Chapter Nine: The Morning After

Early the next morning, Buffy woke to the unwelcome sound of footsteps parading across the living room floor. Grudgingly, she opened her eyes and glared up at the ceiling. "Darn Potentials," she grumbled under her breath.

"What was that pet?" Spike's arm tightened about her waist, and he placed a chaste kiss against her temple.

"Nothing. Just wishing I were still sleeping the sleep of the undead." She turned around to look at him, lying on her back as he hovered beside her.

"Well," he said, fingering the hem of the bedsheet that only barely covered her, "in case you hadn't noticed, the undead are not getting any sleep either. Soddin' wannabe Slayers," he growled. "I'll bet the poof made them do it on purpose. Sent them right to that spot," he pointed just above them, "and instructed them to stomp with all their would-be might."

Buffy giggled as she listened to Spike getting all self-righteous about Angel and the Potentials.

He looked back down at her. "Did you just giggle?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "The Slayer doesn't giggle. What are you? Some hormonal, teenage girl, all crazy over some boy band?"

He was making fun of her. Buffy kind of liked it. "Not quite," she said, as she pulled him closer, for a kiss.

"Right. Nothing silly about that," he said when she let him go. "Hormonal? Yes. But definitely nothing silly."

"Spike," her voice was soft, all hint of playfulness gone.

"I know. It's morning. It's time to go save the world."

"If we're lucky."

"I love you Buffy Anne Summers. You know that, right?"

"Yes, I do."

"And you still do love me? I mean, even after last night?"

She wrapped her arms around his neck and stared up at him. "I will always love you. No matter what."

Spike looked down at her, regret and resignation reflected in his eyes. He pulled away from her, sliding off the cot and moving to retrieve his clothes from where he had left them on the floor the night before.

Buffy watched him. She couldn't help herself. This might be their last moment alone together, the last time she ever got to see him intimately. It was something she didn't want to give up, but she knew she had no choice.

Spike turned to look at her. "Aren't you going to get dressed luv?"

"Yeah, sure." Buffy threw off the covers, and put her bare feet on the cold, cement floor. A shock instantly shot up her spine, as her warm feet made contact with the cold stone. Well, apparently the dream was over. It was time to step back into reality.

Buffy found her clothes quickly, and went about getting dressed herself. As she pulled her rumpled tank top over her head, she noticed Spike staring at her. "What are you doing?" she asked, as she pulled the shirt firmly down over the top of her pajama bottoms.

"Emblazoning your image on my brain for all eternity. Even if I'm the one who dies today, at least I'll be able to take it with me."

"Spike." She came up to him and placed warm, trembling hands on either side of his face. "Whatever happens, we'll be together. We'll always be together."

He cupped one of her hands with his own, and brought it down so he could place a kiss against her palm. "I know luv. I know. But now," he took both of her hands in his, and squeezed them gently, "we go up there, and we fight the good fight. Give 'em hell!"

"That's what they want," she smiled slightly.

"Then we'll give 'em heaven. The First won't know what hit 'im. You'll see. You ready?" he looked at her with earnest, blue eyes.

"I'm ready."

Spike let go of her left hand, and pulled her closer with the right. He led her to the bottom of the stairs and stopped. "You know, once we go up there, luv, this has to end."

"I know." Buffy knew that once they reached the top of those stairs, and unlocked the basement door, all hell would break loose. There was a battle waiting up there for them. There would be no stolen kisses, no long last looks. There would be horror and bloodshed, and things a thousand times worse. This might very well be their last moment alone together. Ever. Buffy didn't want it to end.

Spike squeezed her hand again and gave her a small, reassuring smile as he turned to move up the stairs. But her voice stopped him.

"Spike?"

"Yeah, pet?"

Without saying a word, Buffy pulled him to her and kissed him passionately, as if it were the last kiss of her life. Finally, trembling and breathless, she pulled away and stared up at him, her eyes brimming with emotion. "I love you Spike. I just wanted to make sure that you knew that, before we go."

"I know luv. I know." He leaned forward and kissed her one last time. "I love you too. With all my heart and all my soul."

With deep resignation, Buffy pulled out of his embrace and took his hand in her own. They looked at each other one last time before heading up the stairs together. They were walking into the unknown. Neither one of them knew what tomorrow would bring - or even if there would be a tomorrow. But they had done everything they could, everything they could to ensure the safety of the world, and to ensure their peace with each other. There would be no regrets. Now, only time and fate would tell how it would all end.

END