To catch a heart

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
I'm just someone with a secret obsession with Spuffy and the creativity to play around with it ;)

"Come on, please…pick up the phone…." Buffy and Angel had rushed back to her room in the hope of finding Spike there, but no such luck – his ghost was nowhere to be seen. Angel stared at her empty room as if Spike would appear any second now. Buffy knew better; this wasn't one of Spike's ghost tricks. She hurried to the phone and dialed as fast as she could. As she painfully waited, she unconsciously started to twist the old phone's cable in an attempt to maintain her composure. The frenetic yet pointless movement only managed to knot the old cable, much like her dread was doing to her stomach. "Come on…Willow! It's Buffy, I need your help."

"Buffy, hi, what's wrong?" The redhead's voice sounded vaguely sleepy, but the years of near-death and end-of-the-world situations had robbed the shock out of late night calls.

"I need you to do a spell."

All traces of sleepiness vanished from Willow's voice. "Oh my God, is everything okay? Did someone get hurt?"

"No." It was an answer to both questions, just not a very true one. The uncertainty of 'I don't know' would only make them waste time. Right now, every second counted. "I need to find Spike."

"Spike? But isn't he, you know, dead?"

"No, sorry, I didn't get a chance to tell you. Short version is: Spike is back…or was back. His ghost! His ghost was back and then it wasn't. I need you to find him, Will."

"Buffy, let's just slow down for a second… How did he come back? Like a revenging poltergeist? Or…or more like 'I'm a soul with unfinished business' sort of ghost?"

"Neither one. I'd say something along the lines of 'Hey, I got resurrected and nobody saved me a body'. Can you help now?"

"Oh, okay. I suppose I can try the demonic locator spell, do you have something that belonged to him? That will make it easier to tell him apart from all the horned, green-ish demons."

"Um…I have a t-shirt, a black one, it's in my bedroom. Can you get it?" she wasn't looking at Angel, but she could feel his glare burning the back of her neck at that last part. To hell with his vampire hearing. She so didn't have time for his jealousy right now.

"I'll get it. I'll call you as soon as I'm done."

"Okay, thanks Will."

She hung up the phone, ignoring the tangled cable, before turning to face Angel. She was looking for a fight – any word that could be used as an excuse to punch his face would do. But he denied her even this small satisfaction. He just stood there, staring at her as if she looked like a lost puppy.

Perhaps she did, but kicking his ass would make her feel more like herself. The adrenaline would take away the pain and the action would distract her terrified mind. By depriving her of that release, Angel was letting her drown in the hopelessness of Spike's loss all over again. She had come to terms with his death before; he had died saving the world. And she had cried every night since then, wishing she'd been more selfish and pulled him out of the Hellmouth. There would be no excuse this time. Her first priority should've been getting his body back; if anything happened to him, it would be her fault. If he dies permanently this time, she won't be able to live with herself.

When it became clear that Angel wouldn't say a word, she abandoned her aggressive stance and curled up by the phone. She braced herself for Willow's call. She needed her best friend to give her a mission – kill a demon, beat a warlock - hell, defeat an evil god again. But the darkest scenarios kept worming their way into her head. What if he didn't come back? What if she never saw him again? What if his resurrection had been a fluke, a temporary thing?

When the phone rang, she jumped at it, almost knocking the handle from the base. "Will? Did you find him?"

"Buffy, it's bad. It's really bad." The details never came. A deafening scream filled their ears only seconds before a disfigured body materialized before Buffy's eyes.

It took her longer to get out of shock than it took her mind to attach a name to the body. Spike. The abused creature covered in burns was Spike. The more she looked at him, the more gruesome the details became. His clothing was ragged; acrid claw marks tore his shirt, partially revealing a chest savaged by piercing wounds. But it was his eyes that revealed most of the pain he was feeling– the vivid blue bearing a raw, tortured look, standing out from the cuts and bruises marring his face.

Her hands shaking, Buffy loosened her grasp on the phone. She couldn't look away. She couldn't blink even when tears started fogging her vision. Before abandoning the phone to the ground, she managed to say with a broken voice, "Willow, I need you here."

She took a step forward and his body went stiff, his nostrils flaring like a taunted animal. His reaction made her move a little slower. She called his name in a low, soothing tone, "Spike…it's me, Buffy."

Something about her voice sparked a flash of recognition in his eyes.

He was on the ground before she could get to him. The pain was too great; the need to stand up to the torture had been the only thing keeping him standing. But now he had escaped. Buffy was there. His split lips and injured tongue didn't stop him from whispering her name like a prayer, "Buffy."

