Best Part of Breaking Up

Best Part Of Breaking Up


Chapter 22:

Spike walked through the automatic sliding doors of the Sunnydale ER. He'd give his right arm and maybe his left if he could just never walk through those doors again. They were too symbolic for his liking. Spike scanned the waiting room searching for signs of Andrew or Warren.

He spotted the blonde man and his boyfriend sitting in those ugly orange waiting room chairs huddled close to each other. Cordelia and Angel were sitting across from them looking just as worried and sitting just as close. Spike took a deep breath and tried to get his nerves under control.

After receiving Andrew's short panicky call Spike had immediately rushed over to the hospital praying that all the cops were busy actually doing real police work to bother with pulling him over. He had been lucky. He sped into the parking lot, parked in the first available spot, stopped to smoke his third cigarette in an hour and then made his way to the ER.

The cigarette's effect to calm his nerves seemed to have disappeared as he saw the terrified looks on the four people's faces. When Andrew called he had said the doctors hadn't given any information on Buffy's condition and Spike didn't think that changed much in the ten minutes it took him to drive over to the ER.

When Spike was sure he was calm enough to proceed in an orderly fashion he walked over to the group.

"Hey," he said weakly and the lameness of the statement made him cringe.

"Hey, you sure got here fast. Hope you didn't hit any pedestrians." Andrew said.

"No, maybe a dog but no people. Was lucky enough not to get a ticket. Do you know anything yet?" Spike asked.

"No, only that she's in surgery right now. Apparently they needed to check for…" Andrew said, but the lump in his throat was forming at an alarming rate and he wasn't sure he could continue.

"They said that they needed to check for internal bleeding. She was pretty banged up when the cops found her. House was kinda wrecked too. Apparently Riley threw some fit. Anyway when the police got there they found Buffy in her room, but Riley was nowhere in sight." Warren said.

"Wait that bastard's still out there!" Spike said his voice filled with incredulity.

"Yeah he's still out there. The police are on it though." Warren said.

"Yeah well if they were any good the son of a bitch would have been caught in the first place." Spike said.

"Will, we've got everyone we can spare on it. Charles is the lead detective. You know he's more then qualified to catch this Riley guy." Angel said.

"Looks like the precinct is going to hell in a hand basket without you there, Peaches." Spike said.

"They'll catch him. I'm sure of it. I've got faith in my guys." Angel said.

"That's not good enough. The wanker should already be cooling his heels in a jail cell. Instead he's out there coming up with god only knows what kind of plans. Where the hell is Dawn?" Spike asked noticing for the first time that the little girl was nowhere in sight.

"She's at the house with Connor and Maddy. Anya and Xander are watching them… and before you get in a huff Angel got a car to watch the house. If Riley comes near my home he'll get a face full of my newly cut green grass." Cordy said.

"So what do we do now?" Spike asked.

"Well, I thought that was quite obvious. We go through the torture of waiting. I've been waiting for hours and it feels more like days." Andrew said.

"How'd you guys know what was going on?" Spike asked.

"We were going to come over and cheer her up a bit. Watch stupid movies and stuff like that. Didn't think it was right for her to be alone. Anyway we were supposed to come over and surprise her but… we got a little distracted." Andrew said.

Spike understood what he meant by distracted and could see the guilt written all over Andrew's face. It wasn't Andrew's fault and although Spike entertained the thought that maybe just maybe it was his because he didn't stay longer he knew that wasn't true. Sure a little part of him was saying he could have avoided it, but he wasn't sure that was true.

He knew the blame all belonged to Riley and if Andrew and Warren were there it might have been something much worse then it already was. Besides amongst all the crazy insanity that had been happening throughout the past week or so Andrew and Warren were still trying to work out their issues and Spike knew they needed some real alone time.

"It's not your fault Andrew. I'm not sure anyone could have stopped this. If you were there Riley would have probably just come another time or worse he would have left and came back better prepared." Spike said.

"Yeah I know, but… I just think everyone goes through the 'what if' process when tragedy strikes." Andrew said.

"Yeah, it's normal. Just don't let it get the better of you." Spike said.

"Yeah I know, I'm okay. I'll be okay. We've got to just be strong for Buffy." Andrew said.

"Yeah strong for Buffy." Spike repeated softly.

Spike wasn't sure, but sometime between the time he arrived at the hospital to whatever time it was now Spike had fallen asleep on one of the ugly orange waiting room chairs. When he woke he looked around to see the four people doing the same thing. Spike assumed no new information had been given on Buffy's condition. Spiked stood up and stretched a bit.

There was a crick in his neck from sleeping in a chair. Spike looked over at the clock above the information desk. It was just a little over three in the morning. Spike wasn't sure exactly what kind of surgery Buffy was having, but it couldn't have taken this long. Spike decided to ask the person at the desk.

"Hello, I've been here for at least three hours already and I was wondering if maybe there was any new information on my… friend." Spike said.

"Are you a family member?" the desk clerk asked. "No I'm not, but her brother over there is asleep and I didn't really want to wake him. I was just wondering if there was any new information." Spike said.

"Well, I guess I could help you out. Name of the patient please." The desk clerk said.

"Buffy Summers." Spike stated. The clerk typed a few words into the computer before looking back up at Spike.

"The doctors just finished in the OR. You should be getting word soon." The clerk said smiling sweetly at Spike.

"Okay, thanks for you help." Spike said going to sit back down in his chair.

Sure enough about ten minutes later a man in blue surgery scrubs and a cap to over his head walked over to where Spike and the others were sitting.

"Are you Andrew Schafer?" the doctor asked.

"No, that's Andrew. I'm… William Flannery." Spike said pointing to Andrew. "Oh, I hate to wake him…"

"It's not a problem doc." Spike said walking over to Andrew and shaking him lightly.

"Huh, wha'." Andrew said in a sleepy voice.

"Andy, this is the doctor that was fixing up Buffy. He's got some news." Spike said.

"Oh, okay. Hello doctor. I'm Andrew Schafer. What news can you tell us?" Andrew asked.

"I'd much rather talk to you in private. Keep things confidential." The doctor said.

"No, it's okay. Spi… Will is a friend of Buffy's he deserves to hear this. I mean we've all been waiting all night." Andrew said.

"Very well. Miss Summers's surgery went just fine. We did find some internal bleeding, but the problem was fixed in no time. However, Miss Summers was struck in the head a number of times with some sort of blunt object… perhaps a foot or something like that. We have done many tests including CAT Scans and MRI's and were able to detect that most of the damage was exterior. Bruises and such, but that doesn't mean everything is fine. There were severe problems after the initial test. Miss Summers went into somewhat of a shocked state and brain function was abnormal. Although this happened we figured the best course of action would be to proceed with the surgery. The abnormalities went done and things went very smoothly." The doctor said.

"But such abnormalities could lead to concussions and comas, right." Andrew asked.

"Yes, it has been known to happen that way. The coma usually lasts only a few days or so. The brain just needs a little down time to adjust fully to the trauma. Right now Miss Summers is under sedatives so she won't be waking up for about twelve hours." The doctor said.

"That's if she doesn't slip. She's on coma watch right?" Andrew asked.

"We've taken the precautions to monitor her vitals closely, but other then that we haven't found it necessary to take any more extra precautions then that." The doctor said.

"Okay for those of us who don't speak doctor… do you think you could put it in layman's terms? Is she going to be okay or not." Spike asked.

"They're not sure. So far everything looks okay. Everything on the outside is fixed, but the inside. Her brain got a little smushed and there was a scare, but it looked good too." Andrew said.

"So, she'll be okay." Spike asked.

"We'll need to monitor her closely for the next twenty-four hours. We're not out of the woods yet, but pretty close. Yes, everything looks promising and she will most likely recover from her attack." The doctor said.

"Thank you doctor." Andrew said as he shook the man's hand.

"I was just doing my job." The doctor said kindly as he walked away.

"When do we get to see her?" Spike asked.

"In a bit. They're going to send another doctor down here to talk about some other mumbo jumbo and then we'll get to see her. Just a few more hours." Andrew said.

