Chapter 29: The Answer

After a long day of work, Buffy finally arrived home. She'd been able to shove most thoughts of her vampire to the back of her mind during the day, so she'd been able to concentrate on work, which was definitely of the good.

Hmmm... she mused as she thought about this, I guess us being together really is a good thing, not life-destroying or anything... just a wonderful relationship. Me, Buffy, in a good, healthy, strong, happy relationship. Who woulda thunk it?

She skipped in through the doorway, singing out, Honey! I'm home! Giggling and giddy, she bounced into the living room, where she had sensed Spike, anxious to see him.

His face lit up at the sight of her, as she'd expected, but then quickly fell. Looking around at Willow and Giles, who were also seated at the table with the vampire, Buffy noticed their equally dour expressions.

Great... for once I'm in a really good mood, everything's going great... and then something apocalypsy has to come along and ruin it...

She pouted and sighed as she flopped down into a chair. All right, what is it? What's wrong now?

The three looked anywhere but at her. Buffy sat up straight. If Spike wouldn't even meet her eyes, she knew it was serious.

Finally, Giles spoke, though he addressed Spike. Do you want to tell her?

Tell me what? demanded Buffy, exasperated.

The vampire responded to Giles' question, ignoring the Slayer for the moment. I... I don't think that I can.

Willow spoke up then. I don't think I can, either... Giles...?

He sighed wearily, cleaning his glasses. Very well. I'll do it.

Spike and Willow leapt to their feet, relieved and worried expressions on both their faces. With a shaky smile and a quick glance at Buffy, Willow left; Spike was right behind her, after murmuring, I love you and giving his Slayer a quick peck on the cheek.

Buffy watched as the two ran out. Turning back to Giles, she asked, Ok, what's going on, Giles? I'm starting to wig out a bit.

Giles cleared his throat and replaced his glasses. Well, we've discovered some new information about the First. I received this book earlier today from a fellow Watcher in Africa. I'd really love to know how he obtained it, this text was thought lost for centuries-

Buffy interrupted impatiently. She wasn't just mad at him for going off on a tangent, as he so often did; what worried her the most was that he seemed to be talking about all this stuff to avoid telling her... well, whatever it was he didn't want to tell her.

Right, right, not the point. Well, Buffy, we've discovered how to... well, not defeat the First, exactly, but bind it so that it can't do any more evil than in previous times.

Buffy looked at him suspiciously. Ok, and we're not happy about this because, why again?

Oh dear Lord, I suppose I should just tell her. There are some sacrifices that need to be made.

She continued staring at him, waiting till he finished before she snapped.

Giles leaned forward. And, well, the most important one is... the sacrifice of someone, stronger than human, with a soul.

Leaning back with a sigh, he waited till the meaning of his words hit her.

He saw her flinch as they did, but then, to his surprise, remained calm. He understood a moment later as she said:

Ok then, obviously this isn't the answer. We keep looking.

Her former Watcher stared at her, amazed at her ability to remain in denial.

I'm afraid it's not that simple, Buffy, he said gently.

She stood up abruptly. No. It is. This isn't - I'm not - no. Just no.

Giles stood up to face her, frustrated with her continued rejection of the reality of the situation. I'm sorry Buffy, but this is the only answer. You need to accept it!

she shouted back. I don't. You've been wrong before, and you're wrong again. You told me that I needed to kill Dawn to stop the last apocalypse, and guess what? I didn't! Ok, admittedly, I ended up having to die, but if I'd only been a bit faster, that wouldn't have happened either.

Unable to bear this any longer, Spike stepped around the corner from where he'd been listening. He'd realized that Buffy was too upset and too concentrated to feel' him, and he needed to be near her, here for her. He was a bit ashamed he'd made the Watcher tell her this in the first place; now, he knew, was his time to speak up.

Spike contradicted her, if I'd been a little faster, that wouldn't have happened.

She groaned. Spike, not this guilt trip again!

He shook his head. No, it's not really about that, I just wanted to point that out. But Buffy, he said, approaching her and taking her hands in his, Giles is right. This is the only way. The text even indicated that this was the only solution.

Buffy glared at him. No!! You're wrong, damn you! You're wrong!

