Author’s Notes: This was written for the Summer of Spike community on Livejournal. In many ways my two entries expose my dual personalities. Half the time I’m a hopeful Spuffy fan, the other half of the time I just want to make Spike happy with someone who actually deserves him. This is the Spuffy half of me talking.
Buffy knew what she had to do as soon as they settled in at the hotel. The injured had been taken to the hospital, and the rest of them had all separated to their various rooms. No one was keeping tabs on the Slayer, either because they were too busy dealing with their own grief or because they had overlooked the fact that she might be experiencing her own.
Everyone seemed to have forgotten about Spike. In the relief and excitement that naturally followed winning the battle, she supposed she could understand that. It didn’t change the fact that her choices had narrowed down to one option.
There was no choice.
She washed her face and put a new bandage on the wound in her side. Then she took the charge card Giles had given her for the hotel rooms and went out to locate a rental car.
In spite of the strain that recent events had placed on their relationship, Buffy had to give Giles points for thinking far enough ahead to put their identification in a safe place. He’d put a lock box on the bus with the necessary documents. Buffy only wished that they’d thought to do the same for changes of clothing.
She knew how bad she probably looked, and she didn’t care. Buffy was determined to do what she needed. Her heart demanded satisfaction.
Her head needed proof.
The fear that preyed on her was that Spike would be left at the bottom of that crater just as she’d been left in her coffin to dig herself out. It was a long shot, and she knew that if any of the others found out what she was doing, they would try to talk her out of it.
What did they know, though? No one had ever really understood what lie between her and Spike. Their relationship was a mystery that even her friends couldn’t penetrate.
Exhaustion pulled at her, but Buffy ignored it. She was still wired from the fight and was unwilling to pause even for a moment lest she give in to the inevitable fatigue.
When she reached the crater, the sun was just beginning to come up over the horizon. Buffy stood there and watched the sun rise, considering her options. She hadn’t brought any climbing equipment, although she’d at least stopped at a gas station for water and snacks.
With a deep breath, Buffy started the long climb down.
To say it wasn’t easy would have been an understatement. She kept having to stop to catch her breath, her teeth gritted against the pain in her side. It might have been smarter to wait—to give herself time to heal. Of course, that would have left her wondering for another day or two if Spike was somehow stuck at the bottom of the Hellmouth, trapped, and struggling to get out.
It was more than a long shot to think he’d survived, of course. It was down right impossible. That didn’t keep Buffy from needing to make certain of it, one way or another.
She stumbled several times, scraping hands and legs on rock and debris. Eventually Buffy managed to make it to the bottom without causing herself more serious injuries. She swiped a hand across her sweaty forehead, adding more dust and ash to her already-dirty features.
The devastation that greeted her was something out of a nightmare. How she had thought to find Spike in all this mess was beyond her now. She’d been foolish, and yet she was unwilling to go back without at least attempting the feat.
It was dim in the crater, in spite of the fact that the sun was now fairly high overhead. The high, sloped walls protected most of the bottom from seeing direct sunlight. She closed her mind to the destruction surrounding her; Buffy had no desire to view the crumpled cars or the rubble of houses.
There were worse things than debris, and Buffy was making every attempt not to notice.
She wandered, looking around blindly. As the minutes and hours passed, Buffy knew with bleak certainty that Spike had not made it. He’d sacrificed his life for her, because she’d asked it of him, because she’d called him a Champion.
Spike had wanted to leave Sunnydale, he’d offered, and she had asked him to stay. If only she had let him go. If only she had told him she loved him then. Perhaps he would have believed her in those final moments. Maybe he would have chosen to follow her out.
Maybe she should have ripped the amulet off his neck and dragged him out. That would have been okay too, as long as he’d still been alive.
Buffy slumped against a badly damaged car, putting her head in her hands. It was no good. Her last hope was a futile one. Spike was gone.
Her head shot up as she heard the sound of rubble shifting.
Exhaustion forgotten, she shot to her feet, hurrying off as quickly as she could to locate the source of the sound.
There it was again. Hope flared in her breast. This wouldn’t be a fool’s errand after all.
