Title: As shown below

Author: Annie aka mjaw

Setting: End of BtVS S7, though notice this was written in February and thus has not very much to do with the actual ending.

Pairings: B/S

A/N: I just hope you might enjoy this one, good people!

A.M.L, Annie.

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Slow Good-Byes, Silent Hellos

By Annie

2003-02-27

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It was dark in her room when he entered it. She seemed to not mind where she sat curled up on her bed. Her arms wrapped around her legs as though she wanted to protect herself, to shut out the memory of a battle that had almost caused her the loss of her sister. As though she wanted to unfocus her entire body from the pain it was in; pain caused by the slashes covering her arms and her shoulderblades where the First had cut her with a blade long and thin, sharp as the tooth of a Great White.

He approached her slowly. She didn't show in any way that she was aware of him. She simply stared at a spot before her and seemed to want to stop breathing, if it would make all of the past week's trials and tribulations just disappear.

He wondered what her mind was processing at that very moment. Wanted to rip apart the quiet and transform it into lace of sound through which he could watch her without fear of being harmed by the beauty she possessed. Still he chose to pull up a chair and carefully sit down beside the bed, his eyes resting on her as a part of him weighed the silence and found it had its true worth. Undisturbed she looked peaceful. Finally she looked at peace.

Her eyes were not simply fastened on one point, they weren't dead. They showed a wide range of emotion pulsating in them and he knew that she was valuing the tranquility as well. He understood that this was what she needed right now. Moment upon moment of unshattered stillness to make up for the long hours of screams and cries and blood and fear.

She was the Slayer, but she was also human. Her human side needed time to mend.

And that was what he was there to give her. To give both of them.

Licking his wounds before her did nothing for them, they refused to heal. He was almost certain that she knew this, and so he thought she would understand. She had to understand. For once at least try to understand him, to see his veiwpoint.

Buffy felt the slow process of getting the shock out of her system work throughout her. It was an intense feeling, but one that was impossible to disregard.

She had thought that this time she really would lose Dawn. And she had come so close to losing three of the people closest to her in the process - Willow, Xander and Giles. What would she have done if she had? They were her whole family, where would she have gone? Would she have kept the slaying up all by herself? The mere idea was thankfully simply too far away from her to even reach and she brushed it aside. They were alive.

She owed this vampire, who was right now seated next to her bed, so much it was maddening to think of it. She would never, not ever, be able to repay him for what he had done for her. He had been the stronger one, and she was the first to admit that.

She wanted to tell him this, she wanted him to know how grateful she was to him - but she couldn't find the words and so she stayed quiet. She didn't want to say something wrong, she didn't want him to misinterpret her words. It had to sound precisely as much as she felt right in this very moment, or it wouldn't sound at all. Since she knew she wouldn't be able to make it to be as great as that first part, she chose the latter.

She could feel his eyes upon her.

Why was he always looking at her like that?

"When did you know that you loved Angel?" he suddenly asked and she turned her head to him, questioning expression in her eyes. "That first real knowing of it, when was it?" he kind of elaborated and she rested her chin against one knee as she observed him thoughtfully.

"I don't know," she mumbled. "I guess I knew it a long time before I said it... I guess I was in love with him by our first kiss..." she added and Spike smiled a little.

"What about Riley?" he asked now and she frowned slightly.

"Where are you going with this, Spike?" she wondered and he shook his head slowly.

"I'll get to that. Just answer first," he replied, voice low and the look in his eyes was so patient it almost scared her.

"When I first knew I loved him?" she asked and Spike nodded. "Well... I don't know exactly... I guess it was just this gut feeling after a month or two... I think. I really don't rememer EXACTLY. I just knew I was falling in love with him and then there I was: in love with him," she added and Spike smiled that small smile again as he leaned forward in the chair.

"You never loved me," he now said silently and she stared at him. "I know you never did."

She raised her head and unwrapped her arms to stretch her legs out, resting her hands on her lap she then looked him straight in the eye and replied:

"No. I never did love you."

Spike ignored the throb of hurt. It was easy now, it had been there for so long.

"I know Angel messed you up by leaving," he stated. "And then Riley left. Hell, even Giles left you... And I didn't want to leave you, Buffy. I didn't want to cause you that sort of pain. I didn't even know if I'd survive it myself. I've never needed anyone or anything as much as I need you..."

She blinked, then narrowed her eyes slightly as she looked at him before she moved and scooted to the edge of the bed to better face him.

He looked back at her, eyes growing hesitant and then decisive as the blue in them shifted with each new emotion. She frowned, wondering what it was that he was trying to tell her.

"I wanted to leave a few months ago... You told me you weren't ready," he now said and she swallowed.

He couldn't be telling her that. Not that.

"I don't..." she began, but he shook his head.

It was his turn to speak now and she grew quiet.

"Thing is - we're never ready for anyone to walk out of our lives, Buffy. But sometimes we have to realize that it's the only thing they can do." He looked so sad. Why was he saying this? "And this time I realized something. All of those others - you loved. Me?" he paused, tilting his head a little to one side as he rested his eyes in hers for a few short moments, then he finished: "You never loved me, Slayer. I can't ever hurt you the way they did. Especially not by doing something you KNOW is best. For the both of us."

She merely eyed him in growing disbelief. He couldn't be saying that he was leaving.

"You never will love me. And it's pergatory being close to you without..." he trailed off, closing his eyes briefly before opening them again to rest them in hers.

She looked like she had only heard half of what he had just said, and as though the other part was slowly being processed by her mind.

"I can't stay," he said now. "I think you know that. And you know why. Think of Angel. How it was between you when he came back from wherever he was after Acathla... You tried to stay away from each other, but you couldn't. That's how I feel about you. Only it's not mutual. And so I have to go. I have to."

He rose to his feet and her eyes followed him as she tilted her head back.

"Spike..." she mumbled and he met her gaze.

"It's ripping me in half," he stated. "And I just can't take it anymore. The dream of you must be sweeter, Slayer. The reality is too much."

"Spike," she tried again and he drew a small breath.

"Please, Buffy. Please, let me go," he said, eyes suddenly glittering with tears and she blinked at the sight of them.

She felt her throat dry up, but she knew he was right.

She couldn't say anything. She didn't know what to say. Finally she looked down on her hands and slowly mumbled:

"Good-bye."

She thought she could feel the brush of his lips against her cheek, but when she looked up the room was empty and she was alone.

And as loudly as he had crashed into her life, he left it just as quietly.