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5

“Bloody hell, woman!” Spike pressed a white cloth to his now bleeding nose. A punch to the nose was the last thing he had been expecting. Tears…maybe yelling if she was angry, but never violence. Supposedly, that was a thing of the past for them. “Why do you always go for the nose?!”

“That’s for not telling me that you were back!” Buffy angrily approached him and punched him in the stomach. “And this is for telling Giles instead of me that you were alive!”

“Buffy, just give me a minute. I can explain…wait…Giles told you?” Spike frowned. He cursed himself for being so stupid. He should have known not to trust Giles. The watcher was probably hoping that Buffy would stake him on sight.

“Yes he told me! How long Spike? How long have I been grieving for your sorry ass?” Buffy asked, allowing Willow and Dawn to hold her back for the time being. Never in her life had she been so angry. Spike…the one person she had thought would never leave her…did. The pain she felt at such a revelation…it was overbearing.

Spike swallowed, feeling very nervous. Something told him that things were about to get a lot worse for him, but he couldn’t lie to her again, not anymore. All lies did was hurt her. He was determined never to do that again. He had caused her enough pain as it is.

“A year…give or take a few days”

Buffy blinked, once…then again. She looked at Dawn, who had tears of hurt and anger in her own eyes. She looked at Willow…who was mad for all three of them. Suddenly, their hold was gone and Buffy’s rage took over. Wresting a stake from one of the girls, Buffy slammed the wood into Spike’s abdomen, making sure to miss his heart.

“UGH! BLOODY HELL!” Spike cried out as wave upon wave of pain spread throughout his body. Only one pain was worse then what he felt now…burning up from the inside out, thanks to that sodden amulet.

“Do you feel that Spike? The pain is agonizing, isn’t it? That’s the same amount of pain that you’ve caused both me and Dawn…maybe even Willow! Not a very good feeling is it?” Tears poured from her eyes, her heart ached with hurt and anger.

“Buffy…please…,” Spike gasped against the pain, reaching out a hand in an attempt to touch her. If he just touched her…the contact would explain everything, soothe all hurt feelings, make everything better again, the way it had been before the last battle of Sunnyhell. He just had to touch her. “Let me explain…”

“Explain?” Buffy stepped further out of reach, her body shivering with even more rage. “What can you possibly say to explain yourself here? There’s nothing! Obviously you didn’t care about us like you said you did. Just…just go to hell Spike and this time…stay there!” Buffy pushed through the gathering crowd of slayers and ran to her apartment, just needing time to herself to think over the past year and think on what she was going to do now that Spike was back in her life.

Spike laid there and closed his eyes against not only the pain, but the knowledge that he had once again hurt Buffy. He was such a wanker now that he looked back on the reason he had stayed away. As soon as he was corporeal again, he should have gone to her. He should have explained everything and free her from the pain she was feeling. But no. Thanks to his need for a glorious exit, he had stayed away and allowed her suffering to continue.

“She’s right you know. You did hurt us…a lot,” Dawn stood above him, her eyes dry, yet just as hurt as her sister’s. “Why Spike? I thought that you loved us.”

“I do Niblet. I just thought …I just…I didn’t think that you’d be happy to see a reminder of your old lives. I thought that you had the normal thing going on and didn’t need me showing up to bullocks it all up for you,” Spike struggled to his feet, with the help of Wesley.

“What? What a bunch of whoey,” Willow frowned, just as upset as Buffy and Dawn. She had grown to think of Spike as a friend and had also been left to mourn his loss. Obviously, he had no idea how many people had cared about him. Even Xander had shed a few tears for Spike as he was grieving Anya. “They loved you Spike, and I liked you a lot. You should have known that and came to us instead of hiding out in L.A.”

“I know that now, Red. What can I say but I’m sorry. I listened to Angel the one time that I shouldn’t have. I never meant to hurt any one of you,” Spike bowed his head, knowing that it’ll take a lot more then I’m sorry to get Buffy to forgive him.

Willow sighed and turned away from him, not knowing how to answer. In her book, he was forgiven, but it won’t be so easy where Buffy was concerned. The men in the slayer’s life had a history of leaving when she needed them the most. It hurt her to think that Spike had done the same thing, after he had sworn never to leave her. “Give her time. You showing up alive and all non-dusty is a big shock to her. Let it all sink in before trying to talk to her again.”

