Buffy leaned her head back against the rough wall of the cave, wondering how she’d ended up there. Well, she knew how, it was more of an existential question than anything else.
Spike’s voice floated out of the darkness. Buffy knew that he could see her even though she couldn’t see him with the flashlight off to conserve battery power. How like him, she thought, to ask how she was. His head had to be throbbing, both from the emergency surgery, and from the aftereffects of the chip firing constantly.
The soldiers had offered them an escort out, but Buffy had refused, knowing that Spike wouldn’t want their help. Frankly, she didn’t want their help either. She had no idea what they would do or how they would react to Spike now that he didn’t have the chip, and she didn’t want to find out.
She had underestimated the difficulty of getting Spike out the way they’d come in, however, and running into the cave-in was the final straw so to speak. They had both sunk to the tunnel floor in exhaustion, knowing that they needed a break before attempting to get out.
Buffy had her suspicions about the blockage; it would have been easy enough for one of the soldiers to collapse the access tunnel as they left while she’d waited for Spike to come around.
“I should be asking you that question.”
A tired smile tilted his lips. “If I’m not dust, I don’t think you need to worry about me.”
“But I do.”
There was a moment of silence, and Buffy found that she wanted to see his face. She flicked the switch on the flashlight, and she saw that his eyes were closed. “I don’t want you worryin’ about me, Buffy.”
His voice was tired, as tired as she felt. It wasn’t all the stress, or the sleepless days or nights; it was the weight of things unsaid that lay between the two of them. Buffy was tired of carrying that weight around.
“You worry about the people you care for, Spike.”
He flinched, as though sensing a coming blow. “Thanks.”
Spike still wouldn’t meet her eyes, and Buffy sighed, then scrambled across the intervening distance to settle next to him. “Spike?”
“It’s fine, luv.”
“No, it’s not. Tell me what’s going through your head.”
“Nothin’. I’m tired an’ my head hurts. I’m not the best company right now.”
“Do you want me to kiss it and make it better?” The words slipped out before she could think better of it. It was too flirty, too forward. She wanted him; Buffy wanted Spike in ways she never thought possible, but she didn’t want to ruin the fragile thing growing between them.
“Buffy—” There was a justified reproach in Spike’s voice.
“I know. I’m sorry.”
But it wasn’t. Buffy knew that as well as he must. Things between them had never been fine. Their relationship had always been fraught, except perhaps in the middle of Willow’s disastrous “will be done” spell. Although, even then, they had fought constantly.
If she did this, if she attempted to right what had gone wrong, Buffy knew that things still wouldn’t be fine. There would still be the First to deal with, and all of the potentials, and there would be those who would be upset if she tried to rekindle their relationship.
Buffy knew that Giles wasn’t thrilled by keeping Spike around in the first place.
“I meant it.”
It was the only thing she could think of to say, the only way she knew to express her feelings. She had no idea if Spike would accept her overture, and knew that he had every reason not to.
She sighed. Spike could be so dense sometimes. “That I care about you, and that I would—kiss you if I could make it better.”
“Think that might just make things worse.”
“You’re probably right.” She closed her eyes and fought back tears. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, luv.” His voice was so gentle. “It’s not your fault. If anythin’, I should have—”
“No.” Buffy didn’t want to know what Spike thought he should have done. Now was not the time for apologies or regrets; they were past that now. “There were a lot of things we both should have done. There’s no point in looking back now.”
“You’re right. What’s done is done, yeah? Best we can do is move on, start again.”
“Yeah.” Buffy wished there was some way to lead into this, to explain what had gone on in her heart over the last months. “Spike—you know we’re okay, right?”
She could make out puzzled blue eyes in the darkness, and Buffy bit her lip. “We’re okay. What happened—I forgive you.”
Buffy knew when the words had sunk in by the widening of his eyes and his quick intake of breath. “Buffy—”
She stopped his words with a kiss, keeping it as chaste as the kiss she’d given him out of gratitude after he’d been tortured by Glory. He didn’t respond in the least, and Buffy pulled back to give him a look. “That’s your cue to kiss me back, you know.”
“I—alright.” Whatever else Spike had thought about saying was lost in their next kiss, his lips caressing hers, his hands resting lightly on her shoulders. Buffy could feel the hesitancy that had never been there before, and she knew it would take time to move past that.
It would likely take time for her to be ready for more than just kissing.
But for right now, stuck among the shattered remains of their past, Buffy thought that they both might finally be able to move forward.