Title: Stay with me (1/1) Spoilers: Season 7 episode, "First Date." Disclaimer: I own nothing; Joss owns everything, I just borrow the characters for my own amusement. So please, don't sue me! Summary: An AU version of how Buffy and Spike's conversation on the couch should have gone. Author's Note: I know this scene's been done at least a dozen times, but I was trying to work through some writer's block and this is the result. Borrowed some of the lines from the actual episode, just in case you thought they sounded familiar.


The room was bathed in shadows, the only source of light coming from two antique lamps in the corner. They sat motionless on the couch, twin statues of melancholy, lost in their own thoughts. His platinum hair shone white in the moonlight, a bright shock against the ebony clothes that covered his lean frame. Her golden locks provided a soft contrast to the crisp white fabric that surrounded her. The house was quiet, everyone was either asleep or pretending to be; it was a welcome change from the constant chatter and stampeding feet that marked the daylight hours. Neither one spoke, not wanting to break the stillness. It was not a peaceful calm, it was an oppressive silence, overflowing with tension, unspoken words, forgotten arguments, shattered testaments of love; all the tattered remnants of their passionate affair.

She sighed heavily, the tips of her fingers fidgeting with the ribbing of her sweater. Her nails dug into the white cotton hem and she tried to pretend that she wasn't trying to avoid the inevitable conversation with her sofa companion. She stared intently at her short nails, pretending that she wasn't trembling because of her nearness to Spike, not wanting him to see how much his presence still affected her. He clenched his jaw tightly, the muscles rippling furiously beneath his alabaster skin. Exhaling unnecessary breath, he focused intently on the Oriental rug beneath his combat boots. The reds and greens blurred together, his enhanced vision picking up several worn spots and the little dust bunnies that had taken up residence on the fringe. He stared all over the room, anywhere except at the petite blonde next to him; he wasn't ready to talk to her, he wanted to delay the invariable truth that she had forgotten about him and had moved on with her life.

Stretching his legs languidly, trying to pretend that his undead heart wasn't performing acrobatics at his closeness to Buffy, Spike broke the silence. "Anyone tell you what happened tonight," he asked, the whispered words thickening his accent. She nodded, grateful that he had crossed the awkward rift of silence that separated them. "Willow did. The First is back," she stated simply, her voice devoid of any emotion. For the first time in weeks, Spike noticed how tired she looked; it was so easy to forget that the Slayer, for all her power, was just a girl who had been handed the ultimate challenge of saving the world, again. "That's right," he murmured, biting back the urge to drop a pet name for her into the conversation. "Said it wasn't time for me yet," he paused, "but I figure I should leave before it is time."

Buffy's head snapped up at his quiet words, "no," she whispered vehemently. Her tone was neither pleading nor demanding, it was simply a statement of fact; Spike couldn't leave her, she wouldn't let him. Giles' words ran through her head, reminding her how much she depended on Spike, even if she wasn't ready to admit it. He quirked an eyebrow in her direction and she continued, "you have to stay." Her voice had changed from authoritarian general to frightened child; she couldn't face the First without Spike by her side. Spike didn't notice the change in her tone; he was too busy replaying the last few hours in his mind, images of the Principal and Buffy taunting him. "You've got another demon fighter now," he said quietly, the memory of her high pitched laughter assaulting him. It had been Robin Wood, with warm brown eyes and expensive suits that had made her happy. He couldn't remember the last time he had made Buffy smile like that; he could only dwell on the pain he had caused her. Buffy bit back a sarcastic remark about him being jealous, knowing it would get them nowhere. She had almost ruined things with Spike before by relying on caustic barbs and had no intention of repeating that mistake. Her back was pressed firmly against the sofa cushion and she stared at her hands intently, quietly countering his statement, "that's not why I need you here."

Spike sighed softly, gently exhaling the breath he hadn't noticed he was holding. She hadn't launched into him with sarcasm and biting wit, which was an improvement over their previous conversations. "That right," he asked, needing to hear her answer his question but fearing her response at the same time. "Why can't I go then?" Buffy felt the heat surge through her body, tears stinging the back of her eyes; this was her chance to tell Spike the truth and she was scared, more scared then she had ever been in her entire life. Things had been so strained between them since he came back from Africa that she found herself questioning where she fit into his life; before he left, she had been assured of his devotion but she had refused to let herself believe that someone could love without a soul. After he came back, she found herself asking if he still felt the same way, or if he hated her for all the hell she had put him through that past year.

