Season Seven - 2002
He drifted in and out of consciousness, amazed to find himself in her bed, surrounded by her scent. She brought him blood, fed him, kept him comfortable in the dark and the quiet. Stroked his brow, held his hand, told him he was safe now.
Ignored his tears.
Spike listened to her footsteps as they echoed closer, sitting up carefully when the door opened. He couldn’t hide the wince of pain and she noticed, hurrying to his side to help.
“Let me, Spike.”
“It’s – ah – yeah, all right. Thanks.” He took the mug from her with a grateful nod. “Quiet tonight. No pitter patter of teenaged feet.”
The vampire could just see the barest hint of a shy smile through the gloom. “Sent them all to Xander’s for the evening. So we could have the house to ourselves.”
His unbeating heart froze. “Yeah? An’ why’s that?”
Buffy leaned forward, brushing his cheek with the back of her hand in a feather-light caress. “You probably lost track of time down…” She grimaced. “I’m so sorry. I wish I’d gotten there-”
“You came, Buffy. That’s… You came.” Spike wouldn’t dare to call it love, but something blazed in her eyes. Something that made him want to weep.
She looked away first. “Anyhow. It’s our night. Last day of the year.” Facing him once more, she added. “I… I didn’t think I’d get to you in time. For tonight. And it… made me a little crazy. Nothing messes with what’s mine.”
“I’m yours now, am I?”
Buffy blinked rapidly, and his heart fell, waiting for her to deny it.
“Of course you are, William. You’ve always been mine.” He swallowed, stunned, as she took his hand. “Just like I’m yours. Your… friend, you know,” she hedged.
“Yeah. Friends.” He reached up to wipe away the tears that had collected in her eyes.
She shuddered, took a deep breath. “You don’t know… how terrified I was. Of that thing.”
Spike traced the cut on her cheek with one finger. “But you did it? Kicked its ass?”
“I had to. It was keeping me from getting to you.” She looked away again, spoke to the patch of light spilling through the open doorway. “That’s not the only thing I was afraid of. I was afraid of losing you. Of being alone tonight.”
He couldn’t speak. Wouldn’t know what to say even if he could. He took her hand again, pressed it against his lips. They sat in silence for several long minutes.
Buffy wanted to wrap her arms around Spike and kiss him senseless, but it wasn’t what they did anymore. They were friends now, and it was safer. Nobody got hurt that way. She was determined not to screw up their tentative friendship, despite how she longed to touch him more intimately, like the lovers they'd never truly been. She couldn’t help but be tender, though, with this man who’d returned to her with a soul and a conscience and a desperate desire to be near her.
Squeezing his hand gently, she asked, “Think you can make it downstairs? If not, it’s no big. I can haul the television up here.”
He shifted, testing out his aches. “Be good for me to be up and moving around, I wager. Let you have your bed back too, been in it too long.”
Right there, that was the proof that Spike was a different man. The old, soulless Spike would have never said any such thing. Or he would have leered as he said it. This vampire said he’d been in her bed too long without a trace of suggestiveness or irony, not even realizing how his words made her wish she could keep him there forever.
“Hasn’t been that long,” Buffy answered. “Barely even a day.”
“Really? That’s it?” She nodded. “Well then. No wonder I still feel like shite. Not such a limp noodle as I thought.”
She moved out of his way as he swung his legs over the edge of the bed, helping him to stand when he grit his teeth, trying to hold back a moan. “You don’t have to be all macho with me. I know how tough you are. You’ve got nothing to prove.”
“Just… take it slow, love,” he panted.
Buffy settled him on the couch, then turned to the telly. Spike watched the curve of her back as she bent over, noticed the way she favored one side. The Slayer wasn’t quite healed yet either, and he felt a stab of guilt. She’d been injured coming for him. Grateful though he was, he didn’t want her hurt because of him. Not ever again. He suppressed a sigh, gave her a smile as she turned back to him.
“You want something to drink? I know how to make tea now. Or so Giles tells me. Or… I’ve got more blood. No liquor though. I could probably get some…”
He patted the cushion next to him. “Just sit with me, quiet-like?”
“Of course.” She settled next to him, her thigh brushing his. “So. Think we’ll be around to do this next year?”
“Better not be thinking of dying on me, Summers. Not again.”
“Think it’s more a question of everyone dying. The First…”
“Will be defeated. By you and your little band of do-gooders, same as ever.”
She smacked him on the shoulder, but lightly. “Hey. You’re part of that little band, now, mister.”
“Not likely to forget,” he chuckled. They sat quietly again, watching the celebration on the screen, Spike wondering at all the people who knew nothing of the one girl who made it possible for them to live their lives with such abandon. He wanted to reach through the screen and grab them, shake them hard, make them acknowledge her and all she sacrificed.
Her hand brushed his, and he turned to more selfish thoughts; namely, wondering if she would kiss him this year. Spike longed to feel her lips against his once more, even as he chastised himself for thinking of it. He didn’t deserve any such thing, not from the woman by his side.
Still, he hoped she would.
The countdown began, and Buffy’s heart raced. This night – it didn’t count. Right? She could kiss him without consequence, without recrimination. Without ruining anything. She wondered if he wanted her to. If he was fighting the same battle inside his head. His lips were slightly parted, eyes focused on the screen, his posture stiff. Buffy didn’t know if that was a good sign or not. If he was anticipating a kiss with pleasure… or trepidation.
Forty-five… forty-four… forty-three…
She whimpered low in her throat and he froze, stiller than death, his heaving chest suddenly inert. A strangled, “Love?” escaped, but he didn’t turn to face her.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” Buffy whispered.
Spike turned to look at her then. “Less’n you’re planning on using me for target practice, you won’t. Not tonight.”
Thirty… twenty-nine… twenty-eight…
“So… it would be okay?”
“Need something to dream of, don’t I?” She licked her lips, nodded. Swiveled to straddle him carefully, and brushed the unruly curls from his forehead. Spike cupped her face with his hands. “Can’t break with tradition, after all,” he murmured.
“Maybe we should… Our lives have kinda sucked since we started this.”
Ten… nine… eight…
“Dunno. We’re both still here. Together. S’not so bad is it?”
“Now that you’re home again? Not so bad at all.” Buffy leaned forward, her mouth capturing his in a kiss that was more tender than any they’d ever shared, and more bittersweet because of it.
Happy New Year!
The kiss lingered on. And on. Buffy was reluctant to pull away, knowing that she wouldn’t have an excuse to kiss Spike again. Not for an entire year. They pulled apart at the same time, foreheads pressed together.
“See?” Spike said. “All the more reason to survive the coming year. Knowing what’s waiting at the end of it.”
She smiled as she slid off him, wishing she had the courage to not wait an entire year before she kissed him again.
When this is over, she told herself. When this apocalypse is over and he’s de-triggered and I’m no longer playing Mama Slayer … if he still wants me…
I’ll tell him then.