(For disclaimer, etc. - see chapter 1)

Chapter 26 - The Love

"Hey Buffy" Dawn smiled as the older girl came into the hotel. With no-one else to talk to, the blonde had spent some time with the hotel managers' daughter and found she wasn't half so bad as she first appeared. She talked a lot of sense for a girl her age and seemed glad to listen when Buffy needed to talk about things.

"Hey Dawnie, you okay?" the blonde replied as she came over to her with Spike close behind.

"I'm fine" Dawn answered, glancing between the two before her eyes stayed on Buffy, "You?"

"Jury's still out" Buffy admitted, "Me and Spike are gonna go upstairs, we need some time"

"Oh, I'll totally make sure you're not disturbed" the girl promised as she looked to her old friend and then moved to hug him, "She really missed you" she whispered in his ear so Buffy wouldn't hear her, "She's just scared"

Spike smiled at her as he released Dawn from his embrace, nodding that he understood that already.

"You two good friends now then, are you?" he asked, finding the concept a little strange but glad they got along in he was honest.

"Could say that" Buffy nodded once, shifting almost nervously by the stairs.

A part of her just wanted to get up to the privacy of her own room so she could figure things out with the man she knew she loved, and yet a part of her wanted to stay here too, so they didn't have to have that serious talk she knew was inevitable.

At length they headed for the stairs, once Dawn had given Spike approval on his new look and new name. He was still the sweet guy he'd always been, but the packaging had been improved, and no girl was going to object to that of course.

Buffy reached the door of her room and let herself and Spike inside. They stood a few feet apart in the centre of the room, neither very sure where to begin. It was so great to see each other again and yet they both had other emotions to deal with, all the anger and frustration and confusion.

"So, you've been staying here and callin' yourself Faith?" Spike checked, though he knew it was true since she'd already said it before, he just needed something to say to start some sort of conversation.

"Yes" Buffy nodded in reply, "I... I couldn't go back to LA. I don't think I belong there anymore, in that world with Faith and Angel" she shook her head as she looked at the ground, "I don't feel like I belong anywhere right now"

"You got some serious issues, you know that, Summers?" Spike sighed as she glanced up at him looking almost annoyed, "You and me, we belong together, doesn't matter where" he explained as if it were obvious, taking a step towards her, but careful not to move too fast. She was too used to men jumping on her and asking questions later, and as much as he wanted her right now, he'd wait till they'd got this sorted out before making a move.

"You don't even know me" she said frustratedly, "You think that you do but... God, I so can't do this" she shook her head turning her back on him as tears came to her eyes.

"No, see you can't do that" Spike told her sounding annoyed, "You can't just turn your back on a problem, run away all the time" he explained, "Sometimes you have to face it, talk about it..."

"I'm so sick of talking about it!" she told him, though she didn't turn around at all, "I'm sick of having all these thoughts, trying to put it all into words, it doesn't help, it doesn't mean anything!" she yelled, getting so frustrated by it all.

"Fine" she heard Spike reply and her heart clenched in her chest as she realised that getting mad at him wouldn't help, that it might make matters worse, he could be gone by the time she turned around. Buffy didn't realise quite how wrong she was about that until she did indeed turn around and found his body mere inches from her own.

"You don't wanna talk about it" he said softly, "Then we won't. We'll play it your way" he said.

Buffy opened her mouth to ask what he meant but she never got the chance as Spike pulled her to him and crushed his lips to hers.

For all the passion that exploded between them, true love lie behind it. This was different to before when they'd gotten close, and way better than being with any other man Buffy could remember. Spike made her feel things you only read about in books, only ever dreamed you could experience in real life. It had to be love, she knew it, she'd even told him so before. She'd tried to bury it so long but it wouldn't leave her and now she was back in his arms, with him kissing her til her head spun, she just couldn't think straight. The only thing that remained clear was that she wanted Spike, and that she truly loved him.

They stumbled back onto the bed together, kissing and touching and determined to keep contact with each other all the time, they needed it as much as they wanted it. Their clothes disappeared one thing at a time til they were naked together beneath the covers. Buffy could hardly breathe as Spike hovered over her and looked down into her eyes.

"I love you, Buffy" he told her, calling on every source of will power he had to not touch her again until she answered him in kind. It took her mere seconds to find the words.

