Spoilers for "Chosen".
Summary: Buffy reflects on some things with the help of an old fried.
A/N: Yeah, I know, Post-'Chosen' fics have been done out the ying yang the last few days and I fell prey to this as well. I thought of this at work and here is the result. May be a bit sad.
She knew he was there even before the not-so subtle cough brought a smile to her face. Still, she said nothing as he made his way over to the steps and sat next to her. 'Speak only when spoken to' had been her motto for the past few days since…then. Although everyone voiced their concern about her, Buffy would always placate them with an "I'm fine", flash them a megawatt smile (that was genuine, thank you very much) and be on her merry way. She knew they were confused at her reticent demeanor; she had not cried since that day. But the thing that had really gotten to them had been her uncharacteristic happiness. Yeah, she was mouse-girl but she was also mopey free. No slumped shoulders, or creased brow from her, nuh-uh. It was the original Buffy, version 1.0--except without the quip. She wasn't sure why but the last few days she had been so peaceful within that there was no room for sadness, no room to think that she'd never see him again…
"All good things," she muttered.
"Huh?" Xander asked.
Buffy shrugged in response. They sat in silence for several minutes, staring at the stars on the roof of the Hyperion, undisturbed by the multitude of people staying in the hotel.
"Do you remember the whole Anya/Willow jealousy thing?"
Surprised, Buffy glanced over at Xander but was greeted by the black of his eye patch. "Yeah," she said and her gaze fell back on the night sky.
"It…it was pretty funny. Okay, so not funny at the time, especially with me as the meat of the Willow/Anya sandwich. On second thought," he said and gave pause.
"You even think about finishing that sentence," Buffy said, "and I will see how well a Xander can fly."
"Fine, fine, no Xander innuendo." He kicked at an invisible rock. "Guess only peroxide headed English vamps can get away with that," he muttered. Buffy tensed and heard Xander's contrite sigh through the whirling thoughts of her mind.
"Geez, Buff, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to…"
"No, it's okay, really," she said, and hated that her voice said the exact opposite. "Now, where were you? Oh yeah, the disturbing image of you in a 'sandwich' with Willow and Anya."
Xander chuckled and closed the distance between them by a few inches. "I was a mess. Here I was, caught between my bestest bud and girlfriend, and not in a fantasy type way…"
"Okay, okay, no more Harris quips. The point is that I really didn't know what to do. So I went to the Bronze, thought beer and some pool would ease the old anxiety. Wouldn't guess who I ran into."
"Olaf? Or was that his fist?"
"Ha ha, so very funny. And no it wasn't Olaf the Angry Troll. It was Spike." Buffy's smile disappeared and she lowered her head. Yeah, she remembered that night when Olaf decimated the Bronze. Spike had been there, even helped the injured patrons; of course, he was trying to get in good with her.
"At the time I wanted nothing to do with him, content in wallowing in my own self-pity. But he really helped me…well, actually he didn't. He just tried to bring your name into the conversation as much as he could but, hey, can't argue about him lending an ear.
"That was the first time that I really saw him as one of us. He proved himself again a few months later, too, with the whole Glory torture thing and all the stuff afterwards. Even last year, he was the one that, as much as I hate to think about it, prevented you from doing something bad to yourself."
"Xander," she said, "I wouldn't have…"
"Wouldn't you?" Her answer of silence said everything. "Buff, I--we never saw it but now, as I look back, he saved you. No matter how much I hated him for what he tried to do to you, he saved you."
"I know," she murmured, and her voice betrayed the pain she felt.
Xander turned his whole body towards her but she refused to look up. "You miss him."
"Yeah, I do."
"It's okay to be sad about it, ya know."
"You're what? Ms. Serenity, everything's fine? Buff, I can see that…"
"I loved him."
Any other words died on Xander's tongue and Buffy felt his eye searing into her soul. She glanced up, teary eyes staring at Xander's face. For an instant his face scrunched in confusion and disbelief but just as quickly it melted into understanding. And acceptance.
"Buff, as harsh as I've been towards Spike and any goody-goody feelings he's had for you, I wasn't blind to how he's changed. How you've changed."
"Me? How did I change?"
"It's hard to explain but I saw it every time you two were together. The love that radiated from you. And it wasn't just coming from him, either." Xander took her small hands into his. "I think I've known all along that you did. And I think that he…"
"I told him. Be-before I left him, I told him."
The stillness returned as Xander contemplated her words. Buffy was lost in thought but, instead of whirling them around in her head, she decided to open up.
"You're right, Xan," she said, "I've loved him for awhile now. Not like I do now, but I did. It wasn't pretty; it was messy and dirty and something I wasn't ready for. Not then."
"And you are now. I mean--"
"I know what you mean, Xander," she said, and offered him a ghost of a smile. "I figured part of it out the other night, when I left the house."
"So our betrayal was good for something," he said bitterly.
"I'm so sorry, Buff, for doing that and…" Buffy silenced him with a wave of her hand.
"Forgiven. Besides, if that didn't happen I don't think me and Spike would have--well, I don't think I would have accepted his love like I have."
"What do you mean?"
