This is it - the end of a very long (and hopefully enjoyable) ride. Enjoy!
Spike prowled the streets of San Francisco looking for something to slay. There was a new baddie about, one of those hybrid things they'd seen so much of since the destruction of the Seed. He couldn't remember what they were called though and he wasn't out looking for them specifically. Mostly he was hunting to take his mind off the anger.
Cor, but the woman drove him round the bloody bend. He loved her. Hadn't ever stopped. What's more, she knew it; strung him along like beads on a necklace. But apparently that's all it was. She was out with that detective again. He wasn't a bad sort of bloke, Spike had nothing against him, but he wasn't right for Buffy. Too normal. Was she never going to learn?
Somewhere inside San-Francisco-Spike-2013's head, Sunnydale-Spike-2001 gave a resigned sort of sigh and pushed past his alternate self's anger. He was a melodramatic sod, no matter how many years passed, and Spike had a feeling he was projecting a bit in this instance. Maybe it was because, as a technical outsider, he had the clarity to realize that any Buffy who had kept him around for eighteen years couldn't just be stringing him along.
Below the surface emotions and thoughts he could see memories of sitting with Buffy on the couch in her San Francisco apartment eating popcorn and laughing together, late night patrols side by side, her using his shower on a strange ship operated by . . . bugs? Unlife just got weirder and weirder, didn't it?
As had become habit, he reached deeper, past his mind and into his heart, instinctively searching inside himself for the familiar burning pit there. He pulled away once he found it and confirmed that this Spike, whoever he was, had his soul. Had done for a while too, near as Spike could figure. Wasn't keeping a lid on it either; he didn't seem to have to. This Spike was comfortable with it. Instead of a raging inferno that threatened to consume and turn him to ash, the soul seemed more a hearth fire, comforting and warm, though still capable of a burn if he ventured too close. It was almost . . . pleasant.
Spike awoke from the dream, a memory of a temporal shift from months before. It still happened occasionally, the dreaming, although, of course, nothing new presented itself. This particular dream recurred with a fair amount of frequency, almost as though it was haunting him.
Or like someone was trying to send him a message.
Regardless, it left him with the same contemplation the dream always did – the same one it had during the actual possession. That having a soul business, it had been rough at first, surely, but eventually it had become almost a comfort. The spot where it would have sat still burned inside him occasionally, achingly empty, and he wondered if that meant something. He'd been thinking about it for a while now, since before they'd sent the time storm packing, but the timing never felt right. Add to that the fact that things had been good these last six months, and he was loathe to rock the boat – especially since all he'd seen implied there'd be a good bit of misery before the rightness set in.
But there were other considerations. A soul opened possibilities most demons never knew. Some of which had nothing to do with what they did and everything to do with what they were.
Either way, with the dream occurring with increasing frequency he should probably do something about it, even if all he did was make the decision to ignore it. But that wasn't a decision he could make alone. He had people who cared about him now. He had a partner. And if there was one thing he was firm on it was that partners made life altering decision together.
It was time to talk to Buffy.
"Heads up!" Buffy launched her opponent toward her partner, who ducked and let the flailing demon roll over his leather-clad back. He caught it in a headlock on its way down and broke its neck with a quick twist before letting it drop to the cement.
"Oi, throw your trash somewhere else, will you, pet?"
Buffy batted her lashes at him in exaggerated fashion. "Oh, but honey, trash is on your chore list this week."
He blew her a mocking kiss. "That mean you're doin' the dishes, Slayer?"
"Eww." Her nose wrinkled. She loved him, but she drew the line at washing his bloody mugs. And, no, that wasn't his British cursing wearing off on her. Vampire.
"Is this a girl power thing?" he teased. "Because if we're rehashing that argument, trash is not strictly man-work."
"Oh, I think we're good on non-traditional gender roles, kitchen-vamp," she shot back. "What was that thing you made for dinner again? Ghoul hash?"
He rolled his eyes. "Monsters on the brain," he muttered. "It was goulash, pet. And if you're gonna be snippy about it, you could always cook your own dinner, you know."
The green, gnarled demon they'd been ignoring raised a stumpy arm with a gurgle, drawing Buffy's attention. She kicked it in the stomach.
"Yes, Oscar?" she said in her best school marm voice. "Did you need some clarification before I slay you?" She waited for some sort of innuendo from Spike – either about the teacher role-play or the slaying, but it didn't come. She eyed him curiously in her peripheral vision as she finished off the demon. "You okay?" she asked when she was done. That was at least the fourth time his attention had drifted tonight. It was rare that a good fight failed to hold his interest; even rarer when she was a participant. Spike loved watching her fight – usually. Tonight though, he was clearly distracted. What was on his mind?