She saw him outlined against the brown-gray dust. He was covered in it, but Buffy just managed to make out the dusty black of leather and denim. Hurrying over to his side, she turned him over, hissing in disbelief.
Buffy hadn’t seen Spike with burns this bad since he had laid himself over that cross. The burns had streaked his face and throat, and with a sick feeling in her stomach, Buffy lifted his t-shirt, somehow knowing what she would see.
Where the amulet had hung—
It wasn’t pretty.
Spike’s right hand was burned to match hers, and so Buffy grabbed his left hand, entwining their fingers. “Spike? Please, Spike. I can’t carry you out.”
She might have to, and in that case she would manage. Buffy always managed the impossible. It was why she’d felt she needed to return to what was left of Sunnydale. Spike usually managed the impossible as well.
His eyes flickered open and met hers unseeingly. Spike’s mouth worked, but no sound came out. “Hang on,” she told him, taking the bottle of water she’d been carrying and pouring a little into his mouth. “Better?”
“Better,” he agreed. Buffy tipped the bottle again, watching as he swallowed. “You came.”
“I’ll always come for you,” she replied. “Can you walk?”
“Dunno,” Spike replied, a wry smile teasing the corners of his lips. “Guess we’ll find out, won’t we?”
She hauled him to his feet as carefully as she was able, trying to avoid aggravating his injuries. Spike leaned on her heavily, and she tried not to stagger under the load. It wasn’t that Spike was all that heavy, but she wasn’t up to full strength. There was no way they were going to make it out of the crater like this.
Buffy was ready to die trying, though. There was no way she’d leave him again.
They stumbled along together like a couple of drunks after an all-night bender. Spike continued on gamely, in spite of the pain Buffy knew he had to be feeling. They managed to make it to the crater wall, close to where Buffy had descended.
Once there, they both collapsed onto the ground, sending up little puffs of dust. “There’s no way I’m makin’ it up that wall.”
It was the first thing Spike had said to her since they started their long hike. They had needed every ounce of their strength just to continue putting one foot in front of the other.
“There’s a path.”
“I won’t make it, Buffy.”
“I’m not leaving you!”
The words came out more forcefully than she’d intended, but Buffy didn’t regret it. If Spike hadn’t believed her in the Hellmouth, maybe he’d believe her now.
His hand didn’t loosen its grip on hers. “I won’t make it,” he repeated softly. “You can go, get some help. I know you’ll come back for me.”
“I told you I wasn’t leaving you here.”
Spike sighed. He hurt like hell. Even though he’d told Buffy he was sure she’d come after him, there had been no such certainty in his mind. He was supposed to be dead, and he had no idea why he wasn’t. One minute he was burning up from the inside out, and the next it had stopped, leaving him to scramble out of the cavern, at which point he’d promptly passed out.
When he’d awoken, Spike had begun the process all over again, climbing over debris, ignoring the pain, until he blacked out. Then waking up to do it all over again. His greatest fear had been that he wouldn’t be able to make it out of the crater and find shelter before the sun came up, whenever he actually managed to reach the top. It would be out of the frying pan and into the fire with no way to contact anyone to help him.
And then Buffy was there, just as she had been when she’d rescued him from the First and its minions. He was beginning to believe her.
“You can’t stay here forever, luv.”
“Don’t call me that,” Buffy replied furiously.
Spike frowned. “Buffy—”
“You didn’t believe me.”
“Why should I?”
His tone was honestly bewildered, and Buffy felt the tears threaten. “No reason at all, except that I never said it before. Do you really think I’d say something I didn’t mean?”
“They were your final words to a dying man, pet,” Spike replied gently. “I didn’t think—”
“I love you.”
Spike stared at her for a long moment before finally nodding. “I know.” He let the pause grow tense. “I love you too, but you have to leave me here right now. I’m not in a fit state to climb out, and you aren’t well enough to carry me.”
“There’s one way.”
He had no idea what she was talking about until Buffy turned her head, exposing her neck to him. “No.”