"I love you too" she promised him, gasping as he finally entered her. She clung to him as they made love at last, both of them knowing that this was as good as it would ever be for either of them. This was love, pure and simple, and nothing else could ever feel the same.

When Spike finally collapsed beside her, Buffy couldn't help but cry. She was so overcome by a whole mass of emotions she was experiencing and so grateful when Spike pulled her into his arms and just held her for a while.

"I never meant to make you cry" he said after a while as he kissed he top of her head, "I don't want you to be upset, or scared... I just want to love you, Buffy"

"I know" she answered as she pulled her head up from his chest and looked at him properly, "and I wish it were as easy as that" she cried.

"Why can't it be that easy?" Spike frowned, "What we have... it's beyond anything I have words for. I love you so much, I hated the fact I couldn't find you, that I might never see you again"

"That's my point" Buffy laughed painfully, "I'm just so afraid that if we love each other this much, how will we deal when one of us goes away?" she asked him.

"Buffy, luv" Spike sighed, "I'm not going anywhere, so unless you plan on running out on me again, I don't see..." he stopped when she looked down and he suddenly realised what she meant, "This isn't even about us, is it?" he said as he put his fingers under her chin and made her look at him, "Buffy, what happened to your parents was tragic but you can't live your life worrying about things going badly like that. You do that and you forget to enjoy what you have right now" he told her, looking right into her eyes.

"You get that from one of your books?" she asked flatly, trying to look away but he wouldn't let her.

"From you" he told her simply, "Buffy, you came into my life and you turned it upside down. You showed me the world is bigger and brighter and possibly a little scarier than I thought" he smirked, "but bottom line, pet, you showed me what I was missing, and here you are willing to throw away something that could be so good between us, you're willing to miss all that, just because maybe it could go wrong?"

Buffy stared at Spike for a long moment, trying to take in all that he'd said. It made sense, of course it did, but then he had been brought up properly and was well educated, he was supposed to have good sense, she realised. Whilst the words he said had an impact, it wouldn't have meant half so much had she not been looking into his eyes right now, seeing so much love for her within the crystal blue pools that held her gaze. Without a word she leaned in to kiss him softly.

"I love you, William Rayne" she said as she pulled away a little, "I love you more than I can ever tell you, and I won't deny it scares the hell out of me, but I trust you and being without you was so much harder than facing my fears and being with you" she admitted, linking her fingers with his on the pillow, "I wanna make this work somehow" she told him, "but I'm giving you advanced warning, I don't think its gonna be easy"

"Love's not supposed to be easy, pet" Spike told her gently, "If it were, it wouldn't be worth fighting for" he smiled, so elated that she'd even said she'd try to work things out with him. He was so sure they belonged together, and if today had made Buffy just the slightest bit interested in exploring what relationship they might have together, that was good enough for him.

Spike pulled her close and kissed her again, trying to pour every ounce of love and affection he had for her into the moment. He was pleased to see her smile when they parted for air.

"Spike" she breathed, "Do me one favour?"

"Name it, luv" he said as he looked at her, head tilted slightly.

"Take me home?" Buffy practically whispered. Spike kissed her hand where it lay held within his own.

"Your wish is my command"

"Car's here!" Xander called to his sister who grinned as she ran to the window to verify the sighting. It was true, the silver Viper with Spike in the drivers seat had just cleared the gates to the House and as Willow turned to tell her friend just that, she was a little surprised to find the blonde was shaking.

"What is wrong with me?" Buffy laughed at herself as she stood by the full length mirror, "I mean, I look okay, right?" she asked for the eighth time in as many minutes.

It was almost a year since she'd arrived back at Giles House with Spike at her side and spoken to Giles himself about the possibility of her staying at the mansion with him. She loathed her Aunt and Uncle, and no longer relished the thought of spending each and every day and night in LA with Faith and Angel. She needed to be with Spike, and he felt exactly the same. Papers were drawn up, arrangements were made and it was far from a simple operation but eventually Buffy Summers became a resident of the mansion that her God father owned. Spike too lived there during his breaks from University, but since it was a fair distance away in London, his Uncle kept an apartment there for him where he lived most of the time.