She turned and ran out the door, grabbing her coat and a stake as she went.

Dawn saw her sister flying out the door, and asked, Buffy? Where are you going?

To kill something! the Slayer called back.

Spike shook his head. Sorry to have stuck you with this, Rupes. It's dark now, I'll head after her, make her understand.

Giles nodded mutely at him, and Spike took off, running after his Slayer.

Pouring himself a glass of much-needed brandy, the Watcher silently wished the vampire luck.

*****

A couple blocks away, Spike caught up with her.

He put on an extra burst of speed to run around in front of her. Grabbing her arms, he stopped her headlong dash to get away from reality.

Buffy, luv, stop... stop running, please, talk to me.

She struggled with him, trying to free herself, but not using all of her strength. After a moment, she stopped, and instead stared straight into Spike's eyes.

Talk to you? Oh, I'll talk to you, all right! Did you know that one of the reasons I finally gave in and allowed myself to be with you, to love you, was because I told myself, Here's a guy who'll never leave me!' How many times have I told you to go, and you haven't? The one time you did, it was for me, and you returned, you came back to me. But now, you want to be all noble and throw everything we have away? For the first time in... well, ever, I'm happy! I was, anyway... in a relationship I thought was good and strong and healthy and now I find my lover's willing to go jump into a fiery pit of doom and end it!

He halted her tirade with a gentle kiss. As he pulled back, he told her seriously, Buffy, luv, do you think I want to give this up? Now, just when I have everything I've wanted for so long? I've waited years to have this with you, to have what we have now. Trust me, pet, I want to be here, with you, for all eternity.

Then stay! she begged.

You know I can't! What would you have me do, let the world end just so you and I could have a few more seconds together?

This isn't the answer! There must be another way! Buffy declared stubbornly.

He shook his head at her wearily. Buffy, we've gone over this carefully. There isn't. This is the only option. Please, luv, accept this, let me do what I must to ensure you an' the Nibblet an' the Scoobies an' the whole world are safe. I have to do this.

She turned away, thinking. She whirled back around to him, excited. Even if this is the only way, it doesn't have to be you, does it?



It doesn't have to be you. The sacrifice. It could be another someone stronger than a human with a soul.

Spike was getting annoyed. They'd already gone over this, and he wished she'd just accept this. True, but Buffy, there's not very many beings who fit that description. It has to be me.

Buffy shouted, stamping her foot like a child. It could be someone else! It could be me-

Spike grabbed her arms and shook her. No! It bloody well couldn't be you! Don't even say that, luv, don't even think it. What would we do without - no. That's not a possibility and you know it.

I don't see why not! You think you can leave me, let's see how you like it when I go die on you!

Spike looked at her disbelievingly. Sometimes she was so childish! Been there, done that, luv, remember? B'sides, it wouldn't work.

What? But you said-

Stronger than a human with a soul. But see, you and Faith are stronger than the average human, yeah, but you're still human. It's difficult to translate this exactly, but the text implied that the being who is stronger than human' couldn't be a human. Sorta makes sense when you think about it.

she muttered sullenly, acknowledging that he was right but not wanting to give in.

But wait... maybe... How about Angel?

Spike stared at her, too stunned for words. Angel, the supposed love of her life, and she was offering to sacrifice him? Unbelievable. Finally, he managed to gasp, Buffy! I can't believe you would even say such a thing!

She looked a bit sheepish, but said determinedly, What? He's all big with the self-sacrificing stuff. He'd probably jump at a chance to give his life to save the world.

Coming to his senses a bit, Spike explained to her, Well, as lovely as the thought of sacrificing Peaches is, he's unavailable.

Buffy frowned. What do you mean, unavailable? Did you call him and talk to him about this already?

Spike sighed. No, I didn't call him... I know he's not around because he's in Africa. Seein' a demon about a soul - well, bout gettin' a more permanent soul.

Buffy stared at him, wide-eyed with disbelief. What?! How- what - how do you know?

Who do you think gave him directions?

Buffy suddenly sat down on a nearby curb. Spike knelt down next to her, looking at her worriedly.

Luv? You feelin' all right?

Yeah, yeah... just in shock... I mean, I thought you hated Angel, and now I find your giving him directions so he can get a permanent soul? I don't get it.