Spike shook his head, as though only now realizing he'd lost the thread of conversation. "Talk and walk?" he asked.
She nodded and moved to his side where their fingers caught and intertwined naturally. Despite what he'd said, he was quiet for a long time. Fortunately, the warehouse district was just as quiet tonight. It seemed Oscar and his friend were the only demons out and about. Since they had the time, she didn't press. She'd learned over the last half year that when Spike got quiet it was best to give him time to "suss things out," as he called it. He didn't keep things from her; he'd tell her when he was ready.
As they took the final turn on their patrol route and angled back toward Revello Drive he began toying with her fingers. It was one of his tells and she prepared herself for a serious conversation.
"Been thinking about going to see that demon in Africa." Spike said, deceptively casual.
Buffy wasn't as good at pretending as he was.
"What!?" Her head whipped around in horror as memories of her boyfriend, or one version of him anyway, steaming on a cross played behind her eyes. "Spike, no."
He shrugged. "Jus' thinking about it, pet. Didn't say I was leaving tonight."
She shook her head, struggling to process that thought. He was thinking about getting his soul?
He let her think. He'd always known it was best to give her time to process if he didn't want her answer to be a punch in the nose. Sometimes that's what he wanted, but usually he gave her the time she needed.
"Why?" she asked after several blocks. "You don't need it. I don't need it." She knew what the her in Dawn's first future had told him, repeatedly –she'd asked Dawn about it, after things had settled down, needing to know, to understand– but she also knew that had been wrong. A product of Angel's poisoning of her mind. Spike had changed, without a soul. And a soul wasn't a guarantee of goodness anyway. People with souls did terrible things every day.
Spike didn't need a soul, he had a heart.
His eyes had gone soft and he squeezed her hand. "Know that, Luv. I do."
She swallowed, squeezing back. "Because just knowing you would –that you did– God, Spike. Do you get how huge that is?" Sometimes she wasn't sure she got it, not even now after all this time and all the thought she'd given it. She did know one thing though, "A demon shouldn't even be able to want that."
He was silent a beat, and then he said, quietly, "But I do."
That threw her. He wanted it? Not wanted what it would do for him, but wanted the soul itself? What in all he'd seen and experienced during those horrible, confusing months of warped time, could have made him want a soul? Especially when he'd gotten everything he wanted without it?
She glanced up at him and found his expression thoughtful, brows drawn together and lips pursed ever so slightly. She didn't press him; gave him the time to think, to put the words together right.
His hand tightened around hers. "I don't know how to explain it, except to say that it wasn't all bad. Eventually the soul . . . settles. Becomes a comfort rather than a burden." He used the present tense, like he already had it. Maybe in a way he did. The memories and impressions of those times that never were and never would be were still heavy on them all. He raised his free hand to touch his chest lightly. "Sometimes my chest gets this hollow, empty feeling, like I miss it." He paused, but she could tell he wasn't done yet. He shook his head. "But even then, I don't think that would be enough if it wasn't for what comes after."
"After?" she asked, unable to suppress the question.
He pulled her gently to a stop and angled them until a simple shift would have them embracing, chest to chest, and peered down into her eyes. There was something in his, something sorrowful even as he smiled. "When this ends, you die and I dust –an' mind you, this won't be for a long time, but it is eventually gonna happen– you'll go to Heaven, yeah? But me? Well, we both know what happens to soulless demons, pet. Don't think any amount of 'redemption' or white hatting is gonna change that. But if I had my soul again . . . don't know that it'd be enough for all my wrongs, but there'd at least be a chance." He swallowed roughly, eyes sparkling with unshed tears. "A chance that some part of me would get to be with you there."
"Oh, Spike." She blinked back tears of her own; reached to cup his face in her palms. "If they don't let you into Heaven I'll tear the damn gates down myself. See how they like an angry slayer up there."
He chuckled, blinking to clear his eyes. "Don't doubt you would, Slayer. Still, 's a thought, yeah?"
"It is," she conceded.
He kissed her, soft and sweet, and then tugged her to resume their journey home.
If he decided this was what he wanted she wouldn't stop him, Buffy decided. But she'd been serious about that Heaven thing. If the PTB dared to deny him entrance there'd be some hell raised inside the pearly gates. Because for her there was no Heaven without Spike. Not anymore. He was literally her other half; she couldn't exist without him.