"We were in this house and he told me that he loved what I was, that it wasn't about him. My strength, my weaknesses, good and bad, he loved it all. No one's ever said anything like that to me, Xander. Angel didn't. Riley didn't. And even if they did, Spike's the only one that's seen the worst of me. He's--he had felt the worst of me and still loved me. And when I told him…when I told him he…"
"He said I didn't--didn't love him."
"Buffy," Xander said, and cupped her chin. She faced him with watery eyes, afraid of what she would see. Her confusion grew when she saw an understanding eye, glistening with tears, staring back at her.
"You think he didn't believe you." It wasn't a question.
"Well, he said…"
"Buff, Spike's said a lot of things he didn't mean. Usually it was for his own good, but this…" Xander trailed off and closed his eye. Buffy watched his brow furrow in contemplation before he looked back at her. "Just answer me one question."
"If he would have said it back, what would you have done?"
"Would you have left him?"
"No, you would have stayed." She frowned but there was no feeling behind it. She knew Xander was right and by the smile on his face, he knew that she knew.
"Buff," he said after she dropped her gaze, "as much as I've teased him, Spike is--was not stupid. Caleb may have thought I was the one that saw things and maybe he's right. But when it comes to you, no one ever saw you, the real you, like Spike did. Buffy, he knew exactly what you would have done if he accepted your love. Don't you see what he was doing?"
"He was giving his life, his very existence, up for you. He'd always wanted to become a better man for you, Buffy. And he did. He saved the world, Buffy. Not for me, or the Slayerettes, or Willow or Dawn or…well, maybe just a bit for Dawn. But what he did in that cave had you written all over it. He died, Buffy, so you could live."
The last words had torn down her last reserves and Buffy fell into Xander's arms, jagged sobs ripping through every part of her. It was a pain that had no predecessor, one that she knew would never have an equal. Not even sending Angel to hell could compare. This was something more, something soul-wrenching and yet…
She didn't know how long the tears lasted, but as they started to trickle away, Buffy sat up and wiped a sleeve across her face.
"Right before he told me to go, he said that it was my world now. What do you think that meant?"
"I think he meant exactly that. The world is yours, Buffy. You're not bound by your calling now. You're certainly not trapped in Sunnydale anymore. You have the whole world before you; what you do with it is up to you."
"I just miss him so much."
"You'll see him again," Xander said, and patted Buffy on the back.
"Spike. You'll see him again."
"Xander, that's not…"
"What? Do you think I'm kidding?" He took her hands in his and gave her his most earnest smile. "Buff, you've already died, you've seen what the afterlife has in store for you. It's a fair assumption that you'll be making a return trip to that green pasture in the sky."
"What does that have to do with Spike?" Buffy asked, unable to keep her tone free of hostility.
"Think about it."
Several moments passed as Buffy mulled over Xander's words.
"Do--do you think that he'll go?"
"I may not be the resident expert on the Heaven-bound Express," Xander said, "but I really don't think Heaven will close its gates to a hero."
"Buffy, Spike gave his life to save us. He may have had you on the mind but he knew that saving you meant saving us all. That's a hero if I ever heard of one."
"But what about before that? I know he was a good man, but do you think it was enough? To make up for everything else he did?"
"Spike saved more lives down in that cave than all the vampires in the world have ever taken. That has to tip the scales. And…and if it doesn't, I don't know if that's the type of Heaven that I wanna be in."
Buffy staved off the sobs that rose in her chest at Xander's heartfelt admission but the tears trickled freely.
"He was a good man, Buffy, and he loved you. Don't doubt for a second that he didn't know that you loved him, because he did. If anything, know that he was happy when he died." Xander enveloped Buffy's trembling form in his arms and laid a kiss on her forehead before standing and walking towards the door.
"Xander," Buffy called.
"I'm sure Anya's up there with him, waiting for you."
"I'm sure she is," Xander smiled and Buffy caught the lone tear that slid down his face before he was gone.
She watched where he had gone out the door for several minutes before turning her attention back towards the night sky. A thin smile spread across her lips. Spike had said the world was hers, and he was right. She would not let his words go unheard. She would make the best of her life, live each day to the fullest, find happiness. Maybe she and Angel would get back together or maybe she would find someone else to have a family with. Whatever happened, she would love that person with all of her heart, she wouldn't be afraid anymore. She knew Spike would want that. She would live without him.
But she would never forget.
For so long Buffy had thought that Angel had been her soul mate, the one she would spend all eternity with. When her and Spike's fingers had intertwined, and the fire burned into her soul, she realized what a true soul mate was. It was someone who filled your heart completely, yet left it open for others. That person's absence left you empty but you were content all the same. It could not be put into words yet a single smile explained it all. It was all and it was nothing. It was…it was…
"Spike," Buffy murmured. That one word said it all. She smiled at the memory of him, how happy he had been, utterly naked of all things bad, radiating in the fullness of his soul, of his love.
Tears poured down her eyes at an alarming rate, but they were no longer tinged with sadness. She was once again content, at peace knowing that Spike had finally gotten what he had wanted, what he'd asked of her twice; once in his crypt and the other in a moonlit church. No matter how strong her love for him was, she never could have given it to him in life. Only death could have granted Spike that one wish, and Buffy realized that she was okay with that.
"Be at rest, my love," she whispered to the stars, "be at rest."