A/N: Honestly, where does the time go? I hope you guys are still reading, and if you are, please review it would mean the word to me!

I would recommend brushing up on the past chapters if it's a bit fuzzy. Also, the reason why I don't refer to Anya by name is because that part is sort of from Angel's point of view, and I sincerely doubt that he would think Xander's girlfriend worth remembering. (Stupid Angel!) There's no Faith section in this chapter, but I'm fairly certain that she'll be back next chapter. Still no Katie, but she'll be playing a much more central role soon. Enjoy!

Angel and Tara both got past the slap first. Angel turned to Dawn and instantly started yelling at her while Tara grabbed Dawn's hand and whisked her upstairs in the middle of Angel's tirade.

From upstairs Dawn could hear people (Willow mainly) fussing over Buffy, that girl Fred's constant stream of questions, and what sounded like Cordelia and Angel having an argument. Tara, apparently being able to hear the same things, got up and shut the door, twisting the lock while she did so. She spun around and gave Dawn a look.

"Tell me everything." Tara finally said, settling down beside Dawn. And so Dawn told her all about the hospital. And Tara was beside her to wrap an arm around her when she, of course, succumbed to tears.

"Buffy, are you sure your okay?" Willow asked for the millionth time, her hands fluttering over Buffy nervously.

"Willow," Buffy snapped and the red head put her arms at her sides. "I'm the Slayer. A slap from my little sister isn't going to knock me into a coma."

"Oh, right, of course not, but Buffy…. I mean, Dawn slapped you. What are you going to do?"

"I'd say I would talk to her about it, but somehow I sincerely doubt she's in the talking mood. I'll let Tara handle this one and then we'll see. I get why she's upset, I really do."

Willow nodded and sat by Buffy on the couch. "I think we all get it but…. Buffy, what are we going to do about Spike? Faith has him, that's pretty serious."

"I don't know," Buffy admitted quietly, wrapping her arms around herself. "I just… I don't know. What should I do? What can I do?"

"Aw, no, Buffy it isn't like that. You'll get him back."

"Willow," Buffy said, looking up at the other girl with tears in her eyes. "I've already lost him."

"No you-"

"Yes," Buffy said a fierceness entering her voice. Willow couldn't understand because she hadn't lost her loved one. Sure, she'd lost Oz, but not in the same manner Buffy had lost Spike. Besides, Willow had Tara now. "I have lost him. I lost him way before Faith took him. I had a good thinking going Will, I was happy, we were in love and then I just went right along and messed it all up."

"He still loves you," Willow whispered.

Buffy didn't have a response for that. She knew Spike still loved her, just like she still loved him. You couldn't turn off feelings like that. If anything though, that made it worse. The fact that they loved each other, and that she'd screwed it up so badly that they couldn't act on that love just made it worse.

He'd tried for her too. He'd honestly tried and she'd thrown it back in his face. They use to be able to…. not have a friendship neccessairly but they used to be able to converse without crying and beating the living shit out of each other. And maybe with what had happened they shouldn't have remained even that. But she'd wanted too. No one had known (no one knew) and she preferred things that way. God knows she hadn't wanted things to end, and she knew that Spike hadn't wanted them to end either, so they reached a mutual agreement to be nice but broken up.

Buffy had thought things had been going well with Spike. She'd missed how torn up he was about everything that had happened, she'd missed all the signs, and once she caught on it was too late.

***Enter Flashback***

"Hey," Buffy said quietly. She wrapped her arms tightly around her torso. She didn't want to feel nervous around Spike but she'd still opted to wear jeans and a baggy hoodie. "I think we should talk."

Spike swirled his drink around and didn't make eye contact. "You honestly trust me to just talk?" He asked, laughing bitterly.

Buffy winced. She put her hands in her pockets and took a few hesitant steps towards Spike. As soon as he heard her coming he got up and backed further away, still refusing to look her direction.

"Okay… I'll just talk then," Buffy said trying to muster up confidence that she didn't have. "Look, what happened, it wasn't your fault. I'm the one who….. cheated."

"Don't," Spike whispered, his hand tightening on the glass.

"No, I cheated I should admit that. And I'm sorry, I…. I don't blame you for anything."

"Then you're stupid," He growled. "What I did to you…"

Buffy flinched as the glass shattered in his hand and of course, he had caught her flinching as he looked at her with an expression of eerie honesty.

"I scare you now."

"No," Buffy protested immediately. "We are not going to pretend like the past year and a half didn't happen."

"We're done for, you know that don't you? I won't come running back to you, I have some pride." Spike gave her a hard look before his features softened and he looked elsewhere again. "'Sides, after yesterday we shouldn't-"

Buffy held up her hand and he stopped talking. A silence fell between them. It was complete bogus. They had trusted and loved each other and she wasn't about to erase one of the best times of her life. Buffy swallowed once before she marched over to Spike and stood directly in front of him.

