a long time.

“Hi Buffy,” Paige stopped her continuous pacing. She forced a worried smile and rushed over to her friend. “I’ve been waiting for you. I have to warn you about your aura.”

Buffy frowned. One of Paige’s strong points were reading people’s auras and from that their possible future. “You’ve read my aura? What did it say?”

“I saw darkness and lots of it. Buffy, I saw a return of old enemies. I fear that your life may be in danger.”

Buffy sighed. She had told Paige a number of times about life as a slayer. Slayers were always in danger, yet it did not always mean that they were going to die…or remain dead for that matter. Therefore, there was no point in reading her aura. Of course, Paige had not listened and was now upset over whatever she had seen.

“Paige…we’ve had this discussion before. My life is always in danger. I am a vampire slayer, remember? Some big bad will always be gunning for me,” Buffy squeezed her friend’s shoulder, ignoring the twinge of sorrow at the familiar phrase. A few hours has since she had last thought about Spike. A record for her, but now that was down the drain as he filled her thoughts once again. “Look, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I can take care of myself. Go home and get some sleep…unless you’re here to see Willow.”

“No, no. I was here to see you and now that I have and you’re not worried, I’ll just go on home,” Paige shyly smiled as she backed away, feeling a bit foolish for her needless concern. Buffy was fine. That was obvious and she was right. Constant danger was a part of her life and there was no need for alarm. It was best to just go home and probably stay there. “Night Buffy.”

“Bye Paige. Be careful out there,” Buffy watched her friend exit the building. Sighing sadly, Buffy entered the apartment, ready to dive into a nice, warm bubble bath when the phone began to ring. Sighing Buffy picked it up, expecting the caller to be another telemarketer begging for a sale. “Listen, I don’t want any!”

“Don’t want any what?” Giles asked, his voice a bit hurt and confused.

“Oh Giles, I’m sorry. I thought that you were another telemarketer wanting to sell me another Omelet buster,” Buffy blushed, beginning to relax now that she knew that no one was going to try to sell her anything.

It has been a long time since she had last spoken to her watcher. Six months to be exact. She had not meant to lose touch, but between moving to Europe and settling into life here on the hell mouth, there was not enough time to make social calls. Now that everything has settled down, Buffy wanted to catch up with the man that she thought of as her surrogate father.

“Oh. I see. Buffy…I have to tell you something of the utmost importance…but I do think that you should set down first.

Buffy sighed. Of course. His call would have to be about business. Calling to say hello was way beyond Giles. No, he only wanted to call her when an apocalypse was pending. She hated to say it, but he was becoming another Angel. “Gee Giles, it’s good to know that you care to call because you actually want to, not because you want me to fight something,” She hated the bitterness that dripped from her voice, but she couldn’t help it. She had wanted a simple social call from him, something to let her know that she was a lot more then his slayer. Obviously, that was never going to happen. Damn Giles for being so…British.

“Buffy, please. This is important,” Giles pinched the bridge of his nose, not really prepared to deal with another emotional conversation with his slayer. It seemed like that was all they ever had these days. He would call about the slayers, she’d get sarcastic, and they both would hang up with her feeling hurt and angry and him feeling lost and frustrated. He just did not have time for all that right now. It was a matter of her life being on the line.

“Isn’t it always?”

“Buffy…it’s Angel. Really, do set down,” Giles sighed.

“I’m setting,” she lied, walking over to her desk and looking through the contents, hoping not to sound too bored. “What about Angel?”

“He’s lost his soul again.”

“Oh? Is that all? Well, I’ll just have Willow whip up another one of those thesibian orbs and get it back,” Buffy sighed, shuffling through papers and books just to come to an abrupt stop when she came across silver lighter. She picked it up and examined it carefully. She had forgotten that she had it…the only piece of evidence that Spike had ever existed. She could still see him in her mind’s eye. Shoulders straight and confident, his eyes full of mischief as he lit up one of those horrible cigarettes that he loved so much. The silver would glint in the moonlight as he lifted it up to the stick that was deadly to everyone else but him.

“Buffy…it’s not that simple. Angelus has a goal this time. He’s out to kill a slayer this time. He’s out to kill you.”

“Well I guess we better have Willow do that spell then.”
“It’s not that simple. We need an orb of Thesulah and it will take a while to acquire one. In the meantime…Angelus is free and can get to you anytime he wants.”

