CHOSEN - COUNTERPOINT

Summary: Buffy and Spike do some moping, and then Buffy heads down to the basement; this is my version of that missing scene...
Rating: PG at the moment; will probably up to PG-13 as it progresses, for implied result of this first part. It's also Spuffy, angsty, shamefully fluffy, and avoids the Angel issue entirely...
Disclaimer: They are not mine, the original scene belongs to Joss, and some of the stolen dialogue is either his or his team's. I do, however, own the imaginings and Buffy's unnecessary rambling.
Setting: Entirely in "Chosen", during the infamous 'missing scene' between Buffy and Spike; in the same vein as the fic already written for "Touched".
Author's Notes: This came to me entirely at random one morning while I was in Crete, in the semi-lucid aftermath of a vaguely Spuffy-related dream that I no longer remember. All I do know is that it got me thinking about the final few episodes again. I should have done the "End of Days" counterpoint, but there's not so much to work with as "Chosen", and I had to get this out of my brain. Anyway, here's the first part; this and the second part will deal mainly with the 'missing scene' bit of the episode, and the third part will be the finale itself. I'm trying desperately not to let this lead into a (horribly clichéd) sequel idea, because I don't want another "Cradle"-style epic on my hands, but I have a sneaky suspicion it may happen. Someone shoot me if I attempt it, please? Anyway. I shall cease my ramble, and let Buffy ramble instead. Enjoy. :)

Chosen - Counterpoint

PART ONE

She knows full well that sitting out here on the back porch won't help anyone. But considering she'll be helping the entire planet tomorrow, she's entitled to some alone time, doing nothing. Even if 'doing nothing' equates to 'thinking way too much'. It's all fallen neatly into place: she has the scythe, she's made the plan, she's got her second front of defence if it all goes wrong, and soon she'll have an army of brand new, shiny Slayers, each ready to meet their calling. She's even got her Champion, and never in her wildest dreams did she envisage it to be him, the platinum-blond avenger currently sleeping in her basement.

Wow, your thoughts just go full circle, don't they? taunts her brain. She ignores the inner voice - it sounds as obnoxious as the First, as matter-of-fact as the BuffyBot, and God, what possessed him to make it that damn cheerful, anyway… oh, who is she kidding? It's right. Her thoughts do go full circle. Considering what's playing on her conscience, though, it's hardly surprising.

This time tomorrow, any or all of them could be dead. Deep down, she knows that winning won't be easy; it'll be a long, hard battle, and there are going to be casualties. She can't protect them all, and nor can her Champion, despite what either of them thinks. There are so many unknowns, so many things she can't avoid, and so, so many Turok-Han, more than she wants to try and guess. It's too late now to even worry about it. And that's why she finds herself heading back indoors and down to the basement, because there's one thing she's been avoiding for far too long…

~*~

Pretty little thing. Shiny. Ironic really; it's just how he always thought it'd be, once he got the soul. Pretty, little thing; all shiny; all worthy, and full of light. He didn't anticipate the burning, like getting indigestion (itself only a memory from a lifetime ago), only ten times worse, and there's the scar to prove it. The guilt was nothing new. And now, here's this amulet, meaningless, precious, and to be borne by a Champion.

He doesn't feel very worthy right now. Not even the fact that she chose him over Angel can change it. The world's first uncursed vampire with a soul - as far as he knows, anyway - and he's taking one for the home team, all because she believes in him, more than he believes in himself. He gets the general feeling that she's the only one who does; there's no way in the Hellmouth Angel would give up the amulet willingly, and especially not to him, and he's pretty sure the Scoobies and mini-Slayers would sooner stake him and be done with it. He lost Dawn's trust a long time ago. So, he has the faith of her alone; she's 'the One' - the only one, in fact - and he was right all along.

It's enough. The Slayer's trust is all he needs. The part of him that mocks what he's become, because of her, for her, is buried all too soon. There's no time for self-loathing right now; in a few hours, the trinket'll do its thing, and he'll finally find out what his purpose in life is. Well, it only took a hundred and fifty-odd years. Not bad, considering.

The amulet twinkles in the moonlight, a reflection of a reflection; or maybe, just maybe, that's what his soul looks like, under the surface. Maybe that's the whole point.

