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“You are such an ass,” Buffy huffed, crossing her arms. Her heart was pounding and she was a little out of breath. She knew her face was flushed and her hair was a wild mess but dammit, that wasn’t her fault!

“I’m the ass? Me? I did nothing – nothing wrong here, Slayer," Spike replied. God, she was a sight to see when she was angry – her cheeks flushed and her chest heaving. If it weren’t so dangerous for his well-being, he would keep her angry all the time. He would keep her angry and then fuck it out of her but now wasn’t the time for those kinds of thoughts. There were more important things to be thinking about. Like how this was somehow his fault – again.

“Nothing wrong? You disappeared! You left! AGAIN,” Buffy yelled. She threw her arms up in exasperation.

“Sorry, pet, but you were the one who was back and forth on what she wanted. Wasn’t going to sit around waiting for you to throw me a bone,” Spike replied. He dug into his pockets for his cigarettes. He must have left them in the hotel room. Rolling his eyes, he thought about walking away from the fight. It seemed like he was getting better and better at running away from her.

“Um. Hello! What do you think me coming to you during the whole Buffy-baby thing was? That should have made it clear as day,” Buffy replied. She took a step towards him, her face softening for a second but the glare he shot her made her stay put.

“I bloody well know what that was about, Slayer. You didn’t need me! You just couldn’t turn to your chums like usual, so you came running to me, knowing I could never refuse you,” Spike said. It was a known fact of their relationship (how could he use a word like that to describe what they had?) that Spike was her fallback. That’s what he’d been when she got back from heaven and during the war with the First. Hell, he was even her fallback after she’d gotten mile-high with Angel. Spike-y was always there to clean up the mess.

“That’s not true and you know it,” Buffy whispered. She was angry again. God, he was the only one who could make her love him and hate him all within the same sentence. Why couldn’t he see that she needed him? That she’s needed him for years now. Spike snorted and turned to walk away. He’d had enough of the denial-show and he needed a fucking cigarette.

“Where are you going?” Buffy asked.

“I’m out of smokes,” he replied over his shoulder. He didn’t turn to look at her. He’d decided to move on with his unlife and this was it. This was him moving on – literally and figuratively. He rolled his eyes when he heard her start to follow him.

“So, this is your MO now? Run away when things get hard?” Buffy asked. She couldn’t believe that he had tried to walk away from this – from her. That wasn’t Spike. Or at least it wasn’t the Spike she knew. She remembered a master vamp who stuck around until he got what he wanted. She remembered a master vamp that fought.

“This has gone beyond hard, pet. Hard was when you would come crawling into my crypt for a shag and then be gone before the sun came up. This is fucking brutal,” Spike grumbled. He didn’t like bringing up that year. It had been hard for both of them but at least then he kind of knew where he stood. At least then he had gotten a piece of her. Now, he was in some strange limbo. He was on the fringe of her life but didn’t have a piece of her that he could call him own. He didn’t want to go back to that year of violence and sex but at least then he’d had part of her all to himself.

“That’s what this is to you? Brutal? What about me, Spike? Have you ever thought what this is like for me?” she asked. She grabbed his arm and stopped him, made him look at her. This whole time he had barely looked at her.

“That’s the problem, pet. I don’t know. I’ve never known. You don’t let me know!” Spike yelled, yanking his arm away from her. He started pacing, staring at his boots, as he yelled, “I love you. I’ve sodding loved you for years! And I still don’t know if you love me! So, yes. Yes this is brutal. This rips me to shreds. Then there’s the demon telling me that you are mine. That the year we spent shagging, bloody-well marked you as mine but you’re not! You never have been.” He looked at her for a second, his eyes darting up from his boots, and what she saw there made her want to cry, “This damned soul – that I fought for just to please you – won’t let me have you! It won’t and I hate it. I hate that I have this burden and it hasn’t gotten me what I want more than anything in the world. I didn’t care about being good or evil! I still don’t care but this soul, this burning soul, makes me try! And I’m tired, Buffy. I’m tired.”

It was the first time that he’d used her name since he’d gotten back. He said it like a prayer amongst all the anger. She stared at him but he kept looking at his boots. His hands were clenched in fists at his sides. Part of her wanted to wrap him in her arms and try to ease the hurt but the larger part wanted to throttle him. This wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t and he wasn’t going to blame her. There was a lot to blame her for already: the seed being broken, renegade Slayers, Dawnie, but this wasn’t one of those things.

“I didn’t tell you to get the soul, Spike,” she whispered. He looked at her then. He was scowling. She hadn’t seen a look of such utter irritation from him since he’d gotten the chip implanted. For the first time in years, he looked like he hated her. He stomped up to her and glared down at her.

“What was it you were fond of calling me? A thing? A monster? I couldn’t love, remember? Not like a human. Not like Angel,” he whispered his voice laced with venom. She tried to look away from him. This wasn’t how this conversation was supposed to go. He put a finger under her chin and tilted her head towards him, “No. You didn’t flat out tell me to get one. But you made it perfectly clear that the only reason you couldn’t love me was because I didn’t have a soul. So what was I to do? Tell me, pet, what was I to do?”