“If you drink, you’ll heal,” Buffy replied. “Then you’ll be strong enough to get both of us out of here.” He was shaking his head. “Spike, please.”
“It’s too dangerous. If I—”
“I trust you.”
Those three words were more precious to him than her declaration of love. “Buffy—”
His change in tone betrayed the fact that he was weakening. “Please.”
Spike never had been able to refuse her anything. He bent his head and drank.
Buffy slept peacefully, leaning against Spike’s lean form. He kept one arm around her, his thumb stroking the back of her hand. She wouldn’t let him go, even in sleep.
Slayer’s blood had worked as well as she thought it would. He hadn’t taken as much as he might have, but the influx had strengthened him enough to make it possible for both of them to climb out of the crater. They had started as soon as the sun began to dip below the horizon, and they had emerged just a few hours before dawn. Early enough to make it back to L.A. without Spike getting fried.
Spike had insisted on driving for a number of reasons, but mostly because Buffy was completely done in, and he was wired on her blood. He glanced over, seeing his fang marks on her neck, and felt a flood of warmth go through him.
She had asked him to bite her. She’d let him drink from her. It was as powerful a declaration of love as he could have asked for. His disbelief in the Hellmouth now appeared silly.
Buffy stirred slightly. “How far?” she asked without opening her eyes.
“Half an hour, maybe less,” Spike replied. “What are we going to do once we get there?”
“I don’t know about you, but I’m going to want a shower.” She looked up at him coyly. “You could probably use one too.”
Spike smiled, deciding to push her a bit. “I’ll have to get a room for that.”
“You will not!” Buffy shot back. “You’re staying in my room. I want to make sure your burns are healing.”
His face softened. “I’m feelin’ much better, luv, like I could take on a whole army of those ugly bloodsuckers.”
“No more armies,” Buffy replied. “For either of us. Unless it’s an army of Slayers.”
Spike smiled, keeping his eyes on the road. “Red’s mojo worked then?”
“Like a charm.” Buffy bit back a yawn. She was still exhausted in spite of her nap. “Do you remember what I said?”
“You’ll have to be a bit more specific,” Spike said with a chuckle. “You’ve said a lot to me.”
“That night in the kitchen, after the first night you held me. I said maybe when. You know , when it was over.”
“Right. That’s when you told me the night you spent with me didn’t mean anything.”
“I didn’t say that,” Buffy defended, hurt. “I just—I was scared.”
“I remember,” Spike said, relenting slightly.
She still hadn’t let go of his hand. Buffy wasn’t planning on doing so anytime soon. “Well, you know, it’s when.”
“So what were you thinking of?” He was keeping his tone as nonchalant as possible.
“Maybe start with the shower and see where it all goes from there.”
“What about your friends? Or your Watcher?”
“I think we’ve both survived enough apocalypses not to care what they think,” Buffy replied, wishing that Spike didn’t need to keep his eyes on the road, or that she didn’t smell quite so bad. There was no way she was going to do anything with him without taking a shower first.
Which made it all that much more important that they take a shower together. Buffy needed to touch him, needed to remind herself that he was fine, that he was there.
That she hadn’t lost him.
He’d had to steal the address. Spike hadn’t had that much fun in ages. It would be even better when he called Angel from Buffy’s flat, when he told the big git he’d won the girl.
If he’d won the girl.
Spike had this nagging fear that Buffy wouldn’t want him back, that stowing away on the ship and stealing Angel’s credit card wouldn’t have done him a bit of good. What would he do then? There was certainly no way he could go back to L.A. if it turned out he was wrong.
Of course, Spike had always been a gambler. He’d gone for the Cup of Perpetual Torment, and he’d both won and lost all at the same time.
But he’d beaten Angel to a bloody pulp. That had been well worth the effort.
It turned out he couldn’t get to Italy quite as fast as he would have liked. The cargo ship docked in Liverpool , and it wasn’t going anywhere after that. Well, not anywhere like Rome anyway.
So Spike had waited until the sun went down to sneak off the ship, and then he’d had to go about finding something to eat.