The two men were quiet for a bit before Andrew said, "This all just doesn't feel real. I mean everything was so fine and perfect and now… this. I keep trying to tell myself it will be okay, but… it's like Willow said. There's just some many emotional scars it doesn't matter how good you heal the psychical ones."

"Well, we can start by putting that bastard in jail where he belongs. I know Angel and he's going to catch him. The squad doesn't take to kindly to wife beaters." Spike said.

"Yeah you're right… what time is it?" Andrew asked.

"Oh um… three in the morning… why?" Spike asked.

"Oh no reason in particular. Willow and Oz are supposed to stop by and you know check. They went on a vacation and they were supposed to come back tomorrow or the next day. I think they cut it short. I didn't want to call them, but apparently Willow's listed as Buffy's emergency contact." Andrew said.

"Oh, well, there was nothing you can do about that. Besides I think Wills would have killed you if you didn't tell her. This way you don't have to be the bearer of bad news." Spike said.

"Yeah, well… I told your brother to tell Anya and Xander to bring the kids by at noon. I don't know if it's a good idea though. Should Dawn see Buffy like this?" Andrew asked.

"I think she'll start getting suspicious soon enough. I mean it all depends on how long Buffy is in here. Dawn will know anyway." Spike said.

"So is that a yes or a no on letting Dawn come here. I don't want to scare her."

"She's already scared. The best thing we can do now is let her know her mother's okay. I'm sure she wants to see her no matter how badly banged up she is."

"Yeah I just… I don't want to have to explain to a little girl why something like this would happen. It's all such… crap it really, really is. I just hope she doesn't get too scared."

"Well we'll never know until we see. Look I don't think I could sleep after this. You want some coffee?" Spike asked.

"Um, yeah coffee sounds good. I don't… I'm not sure I could sleep either. I mean she's okay and she might wake up soon. I'm too wired now." Andrew said.

"Yeah you and me both, Andy. You and me both."

Noon came faster then Spike had expected and still Buffy was asleep. The doctors had came and went giving bits and pieces of information to Andrew in doctor talk and Andrew relayed them to Spike and the others in layman's terms. Angel was non-stop on the phone ever since he woke up. There was no new news on that front either. The guys on the squad had caught a few leads, but they all ended up as dead ends. Angel was becoming increasingly frustrated by it and had almost collapsed.

It took Cordelia's and Spike's snipping words about how he had just got out of the hospital for him to calm down. Angel, although sullenly, calmed down and relinquished the hold on his cell phone. Warren was having a tough time trying to comfort Andrew without appearing to overbearing. Andrew was snapping at nurses and doctors and demanding to see charts and such. Warren was trying his hardest to cool the blonde man off, but Andrew wouldn't sit still for a second.

Spike wasn't sure if he was relieved or saddened even more when he saw Anya and Xander leading his Maddy, Connor and Dawn through the hospital doors. Anya and Xander appeared to look tired, but whether that was from the news about Buffy attack or the fact that they had to baby-sit Connor over night was a mystery to Spike. Xander didn't really know Buffy well, but Anya seemed to have formed a connection with her.

Dawn looked very upset and disturbed by the news of her mother's attack. Maddy looked like her normally withdrawn self and Connor was bouncing around happily like a big ball of energy any six year old had. Dawn quietly sat in the seat next to Andrew and stare off into space. Spike wasn't really sure what to say to her and that was a first. Spike always knew exactly what to say to kids, but he was at a loss for words for even himself.

Anya and Xander sat down next to Cordy and Angel and they all began to talk quietly about things. Nothing in particular just anything to take their minds off of the sadness. Warren had joined the conversation and was encouraging Andrew to do so, but Andrew was on another mission to find out information and disregarded his boyfriend's attempts to get his mind off of things.

Andrew whipped out his cell phone and Spike assumed he was calling Willow and Oz to see if they got back from wherever it was they were at for their vacation. Dawn sat in her seat looking off into space and not really knowing what to do. Spike decided to take Andrew's seat beside her and Warren moved out of the way. Warren may have been Andrew's boyfriend, but he didn't know the little girl as well as Spike did and he was willing to bet they needed some room to talk.

"Hey, what's going on in that head of yours, little bit." Spike said opting to use the nickname he used on Maddy and Connor.

"Nothing, I'm not really sure what's going on." Dawn said and Spike understood what she meant.

Dawn was six and for a six year old things were pretty simple. Beyond the fact that Dawn had been reassured that Buffy would be home soon to make Dawn her favorite dinner or read bedtime stories or fix boo boos, Dawn didn't know what else to think. Spike knew Dawn was a very smart girl, but something so simple as death and hurt and pain weren't something little kids were able to grasp.

"Yeah, I know. It's a lot to take in." Spike said.

"She's not going to die, right. My mom isn't going to die." Dawn asked as she looked up at Spike with big eyes filled with unshed tears.

"No, she's not going to die. She's going to be just fine." Spike said.

"Then why are we here. This is a hospital. My mom used to take me to hospitals when I was sick. Is she sick? She also works in the hospital. Did someone get sick and she has to take care of them? Nobody will tell me what's going on." Dawn said.

"Dawn, your mom… well she got hurt. She got hurt real bad."

"Like when I feel of the monkey bars and I broke my arm?"

"Yeah sort of like that. She got hurt and she had to come to the hospital to get taken care of."

"Does she have to wear a cast like I did? Does she have bandages?" Dawn asked.

"Yeah she has those." Spike said.

"When can I see here?" Dawn asked.

"Well the doctors want to wait a bit. You know so they can do some tests to make sure she didn't get hurt too bad. She's asleep right now. She has to get some rest."

"Like when I'm sick?"

"Yeah like that. We can see her later. The doctors are going to tell us when." Spike said.


Dawn looked down at her hands. She seemed to have something else on her mind, but Spike didn't want to push. Instead he sat next to her and tried to listen to what the rest of the group was talking about, but it just came out as dull sounds. He heard Angel's phone ring a few times and heard the clipped tones his brother talked with to the rest of the squad.

It was really annoying that they couldn't catch the son of a bitch that was Buffy's ex-husband, but Spike was willing to be patient… for the time at least. Spike could see it was wearing on Angel's nerves as well. Angel hated guys that beat on their families having a family of his own and loving them to death he couldn't imagine that someone would want to hurt their own family. Spike was inclined to agree with him. He thought men that did such heinous things were cowards and less then men.

Spike saw, out of the corner of his eye, Andrew sit down next to Warren. Apparently he was okay with the seat change too. Andrew grasped Warren's hand with his own and whispered something into Warren's ear. Spike assumed it was news on Willow and Oz. minutes maybe hours passed before Spike felt a tug on his shirt.

"Spike… did… did my dad… was he the one that hurt my mommy?" Dawn asked and Spike wasn't sure what he should answer. It was Buffy's place to tell Dawn or not, but the look on Dawn's face said she needed to know.

"What would make you think that, Dawn?" Spike asked.

"I don't know. He was mad at mommy for winning the case thing when we were in court. Whenever he got mad he would beat up mommy. I just thought that maybe… because he was mad at her that he was the one that hurt her." Dawn finished.

"Dawn… I'm not really sure what happened. You'll have to talk to your mom about it." Spike said.

"But Connor said that his daddy was a policeman and that it was official cop business. Will my… whoever hurt my mom go to jail?"

"Yes, they have to go to jail because they did a bad thing. You aren't allowed to hurt people like this person hurt your mom. It's not right and it's against the law. You can get in a lot of trouble if you do it." Spike said.

"So do you know when I can see my mom?" Dawn asked.

"Soon I think. As soon as your mom wakes up." Spike said. Dawn nodded again and went silent.

Spike watched the activity around him. It was so depressing to watch people waiting in a hospital waiting room. They were either very sick and waiting for help or waiting for word that their relatives, friends or significant others were okay. Everyone had a look on their face and Spike imagined he had the same look on his.

It was some time after Spike's talk with Dawn that Willow and Oz showed up. Willow was weepy and couldn't get a sentence in edgewise. She just hugged everyone including Xander who just gave her a grin when she tried to apologize for hugging him since he was a stranger.

