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Title: There and Back Again

Author: Margie

Rating: R

Pairing: B/S

Summary: Sequel to my fic It Doesn't Matter. Spike is back from Africa, Buffy is dealing, things happen.

Disclaimer: Own nothing. Joss owns all.

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 Chapter 2 -  

He found them all at the Magic Box. Big bloody surprise. He peered in and was startled at the difference. It looked like they had done some remodeling. Knowing how often that place got beaten up, he wouldnít be surprised to find out that it wasnít by choice.

 

Demon-girl was at the register as per usual. Which was no longer on the right side of the large room, but had been moved to the back, just under the loft. If she looked up just now she would see him through the window. The whelp and Bit were sitting around the table. No longer in the center of the room, but removed to the right just as you walked in the door. They were so close he could actually read off the title of the chapter Bit was reading. Looked like she was doing some of her homework, for once. He didnít see Buffy, but he could sense her. He always knew when she was near. She must be in the back training. One thing they had kept the same, he supposed.

 

It hit him then that, that was it. The entire scooby gang. Glinda was gone. Red was who knew where? And the Watcher had gone back to jolly old England. So this was it. Just the four of them. And him, if theyíd let him back in. Christ. Had he just admitted that he had been part of the scoobies?

 

He wondered if Buffy had told them. If they knew he was back and would potentially be walking in that door any minute. He was surprised that the whelp hadnít come breaking down his door with a stake at the ready. Buffy had said he knew. That he had found her, seen her bruises. Maybe she hadnít told him heíd come back. Maybe this was a mistake.

 

But he had to go in. He couldnít hide out for long. And he wasnít fond of the idea of hiding out from anyone. He sighed and reached for the door.

 

Anya looked up at the sound of the bell jingling. She hadnít expected to see Spike, but wasnít surprised that he had finally come around. Buffy had told them two weeks ago that he had come back to town.

 

"Hello Spike. Do you like the new store? Had to rebuild after Willow destroyed it." She stated matter of factly, the way she stated everything actually.

 

"Yeah Pet, itís lovely." He looked around to see Xander standing, his posture stiff and angry. Dawn was sitting looking up at him, her expression neutral.

 

"What are you doing here bastard?"

 

"Look wh-, Xander. You have every right to hate me. But Buffy asked me to stay. So Iím staying." He folded his arms over his chest and stood stubbornly before them. The muscles in his jaw tightened, preparing for a fight.

 

Just then Buffy entered the room. She had heard his voice. Spike turned to see her, the anxiety flashing in her hazel eyes. He sighed and forced his muscles to relax. Running his rough fingers through his hair he said, "Look. I just wanted to offer some help. Since Iím going to be staying for a bit, I figured that I could make myself useful."

 

Buffy felt his gaze the entire time he spoke. He never looked away from her. "Staying for a bit?" She asked absently, the first thoughts that came to her after hearing his speech.

 

"Until you ask me to go luv." He answered back. He was so caught up in watching her, feeling her, that he was caught off guard when the fist hit his face. He heard his neck crack as the force of the punch sent his head whipping to the side.

 

He turned to find Xander breathing heavily next to him. His nostrils were flared and he looked ready to kill someone. "Donít you dare! Donít you dare waltz in here thinking everything is okay. Thinking that you can just walk in and call her luv!"

 

Xander began pacing the room. His anger was boiling over. He had seen Buffy on the floor. Crying. Hurt. Vulnerable. How could anyone do that to her? How could anyone take away her strength, her confidence like that? How could anyone take away what was essentially Buffy?

The room had quieted. The tension was palpable. Neither Dawn nor Buffy had made any moves to come to his defense. He hadnít expected them too. Though it hurt a little that this was the first time it had happened.

 

"Xander. I know." God, how many times was he going to have to go through this? He couldnít apologize. He couldnít explain. "I donít have an explanation. Or an apology. I know that both are useless."

 

"I canít take back what I did. I can promise never to hurt any of you every again. But I know how much my word means right now."

 

"You mean ever. I never trusted you. And I told Buffy not to either!"

 

"I know. You were right." His hand was running through his hair again. A nervous habit he just couldnít get rid of. Kind of like his smoking. Something to do with his hands.

 

"But things are different now. I wonít ever hurt her again. And I wonít leave. Not unless she asks me to." Although he was speaking to Xander his eyes had wandered to capture hers again.

 

"Yeah right! Why should we believe you now?" This was ridiculous! Soulless undead thought we would just take his word for it? "Youíre still a soulless evil undead thing!" Xander spat at him.

 

Spike took a deep breath. He deserved that. But was now the time to come clean? Xander had given him the perfect opening. He had been wanting to tell her for so long. And he could see in her eyes that she wanted an answer to. Wanted to know how she could trust him now when she never could before?

 

"Iím not." It was so soft that they barely heard. Xander was still raging, and didnít respond. But Dawn had heard and leaned curiously forward.