Spike gave a little half-smile as he told her, Don't tell anyone, but I don't really hate Angel. He was a right bloody fool to leave you, but if he hadn't I wouldn't have had the chance to be with you. And I get what he had to go through with when he got his soul. I never really got that before. Guess maybe I thought the whole tortured act was just that - an act. It's not.

Seeing Buffy's expression of amazement, Spike shifted uncomfortably, looking away. When he helped the stairs that one night, we talked...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Spike and Angel's conversation ~~~~~~~~~~~~

Spike lay on Buffy's bed, while Angel paced around the room.

Fed up with the older vamp, Spike said impatiently, Would you sit down already, y' git? Or better yet, just leave... it's what you're good at, anyway...

Angel looked over at his grandchilde. Spike... or is it William, now?

Spike rolled his eyes. No, it's still Spike. Unlike some vampires, I don't ave a split personality. Before it was me without a soul, now it's me with a soul.

Angel nodded, trying to process everything. He dragged a chair up alongside the bed and sat down heavily. Spike, did you have Willow curse you, too? Because she didn't say anything about it, which -

Bloody hell! No, Peaches, this isn't some soddin' curse. Couldn't get rid of it if I tried.

It's - it's not a curse? Then how... ?

It's a long story. Went to see a demon bout a girl, came back with a shiny new soul... or maybe it's my old soul, don't know.

Demon? What demon? You just went and asked for it? Or -

Getting frustrated with his grandsire, Spike spat, No, I had to earn it, unlike you! Why do you care, anyway? As long as you're careful not to lose your soul again, you're fine.

Angel looked away sheepishly. Yeah, well, I'm getting rather tired of being careful... I mean, it's kinda hard to have a serious relationship when I know it can't go anywhere... not that it's all about sex, I just mean eventually, you know...

Spike regarded him with interest, curious now. Someone special you got in mind? A thought struck him. Not Buffy, right?

No, not her... I know we're over with. It's not even so much anyone in particular as it is, well, the possibility... I don't want to be limited. And I feel... well, you're right, I didn't earn this soul... and I want to.

Ignoring all the noble stuff, Spike asked, So, come on, grandad, who's the lucky gal?

Angel smiled slightly at Spike's interest. Maybe Faith... maybe Cordelia...

Faith's th' other Slayer, right? Angel nodded, and Spike continued. Ok, obviously, I get that, but Cordelia... the cheerleader?

She's changed a lot... and what do you mean, you get that I might be with a Slayer... wait... you and Buffy?

See, I said you were slow... last year... it's a really long story. It's over now, Spike finished sadly.

Angel forced a few more details out of Spike, worried about his relationship with Buffy, but finally talk turned to the trials Spike had gone through.

Spike asked, You're really serious about this, mate? Cause it wasn't a bloody picnic in the park.

I'm serious.

All right. Here's how I found the cave...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After Spike had related the salient points of this conversation to Buffy, she remained silent. He allowed her time to think about everything.

Part of what surprised Buffy about Spike's willingness to help Angel was that she figured Spike might think that she and Angel would get back together again. She knew they wouldn't - they really were over- but she was glad to find Spike was either very certain of her being over Angel, or that Spike loved her so much he was willing to let her be with Angel (with a permanent soul) if that's what it took to make her happy.

Finally her mind unwillingly came back to how things were at present. Unhappily, she looked at Spike and whispered, This really is the only choice?

He nodded sadly. Yes, luv, it truly is.

I- I need some time... to think about stuff...

Right then, I'll head back to the house.

No! Not you. I mean- she shook her head, trying to figure out how to get across what she meant. I mean I can't think at my house, with all the people around... I want to spend all the time I can with you before... oh God! I can't believe this!

The reality of the situation suddenly struck her more fully. Spike was really going to die, permanently die, and there was nothing she could do to stop it. Buffy couldn't imagine her life without him now. It seemed so unfair. Was it so wrong of her to be happy? Were the Powers That Be trying to tell her something?

Buffy recalled some of the words the First Slayer had spoken to her at their initial meeting: I am destruction. Absolute ... alone.... No ... friends! Just the kill... We ... are ... alone!