It got a small giggle out of her, but she went back to being weepy again for no apparent reason except that which she came up with in her head. Oz was more stoic although Spike could see the edges of his coolness fading. The man was trying to be strong for his wife and Spike could understand that. He gave Spike a nod of acknowledgement before asking Andrew details on what was going on.

Oz didn't know who the four people that crowded around Spike were, but he guessed that one of the women was Anya and the other was Cordelia. Willow and Andrew had mentioned who they were before and Oz knew that Dawn went over to Cordelia and Angel's house often.

"So, what do we know?" Oz asked to know one in particular.

"Well, on the medical scale, we know that she's pretty good. The chance of recovery is good. There are minor problems that appeared earlier, but the doctors think everything looks good. She's asleep right now." Andrew said.

"On the legal side of things, we've got all bases covered. We still haven't been able to track down… who did this, but… they're getting close. The leads are good." Angel said.

"You're a cop." Oz said and it wasn't really a question more of an observation.

"Oh, yeah, sorry I haven't met either of you yet. I'm Will's brother, Angel." Angel said putting out his hand for Oz to shake it.

"Will?" Oz said.

"Oh you probably know him as Spike."

"Oh, Daniel Osbourne." Oz said shaking Angel's hand.

"So what else is there to do? I mean you say you're looking for… whoever did it. What can we do?" Willow asked through her tears and sobs.

"Not much. We've all been sitting here waiting for something to happen." Spike said. Willow nodded. She wasn't so surprised to see Spike there. She thought he had to go to San Francisco, but she imagined that Andrew probably called him to tell him the news.

"And can I say that this waiting thing sucks. A lot." Andrew said.

"Yeah it sure does. I mean the doctors won't even tell us anything. And when they have new news they talk in doctor lingo." Cordelia said.

"Yeah doctors are known to do that. It's a good thing you have a doctor translator right here." Willow said pointing to Andrew.

"Well okay so we wait. How long does this waiting thing have to last?" Oz asked.

"The doctors came around at about three and said that she'd be under the sedatives for about eights hours. She should wake up some where around the twelve hour mark… unless she slipped into a coma." Spike said.

Willow looked at him, really looked at him, for the first time since she got to the hospital. His usually slicked backed bleach blonde hair was tussled and in it's natural unruly cur. His clothes were wrinkled and he smelled like cigarettes and coffee. His eyes had a red rim around them and he looked severely tired. Not that she looked around Andrew had the same look. Everyone else just looked tired and weary.

"You two get any sleep." Willow said pointing to Andrew and Spike.

"Yeah we got a few hours." Andrew lied.

"You got here and then were up at three to talk to the doctor. I really don't see much sleep happening there." Willow said.

"We're fine. Got a few hours. Four or five. Used to it though." Spike said.

"Yeah well you should really try to rest." Willow said.

"It's almost three. Buffy could be waking up soon. I want to be awake for that. We'll get rest after we know she's okay." Andrew said stubbornly.

He sat back down in his seat and began to resume his spacey stare. Warren nodded at Willow telling her that he would make sure Andrew got rest after Buffy woke up. Willow nodded back and made her way to a chair across from Andrew and Warren. The waiting had begun again.

Buffy woke up utterly confused with her surroundings. She couldn't seem to remember where she was exactly. The room was white and the bed she was sleeping on was small and had railings. Buffy could tell she was in a hospital bed. The thing was she couldn't remember exactly what landed her in a hospital bed.

She could feel the tubes running from her hand and her nose and could hear the annoying beep of the heart monitor that she wouldn't to stop but also didn't want to stop because that would mean she was dead. Buffy worked at this very hospital, if this was in fact the Sunnydale Hospital, and she could tell that it was by the colors in the room. She just wanted to know what she was doing in there.

"Well, hello dear. You gave us quite a fright." A nurse said. Buffy didn't recognize her from anywhere and assumed that the nice elderly woman must work on a different floor then Buffy did.

"What… why am I here?" Buffy asked as she tried to form a more coherent and eloquent thought.

"Oh, honey, you don't remember. Well you were brought in because you were severely beaten. The doctors have stitched you up just fine I'm sure. You have quite the entourage outside waiting for you." The kind woman said. Buffy now knew why she didn't recognize the woman. She was in the recovery room for the OR rather then in the ER. Bits and pieces of Buffy's memory were coming back to her, but nothing concrete.

"Have you seen my daughter? She's a little girl with long brown hair and blue eyes." Buffy asked in a raspy voice.

"Oh here dear. Drink this." The nurse said as she began to helping Buffy drink the water for the small plastic cup. The cool liquid felt good on Buffy's parched lips and Buffy wondered just how long she had been out.

"Well, yes I have seen the girl. Cute little thing was gripping tightly to that nice man with the funny hair color. Anyway she loosened up a bit and I suggested that maybe it would be better if she and the other two children went to play in the PEDS room. You know children shouldn't be so close to this." The nurse said.

Buffy nodded her head and felt a numbing pain at the simple act. She finished the water quickly and the nurse went fretting around to page the doctor. When the nurse came back she fussed with the pillows and asked Buffy how she was feeling.

"I'm okay… I think. My head hurts and I'm not really sure what's going on. My memory's a little hazy." Buffy replied.

"Oh that must be the medication they have you on. Powerful stuff really. You'll remember things in know time." The nurse said with a sad smile on her face.

"Was it my ex-husband? My mind keeps coming up with him. I remember Sp… a friend coming over and then leaving and I remember my ex-husband coming over. I think we fought, but I'm not sure. Then right about there I can't remember much." Buffy said.

"Well then I don't think you're cop friend will be talking to you much."

"Cop friend?"

"Yes a handsome fellow. Brown hair, tall dark and handsome. You know the type. He's been on the phone all of last night and all of today. Some of the police came by and he was yelling at them. It took all the strength of the young man that was with your daughter and a beautiful young lady who I assumed was his wife to calm him down." The nurse said.

"Oh, Angel, he really shouldn't be over exerting himself." Buffy said suddenly feeling a bit guilty, but also relieved that even though she had only met Angel on a few occasions that he was so willing to risk his health for her.

"Yes that's what the young woman was telling him. I'm guessing he's on some sort of medical leave although I can't see anything wrong with him." The nurse said.

"He's in the early stages of kidney failure. Diabetes and all that. He forgot to take his insulin shots and this is what happens. He just got out of the hospital a few days ago. I feel terrible that he's risking himself like this when he doesn't even know me that well."

"Oh nonsense now. He's just worried is all? You can't blame yourself if your friends just want to see you better. And boy do all of them want to see you better." The nurse said as the doctor walked into the room.

"Hello… Miss Summers." The doctor said checking the chart.

"Hello doctor. Can you tell me what exactly is going on? I don't remember much." Buffy said as she tried to see if she recognized the doctor. As an ER nurse she came in contact with a few surgeons, but he appeared to be new.

"Of course you don't. It's just the drugs. They've got you on some pretty heavy stuff." The doctor replied.

"But I'll get back what I've lost right?" Buffy asked. "Over time. Maybe a few days. A lot of the time patients purposefully block out things like this. Sometimes its just shock." The doctor said.

"Okay, so what's the damage?" Buffy asked.

"Well we had to operate. See if there was any internal bleeding. There wasn't too much and that wasn't a problem, but was had to do various CAT Scans and MRI's. We found nothing to wrong with your brain. It was just a concussion, but it did make you seize so we had to be sure. Everything appears quite normal and healthy besides the obvious bruises, cuts, and some ribs were bruised. Nothing was broken though so that's good." The doctor said in such a business like way that it made her cringe.

"Can I see my friends?" Buffy asked.

"Of course they've been asking about you." The doctor said.

"Can I go home soon?"

"Well we want to keep you here for some observations, but you'll be home in no time."

"That's good." Buffy said and she watched the doctor and the nurse walk out of her room. A few minutes later she was greeted with the sight of all her friends walking into her hospital room.

"Hey guys." She said trying to keep the mood light and cheery, but she could see the tears in most of their eyes.