When he went to use the credit card to obtain some kind of transportation, Spike discovered that it had been cancelled, and he had a narrow escape from the authorities. Now that they were looking for him as a thief, it would be that much more difficult to make it out of the country. Security was tighter these days, and Spike hadn’t bothered asking Angel to arrange identification. Not like Peaches would have obliged him anyway.
He ignored his hunger long enough to steal a motorbike and rode as quickly as he dared from Liverpool south to London . Once in London , Spike had a better idea of where to get something to eat, and he found a demon bar that was happy to take what little cash he had for blood.
It was close enough to daybreak that Spike decided to find a place to spend the night before setting off again.
He just hoped that Buffy appreciated the lengths he’d gone for her. Even if she didn’t want him around permanently, Spike hoped this would buy him some time on her couch.
He didn’t let his mind go there very often, however. The idea that she wouldn’t want him any longer—if she ever truly had—hurt too much.
“Did anybody tell you about what happened around here tonight?”
Buffy watched him, saw the new lines around eyes and mouth. Even though vampires weren’t supposed to age, Spike was growing older before her watchful gaze. Maybe it had something to do with the soul. The weight of guilt and remorse could age even an immortal creature of the night.
” Willow did. The First is back in the mix.” It wasn’t good news. Buffy thought about what was said, what the First had told Andrew. It still had plans for Spike, and that frightened her more than she could say.
She heard him draw in an unnecessary breath, knew that he was going to say something she didn’t like. “It, uh, talked to the little boy. Said it wasn’t time for me yet. I should move out. Leave town before it is time for me.”
Buffy wanted to tell him to stay. She wanted to make Spike stay. The thought of him being gone again made her ache in a way she hadn’t since Angel had left Sunnydale.
At the same time, she couldn’t lose him, and she had a feeling that she would if he stayed. “I think you might be right.”
Spike glanced over at her, surprise writ large on his expressive face. ” Wh- what?” He hadn’t expected that response. The hurt in his eyes told Buffy everything she needed to know about what he thought her motivations might be.
“I can’t protect you from the First, Spike,” she said quietly. “I just—I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want to risk—” Buffy stopped there, hoping that he would understand her unspoken anxieties as he had so many times in the past. She didn’t want a repeat of the scene in the basement with Spike begging her to stake him. Buffy didn’t want to have to kill him.
He swallowed hard. “You have the Principal now anyway. Gives you another demon fighter, one without my weaknesses.”
“You’re not weak,” Buffy argued. “You’re one of the strongest people I’ve ever known, but it’s not worth the risk of you staying here. After this is all over—”
He wouldn’t meet her eyes, looking down at his hands. “Right. After this is over you can tell me what a great job I did running away.”
“If you’re there when this is over, it would be worth it.”
Spike could refuse her nothing. He’d never been able to say no to her, even though he wished it was possible. “Where should I go?”
“Away,” Buffy replied. “Far enough to be out of the First’s range. You said it only started bothering you once you were back in Sunnydale, right?”
“Yeah.” Spike stood abruptly. “I’ll leave tonight. I’ll—I’ll keep in touch.”
Buffy stood as well. “You do that, but you don’t have to leave now.”
“I think it might be better.”
“Stay with me. Tonight. Please.” Those five words cost her more than any other words at any other time.
Spike shook his head. “Luv, I’m not going to have farewell sex with you.”
Buffy hadn’t known Spike to be that blunt since before the soul. “Then make love to me because I want you to.”
It was the only thing she could think of to say what she couldn’t quite utter out loud. Judging from the expression on Spike’s face, it was enough to get her point across.
Based on the kiss he gave her, letting him go tomorrow was going to be that much harder, but Buffy didn’t care. If this was the last night they were together, she wanted him to know how she felt, to sense her love, even if she couldn’t say the words.
Spike caught the train in Paris . It was easier than ever to get across the Channel. For a vampire who had been around for over a century, evading security was a bit of a doddle.
He listened to the sounds of French being spoken around him, keeping his eyes closed so he could feign sleep. Spike had overheard a few rather rude comments about his appearance, and he had to bite back a smirk, since it was obvious that the other passengers thought him an ignorant Cockney who couldn’t speak a word of French.