Her heart breaking at the sight of him, she knelt beside him, cursing herself mentally for not being able to touch him, to tend his wounds. "I'm here, Spike, I'm right here, you'll be okay."

Angel had remained incredibly quiet. A strange sense of empathy awakened in him. It wasn't his place to be concerned with Spike, but he felt relieved that Buffy was there for him. He knew those injuries, having experienced them himself. Only Hell could do that to your soul. When the trace of a different scent filled the air, he used it as an excuse to leave. "Willow's here. I'll go find her."

Buffy was only then reminded of Angel's presence in the room, but his strange words barely registered. It felt like it had been hours since she talked to her friend. Spike nestled on the floor between the bed and the wall. Fatigue took its toll and he slumbered, his wounds slowly beginning to heal.

"Thank God." she whispered, watching his injured face. She stole a pillow from the bed and carefully lay down by his side. Buffy watched as the nasty cut on his cheek started to close, but the exhaustion caught up with her and she fell asleep before it healed completely.

Only a couple of hours had passed when Buffy woke. She was still tired, but last night's events had disrupted her dreams and made it impossible for her to go back to sleep.

Spike was still resting. All the injuries from his body had closed. The lack of evidence, much like his now peaceful face, meant nothing. After watching Spike sleep for a few minutes, Buffy got up and went to the bathroom. A cold splash of water on her face would help her fully function. For some reason, the icy feeling of the cold water brought back Angel's words to her memory. Willow was there, and she had to talk to her about Spike.

Not wanting to leave Spike alone, Buffy retrieved the phone from the ground and dialed Angel's number. Turned out she wasn't the only one who couldn't sleep.

Willow knocked lightly on the door and Buffy quickly let her in. Their faces mirrored each other. Swollen, tired eyes, puffy faces and messy hair, complete with synchronized yawning.

"Hey, Will."

"Hi, Buffy."

They felt like hugging each other, but that would only lead to an uncontrollable stream of tears and sobs and more hugging. That wasn't a door they were willing to open just yet. They shared an understanding look and a half-smile instead.

"Sorry it took so long for me to see you." Buffy furrowed her brows. "How did you get here so fast?"

"Well, you see…I…I did a teleportation spell."

"Willow!" Buffy's eyes widened in surprise. That wasn't your everyday sort of spell. It was dangerous and daring - two words that didn't really describe Willow.

"I know it was risky, but look - I'm still in one piece!" Her voice softened, careful not to wake Spike. "And you'd do the same for me, if you were a witch, of course, instead of a slayer. You would go take a bunch of candles and say, 'My best friend needs me, so I'm teleporting myself, flatulence be damned!'" Her belly chose that moment to grumble loudly. "Actually, I think I need to use the bathroom again."

"It's right this way."

Willow hesitated. "Uh, Angel got me a room; I think it's best if I go there. But I'll come back soon."

"Okay." Buffy walked with her to the door. "And, Will…thank you."

Willow just smiled before sprinting cutely down the corridor.

After closing the door, Buffy walked carefully by Spike's side, reaching for her bag. It was taking her a while to find her hairbrush, a search she completely abandoned when Spike let out a sore moan. "Did you by any chance pack a pair of red knickers, luv? You look really hot in them."

"You're such a pig. Okay, I guess that rules out brain damage." She turned to face him; he was stretched out in a pretty inviting position. Not allowing herself to get distracted, she added, "How are you feeling?"

"Still a little charred, but I guess that's what happens when Hell tries to bloody barbecue you." He chose to downplay his pain and she decided not to push him.

"So you were really in Hell?"

"I'm afraid so, pet. The whole fire and torment atmosphere tends to give it away. Was Red here? I can smell her on you."

"That's gross…and yes, I asked her to come. We're gonna find a way to get your body back."

"I sense a Scooby research meeting coming up." His glum tone ruined his every attempt to make light of the situation. He kept on trying though. "Thanks, luv. This whole ghost thing is getting really boring. Did I mention it's bloody painful too?"

"Don't worry; I'm sure we'll find a way."

"Mind if I take a walk around while you search? I'm still sore and it's not like I can go through books. Well, I guess I can…."

"Just not in a very helpful way, I get it. Will you be okay?"

"Don't need a bloody babysitter, Slayer. Unless you're volunteering?"

Sneaky…two could play this game. "Yeah, I was gonna say Angel."

"I'm outta here."

He had turned to leave and she was fighting herself not to tell him to stay. "Spike," He looked back at her, clearly annoyed. "Be careful."