Realizing that Spike was still waiting for an answer, she took a deep breath and replied softly, "because I'm not ready for you to not be here." He turned towards her, a guarded look in his eyes, afraid that he was reading into things again, that he was misinterpreting the small crumb of affection that she threw his way. Reaching for his hand, Buffy intertwined her fingers with his, a sense of peace overwhelming her ragged nerves; it was amazing how the slightest contact with Spike could have such an effect on her. Tentatively, he looked over at her, unsure of what was expected of him. Her eyes were wide with anticipation and uncertainty; he could feel the subtle trembling of her body, could sense the blood pulsing wildly through her veins, could almost feel the fear of rejection radiating off her in waves.

Buffy locked eyes with Spike, she had forgotten how handsome he was, after so many months of denying her feelings, and she allowed herself to study him for a long moment. His scarred eyebrow was facing towards her, a reminder of the first slayer he killed. The leather duster that crinkled with even the slightest movement had been his trophy from the second slayer. Her eyebrows rose slightly, she wondered what token he would take from their time together. She wondered what he would say if he knew that he had captured her heart. As if he had read her mind, Spike said, "didn't think I'd ever hear you say that to me, Buffy," his low voice reminding her less of a Master vampire and more of a young poet. He had deliberately used her real name, not wanting to taint the moment with reminders of her sacred duty that threatened to overwhelm her life, and she smiled at the thoughtful gesture.

This time her smile was genuine, crinkling the corners of her eyes, her coral lips parting to expose brilliantly white teeth. Her hazel eyes flickered with sadness before the smile dropped low again; she ducked her head, refusing to meet his gaze, suddenly feeling exposed and insecure. He captured her chin with the edge of his index finger, tilting her face up towards his until he was gazing intently into her eyes. "None of that," he chided gently, hating to see her sad. She offered a weak smile that would have been more convincing if tears were not rapidly traveling over her cheekbones and off the end of her nose. Spike tenderly wiped the moisture away with his thumbs, and Buffy's breath hitched at the gentleness of the gesture. Leaning in, he kissed the tip of her nose, his soft lips grazing the remaining salty droplets. Buffy's arms traveled up the sides of his face; she entangled her fingers in his short blonde curls, loving how soft the hair was at the base of his head.

Their lips moved towards each other, drawn by an invisible force, a mutual desire that threatened to consume them if it was not satisfied. Spike tilted his head to the side, allowing his tongue to gently caress Buffy's lower lip. Her eyelids fluttered and a soft sigh escaped her as she tightened the embrace. Unlike the kisses they had shared before, this one was soft and tender. It was not about rekindling a flame within or satisfying a blinding lust, it was about love. Buffy felt like she would die if Spike kept kissing her but she was afraid to break the kiss because it would mean letting go of the delicious sensations he was causing within her. When they pulled apart, she was shaking violently, her heart racing as if she had run a marathon but she felt more relaxed then she had in months.

Spike's blue eyes gazed at her intently and for a moment Buffy thought she was going to drown in them. "I love you," he murmured softly, tucking a stray lock of blonde hair behind her ear. His hand lingered on her cheek, tracing a gentle pattern over the prominent bones of her face. The feather- light caress sent shivers down Buffy's spine and she shuddered in spite of herself. "I know," she answered, feeling like they had once again engaged in a familiar dance; Spike professed his love and she kept him at arm's length. Tonight was different however, the music had changed and the steps were no longer practiced and familiar. "I love you," she said, her voice loud enough for him to hear without any strain. Spike stopped caressing her cheek, his hand suspended in midair as he searched her eyes for some hint of mockery or sarcasm. He bit down on the inside of his cheek, trying to convince himself that this was some sort of a dream. The stinging pain in his mouth assured Spike that he was indeed awake, and he gazed at Buffy in wide-eyed astonishment. "What," he began to ask, but was cut off by her fingertips grazing his lips. "I love you," she repeated, her voice more confident this time, a Cheshire cat-like smile grazing her lips. His grin mirrored hers, a genuine smile that Buffy had hardly ever seen. He captured her lips in a passionate kiss, stretching out his legs so Buffy's back was pressed against the sofa cushions, her body nestled beneath him. She relaxed in his arms, allowing herself to revel in the tumultuous sea of emotions that Spike was causing.

They were so wrapped up in their kisses that neither heard the bare feet padding down the stairs. Dawn stood frozen at the foot of the stairs, trying to figure out who was rolling around on her couch. She spied Buffy's boots next to the coffee table and squinted into the shadowy room to see who her sister was with. The moonlight reflected a shock of platinum hair and Dawn stifled a gasp. She turned and began creeping back up the stairs, all thoughts of a midnight snack gone from her mind. Dawn shook her head slightly, glad that her two favorite people in the world were finally together. She eased open her bedroom door, careful to avoid the young girls scattered over the floor. "It's about time," she murmured, "but I better get all the details tomorrow!"