He’d have to save up his knowledge for a surprise. When he spoke in a near-perfect accent, Spike wanted to be sure to catch the expressions on their faces.
French, at least, he could speak. His German was decent, although not great, and he could manage in Italy , although he wasn’t fluent. Spike hated to admit it, but he didn’t have Angel’s knowledge of languages, although he could have.
Spike just didn’t see the point always. He had always learned what he wanted to learn, when he wanted to learn it.
Still, there were plenty of things he could do that Angel couldn’t. He could go after the girl, and in this instance, he was thinking that might be the most important skill anyway.
Oh, and he could beat Angel in a fight. That memory still brought a smile to his face.
Spike was going to miss Fred. If Buffy turned him away—if it wouldn’t be so completely humiliating to go back to L.A.—he wouldn’t have minded giving the brainy bird a go. She had seemed to be developing a soft spot for him. She could definitely hold her own, and Spike respected that in a girl.
Yeah, he’d miss her.
Wouldn’t really miss the others, though. They’d all taken their cues from Angel and treated him like a nuisance, like yesterday’s rubbish. As if he really wanted to be dragged back to unlife as a ghost. Like he’d wanted to find out that he’d taken Angel’s place as Wolfram & Hart’s puppet.
Spike was just grateful to be well and truly shut of the place. If he’d had to stay there much longer, he’d have ended up completely barmy.
Spike thought about what he was going to say to Buffy, how he was going to approach her. It would probably be better not to just show up on her doorstep, but that was the general plan.
Honestly, he was hoping that surprise would weaken her defenses.
Unless Angel had called to warn her that he was coming. Spike wouldn’t put it past his grandsire; he wouldn’t put it past Angel to lie through his teeth about Spike being evil again, or that he’d lost his soul, or some such nonsense. It would be “for her own good.”
Well, he’d just have to hope that Buffy wouldn’t stake him on sight, even if Angel had called ahead to give her ridiculous warnings.
The cavern shook, trembling under her feet. If she was going to leave, Buffy knew she’d have to make it soon. Not for the first time did Buffy consider that she might not make it out in time.
“I can feel it, Buffy.”
“My soul. It’s really there. It kind of stings.”
How could he have not felt it before? Buffy wondered helplessly, pinned in place by indecision. She wanted to help him; they needed to leave. “Spike, we have to leave.”
“Go on then.” His voice was curiously gentle, and he appeared to be lit up from within.
Buffy shook her head. “I’m not leaving.”
Spike couldn’t even shake his head, held still by some invisible force. She could see the determination in his eyes. He was ready to see this through, to make the sacrifice. “Gotta move, lamb,” he replied. “I’ll finish the clean-up.”
“I’m not leaving without you.” There was a part of her that knew she ought to allow him to make his grand gesture. Spike needed to do this as much for himself as for her—because she had called him her Champion.
She couldn’t, though. If Spike could have saved her that night on Glory’s tower, if he could have prevented her from jumping—even though she’d needed to do it—he would have.
Buffy understood now.
The amulet burned her hand when she touched it, but it took mere seconds to rip it off his neck and throw it at the scant remaining uber-vamps. Spike stared at her in disbelief, but she ignored him, grabbing his arm and slinging it around her neck.
“We’re leaving together.”
She didn’t give him a chance to protest. They ran through the crumbling halls of the high school on the heels of the last remaining Potentials.
No, they were Slayers now. There was no longer a Chosen One, or even Chosen Two. They were an army.
Buffy moved the both of them quickly enough so that Spike didn’t even have time to begin smoking before they were on the bus and the door was closing behind them.
They were seated, and Spike glanced over at her, his eyes radiating barely suppressed rage. “You had no right.”
“You’d done enough, Spike,” Buffy replied stolidly. Maybe she shouldn’t have interfered, but the idea of losing him had hurt too much to do otherwise.
“It was my decision,” he hissed in return.
Buffy glared at him, tears pricking her eyes. Tears she refused to shed. “I wasn’t going to lose another person I love.”
