Author's Chapter Notes:
Might be a series if you like it well enough. Please review.
Buffy shook the rain from her umbrella and closed it as she entered the church. She thought that being inside might chase away the chill of the night air, but she was wrong. The chill she felt had nothing to do with the temperature outside. The chill came from inside her. The pleasing numbness found a home in her heart ever since that day. The numbness let her go on, let her continue to be the Slayer. The chill was her friend. She needed it. Has needed it for almost a year. She needed something to fill the hole inside her. The hole she didn't even know existed until he was gone.

She walked silently to the candles near the front of the church, smiled to herself as she lit one. What would he think of this ritual? What would he say if he knew that she did this every night for a year? Well, almost a year. There were brief periods when she'd tried to move on, but a slamming fist to the gut always closely followed them. There would always be something that would remind her of Spike.

The first punch to the gut came when Andrew brought the schizophrenic Slayer back from Los Angeles. She kept babbling about William the Bloody not touching her anymore. Just hearing any mention of Spike made it hard for Buffy to deal with her. When she was ranting like that, Buffy couldn't even be in the same room with her because when she tried, she would have to leave the room quickly because she would start crying.

She asked Andrew if she had been like that when he found her. He just got this funny look on his face, all pinched, like he had been sucking on lemons. She would have pressed the issue until Andrew squealed like a little girl, but Giles convinced her that Dana's outbursts meant nothing. That she had an injured mind, and anything she said should be evaluated in light of that fact.

Maybe Giles was right, but that didn't make hearing her say Spike's name, out loud, hurt any less. Knowing that Dana was crazy didn't mean that she was any less guilty for having left him to burn in the Hellmouth.

She knew she should have saved him; she should have gotten him out of there. But, she didn't. And, she would live with the guilt of that decision for the rest of her life.

As she watched the white wisp of smoke curl heavenward, she thought of where Spike's soul had gone after the battle in Sunnydale. She hoped that he had made it to heaven. She hoped he was happy and at peace wherever he was. He deserved that much, at least.

As she waited here, at this time and in this place, for him to come, she thought about the strange events that brought them together once more.

It all started about two months ago, in Rome. Buffy was on a date, well, he wasn't really a date so much as a distraction from thinking about him, when the feeling hit. The feeling she hadn't felt since...she couldn't remember when. It was so strong that the hairs stood up on the nape of her neck. She had been doing so well too. Dawn even said so. There were long stretches of hours where she didn't cry at all. Didn't think of him. But just as she thought it was safe to breathe, the fist would slam down again, and send her careening into a tailspin.

She tried to ignore the fist now. Tried to lose herself to the electronic beat of the music, but the feeling only got stronger. It was getting closer now, and she felt as if, if she turned around, she would see him. But she knew that couldn't be true. He was dead. He'd died like the hero she knew he could be, buried at the bottom of the Hellmouth, for her. He died for all of them.

She tried to ignore it, but she couldn't. The pull of it was so strong that she left her date, standing, looking flabbergasted, right in the middle of the nightclub, and ran out into the street. But, by the time she got to the street in front of the club, the feeling was gone. She was alone again. She felt so desolate that she began to cry. She didn't even say goodbye to her date, just walked back to her apartment, weeping like her heart had been ripped out of her chest.

Buffy thought that her apartment would be the one place she'd be safe. The one place she could pull the covers up over her head and not have to think about him. But she was wrong.

She hadn't even reached her door before the scent overwhelmed her, almost made her double over. The mixture of leather, cigarettes, earth and spice that had been uniquely Spike's, was so thick she could barely breathe. Opening the door, it felt, to her, as if he'd been in her apartment. Like he'd been there, waiting for her to come home from her date so he could give her the third degree. She smiled at the thought of him lounging on her couch, shooting her an inquisitive eyebrow, and asking, in a knowing tone, "Really, Love, don't you think you deserve better?" Then, she saw, in her mind's eye, him roll his bright azure eyes at her and say, " Even the Whelp would be a step up from that! Or Hell, even Peaches! Come on, Pet."

The hope that somehow she was right sprang up so full that she began to fling open doors and throw back curtains. She was so certain that he was there that she even looked under the bed. She looked in every nook and cranny she could think of. But he was nowhere to be found.

She cried herself to sleep that night. Just as she did every night, trying to forget the achingly familiar smell that hung in the air.

Then, on the anniversary of Spike's death, she woke up screaming, and covered with sweat, the visions of that horrible nightmare still playing in her head.

She'd seen him, at the end of some rain-soaked alley; holding a sword high, ready to fight a swarm of demons. She could feel the fear in his soul. A fear he tried to squelch under some well-used swagger, but it was there. Somehow, she felt it, the fear that he would never see her again.

Then she saw what looked to be a giant dragon, like the ones in the movies, breathe a steam of fire out of its mouth. The fire engulfed Spike quicker than dry leaves. She screamed as she watched the man she loved, go up like so much kindling.

She had been too frightened to go back to sleep. Closing her eyes again when she saw the first rays of sunlight hit her windowpane.

Now she was here, in L.A., in a church, at midnight. And why? Because of a cryptic message Angel left on her phone answering machine two weeks ago:

"Buffy, it's me, Angel. I need you to come to L.A. as soon as you can, please? There's...something you should know." His voice sounded tired and strained, "I may need you to help me track down Drusilla. I'd come to you, but things are a bit...unstable right now, and I need to keep a close watch. Meet me at Saint Benedict's church, at midnight. I've been there every night, Buffy. So it won't matter what night you come, or if you come, I'll be there. Buffy, I know you don't trust me, and I don't blame you. But, Buffy, this could mean life or death. Hurry, please. There may not be much time left."

That message sent chills up her spine. And now she was here, lighting candles for a hero. Waiting for an old lover, who she now thought of as an enemy.

Buffy was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't sense Angel until he was right beside her. She watched, through disbelieving eyes, as he lit a candle and then turned, solemnly, to sit in the nearest pew.

She sat down next to him, "What is this about? I've been to the Wolfram and Hart building. There isn't much left of it."

Angel lowered his head, "I know. I took them all into the fight, with the Senior Partners, and The Circle of Black Thorn. I didn't expect to..."

"The Circle of Black Thorn?" Buffy gasped, barely able to keep her voice down, "They're akin to the First Evil. There's no way you can beat them back, at least not for good, there're always more coming."

"I know that now," Angel sighed, "I didn't expect to make it out. I wouldn't have if he hadn't stepped in front of me at the last second," Buffy could see tears starting to stream down Angel's face, "Buffy, I'm so sorry I didn't tell you. But I made him feel so small. I made him think that you didn't care. I never told him about how you used to call me, crying, wishing that you'd said it sooner."

"Angel, what are you talking about? You're scaring me."

"Buffy," Angel sobbed, "it's Spike. He's dying. There's nothing more I can do for him. It may already be too late."

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