"Where's Dawn?" she asked.

"Oh, she's in the PEDS room still with Maddy and Connor. We thought that maybe… we should… wait until we let her see you." Andrew said.

"Well I want to see her. I want to make sure she's okay." Buffy said in a worried parent tone. Andrew simple shook his head and went off to get her and the other two children.

"You guys, stop looking at me like that. I'm fine. Now that bastard ex-husband of mine… oh I hope he goes done. It was him right?" Buffy asked.

"Well, Buffy, legal I'm not allowed to tell you who it was. It could tamper with the investigation. If we really want to put away… whoever did this to you then you'll have to remember everything on your own." Angel said a bit sullenly.

"It's okay, Angel. I'll figure it out soon enough. The doctor said it's probably just the drugs making me like this." Buffy said.

"Well don't worry. We're looking for the son of a bitch." Angel said. "Good, that's good, but it still doesn't explain why you're all so glum. I'm okay everything's fine." Buffy said.

She looked around at the group of people in front of her. Warren appeared to be the most inclined to agree with her. Buffy could see the bags in his eyes and the hop in his eyes and realized that he was trying to be strong for Andrew. Willow was trying to put up a good front as well, but her misty eyes betrayed her. Oz was holding onto her in his regular stoic manner, but he too seemed on edge.

Angel seemed frustrated and Buffy guessed that he was a guy that didn't show emotion well. He was gripping a cell phone and daring it to ring and hoping it would ring all at the same time. Cordy was shining her million dollar smile at Buffy although it was less bright then usual. Anya seemed not to know how to deal with what was happening, but felt bad because Buffy was a friend no matter how new.

The man standing next to her Buffy recognized as her husband Xander and the man she first saw when she stepped into the office of Harris and Associates those weeks ago. He looked like he admired her for her bravery, but also a bit sad as if the whole thing brought back terrible memories. He was offering Buffy a warm smile and Buffy smiled back at him. Then there was…

"Spike?" Buffy asked not believing her eyes. She could have sworn he said something about leaving for San Francisco last night… or at least Buffy thought it was last night.

"Hello Buffy. How are you feeling?" He asked and Buffy saw him fidget nervously.

"Good I guess. What are you doing here? I thought you were moving to San Francisco or something like that." Buffy said knowing full well what he had said. The look on his face when she told him to go was forever etched into her memory.

"Yeah, well I got the news that you were right and decided to put off apartment hunting for a week or so." Spike answered.

"Why? You should go. You're still going to San Francisco aren't you?" Buffy asked.

"I was thinking about staying for a little while to make sure my friend was all right." Spike said his voice on the edge.

"Well I don't need you to be looking out for me. I'm fine I have other friends to do that." Buffy said.

"I just thought it'd be the good friend thing to make sure you were all right." Spike said his voice rising a bit.

"Yeah, well I'm fine so now you can go and have your cool new life." Buffy said her voice rising a bit as well.

Neither noticed as the group of people slid out of the room to allow them more privacy. None of them thought this was going to end well.

"Oh well I'm sorry if my concern is getting in the way of your near death situation. How rude of me." Spike said sarcastically.

"Spike you're the one who wanted to leave. So leave. I mean there's nothing here for you anyway." Buffy said and she cured herself with every new word she said.

She would have liked nothing more then to break down and cry and beg him to stay and always be concerned about her, but her mouth was faster then her brain and her heart was slower then both of them.

"Jeez, can you really be that way. I mean here I am saying I want to stay and be your friend when all I really want is… no you know what never mind. I know I'm not the bad guy here." Spike said plopping down in a chair.

"What do you want me to say Spike. I'm not sure I mean first you want me to be happy that you're leaving and now you want me to be grateful you're not. Make up your mind." Buffy said.

"I was just saying that because… look I care about you. A lot and I just want to be around you, but you keep pushing me away." Spike said.

"I'm not looking for romance or love or caring right now, sorry." Buffy said bitterly.

"Well neither was I! Jeez, I was… I don't know I got to know you and I found out that you're such a good person and I fell…"

"No don't say. Don't you dare say you love me! I don't want to hear it, okay!" Buffy said.

"Why are you so afraid of this… of me? I'm not going to hurt you like that piece of shit did. I just want to be with you." Spike said in a desperate voice.

"Because it would never work out. everything would be bad and wrong and we'd screw it up and I can't let that happen anymore." Buffy said.

"We can't help who we fall in love with." Spike said sadly.

"Did I ever give you any sign that I wanted anything more then friendship? Because if I did I'm sorry, but that's all I wanted. I never once said I wanted to fall in love with you or that I was even in love with you." Buffy said.

"Oh so what was that night. Come on Buffy you can't tell me you didn't feel anything." Spike said.

"I was lonely and you were there. It was stupid and it was a mistake and I never meant for it to happen again. You're the one that turned it into something bigger then that." Buffy said.

"Oh I'm sorry for thinking that you could possibly love me like I love you! What the fuck was I thinking!" Spike yelled.

"Oh don't talk to me about love okay. I've had shit luck with it and now here you are saying you love me and some how I just don't buy it." Buffy said.

"Why? I've never given you reason to doubt me." Spike said.

"I know about that dinner with Drusilla. I know that you took her back to your place. Did you love me then, huh?" Buffy asked her voice shaking with emotion.

"What… I was drunk! She was taking me back to my place because I couldn't drive. It was just dinner and if I remember correctly you were the one acting like a right bitch anyway." Spike said.

"Oh so now it's my fault that you fucked your psycho ex." Buffy said sarcastically.

"I didn't fuck anyone. I was drunk and she didn't want me to drive and she took me to my house. Nothing happened! And even if it did you didn't have a claim on me. As I recall you were the one that kicked me out of the bed first sign of daylight." Spike said.

"You know what I don't really need this right. Just leave. Get out and stay away from me okay." Buffy said turning her head away from Spike.

Spike wanted to fight some more and has everything out. Buffy couldn't move and he could talk her into realizing she cared… into realizing he was a person she could love. He wanted to, but his energy was drained and he couldn't do it anymore. He had been playing this crazy game for too long and he had enough with games. With a defeated sigh he picked up his coat and made his way to leave. He opened the door and looked back at Buffy. Her face was still turned away from him.

"I love you; I just wanted you to know that, because I'm not coming back. I love you, but I don't need this shit. No, I'm done with the games. If you ever get done with them… you know where to find me." Spike said as he exited the room.

Buffy heard him go. She heard his words and still she couldn't bring herself to look at him. She couldn't bring herself to face him and realize that yes she did love him too, but she was a coward and couldn't… didn't think she could give herself to him completely. So she let him leave. Let him leave thinking she didn't love him and that she never would when in reality she loved him so much it hurt.


Chapter 23:

“Buffy, come on Buffy please pick up the phone. Please… we can’t just leave things like that. Buffy would you please just pick up the fu… hello? Shit!” Spike said as he was cut off by the answering machine again.

He suspected that Buffy was really sitting by it answering and then hanging up, but that didn’t derail him. Spike only needed an hour after he left the hospital to gather his wits and decide that Buffy was worth fighting for. And that’s exactly what he’d been doing since that day in the hospital… almost a month ago.

Spike was ready to give up. He was seriously was thinking about just calling it quits. He couldn’t do it anymore. He’d sent flowers and chocolates and everything he could think of to Buffy and, although they never came back, he still got nothing.

Not even a call to say thanks for the stuff but quit harassing me. Spike had gone back to Xander and eloquently asked for his job back. Xander just sat there smirking a little and said sure whatever he wanted. Spike was grateful that Xander hadn’t made a huge deal about it and just went back to doing his job.

Spike had immediately called Giles to tell him that although he’d really love to take the job there was just no way he could at the time. Giles understood enough chalking it up to Angel and his illness and Spike was content to let the man think that that was the reason. It was easier then getting into the messy details.

Anya had been rather pleased with Spike’s decision to say as everyone else had been. In fact she was rather vocal at saying that he needed to hurry up and scoop Buffy off of her feet. Angel was more subtle saying that he’d be pleased with whatever Spike chose to do. Spike hugged them feeling more empowered by their words and ready to face what needed to be done.