~*~

From halfway down the steps, she watches him, and wonders what he's thinking about. The basement is silent, so she listens to the rest of the house; odd, because she was never any good at multi-tasking before now. Most of the gang are too antsy to sleep, with the exception of Anya, but they're trying to keep their minds on anything but the inevitable. The Potentials chatter in the kitchen and the lounge, discussing hair and makeup like normal teenagers; she listens to Andrew tormenting Giles, and the ex-Watcher's plaintive riposte. She swallows the sudden lump she feels in her throat when she realises that they never did sit down and talk about things, nor come to any kind of agreement over the issue she's currently spying on. Neither of them even thought to apologise, but, then again, it's hardly worth worrying about now. 'Forgive and forget' has never seemed more apt.

Not that she'd be able to explain this, anyway. She can't even explain it to herself; she doesn't really know what she's come here to do, what she'll say, if anything. This is the sort of thing one normally asks advice for - but who can she turn to? She's in a house full of couples, people content with their existences (with the exception, perhaps, of a few Potentials), so who'd be willing to sit and listen to a confused Slayer, especially right now?

Well… there is one person. But that only makes it all the more difficult. And for the first time in months, she wishes Tara were still around, not just for Willow's sake, but her own.

Enough moping, Summers, chastises her mind, sounding a lot like the army general she's constantly trying to emulate. Do what you came here to do…

She takes another step down; the old stairs creak in complaint, and by the time she's reached the bottom, he's standing up to greet her, ever the gentleman. On the concrete floor, they both stand motionless; the only movement in the room comes from the gentle swinging of the amulet in his hand, casting light patterns at his feet. Above her head, the basement door closes, as Vi decrees that even vampires need their privacy, and the gentle hubbub of the house disappears completely.

It was easy enough to wander down here, looking casual, but now she's at a loss for words. The things she should say have been whittled down to those she needs to say, and it's still too much for the amount of time they have. She needs another lifetime, and she's got the remaining hours of darkness.

"So…" she says, hating her own predictability. "Worked out what it does, yet?"

He looks at the amulet and shrugs. "Nope. But I figure it knows what it does, and that's something."

She feels herself smiling, though it's entirely involuntary. "Kinda pretty, isn't it?" she asks, pointlessly. He lifts it again to examine it, maybe hoping its function will become apparent in a random flash of inspiration.

"Yeah," he says. "You sure you don't want to swap?" She gives him a puzzled look, and he explains, "You get sharp things to play with, and I get to wear the jewellery. Doesn't seem quite right…"

Laughing in spite of herself, she agrees. "I suppose not…"

~*~

He knows as well as she does that this can't go on. It's banal, pointless; the banter seems hollow. While he prefers that she came and saved him from his rambling thoughts, he wishes he could tell why. She's impossible to read, lately; ever since that night they spent, their relationship has been completely indefinable. She gives him more hope than ever, but still backs away when he pushes her too far. He can't find the line he's not supposed to cross, and doubts she knows where it is, either.

In the strange silence that falls between them, he resumes his place on the bed, since there's nothing much else to do and nowhere more logical to go. Backing away is infinitely easier than going forwards, anyway. Examining the amulet ponderously, still - because there seems to be little else to do with it, right now - a thought strikes. "I got a puzzle for you," he says.

"What's that?" she asks. Her nervous stance relaxes slightly, but he can still hear her heartbeat, and it's as erratic as when she came in. That means there's something she wants to tell him, but he knows it'll take a while, so he might as well ramble.

The amulet catches the moonlight. "This thing," he says. "It got me thinking." Looking up at her, cocking his head to the side, he asks, "How's your physics?"

"Sucks," she admits. "I never really got all that electricity stuff. All I know is, the little switch on the wall makes the lights come on, and my hard-earned lack of money makes sure it does it."

Smiling, he drops the amulet on the blankets. "Lucky for you, that wasn't what I meant. Was thinking more about stars."

"Oh…" With a small shrug, she steps forward - appearing outwardly casual - and sits down, cautiously, beside him. "Well… I know a couple of constellations, and that we're a little tiny thing in the corner of the universe. Beyond that it makes my brain hurt."

He nods. "I was thinking about moonlight, really…"

"What about it?"

"Well, it's not technically moonlight, is it?" he asked, rhetorically. "It's sunlight, reflecting back at us." After her nod, he continues his train of thought. "So how come vampires can go out in it?"

She smiles, amused, and then decrees: "Spike, you really need to find a hobby…"

He returns the smile. "Seriously, though… it makes no sense, does it?"

"I guess not. But if you think about it, it's really like… six degrees of separation from actual sunlight…" And the way she explains it, just like that, it makes all the sense in the world, and doesn't even seem to matter any more. "Where did that come from, anyway?"