 

"Youíre not what?" Her brow rose in a familiar Summerís expression.

 

"Iím notÖ" He turned to face Buffy then, making sure that she was listening. That she was watching him, seeing his sincerity. "Ösoulless."

 

If she had thought the room was quiet before, she was wrong. The silence was deafening. Worse than when the Gentlemen had been in Sunnydale. Had she heard him right? That one word. The one word that had kept them apart for so long. That made her believe that his feelings for her were impossible. That her feelings for him were depraved. Soulless? He wasnít? Huh?

 

"Huh?" Her mouth echoed her mind. She had so many questions, but that was the only word she could get her mouth to form.

 

"I told Bit. I told her that I left to try to make things right." His eyes were moist now. Reliving that night. Reliving the pain he had heard in her voice, seen in her face.

 

"That night. When I saw your face. When I saw the fear and the pain. The fear that I caused. The pain that I inflicted." His breath hitched. Though he didnít need it, he often forgot when his emotions came into play.

 

"I realized that you were right. That you were all right. I was a thing. A soulless monster." Even Xander was quiet now. Having stopped pacing he watched Spike from the far corner of the room. Assessing his sincerity.

 

"I knew that I could never be the man for you. Because I wasnít a man. Christ! I couldnít even control myself around you! I promised to protect Bit and you. And instead I hurt you. I nearlyÖr-raped you." The words left his lips cold and hard. He hadnít said it aloud before. Hadnít said the word. The tears left his eyes then. He swiped them away with one hand as he continued.

 

"God! I can never apologize enough for that. You canít trust me? I donít know if I can trust myself. I honestly believed that I would never hurt you Buffy. I honestly did."

 

Buffyís head was swimming. She had heard his apology weeks ago. Had told him that they had both done things they were sorry for. Things that they had to forgive each other for. And she still believed that. Still believed that they had hurt each other with equal intensity. But right now her mind was reeling from his earlier disclosure. A soul? Ever since she had asked him to stay she had been pondering their relationship. Wondering whether it really mattered anymore. She had acted as cruelly to him as he had to her. She had a soul. Did it really matter any more that he didnít?

 

"I left that night. Because I couldnít face you. Because I was afraid to face you. I thought I would never hurt you and I did. How could I be sure that I wouldnít do it again?" He was pacing now. Walking back and forth in front of the big display window. His hands flapping agitatedly as he spoke.

 

"Iíd heard of this bloke. A demon who could grant a wish, if you passed some sort of trial. It took awhile to get there. Took longer to recover afterwards. But I made it through. Got my wish." He stopped his story there. But continued pacing. His hand itching toward his pocket for a cigarette. Though he knew that he had never been allowed to smoke in the shop.

 

"You wished for a soul?" Buffy asked softly. Knowing his abhorrence to the idea.

 

"Not Ďxactly luv." He saw Xanderís fist clench at the moniker he used. "I only asked to be able to give you what you deserved." He sighed. Well it was all out now. He looked up to find Buffy staring at him, eyes wide.

 

"So he gave you a soul?" Buffy stepped closer toward him. "Is itÖpermanent?"

 

"As far as I know l-, pet." He took a quick glance at Xander to find a disbelieving look on his face.

 

"Bull shit! How do you expect us to believe that?" Xander was stalking toward him now, both fists clenched but still at his side.

 

"I donít know. Itís not like I have any bloody proof! Itís just the truth." Spike didnít know how he was supposed to convince them. It wasnít like he could go down to the local drug store and pick up a soul purity test or something!

 

"Even if it is true, it still doesnít change the past! It still doesnít change what you did to Buffy!" Xander was standing in front of him now. Buffy grabbed him from behind and spun him around to face her instead.

 

"Xander! That is enough. I love you. Youíre a great friend. And I understand youíre anger, believe me. But this is between Spike and I. Only I have the right to punish or forgive him for any of what happened last year." She pulled him into a hug, letting him know how much his love and concern meant to her. But she was serious when she said that this was none of his business.

 

"Do you understand me?" She pulled away just far enough to look him in the eyes. He nodded grudgingly. Still wanting to beat the stupid vampire until he turned to dust. But heíd lost enough friends lately. He didnít need to lose anymore. And he recognized it when he saw Buffyís resolve face. He wasnít going to cross her on something so important.

 

She turned back to face Spike. His head was down and he was snarling. Apparently he wasnít very happy at having to be protected from Xander. Well, tough. She waved her small hand in front of his face to get his attention.

 

"Hello?" When he finally looked up, she asked, "You said you wanted to help right? Well Iím patrolling now. So come on." She started to walk toward the front door, calling behind her "Iíll see you at home Dawnie."

 

Right now she needed to let out some tension. From the moment she heard his voice drifting over from the front room she could feel a knot building in her neck and shoulders. She wanted to slay. Wanted to get her adrenaline flowing. Forget all of the thoughts swirling around her head, for just a little while.

 

They could talk later.

 

 

 

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