Spike also made it a point to tell Wesley and Fred about his choice not to leave. Fred was ecstatic jumping up and down and screaming yay. Wes just gave Spike a knowing look that said Spike had better tell all later. Fred also said that Spike had better go after Buffy and that left Spike feeling happy and even more empowered.

But now it was a month later and the glimmer had worn off and everyone was beginning to look at him like he was a time bomb waiting to explode. Whenever he got to see how Angel was doing it felt more like Angel and Cordy were trying to see how he was doing. Anya was still voicing her opinion, but even that had lost its flare.

And so now they were all unsure if Spike and Buffy were even going to be a Spike and Buffy. Spike knew everything that was going on with Riley from Angel who would state time and time again that he could lose his badge for telling Spike this information. Spike would just shrug and tell him to continue.

There was a trial going on, apparently the courts didn’t know what to do with Riley and needed more testimony. Spike knew that that was what needed to be done. People were innocent until proven guilty and this was a criminal case. Of course Riley came from money and that was why the case was taking so long. It had been going on for three weeks now. Spike had been by Angel’s a few times and had seen Dawn there.

Dawn would come up to him and hug him and tell him everything that had happened at school that week or anything that was on her mind. She had questioned him once on why he never came over to her house to visit her mommy and Spike just said it was complicated. Of course that puzzled the little girl even more, but she dropped it.

So Spike had been an outsider in Buffy’s life for the past month and it was killing him. He knew he could go to Willow and get information that way, but he felt it was better if he did it on his own. He’d seen Andrew a few times since then and Andrew had told him how he had worked things out with Warren and was going to move to Sunnydale.

Spike was happy for the man and told him if he ever needed a job to go see Wesley. Andrew nodded and said that he would. Any other contact Spike had though was strained and from third parties and Spike desperately wished that he could just go see Buffy.

“Fucking shit!” Spike said as he threw his telephone against the wall. Spot dunked and decided it was time for a nap and ran off to Spike’s bed. Spike spared an apologetic glance at the dog before it scurried off.

“Well, I didn’t expect you to be throwing things. I guess it’s as good a welcome as ever.” Spike looked up to see Wesley standing there with a key dangling in one hand.

“Sorry, I just… it’s nothing.” Spike said as he sat down in his recliner.

“Really nothing. I didn’t realize throwing phones across the room so they could shatter against walls was for joyous occasions.” Wes said sarcastically.

“Oh piss off, would you. Can’t you seem I’m…”

“Brooding. Wallowing in your self-loathing. Throwing a temper tantrum like you were four.”

“Hey what part of piss off didn’t you understand.”

“Oh, William, stop acting like a stubborn jackass. You can’t pull that shit with me.” Wesley said as he sat down on the couch.

“You know for once I’d like to just get angry without everyone trying to stop me from being angry. It’s a natural emotion you know.” Spike said.

“Well, when you get angry, you get drunk and when you get drunk you get suicidal and when you get suicidal I get angry and I really don’t like getting angry.”

“One time, Wes. One time and all of a sudden I’m Mister Unstable. Jeez thanks for the vote of confidence.” Wes rolled his eye heavenward and let out an exasperated sigh.

“Yes, I’m very aware of how many times you’ve actually tried to off yourself, but drinking is suicidal period.”

“Don’t give me that doctor crap. Spew it to someone who cares.” Spike said turning away from Wes.

“You know you act like a four year old more and more as you get older. You haven’t been drinking have you?”

“No! No okay not a drop of alcohol has passed these lips. Clean and sober is the way to go.” Spike said in a sarcastic tone.

“Please leave the sarcasm at the door. I don’t really need it.”

“Oh you don’t really need it. Well screw you Wesley and your fucking perfect life. What the hell are you doing here anyway?”

“I came to see my sorry excuse for a friend and make sure said friend was okay, but apparently I’m not wanted.”

“Good glad you’re able to see that. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.”

“Just because you’re being a little shit doesn’t mean I’m leaving. When you act like this I know I have to stay and watch your sorry ass.”

“Okay so what is this like tough love? Well you know what you can just stuff your tough love crap right up your ass. Just leave me alone okay. I’m doing just fine without you here.”

“Yes because phone tossing means your fine. See I thought phone tossing meant you weren’t fine, but now I see that that is clearly not the case.”

“Why do you always have to be a smart ass? Can you for once in all the time we’ve known each other do as I say.”

“No because I don’t like the orders you give me.”

“Argh! I can’t take this. What is it you want from me Wes? What grand scheme do you have planned to cheer me up? It’s been a month and she clearly doesn’t want to talk to me. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep shaping my life around other people. I’m just going to call Giles and say I was high or crazy or something for turning down the job offer and then I’m leaving because I can’t take anymore of this dilly dallying shit.” Wesley looked at his friend of a lifetime.

He had known Spike since they were little. They had moved to Sunnydale together. They had been through everything together. Wesley had no problem saying that Spike was one of the kindest, bravest, loyal, trustworthy… just best people he knew.

Wesley didn’t understand why life always seemed so hard for Spike, but he knew that obstacles had been thrown at his friend and Spike just dealt with them badly. This though, this situation with Buffy was practically killing Spike and Wesley could see it.

“Well I understand if you decide to call it quits. I know this is hard for you and I know that you must really love her to be trying so hard, but it is hard and I can understand why you would want to give up, but I have to say that I don’t think I could ever respect you again.” Wesley said.

“Oh thanks that’s really reassuring. What is it with you people and your nosing around in my business? If I want to give up, I’ll give up. If I want to go live in Mexico and do the Mexican Hat dance for the rest of my life, I’ll go to Mexico and do the Mexican Hat dance for the rest of my life. Why do you all insist on making comments? I can take care of myself. I’m a Big Boy now and I don’t need you people putting in your two cents. Do this Spike. No do this Spike. Jump in the air and do a flip, Spike. Quit it already. It’s fucking annoying.” Spike said.

“I’m sorry if you think the fact that was care enough about you to try and help you manage your life. I’m sorry if it annoys you, but that’s what friends and family do. Live with it.”

“I’m sick of it. I’m done with it. I’m just… done.” Spike said. Spike knew that they were all trying to be helpful and they all just wanted to makes sure he was happy, but it was getting to be extensive. It was time for Spike to stop being what everyone wanted and time to start just being Spike.

“You can’t just give up like this.”

“What would you have me do? Waste away here always trying to make her see that I love her and I want to be with her. Wes, I’m trying and it’s not working and I know quitters never win and all that rot, but it’s like a lose-lose situation anyways.”

“I know that things seem bad now, but if you really think that Buffy is the one. If you really love her then you’ll fight for her.” Wes said.

“What the fuck do you think I’ve been doing? Sitting around knitting? I have been trying and it’s not working. What more can I do. What else do I have left?” Spike asked with pleading eyes.

“I don’t have the answers that can solve that. I don’t even know if there’s a simple solution to this problem. I wish there were, but I can’t see one.”

“So then what’s wrong with me calling it quits? She already has.” Spike asked Wesley in a challenging manner. Wesley looked down at his hands racking his brain for an answer.

“Because it’s not you. Because it’s not my best friend. It’s not what you would do.” Wesley said after moments of silence.

“Maybe it is me. Maybe I’ve just grown up and realized that life sucks and it can’t get any better.”

“No, no I can’t believe that. Not from you. Not about something like this.”

“Why not. Why am I supposed to just stay the same? I mean why is it I have to be such the hopeless romantic.”

“Because that’s you. you’re the person that talks about true love and soul mates and perfect happiness and I know you don’t like to admit it, but you want to be happy with someone and you want to have a family and you want to be a dad and you want to do all that stuff.”

“I can still do all that stuff.”

“You want to do all that stuff with Buffy. You don’t give up on love like that. The Will I knew wouldn’t give up so easily.” Wesley said.

