A/N: Told from Buffy's point of view. This story assumes that Buffy and Spike did not sleep together on their last night.

A special thank you to my new beta readers, slackerace and desotohia873!

A Goodbye

The Apocalypse had apparently come and gone. In my bathroom.

At least, that's what it looked like. It's amazing how much toothpaste and lip-gloss a handful of Potential Slayers can go through in a single morning. As I ransacked the drawers, desperate for a simple can of hairspray, I attempted to think positively for my own sanity's sake. There was one good thing about trying to organize and run an enormous houseful of people – you didn't have time to get nervous for the fight ahead.

After five minutes of futile searching, I decided hairspray was a luxury I would have to do without that particular morning. Smoothing my ponytail into place, I stared at myself in the mirror unhappily, thinking that I looked much older than a 22-year-old should. The dark circles under my eyes weren't exactly becoming. I recalled that whenever my mother used to fret about getting older, she would quote, "What Youth deemed crystal, Age finds out was dew." Whatever that meant.

Pulling back the corners of my eyes, I muttered to myself, "Sorry mom, but I am so buying wrinkle cream when this is over."

After I finished dressing, I headed downstairs to see how preparations were coming. Willow handed me a glass of orange juice and a piece of dry toast, both of which I quietly disposed of when she wasn't looking. There was no way could I choke anything down before a battle this important. A quick glance around told me that Spike was missing, but considering his aversion to large groups of people, that didn't surprise me. Almost every room of my house was a perfect scene of chaos. If the First Evil was plotting dissension from within, it was winning big time.

Just as I was about to go postal on a group of girls arguing over the last PopTart, Xander came inside to announce that the school bus was almost loaded with supplies, and we'd soon be ready to leave for the high school. Almost at once, people began looking to me for instructions I wasn't prepared to give. I quickly ducked out of sight. Happy to forgo responsibility for a few minutes, I chose to escape down the basement stairs to check on Spike.

As I suspected, he was still lounging on the cot. Our cot, I realized with a twinge of awkwardness. Not that we'd done anything on it, but still…

"You look nice," Spike said when he noticed my approach.

I shrugged, trying to appear casual even though inside, I was slowly becoming a nervous wreck. "Slayer rule number one: always look your best when preparing for battle."

"Why's that? To keep the baddies off their guard because they're so dazzled by your charming…" Spike paused to sweep his eyes suggestively down my body. "…assets."

"Gee," I deadpanned, hoping to God that I wasn't blushing. "And here I was just hoping for a nice photo op with the press after we save the day."

As we exchanged lighthearted smiles, I had to resist the urge to join him on the cot. He could wrap his arms around me, and I could just be still for a little while. The last few nights had been wonderful, but they were confusing at the same time. I didn't know what think to of this thing Spike and I had together. The problem was that I didn't want to think about it. I had a full plate already, playing the part of Slayer Numero Uno on the brink of the biggest battle I'd ever fought. Spike understood that. At least I hoped he did.

"Everything's just about ready," I informed him like a good little leader. "We'll probably be leaving in the next few minutes."

"Right then," Spike said as he sat up on the cot to put on his boots. "You all right? You look a little tense."

"It's nothing big," I admitted hesitantly. "I always get nervous over these types of things."

"No, you don't."

"Well … maybe I have more at stake this time."

He nodded briefly, not looking up. "I guess you do. Lot of little girls upstairs, don't know what they're about to face."

Hearing his words, I shook my head sadly. Stupid vampire. He really didn't think I cared about him at all, did he? We would have to talk about that later. There was a battle to be dealt with first. Spike and I could set things straight once that pressure was off of us. If I could just make it through today…

"Listen," I said, deciding to change the subject, "I put a few changes of your clothes in my bag, just in case we have to make a run for it. There's blood in a cooler for you, too. Xander should have put it on the bus already."

Spike glanced up uncertainly, as if he wanted to say something but couldn't form the words. "Thanks," he murmured at last, finishing with the laces of his boot.

I saw him reach for the amulet, and a sudden feeling of uneasiness gripped me. "You know, maybe you shouldn't wear that," I blurted out, a little too loudly. When he looked at me in confusion, I quickly explained. "I mean – we don't know anything about it. It could be dangerous."

"What if it gives us the advantage, like Lifts said it would?"

"Lifts?" I echoed, confused. "Oh, Angel. No, he didn't know what it would do."

"Guess we'll find out once and for all, yeah?" Spike replied with an indifferent shrug.

Pressing my lips together in disapproval, I took the amulet from him so that I could study it. It looked harmless enough; just a gaudy bauble probably once owned by Joan Collins. Come to think of it, Spike always did go in for the bling – perhaps it was meant to be. And the way he had smiled when I gave it to him? No, I couldn't take that away. The amulet meant more than a mere task to him; I got that, more than he probably realized. With a futile sigh, I reached up and placed the chain around his neck. I closed my hand over the amulet, pressing it into his chest. "Just be careful, okay?"

A big smile spread across his face. "Careful? And miss myself a good scuffle? You don't know me at all, do you, Summers?"

I returned his mischievous smile and lifted my hand up to touch his face. "For what it's worth, Spike, I'm proud of you," I whispered, sliding my hand across his cool cheek. My fingers continued exploring until they came to the back of his neck. I lingered over the soft, silky hair I discovered there. As both of our ragged breaths mingled together, the sudden urge to kiss him overtook me. Before I knew what was happening, I drew his lips down to meet mine.

My lips brushed against his in the tiniest of kisses. I pulled away slightly, eyes searching his momentarily before lowering my face to his again, this time for a much deeper kiss. His arms encircled me, holding me close as he responded. I'd forgotten how good Spike felt – how easy it was to get lost in him. It was a very gentle kiss, unlike so many we'd shared in the past, but it was deeply satisfying in its own way.

That moment was the first time it occurred to me that I might have feelings for Spike that were deeper than mere camaraderie or attraction. It couldn't be love, could it? The thought terrified me, visions of abandonment and rejection coming to mind – among other less pleasant things. Could I really let myself go there again? With Spike, of all people? Did I trust him that much?

I pulled away from the kiss and pressed my face into the crook of his neck so that I could breathe in his familiar scent. Yes, I realized. I do trust him.

I decided then and there that I would tell him how I felt – but I would wait until later that night, after our business with The First was over and done with. If Spike and I were going to embark on something, it was not going to be surrounded by all the anguish our previous relationship had been. We both deserved better than that.

When we released each other from the embrace, I expected Spike to be wearing that same expression of wonder and love he usually reserved for such occasions … but he just looked sad. Concerned that I had upset him, I opened my mouth to say something, but Willow interrupted me. Peeping her head through the basement door, she let us know that it was time to leave.

Murmuring something soft that I didn't hear, Spike slowly extended his hand to me. Swallowing with difficulty, I let him lead me away. But as I followed him up the stairs, I couldn't help but wonder why his kiss felt like a goodbye.

End.

Feedback? :)

A/N: "What Youth deemed crystal, Age finds out was dew." Quote from Robert Browning.

Sorry about the formatting, everyone. I'm a little confused by fanfiction dot net's idea of a document editor. :(