He caught the pleading look in her eyes: don't fade away. It melted his annoyance instantaneously. "I'll be okay, luv."

"So, tell me again why it is that only the two of us are hitting the books? I thought Angel had a team. " Buffy looked at the two piles of books stacked in front of her. Seven books on the left, two on the right, and a freshly started one opened in front of her. It had been hours, and despite her hopeful wishes, the bigger pile wasn't the one of read books.

"Well, they sent us the books and they're running the firm while Angel's helping us. This Senior Partners thing is so creepy. I thought demons were as bad as they get, you know, but demons with lawyers? That's a whole other level of evil."

"Kinda makes you nostalgic about the old demonic world-domination schemes, doesn't it? I never thought I'd prefer those."

"Me either. But Wesley is doing some research as well. He has this neat library back at the office. I bet Giles would be so jealous."

"That means you're jealous, too."

"Guilty… Okay, time to get back to the books!"

Buffy closed her eyes and took a deep breath. At that moment, Angel came into the room.

"Okay, who wants to take a break?"

Buffy looked expectantly at Willow.

"Go on, Buffy. I'll take the next one."

"You're the best, Will. I'll go take a shower, and see you in an hour or two."

Buffy had just gotten out of a very long shower. She dressed quickly in the hope of getting some sleep, but her hair was still damp. She had begun drying it out when the ringing phone interrupted her.


"Dawn, hi." Buffy had forgotten about her sister amidst the chaos. "Are you okay?"

"Me? How do you think I am? First you make me stay here, then you don't even call to let me know what's going on, and now I find out Spike's going to Hell?"

"I guess you talked to Willow. Did she tell you everything?"

"Duh, it's Willow. And I tried calling you this morning, but you weren't answering so I tried again a while ago, and still no answer. Then I called Angel. I'm pretty sure his forehead was all broody while we had the quietest conversation of my life. So he passed the phone to Willow."

"Okay, I get that you're angry with me, and I'm sorry." Buffy really was sorry, but all she could think now was 'Poor Willow'. Facing a manipulative Dawn wasn't for the faint of heart. "You used your vulnerable voice on her, didn't you?"

"My vulnerable voice? I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Oh, you know; the one that goes along with your puppy-eyed face."

"Hey, it's not my fault." Dawn protested in indignation. "You slay, I guilt people into telling me things. It's a survival skill."

"Right." Buffy couldn't help but smile. "So you called just to express your feelings or…"

"I wanna know how Spike is. Do you know why this is happening to him?"

"Not yet. He's not doing so great, but he's dealing with it. In a tough guy kind of way."

"So he's adopting your style, huh?"

"Not funny."

"Not meant to be."

There was a short-lived silence before Dawn put her machinations to work. "So did you tell him yet?"

"No…but I will! Soon."


Dawn's exasperated voice was shortly followed by a husky, completely different one on Buffy's side of the line. "Tell me what, pet?"

"Okay, that was too soon. I gotta go, bye Dawn!" She hung up the phone before Dawn could protest, then slowly turned to face Spike. "Spike! Have you've been here long?"

"Not really. Was that Niblet on the phone?"

"Yeah, she called to ask about you." Only after saying it she realized her mistake. Good, Buffy, because that doesn't sound suspicious at all! Her brain could start working with her mouth anytime now!

He lifted a brow, wary of her weird reactions. "And you hung up before she could talk to me?"

"Good point. Sorry."

"So, what is it that you have to tell me?"

"Me?" It was a stall, Buffy knew, but she needed a little more time to get her thoughts straight.

"There's nobody else here in the room, luv." He waited patiently for her reply, her attempts to change the subject and poorly devised excuses were only succeeding in making him curious.

"Oh, right." She could lie, but this time her sluggish brain wasn't coming up with any bright ideas. Besides, Spike could always tell when she was lying. Funny thing was, he wouldn't believe her when she told him the truth. Maybe that was why he could tell when she was lying, he'd always assume she was and be right half of the time. Ok, more than half, she was mostly a big fat liar. But anyway, that was an interesting thought…and completely off-topic, since he was still waiting for an answer. She could do it… three little words, no insults, no lies, no sarcasm. Ok, here we go.

"Spike, I love you."

He stared at her intently, startled and confused. Since the serious look on her face never shifted into a 'you've been punk'd!' one, he looked away, pondering over her words. She could almost see the internal struggle when his eyes returned to hers after what seemed like forever. The surprise, the confusion, the denial, the conflict; yep, they were all there. Finally, realization shone in his blue eyes.

"Oh, bollocks! I'm bleeding dying again, aren't I? Did Red say something?"