Spike blinked. “Buffy—”
“I love you.”
“If you don’t want me to finish what that amulet started, you won’t finish that sentence.” Buffy’s voice was even and very, very serious. “I love you.”
Spike frowned, bewilderment still plain on his face. “Say it again.”
“I love you.”
It seemed to be sinking in. “Really?”
She rolled her eyes. “Have you suddenly gone deaf? Or did that piece of costume jewelry fry your brain?”
“What now then?”
Buffy shrugged, a smile beginning to play across her lips. “I don’t know. We have all the time in the world to find out, though.”
He’d been forced to hide in the baggage compartment after they’d crossed into Italy . The train would be arriving in the early hours of the morning, after the sun had come up. Spike wasn’t sure what kind of shelter would be available, and he thought it best to not attract too much attention.
Slipping off the train in Rome was as easy as he’d hoped, and Spike was beginning to wonder when his luck would run out. Normally, his plans got bollocksed long before now.
Of course, Spike figured he wouldn’t have had nearly as much success if he hadn’t lifted Angel’s wallet. After all, you could cancel a credit card, but there wasn’t much you could do to recover stolen cash.
Not that he had unlimited funds. Spike knew he only had about a hundred lira, which wouldn’t get him very far. Getting to Buffy was the only thing that mattered now. He’d figure out how to finagle more dosh later.
Until the sun went down, he was stuck in the train station. While he might have managed to find his way through the sewers and catacombs, it had been long enough since he’d been in the city that he didn’t want to risk it. Normally Spike didn’t back away from a fight, but right now he didn’t want to spare the time.
Honestly? He didn’t trust his luck to hold out. If he was this close to Buffy, only to lose in a fight…
So he watched the people in the station, listened to the various languages being spoken, amused himself by guessing at their backgrounds and occupations. Spike wandered around, trying not to look too shady, hiding from security any time they appeared to be too interested in him.
Once the sun had disappeared below the horizon, Spike was off like a shot. He reveled in the fresh night air as he loped down heavily trafficked streets crowded with natives and tourists alike. The air was crisp and redolent with scents. After being shut up all day, it was a relief to be out, under the stars and the streetlamps.
Spike had Buffy’s address memorized, and even his now-sketchy understanding of Roman streets wasn’t enough to slow him down.
And there it was. Her apartment building rose up before him, and Spike skidded to a halt, suddenly unsure of himself.
This was it. He had no backup plan, no idea of what he would do if Buffy no longer wanted him around.
Spike squared his shoulders. It didn’t matter. He had loved her for years, and he’d love her until he was dust for good. If he had to, he’d hang around Rome until Buffy finally figured out that he was the only man for her.
Besides, she’d said the words. Buffy didn’t say things like that lightly.
At least, that’s what he kept telling himself.
Buffy was putting the finishing touches on her makeup when she heard the knock at the door. Dawn had finally convinced her that she needed to get out, meet people, have some fun. She’d left unspoken the fact that she thought Buffy ought to be out meeting guys.
She really hadn’t lied to Angel, though. She’d needed time to herself, to finish baking.
And that had to have been the stupidest analogy she’d ever come up with.
Buffy frowned as the knocking started up again. She certainly wasn’t expecting anyone, and Dawn said she’d meet her at the club. Her little sister was enjoying the nightlife that Rome had to offer, just as much as Buffy had enjoyed going out at Dawn’s age. She felt like an old woman these days, even though only five years separated them.
Buffy couldn’t believe her eyes when she opened the door.
He stood there, looking exactly the same as he had down in the Hellmouth, minus the glowing. She could see the nervous anticipation on his face, the widening of his eyes as he saw that she was dressed to go out, the quickly interrupted hand movement that suggested he wanted a cigarette.
She stood, unmoving, hardly able to believe her eyes. It was impossible. She was dreaming.
“Can I come in?”
If she was dreaming, Buffy was pretty sure she didn’t want to wake up. “Yeah, sorry. Come in, Spike.”