"I. Trust. You. And, I meant what I said yesterday, I do still love you. And I know," she continued since Spike had made to cut her off. "I know, that I screwed it all up-"

"We could do it over." Spike said suddenly.

"Do what over? Our relationship?"

Spike gave one quick nod and Buffy considered it. That situation was obviously, the nicest and the one that she wished she could agree to without serious moral issues. But she couldn't. Buffy shook her head.

"No," she said softly. "I think we need to end things."

Spike gave a curt nod. "Then we're ending things forever. No matter what happens tomorrow, or five years from now. It's done."

And although it broke Buffy's heart she nodded in agreement.

Two months later Spike was gone.

***Exit Flashback***

"Willow," Buffy whispered petrified. "I just keep thinking of what it was like when he went AWOL and this, this is so much worse."

"You'll get him back Buffy."

"You still don't get it," Buffy said mournfully. "I'll never get him back."

"Cordy you can't tell me not to talk to people," Angel said both annoyed and exasperated. She'd been arguing with him every since he'd gone off on Dawn, babbling on about how it 'wasn't his job' and how he 'should have left it alone.' "I make my own decisions."

"Not this one," She informed him, a little to chipper for his tastes. "Buffy's a big girl, she can handle it."

"She needs help."

Cordelia rolled her eyes and stared at him like he was the stupidest thing on the planet. "Hate to break it to you, but she doesn't want your help. She's in love with Spike so get over it."

Angel glared at her and walked into the dining room where Fred was bombarding an apprehensive Xander, and an eager girl-who-dates-Xander, with numerous questions about Buffy's life.

"Does she like pancakes?" Fred asked not giving them time to respond. "I mean, I don't know exactly what Slayers eat 'cause I haven't hung around one like y'all have. Are they allowed to eat pancakes? Will they be naturally strong no matter what they do? Could she eat fifty pies and still kill vampires? I won a pie eating contest once, okay, well, I win a lot of eating competitions but I stay around the same weight. Apparently I have a fast metabolism or something 'cause you think I'd be pretty chunky after fifty pies but I'm not. Do slayers have-"

"Fred," Cordelia said, sounding like she was about to ram her head repeatedly into something. "Why don't you try to get some sleep, that way you'll be all amped up for the exciting day of researching boring old textbooks tomorrow."

Fred nodded enthusiastically. "I like reading," She told Xander and whatever-her-name-was. "Night y'all!"

Cordelia sank into Fred's empty chair and started at Xander. "How long was she talking for?"

"Given the choice between a killer clown or her, I would choose the clown."

"But then you'd die." The girl stated matter-of-factly, a frown playing on her lips.

Cordelia rolled her eyes while Xander smiled. "It's just an expression Ahn. I'm not going anywhere."

The four of them looked up as Tara cautiously entered the room. Xander made to break the awkward silence but Buffy rushed into the room before he could speak, stealing the question he'd intended on asking.

"How is she?"

"She's upset Buffy," Tara said gently. "It seems to much like last time. She can't help but think of what she went through, and it scares her to think that Spike might be going through the same thing."

"Tara…" Buffy said slowly, not sure if she wanted to actually go through with her sentence. "I need you to tell me everything that happened to Dawn."

"That's not mine to share," Tara said automatically.

"Yes it is!"

"Dawn doesn't want you to know, I'm sorry. She… she just doesn't…"

"She choose Spike, just like if it comes down to it, she'll choose you over Willow. But that doesn't matter. Dawn knows what Faith is like. We-"

"So do you Buffy." Xander said suddenly, his eyes piercing into Buffy. "We all know what Faith is like. I'm with Tara-"

"Of course you're with Tara!" Buffy shrieked, losing it and not even caring. "You'll always be on any side but mine. I get that, I've accepted that. But stop pretending like you're all equally disturbed when you're really not. In case you forgot, you voted to talk to the victim, and we need to find Faith or Anya's pain was all for nothing."

Buffy looked at the six of them in the room, her heart pounding. She was sick of being critizied by her own friends.

"I don't care if you support me on this. Katie is my daughter, Dawn is my sister, and-"

"And Spike is your vampire." Angel murmured quietly.

Buffy went silent. "Spike's…. Dawn needs him." But even Buffy could tell that using Dawn as an excuse was rather low. "Some of us will go to Vegas and the rest will stay here. If no one wants to go with me, I'll go by myself. It's that simple."

And Buffy walked out of the house. When she came back the sun was up and she was coated in blood. She hadn't felt that relaxed in a long time. She thought she understood why Faith always needed to cut loose, because if you didn't, live was hell.