Someday she was going to have to thank her sister for forcing her to see that. Preferably in a few years, when there was less chance of gloating. Coming back through time had been a desperate, and dangerous, gamble, but having seen some of that future –of other futures– Buffy understood why Dawn had taken the risk. There's been so much badness, and not just the kind that had to do with demons and monsters, this was the kind of badness that came from inside them. They'd been blind, all of them, and they would have continued to get worse and worse until they eventually imploded. Dawn had stopped that. She'd helped them to become the people they were supposed to be – the people they should have wanted to be all along. And maybe it was wrong to meddle in the affairs of time like that, but Buffy wasn't going to complain.
Dawn greeted them at the front door and the three of them settled down to watch some cheesy horror flick on late night television, laughing and talking all through it. Buffy was snuggled into Spike's left side and on the right Dawn had threaded her arm through his. He paid her almost as much attention as he did Buffy. Some sisters would probably get jealous about that, but not Buffy. And it wasn't some twin thing where she was okay with sharing. Spike and Dawn weren't like that anyway. They were friends, best friends, and after all the two of them had endured for her, Buffy wasn't about to try to take that away from them.
She wondered what Dawn thought about the soul. If they'd talked about it. Maybe they didn't have to – Dawn had seen the soul first-hand. She did know that the soul didn't matter to Dawn. Her sister had stressed that point over and over during the early days of her alliance with Spike. So, clearly, Dawn knew Spike didn't need the soul. Did she know that he wanted it?
"Earth to Buffy?"
She came to with Dawn's hand waving an inch in front of her nose. She pushed it away and Dawn sank back across Spike's lap and onto the couch.
"You okay?" she asked.
Buffy's gaze slid to Spike, who was watching her with a knowing and open look. He knew what she was thinking and he was leaving it up to her to decide if they were going to share with Dawn.
She looked back to her sister. Dawn was worrying her lower lip, concern evident in her eyes. And suddenly Buffy felt silly.
Spike was Spike. He was Spike without a soul, he'd be Spike with a soul. Maybe not at first –at first he would probably be kind of crazy, at least if that cross incident was anything to go by– but all changes required adjustment. Once they'd worked through that he'd be Spike again. Maybe willing to let a little more of his soft side show through, but still the same man. And he'd still love her. If that nightmare of a time storm had proven anything to her it was that Spike was hers, always and forever, no matter what. Now it was time to prove to him that she was his, whatever he chose to do.
Buffy smiled. "I'm fine. So what are we watching next?"
They studied her with nearly identical narrow-eyed blue gazes and then, as one, gave a tiny nod each and began discussing their late night television options.
Buffy settled more firmly into Spike's side and let them argue in that spookily sibling-esque way they had, looking forward to more of the same for many years to come.
Chapter End Notes:
So . . . there's a lot I could say here, but I don't want to bore you. I will say that I left the soul decision open on purpose, not because I plan a sequel, but because I can see the arguments both for Spike to have a soul and not. I don't think he needed one to be a better person. I think he was doing that just fine on his own. I do think that in the Buffy world it is heavily implied that a demon cannot go to Heaven. No matter what. So in that sense I think maybe he should get it. Also, I always felt a little bad for William - so much of him was left in Spike, so what did that say for his soul? Was it drifting, half a soul, in limbo somewhere? Just a thought. It seems wrong not to reunite the remnant of his soul with his body.
The other thing I will say is that when I started this story I wanted it to be Spuffy. Dawn was the plot vehicle, because that was what the prompt required. I had thought that as Spike and Buffy became more heavily involved I would phase Dawn out of the narrative, possibly entirely. But by the time Spuffy started happening I'd become somewhat attached to Dawn. That surprised me, since I hated everything about season 5 when I watched it. But then I realized that part of what I hated about season 6 was that after they'd built up the Spike/Dawn friendship and convinced us Spike truly cared for her, he abandoned her completely after the resurrection. I hated that. It was a disservice to Spike's character, in my opinion. So Dawn stayed in my story, and I think it was a better story for it. I hope you agree.
This has been a crazy ride, and I want to thank everyone who stuck with me through the whole thing. For those who reviewed and liked and faved and followed, and those who lurked too. And for those who won't read this until long after I've posted this - because you don't read unfinished works, or because you've only just stumbled upon it - thank you too. And please think about leaving a review. I can't tell you how it brightens my day to see a review for an old story in my inbox. It's nice to know these things don't just die.
For those who follow me as a writer, I must confess I never did pick which of my 4 unfinished Spuffy to pick up and finish. I was an anime fic writer before Spuffy and I'm feeling more drawn to that right now. I'm also trying to work on some original things. And, honestly, there are some things with the Spuffy community at large that have bothered me in the last few months and, much as I've tried not to let it, it's leeched some of the joy out of this universe for me. But the stories are there, on my hard drive and in my head, so I may be back.
Again - thanks for reading. It has been a pleasure to share this universe with you all.