“I don’t know,” she whispered. Her throat was tight and she knew she was going to cry in a second. It wasn’t supposed to be happening like this. He was supposed to apologize and then they would kiss and it would be fine. His face softened a little when he noticed her eyes welling with tears. He ran his thumb over her cheek and wished he could take back what he’d said. But it needed to be out there. They had danced around the subject for too long.

“That’s the problem, love. You never know,” he replied softly. He kissed her gently on the forehead and took a step back. She seemed to wobble for a second, lost without him. Spike shook his head. That’s not what it was. He needed to stop letting his imagination get away from him. He’d said some rough things. That was it. That was the unsettled look on her face. It had to be. It couldn’t be anything else.

“Spike,” she said. Her voice was loud and clear. Whatever emotion she had been experiencing was gone. She was Buffy again - strong and impossible to read.

“What?” Spike answered. His fingers were itching for a cigarette and his patience was wearing thin. He had had enough of this conversation.

“I love you,” Buffy said. Buffy winced a little, it sounded forced. Spike stared at her, his shoulders hunched and his face blank. Buffy didn’t know what was going through his head but from the way he was looking at her she doubted that it was good. He opened his mouth to say something, clamped it shut and continued to stare at her. Buffy felt nervous underneath his gaze. What was he waiting for? Wasn’t he going to say something – anything?

“Spike?” Buffy asked hesitantly. She took a step forward, totally unsure of herself. Spike released one long breath before he shook his head and walked away. Buffy stared at the empty spot where he had stood before she turned to follow him. No. No. This was unacceptable. He did not get to leave her after she told him that she loved him – not again!

“Hey!” she yelled. He kept walking and looked like he was talking to himself. Rage running through her veins, she reached out and grabbed the back of his jacket and gave it a good yank, making him stop. She stomped around him and was about to rip him a new one when he spoke, “You’re a goddamn liar, Slayer.”

“Excuse me?” she asked. This was going to be added to the ever-growing list of ways Spike reacted to things the wrong way.

“You are a liar. You don’t love me,” Spike said. He was so sure of himself.

“How the hell do you know?” she asked. She crossed her arms over her chest and waited. This was going to be interesting at the very least, dust worthy at the very most.

“I just do,” he said through his teeth. Buffy rolled her eyes and said, “That’s dumb. I love you. Why is that so hard to believe?”

“Why do you bloody think! We’ve played this game before, Slayer,” Spike said.

“I’m not playing a game, Spike!” Buffy yelled. She stomped her foot and tried really hard not to punch him for being so stupid.

“You’re not playing a game? Really? Did you love me after the whole robot thing?” Spike asked.

“Yes,” Buffy said quietly. She had. She’d loved him since Sunnydale but it was never the right time and then he was gone. But when he came back the timing was off again. It was always off but she was sick of waiting for the time to be right. She loved him. He needed to know. She needed to give him a reason to stay.

“Why didn’t you tell me then?” Spike asked. He was genuinely curious. It was all that he wanted. He would have never gotten back on that ship if she had just told him.

“The timing wasn’t right. You were on the whole independence thing and I just couldn’t. Not until I got my body back,” Buffy replied.

“The timing wasn’t right? What the bloody hell do you think we do for a living, Slayer? The timing is never going to be right when you fight for your life every night,” Spike said. He took a step forward, a tiny smirk playing on his lips.

“Yeah? Well, I’m telling you now. I love you,” Buffy replied, taking a step forward as well.

“That does sound nice, been waiting a while to hear it,” Spike said, taking another step forward.

“Yeah? Well, you better get your hearing checked because I know I’ve said it before,” she said, taking a step.

“Yeah but that was the end of the world. I was burning and you were running. This is different,” he replied, taking another step. Buffy smiled a little before she took the final step that separated them. She placed her hand where his heart should have been.

“How is this different?” she asked.

“Well, for starters, I’m not bursting into flames, am I?” he asked. He lifted a hand and played with her hair, tucking it behind her ear and letting his hand linger on her neck.

“No, you are definitely not flame-y. And since we’re on the subject – no you don’t but thanks for saying it? Rude, much?” she asked, smiling for real now.

“I thought I was being chivalrous,” he replied. He leaned in a little and brushed his lips against hers. Her eyes fluttered shut for a second before snapping back open to take in the blueness of his.

“Didn’t you know chivalry was dead?” Buffy asked. Spike smiled and leaned in for a sweet kiss. It lasted only a second before he pulled away again.

“I am a bit old-fashioned that way. Say it again,” he whispered against her mouth.

“I love you,” she whispered back with a smile. She kissed him again, savoring the way he tasted. Spike pulled his mouth away from her and rested his forehead against hers.

“God, I could swim in those words,” he said. Buffy laughed.

“What does that even mean?” she asked.

“I don’t bloody know,” he replied with a chuckle.

“Why can’t anything ever be easy with us?” Buffy asked. Spike shrugged and kissed her again. Buffy melted into his mouth and moaned. Who needed easy when you had kisses like this? 

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