“Shit. This is all I need right now. Do you think that I’ll have to kill him again?” She all of a sudden felt sick. To kill Angelus, she would have to kill Angel. Which was something she could not do. She had done it once before and it had nearly destroyed her. She could not go through that again. “Giles…I…I can’t go through this again. I just can’t. Not after Sunnydale and losing Spike. If I have to kill Angel…” She fought hard against the tears that threatened to overcome her suddenly, but they fell anyway. It felt as if her world was coming apart. First Spike died and now Angel may be lost to her as well.

“Buffy…listen to me. You are not alone in this. Help is on the way. Just keep a low profile for right now,” Giles’s voice softened. He hated how lost and dejected she sounded. He would do anything to be by her side right now, offering the comfort that she so badly needed.

“Help? From who? Who, except for Faith and me are strong enough to go against Angelus? That guy Gunn or Lorne? No, call L.A. and tell them that I have it covered.

“Buffy, I’m sure that they’d be able to…”

“Giles, just do as I say. Please. The last thing I need is for a group of his friends here, getting in the way.”

Giles sighed in frustration. He hated when Buffy got so stubborn that she would not listen to reason. He feared it would be stubbornness got her killed. This situation was going to call for desperate measures. Spike was just going to have to live with it.

“It’s not just a group of Angel’s friends, Buffy. It’s Spike.”

She grew unusually quiet at the mention of his name. Only the soft whisper of her breath let Giles know that she was still on the line.

“What did you say?” Buffy blinked back an unshed tear as she held on tightly to the lighter, as if it was the only think keeping her bound to the real world. “What about Spike?”

Giles sighed again, suddenly feeling very tired, and very old. “He’s on his way to Cleveland to help with Angelus.”

Buffy shook her head. What Giles was telling her was impossible. Spike couldn’t be on his way to Cleveland. He was dead. He had perished in the destruction of Sunnydale. She was sure he had…there was no way he could have survived. “Giles…Spike can’t come to Cleveland. He’s…”

“Back. I don’t know the details, he did not go into it with me, in fact, and I am not even supposed to be telling you this. But desperate times call for desperate measures.”

“But…are you sure? Are you absolutely positive that it was really Spike?” Buffy held back the ray of hope that threatened to shoot through her heart. If what Giles was saying were would change everything. She’d have a real chance at happiness once again. However, if it was just a trick…some idea cooked up by a minion of Angelus himself…she didn’t think she’d be able to survive the disappointment.

“I’d know that cocky accent anywhere. It was Spike. It really was.”

Buffy nodded, blinking away the tears that were insisting on escaping. Spike was back and coming to her aid. This was something that she had dreamed of for the past year. Was this really happening, or was it just another dream? Would she find herself awaking to another bitter disappointment?

“Buffy? Are you still there?” Giles asked, worried by Buffy’s silence. He knew that Buffy had developed some strong feelings for the English vampire and was devastated by the events of Sunnydale’s collapse.

“I’m here. Listen Giles, I have to go. Dawn and Willow will be home soon and I want to let them know about all of this.”

“Of course. I’ll be in touch. Take care Buffy.”

“Uh-huh,” Buffy hung up the phone and stared blankly at Spike’s lighter. An escaped tear fell on the gleaming metal as what Giles had said sunk in. Spike was alive and on his way back to her that very minute. What would she say to him? What would she do when he came through that door? Did he still love her? Did he even want to be with her? What if he didn’t? But then again…what if he did? Was she ready to be with him? Was she just setting herself up for another disaster by falling in love with a vampire once again?

“You look good in green” Dawn barged through the door; her arms were full of shopping bags. Willow was right behind her, smile lighting up her face. The girls had gone shopping for the perfect dress for Willow, who had a special night planned for Paige.

“I don’t know Dawnie…Buffy?” Willow stopped in mid-stride as she noticed Buffy setting on the couch, staring at what looked to be a cigarette lighter with tears in her eyes. “Buffy, what is it?”

Buffy looked up at her best friend and sister. The news had finally sunk in and she was reeling from it. How was she going to tell them? Maybe she just blurt it out and get it over with. Yes. That was the perfect solution. “Spike’s alive. He’s alive."