Her mouth dropped open and she stared at him, dumbfounded. Seriously? She finally revealed her feelings, and that's his reaction? In what distorted dictionary was the expression 'I love you' translated as 'You're going to die a horrible death'?

Buffy clenched her hands. Her pupils contracted and she pursed her lips as perplexity wore off. She definitely wasn't stunned anymore.

"Shut up, Spike! I'm in love with you and you sure as hell won't die on me again, because I will stake you myself before you do, you got that?" As soon as she finished saying it, a wave of relief washed over her. She clearly should've tried insulting and threatening him from the beginning. The words just blurted out of her mouth.

They stared at each other in silence. Spike tilted his head to the side, his brow furrowing as he processed her words.

"I tried to tell you before, but you wouldn't listen. And I know it was my fault. I said it too late. Of course you didn't have to go ahead and die, you stupid bleached vampire. You're not allowed to die again without believing me. In fact, I forbid you from dying, period." She paused briefly to breathe before continuing, "And why are you so quiet? You always have a comeback, so stop my blabbering and put me out of my misery, please."

"You know, you can't go changing your mind whenever you sodding feel like it! 'Cause I've had enough of this want-you-want-you-not game you've been playing. Brooding Forehead and I, right there at your disposal whenever you feel like entertaining yourself! We're not your bleeding playthings! We may not be humans anymore, but we have feelings, you know?"

"So you don't want me."

"Oh, for Heaven's sake Slayer, give a bloke a chance of faking some dignity!" He let out a heavy sigh. "Of course I want you, you stupid bint! I love you! I couldn't stop even if it bloody killed me, and it bloody well did."

"Sorry, I couldn't catch your meaning in the middle of all that cursing. What was it again?" She asked, the crooked smile on her face contradicting her words. He snorted before responding with a smile of his own.

"I love you, Buffy."

"I love you too, Spike." She knew her smile had grown into a really silly grin by now, but she couldn't control herself. And truth be told, she couldn't care less how she looked.

Spike took a step forward and tried to caress her face, careful so his hand wouldn't go through her skin. Buffy couldn't feel his touch. She felt cheated by all those supernatural romantic movies she'd seen all her life. Soon enough, her stupidity came crashing in on her - she should've waited until he got his body back! All she had accomplished by telling him now was torturing them both. What was the deal with those restrictions anyway? The PTB really liked to screw with her. First a no-sex restraint, now a no-touching one? Unbelievable! But then she looked at him and felt stupid once again. His smile, the loving look in his blue eyes, the silly way he still had his hand against her face. His eyes held her as if she was everything, like she was a goddess even though she felt like a teenager.

She'd seen his devotion before, but all those times he had tried to conceal it, make it so that his love wouldn't scare her away. All the sweet moments they had shared before had been feeble displays of the intensity of his love; they didn't begin to do him justice. He'd do anything for her, anything at all. And yet, Buffy's insecurities were still there. She was so immature, so thickheaded. She knew she could be herself around Spike. She'd never have to pretend she was strong for his sake. But she wished she was, badly. Wished that he wouldn't have to be the one who always did the comforting, the one who always had to sacrifice himself. The one with everything to lose and nothing to gain.

It had taken a really long time, two deaths, tickets for Heaven and Hell, but he had become a part of her. And she would save him this time, no matter what.

"I don't want to interrupt the moment, really, because hey, I'm on Team Spike and you two are so adorable when you're not trying to kill each other."

They had been so immersed in each other that they hadn't notice the redhead entering the room. "I think the question here is why?" Buffy asked, wondering how much Willow had seen. Probably not the declaration of love or she would've left them alone. It was a girl code rule.

"Because Spike went looking for a way to be with you, he got a soul, and what did Angel… oh. You mean why I'm interrupting, not why I'm on Team Spike, right. I found a way to get Spike's body back."

They both turned to face her straightaway.

"Okay, that's a sound enough reason, Red. Do tell."

"You're not gonna like it."

A/N: Hello everyone!

I'm sorry it took me so long to update this story. I originally intended to publish it on Tuesday, but this chapter turned out to be way longer than all the others (perhaps even combined). I rewrote it several times before sending it to my beta and changed some more after that, it was really hard. Rachel's help was invaluable, I can't thank her enough!

It goes without saying that I neglected my study completely to write this. Now I have to face the punishment of reading several pages of Hegel. I always thought the dialectical method was a really cool way of looking at History, but it's not so fun when applied to Philosophy, trust me.

I hope you all enjoy and let me know what you think! :)