He stepped through the doorway, invisible barrier gone, his hands running nervously over his hair. “You look like you’re on your way out,” he observed. “If you need—I won’t keep you.”
“Don’t you dare go anywhere,” Buffy warned him, dashing over to the phone, dialing the number from memory. “Dawn?” She heard her sister’s voice. “I can’t come tonight… No, I’m not being a party pooper. Something’s come up…Spike’s here.” A trace of amusement entered her voice. “Fine, stay on Daniele’s couch, but it had better be the couch and not his bed, Dawn.”
Hanging up, she turned back to Spike. “Sorry. I was supposed to be meeting her.”
“‘s okay,” he assured her, still standing awkwardly in the middle of her living room.
The silence hung between them, strained. Uncertain. “How long have you been back?”
“Not long,” he replied, shifting from foot to foot. “I, uh, was a ghost for a while. Soon’s I got solid I booked it over here. I wanted to see you.” Spike shot her a wary look. “Angel didn’t call?”
Buffy shrugged. “I haven’t heard from him since we left L.A. ”
“Oh.” Spike shook his head as though to clear it. “Right.”
“Sit,” Buffy said, gesturing towards the couch. “I’m just going to change into something more comfortable, okay?”
Spike nodded, not quite meeting her eyes. “I’m sorry I interrupted your evening.”
She didn’t bother taking off her makeup or anything like that, but Buffy did want the chance to change out of the heels, halter and tight pants she wore. Although Spike might not fully appreciate the pajamas that covered up a lot more skin.
On the other hand, Spike was about the only guy around whom she felt comfortable enough to wear her pajamas without worrying about what he’d think. He’d seen her in worse. And less.
He still hadn’t relaxed by the time she came out of her room, sitting gingerly on the edge of the couch as though ready to leap up at a moment’s notice. Buffy had to wonder if he’d expected her to react badly to his arrival.
“Do you want to take your coat off?”
He glanced up at her, startled, having been lost in his own thoughts. “I don’t want to intrude.”
“You’re not intruding.” Her voice was firm. “Come on, Spike, relax. I’m not planning on kicking you out. Do you need a place to stay?”
“If it’s not too much trouble.” Spike pulled off his duster slowly, handing it to Buffy when she held out her hand imperiously.
“Are you hungry? I could—” She trailed off, not knowing where there would be a butcher from whom she could purchase blood. In Sunnydale it wouldn’t have been a problem, but she hadn’t needed to know that sort of thing in Rome .
“I’ve already eaten,” Spike said, a smile softening his features. “I’m good.”
Buffy hung up his coat in the closet, staring at the worn leather for a moment, afraid that when she turned around it would have been an illusion. He was still sitting there, his eyes as patient as ever. “I missed you.”
The words were out before she could pull them back, and she watched as his eyes widened in surprise. “Buffy—”
“Did you really not believe me?” The floodgates were open. There was no going back now. “In the Hellmouth?”
Spike hesitated, then shook his head. “I didn’t know what to believe, pet. I didn’t—I didn’t want to believe it. There I was, dyin’, and you were professin’ your love for me? Talk about irony.”
“How do you think I felt?” Buffy asked. “When I thought of all the times I could have—”
A silence fell, taut with a different kind of feeling, almost painful in its intensity. Spike was staring at her. “I came to see you.” His voice was hoarse. “I’ve got nothing, Buffy. Less than what I had in Sunnydale even. Had to nick Angel’s wallet just to get here, which is why I thought he’d call you.”
Spike hesitated. “I wasn’t sure you’d want me around.”
“I’ve wanted you around for a long time now.” The confession came easier this time. Buffy figured that after spitting out those three little words, the rest of it got easier to say too. “Now that I’ve had experience with you not being here, I can definitely say I like it better the other way around.”
Spike’s insecurities had reared their ugly heads as soon as he’d knocked. Every ounce of bravado had gone right out the window, as it usually did around the Slayer. She had pulled off his masks one by one until there was nothing left but himself.
“I s’pose it’s a good thing I’m so attractive then,” Spike said, standing and running a hand down his chest suggestively. “Since it’s all I’ve got to offer.”