He waves a hand to show it's not important; he doesn't want to worry her any more than she probably is already. "Oh, I dunno. Just one of those moments when you realise your own mortality, y'know?"

"Yeah, I've been having a lot of those recently…"

~*~

She pushes herself back to lean against the wall, and examines her feet as they stick out in front of her, no longer touching the floor. She can already tell that this is going to be one of those conversations that constantly changes subject, just so neither of them have to admit anything to the other. And yet, despite that, he's still the only one she can tell things to.

He leans on his knees, hands facing inwards, but turns his head to look at her, awaiting her explanation. "All that stuff you said," she reminds him, "about how I was 'the One'… You were right. I hate it when you're right."

"Thank you," he says, with an amused smile.

"You know what I mean… It's like… I've got this plan, and everything and everyone I need to carry it out, but in the end… it's all me. There was never meant to be an army on this side, just a Slayer with a big pointy weapon." She reaches behind him for the amulet on the bed. "And this thing, I guess…" Still holding it, she lets her hands fall to her lap. The heavy sigh that escapes is as defeated as she feels. "I hate that there are so many people involved in this. I hate that… that I can't protect them all, and I hate that I should have to protect anyone." She looks at him, sincerity in her gaze. "And most of all, I hate that you have to be a part of this…"

Frustrated, she propels herself off the cot again, throwing the amulet onto the blankets in her wake, and starts to pace. He rescues it and puts it to the side; the last thing they need is it getting broken as a result of some Slayer-wrath. "I mean, if it's down to me, it should be just me, right?" she asks, rhetorically, even though she knows he'll have an answer.

Placatingly, he tries to reassure her as best he can. "Your friends are a part of this because they want to be, pet. You can't blame yourself for that."

"Can't I? Maybe I should've kept them out from the beginning." She knows, deep down, that it doesn't make any sense, that if she had, she'd definitely be dead already. She's feeling particularly martyr-esque today, and it's not a good way to be, considering what's ahead. With a shrug, she stops the train of self-deprecating thought where it stands, folding her arms across her chest. "Well, too late now, anyway…"

Of course, he sees through the air of nonchalance, and stares at her with more patience than she'd ever have credited him with before. "Buffy… they're stronger than you think, all of them. The girls'll be even stronger when the time comes. Willow is probably the most powerful witch I've ever met. That Watcher's handy with a sword, and Andrew probably should be, too, by all accounts. And you got Faith; she can kick serious-"

"I get it…" she cuts him off.

After a pause, he continues, "And you've got me. Whatever it is I'm meant to do, when I figure it out, I'll do it."

"Even if you don't come out of it at the other end?"

"I'll make sure I do," he says, more reassuringly than she supposes he feels. "I may not have much to live for, but I quite like this life. And anyway, I'm determined to outlive Passions."

At this final comment, she lets out a laugh, and it feels like the first genuine one in a very long time. When it subsides, she can do nothing but stare at him: this vampire, her sworn enemy by right, who has done everything and more for her, and all for nothing. That list of things she wants to say comes back, but the only thing she can force past her lips is a simple phrase. "Thank you…"

~*~

That's the second time in as many days, and the first one doesn't really count, being written down. He tries to conceal his surprise and pride behind the smile he's been wearing since she laughed, and with any luck, he'll get away with it. This girl, who, a lifetime ago, he swore to destroy, stands before him, her posture midway between defensive and desperately needy, and in the pale blue-white of the moonlight he wants nothing more than to sit right here and stare, drink in the moment for everything it's worth. The temptation just to take her in his arms and hold her tight - for both their sakes - is almost overwhelming, but now is not the time. The walls aren't down, not yet. There's more she has to say.

"What for?" he asks.

Her arms uncross; the wall falls, brick by brick. It takes her far too long to reply. "For… for everything. I don't know how I can explain it any other way… This past year… the year before that, when I came back. I didn't appreciate it, any of it. I guess I was just too wrapped up in my own life to realise what you were doing for me." She pauses. "And for this, right now… making me laugh. Being here like always."

He remembers, vaguely, something he admitted in a semi-lucid state, in another basement. It's just as true now. "I don't have anywhere else to go…"

"Lucky for me," she says. "Because I'm still so not ready for you not to be here."

