As You Are

"I can't keep doing this," she told him.

Sighing, Spike toed a piece of rubble with his boot. "Sing me anther bloody one, eh, luv?"

"No," she said, "I can't. This whole thing we have is wrong, and… it's killing me." The final part came out almost muted.

Suddenly Spike's eyes were full of worry, but he couldn't say anything. Mentions of death were one of the few things that could actually bring him to silence, these days, which was weird on so many levels. It had become clear to Buffy that the only thing Spike feared more than them not being together, was her not being in the world at all.

"I've got to be strong about this," she continued, "For both our sakes. I need to just make up my mind and stick to it, once and for all."

"Yeah," he whispered, "And how about those choices?"

"Well," said Buffy, not sounding confident in her words at all, "I could either leave you, stop this" – they both gulped, in unison – "Or…"

"Or? There's an or?" Spike interjected, his whole body looking like it was braced for impact.

"Or I give us a real shot. So… that's it. Have a real, proper – healthy, open, and honest – relationship, or nothing at all."

"And?" he prompted, obviously terrified of saying too much to sway her decision against him.

"And, doesn't it make sense that we should both have what we want?" her voice was timid, and she couldn't quite look at him. "Can't we just be happy? Haven't we earned that?"

"Oh, Buffy," he exclaimed, closing the distance between them and taking her in his arms; wrapping her in love as they both let sobs escape them.

"Luv," he said, searching her eyes. "If you give us a chance, I will do right by you, I swear."

"I believe you," said Buffy, "Just please don't let me down. No more-" she gestured to his destroyed crypt "crazy schemes."

"No more," Spike vowed, "But you should know… the whole Doctor tosh? I was doing it for you."

Buffy took a sudden, sharp step away from him again. "What?"

"Well, it's just…" he hesitated and she held her breath, praying that he wasn't going to make her regret her decision.

"You've got bills, and stuff. Niblet's not eating right. And I know you wouldn't take cash from me, but, I thought…" he swallowed, then looked Buffy straight in the eye, "I thought that, maybe, if I could make enough I could send it to you. You would never have known."

The Slayer's whole worldview shattered. Whatever she'd been expecting, it hadn't been that. How could she even bust his chops if that was his reason? She was conflicted, not wanting to condone what he did, but also wanting to kiss him really hard just for trying.

"Next time," she said, finally, "Maybe help by doing chores."

Spike was looking at her in awe again. It spurred her on to enact one final piece of emotional bravery.

"Although, I guess now I can start charging you rent," she mused, turning and walking away.

After a few steps, she held out her hand and looked back over her shoulder to where he still stood, dumbfounded.

"Are you coming home or what?"