But then later the First Slayer told me that I was full of love... am I destined to be full of love, but always alone? Oh, forget it!

Determined to enjoy what little time they had left, Buffy told Spike, Come on. She stood and walked down the street, Spike trailing behind.

Where are we going, luv?

To a hotel, where we can be alone. I'll call the house from there, let them know we won't be home for a while.

Raising his eyebrows in surprise, Spike quickly decided he liked this new plan.

And so, that night, for the first time ever, Buffy and Spike made love.

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2 months later...

Hey, Buffy, we going to the cemetery tonight? Dawn asked her sister.

Buffy thought for a moment. She knew Dawn was referring the grave of the man who held such a special place in the girls' hearts.

Sure, Dawnie, it's been a while since I went. Wanna run out and get some flowers?

Dawn nodded eagerly, and Buffy pulled out some cash, relieved to have some money on hand. It made a pleasant change from the way things had been, and, with Anya's help, they'd made the right investments for the money to last a long time.

Dawn paused before she left. Buffy... doesn't it, I dunno, feel weird to be using this money to buy flowers for his grave when it was once his money?

Thinking about this for a moment, Buffy replied, No, not weird... kinda fitting, really.

Dawn nodded, and left to purchase the flowers.

*****

After scrawling out a quick note for anyone who came looking for them, the two sisters left for the grave.

It wasn't really a grave,but a memorial stone; his remains were trapped in the collapsed cave below the Hellmouth..

The girls sat by the marker, after carefully arranging the flowers around it.

I miss him, Dawn said sadly.

Me, too, her sister replied, tracing the letters on the stone with her hand:

RUPERT GILES
1964-2003
OUR WATCHER, OUR FATHER, AND OUR FRIEND.
REST IN PEACE

He hadn't been their only loss that night, but thankfully the other core Scoobies' got out with life, if not limb. Xander had lost an eye, and Anya an arm. Of course, Xander made funny jokes about his injury, and Anya complained about not being able to count money as well.

Buffy sighed as she thought of her friends. Xander had gotten a job offer in L.A. that he couldn't turn down. So he and Anya (who were making plans for another, smaller wedding) had moved out several weeks ago.

Riley had sacrificed himself during the fight to save some of the girls' lives. Faith and Connor made it out ok, although Faith had been pretty badly wounded. After her slayer healing had kicked in, the two had headed back to L.A., where the newly (permanently) ensoulled Angel turned up several days later. The Council had pulled some strings to keep Faith out of jail. She worked alongside Angel now, with his team.

To Buffy's surprise, Connor had formed a lasting friendship (with perhaps a hint of more) with Dawn, and came to visit fairly often. It was a bit odd to have her vampire ex-boyfriend's son dating her sister, but hey, it was the Hellmouth, where weird was most definitely the norm.

After the heavy magics Willow had used for that final spell, she had left for England to study and meditate once again with the coven. She had explained to Buffy that she might never be able to return to Sunnydale: the power of the Hellmouth was too powerful, and she was afraid of what she might do. Buffy understood, but it hurt to not have her best friend around. She was glad for her friend, however, as Willow had started dating another witch in the coven. From what Willow had told her, it sounded as though this was a much more serious and stabilizing relationship than the one she'd had with Kennedy.

Although the ending was happy for the majority of the Scoobies, many of the Potentials' lives came to a sadder conclusion. Their bodies, like Giles', were buried beneath the Hellmouth. Buffy sent letters of condolences the families of those girls. She still hadn't completely forgiven herself, convinced that she could have done something better to keep those girls alive.

The rest of the Potentials went home. Amanda, along with Dawn, kept up their training, though they rarely patrolled. Buffy helped with their drills, wanting them to be able to defend themselves against any nasties they might encounter.

Of course, she didn't help coach them alone. Spike often helped as well.

A smile curved her lips as she thought of her vampire, and the miracle that had allowed him to escape with his unlife two months earlier.

He had stood where Willow had instructed him to, and waited for the beam of light that was supposed to take his body and soul and allow Willow to complete the spell.

The light had come, the spell had been finished, and the Hellmouth was closed, with essence of the First trapped inside.