“Give up so easily! I’ve been chasing my tail for months now. She’s been giving me hope and then snatching it away from me. She’s a bloody tease! Yeah that’s what she is. Telling me it doesn’t matter and stuff like that. You know I do think… I mean it’s too soon, but I thought I loved her, but all she ever did was jerk my chain around. How can it be a good thing to be with someone so… unstable?” Spike asked Wesley.

Wesley wasn’t exactly sure how to answer that without making his friend even more upset. The truth was Spike was just as messed up and okay maybe it wasn’t the best idea to go after a girl who was just as emotionally unstable as Spike was himself, but you can’t help who you fall in love with.

“Because you love her. Because you care about her and you want to be with her. Because of so many reasons only you know about and I could never understand. Personally I would have picked someone different, but look how well that turned out. I’m not the matchmaker here. Sad really. I mean you can set everyone else with their perfect soul mate, but you can’t seem to hold on to your own.” Wes said.

“Oh, okay so this is my fault. I’m the one that messed this up. See for a minute there I thought it was Buffy and her inability to commit, but I see now. It was me just because I’m me.” Spike said angrily.

“That’s not what I meant. Love came so easily for you when it was other peoples love. Now here you are with what you want just out of your reach and you’re considering giving up. Remember what you told me when I thought Fred wouldn’t want me.”

“Yeah I told you to stop being a stupid git and shift your ass already. I told you that if you didn’t make a move she would find some other guy to fulfill her every need.”

“Yes and even though you were working both of us it worked. We got together and I haven’t been happier. I love Fred and I know that if it wasn’t for you I would never have been this happy. You need to realize that you can be just as happy.” Wes said.

“Wes you and Fred would have gotten together even if I hadn’t interfered. You two were made for each other. It would have taken time, but you would have seen. I just… things don’t seem that way with me and Buffy. We just keep running in circles tripping over ourselves. And what’s worse is she wants nothing to do with me.” Spike said.

“I’m sure she does. I’m sure she’s just afraid.”

“Afraid of what. Of me… of us. I’ve been nothing but good to her. I just don’t understand women sometimes.” Spike said.

“Well I don’t think Buffy’s had the best experiences with men. I mean just look at her sleazy husband. She’s just not as secure about men and their ability to be good people.”

“I know, okay, I’ve been through that whole thing. I’ve been through it and I understand why she would question people and stuff like that. I mean my track record isn’t exactly perfect. A drug happy, alcohol friendly, bad girl. An uptight prissy daddy’s girl and another drug happy psycho cheater. I know how relationships can turn rocky.” Spike said.

“Then you must understand that given her circumstances she is less then willing to trust people.”

“Yes! Okay I get that, but what do you want me to do. Would you have me sit around and sulk and wait for her to realize she loves me? Would you have me crawl on my knees and plead with her to love me? I’ve been doing all that and I’m sorry, but can I have some of my dignity back.”

“I know, but…”

“No, if she really wants me… if she really loves me and she’s just being a… bitch… well then she’s going to have to make the move because I’m done with this whole hopeless romantic shit. It takes two people to kick start a relationship and I’m not getting any help here. She’s pretending like she couldn’t care less about me.”

“I know, but it’s not like you to give up. I know you’re giving it your all and I know that it’s discouraging that nothing is working, but you can’t just give up. You love her.” Wesley said.

“Yeah well not to sound cliché, but sometimes love just isn’t enough.” Spike said.

“It is when it comes to you. Will, I don’t want you to be unhappy for the rest of your life. I mean you’re my best friend and I don’t know what I’d do without you. We grew up together and I’ve told you everything about me and vice versa.” Wesley said.

“I know you want me to be happy, but I just can’t be happy like this.”

“I understand. Really I do. If you think you’ll be happy in San Francisco then I’m all for it. Be as happy as can be. Hell I’ll even pack your bags and send you there. But if there’s a glimmer of hope, a small possibility that San Francisco won’t make you happy and it’s just another escape from life then you have to own up to it.” Wesley said.

“Well I don’t know. I mean yeah it’s an escape, but it could be more. I could be happy there if I’m doing a job I love. I mean I don’t know if I’ll be happy there, but I think I should try. I’m obviously miserable here.”

“But are you miserable because you have nothing or are you miserable because you had something and you can’t seem to get it back. Because there’s a difference between the two Will. One means you get to start fresh and the other means a life of what ifs and could have beens. You can’t live your life like that… no one can.” Wesley said. Spike looked thoughtful.

It was possible that if he moved he still wouldn’t be as free as he would have liked. The image of Buffy’s face when she smiled or the memory that Dawn liked pancakes better then waffles would always be with him. He couldn’t shake either of them off. And then there was Angel and his problems and Anya with her need to control his life.

There was his niece and his nephew and possible other nieces and nephews. There was Wes and Fred and there was Sunnydale itself. There were some many reasons to stay, but none of them could beat the real reason. The mere thought that Buffy would one day realize that she was making a mistake by shutting him out and she would welcome him into her home and heart and they could live happily ever after.

Wesley was right. Spike couldn’t live knowing that he still had the smallest chance with Buffy. He couldn’t leave knowing that she might change her mind and show up on his doorstep with open arms.

“Fuck! It’s not fair. She’s living somewhere out there probably not giving a shit about me and I can’t get her out of my head. I mean I should be able to. I should just be able to flip a switch and then every memory of her would be gone. Like that one movie with Jim Carrey.”

“That’s not how love works.”

“Why not. She treated me like shit at the bottom of her shoe. I should just be able to forget all about her. I should just replay those words in my mind and be able to forget, but I can’t.” Spike said.

“I know, but you have to realize that those were said out of fear. You will never truly be happy if you don’t know for sure.”

“So you want me to what go to her and put my heart on the line again. It’s not fair.”

“No it’s not, but then again neither is life. Nothing is ever fair or easy. It’s what you get for trying that makes it worth the trying. Buffy means a lot to you. More then I think even you realize. When you think about her your face lights up and when you see her I’ve never seen you look happier. Even with Faith or Dru. I really think that you two are meant for each other.” Wesley said.

Spike looked up at him with wide eyes. Just like Angel, Wes didn’t believe in soul mates or true loves. He believed in people and their ability or inability as the case may be to commit to relationships.

“I just think you both need a shove in each others directions. I know you can’t live knowing that she might love you like you love her. And I know that you can see it. Even though she is acting sort of mean and cruel.” Wesley said.

“So you want me to keep trying?” Spike asked hesitantly.

“Yes that’s exactly what this whole conversation has been about.”

“Well, I guess I could. I just… can I be alone for a day or so. I have to think things through.” Spike said.

“Yeah I assumed you did. I’ll be here for you Will. No matter what you chose and I hope you know that. I hope you know that if you chose to just forget about Buffy and move on with your life I’ll be there to stand by you. I just… I want you to be happy and I don’t want you to live a life of regrets.” Wes said as he got up and left Spike alone in his apartment.

Spike thought about what Wes had said and realized that ever word was truth. It was true that he would always wonder, but was it a wonder that would be bearable. Would he look back one day and realize that it was just a small thought in the back of his head like any question about love.

Spike thought that with time he would forget about Buffy, but the longer they were apart the more he wanted to be with her. It didn’t seem like he could get her out of head. She was their and taking up permanent residence.

Spike smiled realizing that Wesley’s little visit was just the kick start he needed. He couldn’t give up no matter how hopeless it all seemed. He had to see it through and he had to know for sure that Buffy didn’t want anything to do with him because deep down he really thought she loved him.

She had to love him because he could feel it every time he was with her. It wasn’t just that he was at ease… she was at ease too. He couldn’t leave it like that. He had to know for sure and then if it was meant to be it was meant to be.

There was nothing more he could do that night though. He had already left several messages on her machine and it was pretty late for a call. Besides he wanted to see her in person. He could go by the court house but it would seem too much like stalking as would going to her apartment. He sighed and looked over at the clock on the wall. It was close to eleven and he had to be into work the next day.

He was tired and worn out and he wasn’t going to solve the Buffy situation tonight. He turned off his TV and various lamps he changed his clothes, brushed his teeth and did all the normal stuff before he cuddled up into his nice warm bed with Spot on the other side already snoozing. Spike drifted off to sleep knowing that soon he’d be able to get something that he had only recently discovered could be so powerful. Closure.