Ready for a change of subject, Willow looked for Fred among the small group of visitors. She gasped when she saw the change in the young scientist. “Fred?” She took a few steps towards the leather clad woman, but was stopped by Spike taking hold of her arm.

“That’s not Fred, Luv. Not anymore. Name’s Illyria now.”

“What?” Willow asked, confused. What was Spike talking about? Of course that was Fred. Sure she definitely looked different from the last time she had seen her, but it was still Fred.

“Fred is dead. You see…a month ago, Fred’s body was invaded by a parasitic…demon…an old one. She was hollowed out and made into a shell. Who you see before you now is Illyria. One of the demons that had first walked the earth before the beginning of man.”

“And Fred?” Willow’s eyes widened in alarm. This certainly explained the hair and the eyes, the way she was dressed and the cold indifference coming off Fred…Illyria.

“Her soul was consumed by the transformation. As far as we can tell…she’s gone,” Wesley pushed back the grief that once again threatened to swallow him whole. Some days he felt as if he was healing, but at times his grief would come back full force. It would seem as if he was losing her all over again.

“Oh…I’m sorry. I didn’t know,” Willow dunked her head, sad about Fred’s loss and Wesley’s obvious broken heart. He must have really loved her. She wished that there was something she could do to take away his pain. Wait a minute…maybe there was something she could do. “You know, maybe…after we’ve fixed Angel’s soul…perhaps I can help get Fred back. It wouldn’t hurt to try.”

“Sounds like an idea, Red. If Fred can be saved, you’re the one to do it,” Spike nodded, glancing at Wesley. “The witch here brought Buffy back from the dead and changed the slayer rule. If anyone can bring Fred back, it’s her.”

“We’ll see,” Wesley sighed, trying not to be too optimistic. It was best not to hope…that way he wouldn’t be disappointed when it didn’t work. “But I think restoring Angel’s soul is first priority.”

“You’re right. Of course it is,” Willow nodded in agreement.

“This conversation has no interest for me. It’s meaningless and small,” Illyria spoke up. “I want to fix my pet and return to Wesley’s home.”

“Rude much,” a red head in the back snorted.

“If I have told you once, I’ve told you a million times! I am not your bloody pet! I keep telling you that, yet you won‘t listen!” Spike growled, glaring at Dawn when she giggled in pure amusement. It was quite ironic. Pet was a regular nickname he used for Buffy…now here was this old one calling him a pet.

“Not funny, bit,” Spike couldn’t resist a smile of his own. It was good to hear Dawn laugh. It’s probably been too long since she could find anything to laugh about.

“I do apologize,” Wesley sighed, feeling a bit tired and depressed once again as he wished for the return of his soft, shy, beautiful Fred. She was so much kinder then this Illyria…thing. Illyria was everything Fred wasn’t. Blunt, rude, and harsh. It was hard to believe that his Fred had once inhabited that hard, cold shell that Illyria now called home.

“Wes, I’ll try to get Fred back. I promise…right after we fix Angel,” Willow recognized the pain of unbearable loss in Wes’s eyes as he looked away from Illyria. It hadn’t been that long ago since she had carried the same pain inside her heart. It was hard not to recognize hurt so raw and debilitating.

“Willow, I appreciate the offer, but bringing Fred back is impossible. Her soul was consumed by the transformation…it’s gone.”
“The soul is immortal. It cannot be fully destroyed. No matter what,” Willow took the older man’s hand and squeezed it, trying to be reassuring. . She wanted to help the former watcher more then anything…give some kind of hope that he could get the woman he loved back. The pain in his eyes was just too much for her to bear. “The soul may be damaged, but it’s not completely gone. I may still be able to get her back.”

“Sounds like a bloody good idea to me, but can we talk about sleeping arrangements now? Slayer had gotten me good, she did. This is one thing that isn’t going to heal overnight,” Spike spoke up as he felt his strength beginning to wane. What he needed was some sleep and some blood. After that, he’ll approach Buffy again. They had a lot to say to one another. Things that have been avoided for way too long already.

“Follow me, pet,” Dawn grinned, for the first time in months she felt completely happy. She had missed Spike terribly. He was the only one that had treated her like an adult, yet at the same time protected her with his life. She had been crushed by his death. But he was back now, and there was no more need for tears of loss. Only tears of happiness. Bright happy days were here again and this time she was hoping that they would stay.

 

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