It was the Summer break once again, and Buffy was so looking forward to spending as much time as possible with the man she adored and who she was proud to call her boyfriend. Most of her black clothes had disappeared along with her constant bad mood. Though she still enjoyed going to clubs sometimes and listening to her loud punkish music, she'd calmed down a great deal. She was sarcastic and often cutting with her remarks, but she wasn't half so wild or obnoxious as she once was.

As a surprise for her man, Buffy had asked Willow for a little help to look good when Spike arrived home today. It was a hot day and clearly leather pants were not the way to go, and anything she usually wore in this heat would be skimpy and slutty. Buffy wanted to look nice for once, like a girl. Not quite a lady of the manor type but just... nice.

"You look perfect" the red-head told her again as she pushed her away from the mirror and towards the door. They'd become pretty good friends over the past months, finding some good neutral ground between Buffy's old wild behaviour and Willow's shy and retiring manner.

"Woah, check out the Buffster all big with the sunny and stylish" Xander smiled as she came down the stairs in her strappy sun dress, with his sister at her side.

"Shut up, Xand" Buffy blushed as she approached the main doors, though there was no anger or nastiness in her tone or look. She liked him too much to be so mean to him.

The grin on her face only widened as she came out of the front door and saw Spike just getting out of the car Giles had said should be his own. When he turned and looked at her his jaw almost hit the ground and Buffy loved that she'd stunned him like that.

"You just gonna stand there and stare?" she asked, "Or you gonna come over here and show me how much you missed me?" she smirked as he came towards her, picking her up off the ground and spinning her around, the skirt of her uncharacteristically pretty dress swinging out at her knees.

As soon as her feet touched the ground again, Spike's lips were on hers, ruining the make up she'd so carefully applied, not that Buffy minded one little bit.

"Does that tell you how much I missed you?" he asked a moment later as they stood on the front steps, arms around each other and foreheads still touching.

"Pretty much" she smiled, "You like the dress, huh?" she checked.

"You look gorgeous, pet" he assured her, "Bit different, but in the best possible way" he said firmly before leaning in further to whisper in her ear, "We'll see later how easily I can get you out of it"

Buffy's eyes went wide at his words, though he'd said similar things before. She never got tired of being loved by this man, in any way at all.

"Here are the giggling children" said a voice behind them, making them pull away fast, "You are not the only one to miss our boy, dear sister" Dru smiled as she came out of the front door with Giles right behind her. It had been quite decided that if Spike and Buffy were moving into the mansion, Drusilla should also be invited. It meant bringing a fourth extra person since she needed round the clock attention and so a top quality psychiatric nurse was hired in the form of the kindly Tara who had became as much a part of the family as anyone else.

Dru and Giles took their turn in welcoming William back to the house, but his attention was all too soon dragged back to Buffy.

"Before we all disappear inside and get chatting" he said as he reached into his jacket pocket, "Got somethin' I sort of need to say"

"What are you doing?" Buffy asked, wondering if she already knew but hardly able to believe it.

"I love you, Buffy" he told her simply, "and I know you love me too. You and me, we're for life, I'm so sure of that and I'm hoping you'll let me make it official some day soon" he smiled nervously as he opened the small box in his hand and dropped to one knee, "Buffy Summers, will you marry me?" he asked, unsure as to whether the tears that built up in her eyes were a good or a bad sign until she smiled. This was how she always wanted it to be, how she always imagined it as a child. She looked like the princess now, and her prince was asking her to live happily ever after with him.

"Spike, I..." she began before shaking her head and making him panic a little, "Y'know I should really think about this" she joked, unable to make herself be serious at all.

"Come on, you minx" Spike smirked, "You're killing me here!"

"Of course I'll marry you" she said at last, laughing as he picked her up from the ground once again and spun around til she was dizzy. When he finally set her back on her feet he took the ring from it's box and placed it on her finger as Dru giggled and clapped madly in the background.

"Oh, and one more thing" Spike said suddenly, leaning closer to whisper in Buffy's ear, "Last one in the lake is a loser" he said, eyes sparkling with fun as he pulled back and looked at her shocked expression for a second. A moment later he went pelting off across the grounds, with Buffy right behind him, the pair of them yelling and laughing all the way. It was still nice to be a little wild sometimes.

The End

A/N : And there it is, The End. That's all she wrote. I've enjoyed writing this fic so much, and it seems many of you enjoyed reading it too. Final reviews would be very much appreciated, so please share your opinions on the end of this story.