Reminiscence, then, is the order of the evening, but he secretly hopes it won't go any further back than that. There are some things best left in the past. The conversation reaches a stalemate, and in the pause, he realises that this can't go on much longer. They can't spend the entire night like this, avoiding her reasons for being here, and it falls onto him to find out what they are. Probably more defensively than is necessary, he asks, "Buffy, why did you come down here?"

She seems relieved that he brought it up and saved her the bother, as he'd anticipated. "To see you, duh," she says, covering the greater truth with a lighter tone. His questioning expression doesn't falter, however, and she's forced to explain herself better. "Okay… I was just sitting out on the back porch. Buffy's Favourite Place, right? And I was thinking out there, about what I have to do, about how it's all come together, and I realised… I kept expecting you to turn up and sit next to me. Then I figured you probably had a lot of thinking of your own to do."

Apparently realising that she's rambling, she stops for a moment, and tries again. "It sounds really corny, but I couldn't stop thinking about you." He smirks, but she gives him a warning glance, and he lets her carry on. "I guess because you're such a big part of this, everything kept reminding me… Spike…" She examines the floor, nervous. "There's… there's a lot of things I need to tell you. I don't even think there's enough time. That's what I'm here for; that's what my plan was when I opened the basement door. Except now I have no idea how to start."

He refuses to try and guess what she wants to tell him; if he's off the mark, which he inevitably will be, he doesn't think he can cope with the hurt. Instead, he tries to be reassuring. "Well, I'm here 'til the sun rises, pet. Longer'n that, if you need more time."

She offers a watery smile and then stares at her feet. When she lifts her head again, tears are glistening in her eyes. He sits on his hands, forces himself to listen to her. She's visibly fighting an inner battle, but somehow manages to maintain some semblance of control when she speaks again. "God. An eternity wouldn't be long enough…"

~*~

She seems to have shocked him a little; at any rate, he's not replying just yet. It's just like him, of course: now that's she's laid the ground-work, she's got to finish everything, too. She has to tie up all of her meandering thoughts into one neat, little package. If only it was that easy; if only she could present him with a box, labelled "All of Me", topped off with a red ribbon, and have him understand.

He stares up at her like an attentive pupil listening to a lecture, but the only thing he'll learn from this is the truth, if she even gets that far. Time is waning, and she's wasting it.

She takes another deep breath before she continues. "I have this feeling," she explains, "that something might… might go horribly wrong tomorrow. There's always something gets overlooked. We're going to win; I know we are. But there're going to be casualties, maybe even sacrifices. What if neither of us gets through this, huh? What if I end up dead? What if you do?" She sighs; everyone has the same fears, so there's little point regurgitating them now. "I don't want that to happen; I don't want us to lose each other without my saying all of this…" But how can she condense it? Into a sentence? Into two simple phrases that are meaningless out of context, and that she'd need to explain? He deserves so much more than that.

She's been one with the speeches of late; one more won't hurt. He seems to be anticipating one. "Okay. First off: I'm sorry."

He smiles, then, knowingly. "I know you are."

"No, you don't," she says, frustrated. "You have no idea how sorry I am. Not just for last year, although that covers most of it." These are things she's already told him, while he slept. "There's more to it than that. I-"

"Buffy…" he interrupts. Then, the knowing smile becoming warmer, he continues, "I know…"

Her eyebrow raises of its own volition. "You… you heard me, didn't you? In the house?"

He nods. "Thought I was dreamin'…"

"Well… in that case, I'm sorry I couldn't say it to your face. Although I was pretty much trying to just now…" She suddenly feels rather stupid, for believing that everything she rambled that night hadn't been heard, and for the fact that she nearly said it all over again. And then she remembers the final part - those last few heartfelt words that she muttered to him before she left - and wonders why, all of sudden, it'll only make things harder.

Involuntarily, her eyes widen as she realises. "Oh, no…"

To be continued...

A/N: You'll be pleased to hear that part two is, in fact, already written, as is part three, nearly. It only gets fluffier, trust me. You can see that when I get me some reviews. :) I realise my version of Buffy is entirely too nice to Spike, but I figure he deserves it, and I felt like redeeming her.

As a little side-note, I thought people might be interested to know that Channel 4's "Top 100 Sexy Moments" had Buffy quite high in the polls, somewhere in the twenties or thirties, I think, with the scene from the end of "Smashed". Needless to say there was much whooping over here. If anyone's interested in the exact place it came, go to channel4 dot co dot uk slash sexy (so it doesn't strip the damn address) and the full list'll be on there somewhere.

Now review!