Chapter 24:

“Buffy, come on Buffy please pick up the phone. Please… we can’t just leave things like that. Buffy would you please just pick up the fu…” Buffy picked up the phone and hung it up again.

That was the fourth call from Spike in one day. It was getting so Spike was leaving at least five messages on her machine each day. Buffy wasn’t sure whether she found it annoying or romantic.

She hadn’t meant a single word she had said to Spike in that hospital room. No one had commented on it so she didn’t have to think it over… at least for the time being. Willow had tried to persuade her to at least talk to Spike. That if she talked to Spike and worked things out they could get to the root of the problem.

Typical psychiatrist Willow. Talking solved everything. Andrew had been more blunt in his argument. He had told Buffy that by doing this she was giving away the only guy that ever treated her right. She had listened to his arguments with silent regard and none of her usual biting comments.

Andrew was right. She was giving up a lot by not picking up the phone when Spike called or keeping his flowers or going to see him. At first it had been because she was angry. She had been angry at Spike, but more so angry with herself. She thought she needed to be strong and independent and to be with Spike would just start up her streak of never being able to be alone.

She was also angry with herself for believing that there was a good guy out there when clearly Spike had done her wrong… or had he. Had the scene with Drusilla been nothing more then an old girlfriend helping a drunken ex. Had she even had the right to get angry with Spike even if that hadn’t been the case.

Spike had told her she had no claim on him at the time. Spike wasn’t her boyfriend or lover. He was just a friend as for as he was concerned because that was all Buffy would let him be.

He could make his own choices and sleep with whomever he wanted to sleep with. It made Buffy even angry that Spike was make her see the holes in her logic. Buffy had always relied on her instincts, but maybe now her instincts were so screwed up that they could no longer be trusted.

So she turned Spike away in spite but more and more nowadays she really just wanted to answer the phone when he called, but something else was keeping her back. Buffy had the sinking feeling that it was fear. Not fear that Spike would screw her over, but that she would end up screwing it up with Spike.

That there was something about her that was just incapable of being loved. That for some wacky reason she’d say or do the wrong thing and he would just leave her because he figured out he deserved better.

A knock on the front door broke Buffy’s thoughts.

“Come in. It’s unlocked.” She said. She heard the door creek open and looked up.

“Oz what are you doing here?”

“Just thought I stop by. See how you were doing.” Oz said shutting the door behind him.

“Oh, well I’m fine.” Buffy said.

“Yeah you look fine.” Oz said sitting down in one of the loveseats.

“I’m sorry, I’ve known you for like ten years now and I still can’t decipher if you’re being sarcastic or not.” Buffy said snidely.

“I’m not so sure which one I meant either. I’m leaning more towards observation. You know if that’s the one that doesn’t get my head bit off.” Oz said. Buffy sighed. Snapping at her friends was not what she needed to be doing right now.

“I’m sorry Oz. Look I know you and Willow and Andrew are worried about me, but I’m fine. I couldn’t be better.” Buffy said knowing full well she was lying through her teeth.

“Well I just wanted to make sure. You know you have to testify against Riley in four days. I just thought you might be a little… nervous about it all.” Oz said.

“That’s sweet of you, but I’m holding up fine.”

“Oh I know. You’re a fighter. I keep telling Willow that, but she worries. Doesn’t help that she’s pregnant. Hormones and all that.” Oz said.

“Yeah I know how that goes. You go from being nice and sweet to being weepy and paranoid the next. So how’s everything going with you?” Buffy asked hoping to shift the conversation towards Oz and Willow rather then have all the attention on her.

“Good. Willow’s working, I’m working, the baby’s fine. Everything’s really good.”

“So is working at a record company everything you thought it would be?” Buffy asked.

“Well it’s exciting. Definitely keeps me on my toes. Sometimes the singers will come in and be a little too Hollywood for my tastes, but all in all I’m living the dream.” Oz said.

“Still pick up a guitar every once in a while?”

“Well yeah. It’s not just something you put down… even when you put it down. It’s still a part of me even if it isn’t going to take me places. I haven’t really picked up since… you know.” Oz said.

Buffy did know what he was talking about. Oz had been part of an extremely successful local band when they were in high school, which was saying something for a town as big as LA.

He had been the lead guitarist in the band called Dingoes Ate My Baby and it could have been his ticket to big fame. Everyone had said the Dingoes were going places and they did… Oz just didn’t share in their glory.

Oz had been dating Willow for a little more then a year when he found out the news. He was already in college at the time and Buffy and Willow were seniors in high school. Oz and the band would go on many tour dates in the near by states leaving Willow alone for weeks at a time. Buffy knew her friend had taken those times hard.

She would be morose and even the thought of extra homework wouldn’t excite her. Willow only seemed to be happy when she was around Oz and it had seemed that Oz had felt the same way. When Oz would come home after weeks on the road he’d come to Willow and they would just hold each other for the longest time. The atmosphere would be so peaceful around them.

It had come as a pleasant surprise when a record exec had come to Oz and the band with the deal of a lifetime. They could have it all… cars, money, fame. For a local band with band members that came from broken homes and dirt poor parents it was the chance of a lifetime, but Oz wasn’t so sure.

He knew that if he were to go with the Dingoes on their quest for fame and fortune he’d have to leave behind the girl who he loved more then his own life. He had started a life for himself going to college and doing the good boyfriend thing. He didn’t want to mess that up. He was enjoying his life as it was and fame and fortune just weren’t enough for him.

He had told the guys that he couldn’t do it, but to go ahead without him. There was frowning especially from the lead singer Devon who thought of Oz as a brother and vice versa.

It had taken Devon awhile to understand why Oz would give up the chance of a lifetime, but he grew to accept it. The band still thought of Oz as one of them so they would involve him in everything from songs to clothes to tour dates.

They valued his opinion and input and soon Dingoes was a hit with everyone. Oz couldn’t have been happier for his friends he knew the deserved it and he wasn’t going to hold them back just because it wasn’t his dream.

They had used the songs Oz wrote and Oz even owned the rights to a few of the songs. It looked as though the Dingoes were going places, but if you looked close enough you could see the cracks. Adam and John, the drum and bass player, were somewhat unchanged by the rock star lifestyle although they occasionally took part in the partying. Devon had changed though.

He started using drugs and drinking and having unprotected sex with any pretty thing that walked by. Although the drugs and the drinking and the fast woman hadn’t been the reason for his death it didn’t help things with the band or his finances. He spent money as if he grew it in his backyard and didn’t bother to show up for practices. Oz had tired to reason with him, but there was no getting through his thick head.

Devon was killed in a car accident when he was twenty-three leaving the Dingoes without a singer, Oz shell-shocked and the world in mourning. They had been a very popular band and had a pretty big fan following that most thought it was a horrible joke. Oz had felt the loss of his best friend like a dead weight on his chest.

The band members had been just as shocked with Devon’s death. After everything bad he did in his life a car accident was what killed him. It had taken them awhile to move on, but the soon found other work and kept doing what they loved.

Devon had given Oz everything he had left which wasn’t a lot after the drugs. Oz was given all the rights to everything the Dingoes had because the other band members felt he would do a better job at running those things and keeping Devon’s spirit alive.

“Oz, did I ever tell you that you’re one of the greatest people I know.” Buffy said. “No I don’t think you have.” “Well you are. You’re smart and funny and sincere and unselfish. Maybe I was wrong to push you away.”

“No, you weren’t. What happened between us… That one date… it wasn’t right. Being with Willow… that’s right.”

“Still there aren’t many guys like you. How come there aren’t that many guys like you out there?” Buffy asked.

“I don’t know… I mean I have my faults. Everyone has their faults.” Oz said.

“Yeah but you’re… you gave it up! You gave up being famous and rich and living you dream for love. I’ve never seen anyone give up their dream so readily like you did.”

“You’re forgetting yourself Buffy. You gave up becoming a doctor to raise Dawn.”