She laughed, as he’d known she would. “It’s not just your body I want, Spike.”
The mood turned on a dime, suddenly serious, but with an edge of sweetness. This was how it had been between them during the best of times that last year. “That right?”
“I want you.” Buffy touched him then, allowed herself to run her fingers down his face, tracing his cheekbones, down his shoulder, his arm, to his hand. Entwining her fingers with his, Buffy echoed their pose from months ago. “I love you.”
There was no fire this time, but neither of them minded. They would make their own heat.
Buffy woke slowly, her hand grasping at empty space. She fought back the tears impatiently.
It was like this every morning. Every night she dreamt that she’d saved him, that Spike was alive. Her favorite dream, by far, was the one where she went back to Sunnydale and found him in the Hellmouth. Usually it ended with them taking a long vacation somewhere and doing—well, lots of things.
She had rethought everything that they’d done that horrible year with a few new twists, actually, but with love. That made all the difference.
But every morning she would wake to the realization that Spike was gone, and every morning her heart would break just a little bit more. She remembered what he’d told her, after she had come back from the dead. That every night he saved her.
Well, every night she saved him .
Last night’s dream had been far and away the best, however. Spike showing up on her door, with no plans to leave and no apocalypse in sight. A night of soft touches, and making out, and orgasms…
Oh, how she had missed those.
It made it all that much harder to wake up, knowing that it had been a dream, that Spike wasn’t there and he wasn’t coming back. Buffy could dream up a hundred thousand ways to save him. She could play the scenarios over and over in her head. Could think of a hundred ways to convince him of her love. It didn’t change the fact that he had died, and he’d died believing that she didn’t love him.
Grumbling to herself, Buffy rolled over, ready to pull the pillow over her head for a few more hours of sleep. The door squeaked as it opened, and she sighed. “Go away, Dawn.”
It was his voice. It was impossible. Buffy swallowed hard, turning to stare at him.
Spike stood in the doorway, holding two steaming mugs, dressed only in his jeans. The expression on her face had his insides twisting. Buffy looked like she was shocked to see him there, and it was too reminiscent of the times when she’d shagged him all night only to run out in the morning.
If she’d given him the world, only to snatch it away again, Spike was fairly certain he’d prefer a stake. Maybe she’d oblige after she was through ripping out his heart. He was such an idiot. “Buffy—”
“You’re really here.”
It was the awe in her voice that caught him, like she’d just woken from the best dream of her life to find that it was real after all. “Well, yeah,” Spike replied, frowning. “I thought we established that last night. We took our time at it, too.”
“It’s just—” She stopped, still staring. “Every night I dream you’re not dead, that I pulled that damn amulet off your neck, or that you didn’t dust, or that I sent you away before it was too late. Every morning I wake up, and you’re not here, and now—”
Spike set both mugs down carefully on the bedside table, gathering her up into his arms, burying his face in her hair. “‘m here now.”
Her cheek was almost hot against the coolness of his skin. “Swear to me you’ll never do something that heroic again,” she demanded, her voice muffled.
“Only if you can promise the same.”
Neither of them could promise any such thing, and they both knew it.
“Then promise you’ll stay.”
Spike’s arms tightened around her. “Promise. I love you. Came all the way ’round the bloody world to prove it, didn’t I?”
“You did.” She giggled a little. “You said something last night about beating the shit out of Angel.”
Spike tried to remember when they’d talked about Peaches, and recalled her asking him what he’d been up to. The epic battle had come to mind. She’d been rather appreciative of the struggle, too, as she should be. They’d both fought him and won. “That’s right. He probably gave up on keeping me from you at that point. He knew who the better vampire was.”
“Damn straight.” Her eyes caught his. “I love you.”
Spike didn’t respond in words, instead kissing her, knowing that she’d understand. They would have to deal with the rest of the world later. They’d have to sort things out with Dawn, and her friends who were probably hovering somewhere in the background, but right now none of that mattered. Now there was only the two of them and the knowledge that she had dreamt of him. Every night.
He couldn’t wait to tell Angel.