Banner art: okdeanna
Word Count: 1230
Summary: Six months after the battle of the Hellmouth, Buffy brings her team to Wolfram & Hart on a legal matter and finds that she’s been kept out of the loop in some important ways.
A/N: This chapter contains "relationship talk". I'm afraid I let my inner shipper off leash in this part. Ruh roh. Beta'd by thepuddinhead! All the standard disclaimers apply.
Chapter One on DW / Chapter One on LJ
Chapter Two on DW / Chapter Two on LJ
Chapter Three on DW / Chapter Three on LJ
Chapter Four: We can work it out
Buffy climbed out of the car and set off toward a little rise in the distance. Spike loped along at her left, feeling unsettled by her sudden calm. It was possibly more disturbing than her anger. He wondered if he needed to be here for this. Surely she would work it all out on her own. Finally she spoke.
“I did love you, you know. And I loved that you did that amazing thing for all of us. Alright, maybe I loved you partly because you are the kind of man who could do something like that. That’s just part of who you are. But it made me really mad, too, because then you weren’t there anymore. And it made me sad. There was lots of sad, buster!” Spike listened carefully. Loved. Past tense. He nodded.
“You should be.”
They lapsed into silence and trudged on through the arid landscape. After a few minutes, she spoke again.
“It took awhile, but I figured out why you didn’t believe me. I know I should have let you know how I felt. With diagrams, probably. But that would have meant I actually knew how I felt. Which isn’t always totally clear to me. I thought there would be time to figure it out, after.”
“But then you died, Spike! Dust! Dust at the bottom of a crater with almost every other thing I’d ever cared about. You think I didn’t save you every night after that? Didn’t think of a million ways to make you believe me? But you were gone, and all the epiphany-thingies in the world wouldn’t bring you back.”
“I’m back now,” he ventured.
“Yes. And I think you’re trying to tell me I’m too late. You’re back and there’s no slow motion running through the—“ she looked around. “—scrub. You haven’t touched me. You’ve barely said a word. I can take a hint.”
She halted at the top of the rise, and looked out at the starlit horizon. He could see her huge eyes, brimming with hurt. He hated to see it there, but a small part of him loved it. Loved having the illusion that he had some power in this. It wouldn’t last. She’d realize that it was wrong, that she only wanted what she shouldn’t have. Once she had it, she’d be sorry. Be ashamed of herself and wander off with yet another ‘Sorry, William’. Suddenly he was the angry one.
“Jesus, Buffy! What am I supposed to do here? You’re standing there, and it almost sounds like you’re offering up my fondest dream. All glittering and glowing and just out of reach. It’s a joke. I can only have the carpet yanked out from beneath me so many times, you know?”
“A joke?” She bristled. “You think saying all this stuff is easy for me? Because it’s not. For once, I’m being honest with both of us. Why can’t you just…”
She looked at him with renewed intensity. He wouldn’t meet her eyes. He wrapped his coat more tightly around himself. The elements didn’t bother him, so it was something else entirely that he was warding off. When she spoke again, her voice was gentle.
“What are you afraid of?”
“Afraid?” He snorted. “Me? There isn’t much that can hurt me, Buffy.”
“I can. I have. Plenty.”
“Yeah, well, did my part, as well. That’s all over and done, right?”
“God! Are you trying to piss me off? It’s like you think the minute you let yourself believe that we have something, it will all come crashing down!” She paused. “Which, okay, after living on the Hellmouth for a few years, might not be an unreasonable thought.”
They shared a wry smile. She shook herself.
“It doesn’t have to always end in premature death or desertion, does it? I’m only going to be 23, Spike! This can’t be all there is. I mean, it hasn’t always been like that for you. You were with Drusilla for a hundred years and nobody died.”
He looked at her incredulously. “Oh. Well, yes…I guess they did. But it wasn’t either of you! You had a love affair with a loon for a century. Don’t you think that maybe we could have, I dunno, a fraction of that? Why couldn’t we have 10-25 years — with bonus sanity?”
He ducked his head. “Are you proposing?”
She huffed. “Fine. Joke it up. I just thought maybe you cared.” Her lip trembled and she blinked rapidly. He ached to comfort her, but even more he wanted to make sure they both understood exactly what was on offer here. He shoved his hands deeper into his coat pockets.
“I do care, but I’m not joking, Buffy. I really want to know what you want from me. I used to think I could suss out what you needed, but lately I haven’t been sure of much. So just tell me, what are your intentions? You want a friend? A trusty lieutenant in the world-saving racket? A willing slave?” He spread his hands out, begging for an answer.
She closed her eyes. “As much as part of me likes that ‘willing slave’ option — way, way too much — what I really want is something real. Something that works. For both of us.”
She reached out to twine her fingers with his. The contact was electric. Like the last time they’d touched, in the cavern beneath Sunnydale, everything seemed to fall away. He tried to focus on what she was saying. Might be important.
“I love you. You’re a good man. I’d like for you to be my man.”
He looked away from their hands, struggling to keep from drowning in this deluge of sweet words and sensations. To keep her from making a terrible mistake.
“Not a good man. I’ve only been back a few hours and I’ve already done some things I’m not proud of. Still a monster, Buffy. Always will be. Why would you want that?”
“I’ve got my reasons.”
She reached into her pocket, retrieving something and holding it out to him. He glanced down to see his lighter resting in her palm. He looked at it with wonder. She’d kept it with her, all this time. He’d really meant something to her. She’d missed him.
“There’s always been light in your darkness, Spike,” she said. “That’s something I want. Tell me what you want.”
She looked up at him, and what he saw in her eyes destroyed his objections. There she was, open to him, not running away. She was asking him truly, with enough concern that he knew it wasn’t a spell or any trick. In that instant, he was lost. All his defenses crumbled to nothing.
He felt all his love for her rush to the fore. He couldn’t hide it under a bushel a moment longer. He half expected her to turn away when faced with the strength of his feelings. If anything, her eyes shone brighter, her smile more dazzling. This woman saw him, and accepted him anyway. It felt like a miracle. His amazement turned to awe.
“Oh. Wow,” breathed Buffy, gazing up at him.
“What do I want? Hmmm. Might need to give it some thought.”
He leaned down to kiss her upturned lips. She melted. He burned, and this time the fire in his chest felt like a balm.
It ain't over yet! Continued in Epilogue: Bumps in the road (or, Oh no, he di'int!)
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