“That’s different. Dawn is my daughter. I’m supposed to do those things because I love her. Willow… she was just a girlfriend. How did you know that she was the one person you were supposed to be with for the rest of your life? How did you just say ‘fuck it’ to your dreams to be with her? Why can’t more people be like that?”

“It wasn’t hard. My dreams had changed. At that point I more then anything wanted to be with Willow because it was right. Willow was how I was supposed to be with. Wherever Willow is that’s where I’m supposed to be. That’s where I belong.” Oz said.

“I just don’t get why there aren’t more people like you. No one’s ever done that for me. Riley sure as hell didn’t give up anything to be with me. I had to give up everything to be with him.” Buffy said.

“Well there is Spike.”

“Oh no not you too. God, can’t I go more then five seconds without thinking about him or having someone else tell me I should be thinking about him.”

“Well I’m sorry about sounding like a broken record. As for not thinking about him… that’s all up to you. I can’t control what you think. I just think that maybe… I mean he gave up going to San Francisco to see how you were. He’s still here. I know he wants to be with you.” Oz said.

“I know that too. I just… I don’t know what to do. Everything is such a mess. I don’t know how to fix it.”

“I don’t know everything that’s going on with you. maybe you were thinking that he was too good to be true in the beginning, but then he was still such a great guy that you thought that maybe you weren’t good enough for him.” Oz said. Buffy looked up at him in surprise.

“Hear me out here. I know everyone seems to think that you don’t feel like you can trust him or they just don’t know what to think of how your two are acting. I just call it like I see it. So I’m thinking that you feel like you have to much baggage and that it would get in the way of any really happiness… so you closed yourself off. Am I close?” Oz asked.

Buffy wasn’t sure what to do. She shook her head in reply and Oz looked at her intently.

“You know that’s not true right. You know that you are worth it, right?” Oz said after she was silent for a long time.

“Of course now I do. I mean I thought I wasn’t. I’m still not so sure that I don’t think about it that way. I mean he’s such a great guy and none of it’s fake. It’s who he is.”

“So I gotta wonder what’s holding you back now.” Oz said.

Buffy thought about it. More then anything she wanted to be with Spike. Wanted to him to hold her close to him and take all the pain away.

She just wasn’t sure why she couldn’t answer the phone when he called. She wanted to be with him, but she was afraid. She was afraid of taking that terrifying plunge into the unknown.

“I don’t know. I don’t know why I don’t talk to him or why I’m avoiding him or why I can’t let myself be happy. I just don’t know why I can’t do any of it.”

“Maybe because you’re still afraid. Of what I don’t know. Like I said I can’t read your thoughts or control your mind. You have to tell me why you’re scared.” Oz said.

“I don’t know… I just don’t know anything anymore.” Buffy said dejectedly.

“Well, maybe it’s just you’re nervous. Nervous about putting yourself out there again. Maybe it has nothing to do with being afraid that you’re going to screw things up. Maybe you’re just nervous about dating again.”

“Could it be that simple?” Buffy asked.

“No, it’s probably not, but that’s the basic. It’s scary… the new stuff… the unknown.”

“You’re right that is scary.”

“Yeah, but we’ve got choices. You don’t have to face the unknown alone you know.” Oz said.

Buffy thought that being alone was probably the worst thing in the world. Going through life alone had to be hard. There was no one there to be proud of you. no one there to prove wrong.

There was no one there to congratulate you at the end of the day. You were just by yourself. That had to be one of the worst existences in life, but Buffy had actually thought that it was better.

To go through life alone then to ever go through what she had gone through again. She thought she wasn’t strong enough to go through the same thing twice, but she was wrong.

People who had no one to care about them… they were dead on the inside. Buffy couldn’t imagine what her life would be like without Dawn. When she had been separated from Riley for that year before the divorce was final she hadn’t needed anyone in a romantic way.

She had Dawn’s needs and wants and cares to worry about, but now… it just wasn’t like that anymore. Dawn had survived this horrible ordeal and now she didn’t want to be smothered like Buffy had been doing before.

Dawn just needed Buffy to be strong and lively, but this thing with Spike was sucking the life out of her. Buffy saw how Dawn would look at her when she turned the volume down on the answering machine. Dawn didn’t understand why Buffy couldn’t be happy with Spike and to be honest Buffy didn’t understand it either.

She wanted to be happy with Spike and she knew Spike wanted to be with her. The phone calls and the chocolates and the flowers were a huge indicator of that. Was it possible for Buffy to put everything behind her and just take the plunge?

“Are you scared that he won’t want you?” Oz asked.

“No I know that he still wants to be with me. I’ve got forty messages on my answering machine that would prove that.” Buffy said jokingly.

“Well what are you scared of?” Oz asked.

“I don’t know.” Buffy said.

“Then don’t you think it’s a little silly to be sitting here moping when you could be with Spike?”

“I guess… I just… I feel.”

“It’s a risk Buffy. Life’s one big risk. It makes the difference in your life. Maybe you make the wrong choices, but they’re your choices to make. At least you can say that much. Don’t let your fear rule your life.”

“How’d you do it. How’d you take the risk of choosing Willow over the Dingoes?” Buffy asked.

“It wasn’t to hard. I didn’t listen to my brain, which was telling me that it was a good thing. Being rich and famous who wouldn’t want that. I listened to my heart. I knew the Willow was the one and that to have anything without her would be… worthless. You know that saying… it’s lonely at the top.” Oz said.

“Yeah I guess. So it wasn’t hard for you. then why is it so hard for me. Does that mean that me and Spike won’t make it?” Buffy asked.

“No, I don’t think that’s it. You both have been burned from what I’ve I think you’re both just to cautious and love is something spontaneous most of the time. Don’t worry… you’ll get there. It’s all about timing Buffy. You’re time with Spike is now. It’s your time to be happy, trust me.” Oz said.

“What do I do? What do I say? I mean I’ve been avoiding him for so long. It’s going to sound stupid, whatever comes out of my mouth. How do I date someone? It’s been so long I think I’ve forgotten.” Buffy said.

“I’m not sure… it’s been awhile for me too. I think you just play it by ear. Follow your hear because even though it can play some pretty dirty tricks on your brain can play some worse ones.”

“This… I’m not sure I can do this.” Buffy said. “Do you love him?” Oz asked.

Buffy was quiet for a moment. Did she love Spike? Was it too soon to say for sure? Did she already know deep down that she loved Spike? Was that what she was scared of?

That maybe it was too early for her to start developing feelings for Spike, but they were there. Right in front of her face screaming to be played out. She loved him.

“Yes?” She whispered in a small voice that Oz wasn’t sure he heard.

“Well then that’s enough.” Oz said in a matter of fact tone.

“What if it isn’t?” Buffy asked looking up at Oz with a lost look in her eye.

“If it isn’t enough, later on or now, you tried Buffy, but something tells me that you to will make it enough.” Oz said.

Buffy nodded as if she understood what Oz was saying. It was all Oz could hope for. He had to try and help the others save Buffy from where she was right now.

“Just call him or see him or something. Remember what I said about following your heart. It’s good advice.” Oz said getting up from the couch. He had to get back to Willow before she suspected something was going on.

“Thanks Oz. It was nice talking to you.” Buffy said hoping she could convey her gratitude in those short sentences.

“Any time, Buffy, any time.” Oz said as he opened the front door and walked out of it.

Buffy watched him leave.

Oz rarely spoke, but when he did it was to convey some sort of high wisdom. He didn’t get a name like Guru Oz for nothing. He knew what he was talking about despite how young he was. He knew about life and he certainly knew about love. Buffy always made it a point to listen to him when he talked especially if it was advice.

Oz advice was the best advice she ever received. He was saying to go for it. He was saying to lay it all on the line for love just as he did, only Buffy didn’t have anything to lose like he did.

She had to call Spike. She had to tell him how she felt. She couldn’t run away from love anymore just because she was scared and thought that it would never work out. Life was about taking chances and making choices.

Buffy would regret never telling Spike just how much she loved him and wanted him to be a part of her life. It would be worse then how she was carrying on right now. She just hoped Spike would listen to her know that she had it somewhat figured out.

Chapter 25

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