Despite their best efforts, some demons had escaped the Hellmouth. Not taking the time to wonder why he was still there, Spike leapt into the fray, saving Xander's life, as well as several Potentials.

After they had taken those who needed treating to the hospital, the others who were less severely injured regrouped back at the Summers' house.

Still in shock, unable to believe it was over and not having come to terms with the deaths, those at the Summers' house had concentrated on why Spike was still there.

Buffy half-thought she was hallucinating when she saw him after the fight, but the pain from her own wounds reassured her that this was real.

Spike had been badly injured in the battle. Not being human, they couldn't take him to the hospital, and so had taken him home to rest. As Buffy tended to his cuts and broken ribs, she talked with Willow.

Willow was barely conscious, drained from the spell, but decided this was important enough that she needed to concentrate. The girls feared that perhaps the spell hadn't really worked, as the sacrifice hadn't been accepted. Finally, they gave up worrying about it and fell asleep, exhausted.

Spike woke up to find the Slayer and Red asleep in their chairs. Carefully lifting Willow's arm from where it rested on a book, he took it from her, recognizing it as the book in which the spell had been found.

He was as curious - and as thankful- as anyone else for his survival, giving him a chance to be with his love. The book was in Latin, which he had learned long ago, back when he was William.

When the girls awoke, they found a grinning Spike sitting there. He explained what he'd discovered: the word they'd translated as sacrifice' could also mean offering.' The difference between the two was slight, but apparently enough to make all the difference for his existence.

Buffy personally thought that perhaps this was a gift for her from the Powers That Be. Perhaps her thinking was a bit selfish, but after all she'd done, and all she'd lost, she felt she deserved something in return.

The Slayer's thoughts returned to the present as Dawn rose. She stood with her sister, and, with one last look at Giles' memorial stone, the girls headed home.

******

Buffy smiled as she saw her lover on the porch, smoking as always. She couldn't get him to quit, although, as she pointed out, it was a money-consuming and yellowing-teeth habit, as well as the whole pesky cancer thing for humans. His only concession had been to refrain from smoking around her and Dawn too often. His concern for them had, as usual, come before all else.

Sure enough, as soon as he spotted his girls,' he snuffed out the cigarette.

Spike managed to make himself wait until they were on the porch before attacking. First under attack was Buffy, whom he twirled around as he kissed her deeply. Next was Dawn, who received a very similar treatment, only without the kissing.

Slightly dizzy from the spinning, Dawn said, So, guess you missed us, huh?

Who, me? Nah, Spike grinned. He'd gone to L.A. to talk to Angel about some family business.' Going for three days without the Summers women was hard for him, even though he called them every evening.

He was overjoyed to be back, and suddenly couldn't resist his urge to kiss Buffy again.

As the two of them started making out, Dawn rolled her eyes. Ugh. I'll be upstairs, in my room, with the music blasting, as usual. And, guys, try to make it into Buffy's bedroom this time. No scaring the neighbors.

With this, Dawn turned and walked inside, secretly smiling. Spike was in their lives, just the way she'd wanted him to be for a long time: as Buffy's lover, and as her surrogate big brother.

As she slammed her door shut, she heard her family stumble in the front door, slowly making their way up to Buffy's room without ever losing touch of the other.

Not an entirely happy ending, Dawn thought, but good enough.


THE END



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A/N: Whew! Time for a big long author's note. By the way, some of the stuff I'm gonna say is kinda spoiler-y, so if you've somehow managed to remain ignorant about what happens at the end of season 7, and wish to remain so, don't read on.

The reason for this hurried ending (oh, and my apologies for that!) is that I'm leaving for college in 2 days, and I'm not going to continue writing. I figured a rushed finish was better than none at all.

I got the basic idea for this story back in March, and hadn't read any spoilers or anything, so the idea for Spike to have to sacrifice himself was not stolen from the show (although I think used Joss' wording). Of course, I like my final ending a lot better than his! :)

Um, what else... in case anyone was confused, the bright light that hit Spike during the spell wasn't sunlight like it was on the show; I just thought I'd mention that in case anyone was wondering!

Any quotes I've used throughout this entire fic have been found at Buffyworld.com

Thank you all so so so SO much for all the reviews, from the first chapter to the last. I would have given up long ago if it weren't for the reviews.