Author's Note: And finally, the last installment of "Dreaming the Past, Living the Future"... But first, I just want to say thanks for all the great reviews! This final chapter was inspired by a song, really. A song from a video game, nonetheless. It's the theme song called "Simple and Clean" by Utada Hikaru, for the new PS2 game, "Kingdom Hearts." The song is in the commercial for the game too. Great video game, if I do say so myself. But anyway, I just think the song totally expresses the drama that is Spike and Buffy. So enough with the chit-chat, and on to the story...

Chapter 20: Simple and Clean

Spike looked at her with a meaningful gaze. He wasn't so sure anymore. Did she know who Bianca was? Sure enough, she called him "William," and she said it like she *saw* him. It wasn't like the times Buffy called him by his name, so condescendingly. "Who are you?" Spike asked.

Buffy didn't know. She was Buffy. She was Bianca, or she was in her dream. She was both. Bianca loved William. Buffy resented Spike. Bianca was merely a delicate woman. Buffy was the Slayer. They were not the same person, yet they shared the same passion for *him*.

"She never wanted to leave you, you know," was what she ended up saying.

"What?" Spike asked, utterly confused now.

"Her. The one you loved... or still love," she explained, not flinching at all. "She loved you with all her heart, and her soul. And I know that you did too... love her."

Spike looked at the girl, his head tilting a bit to the side, not completely understanding what she was saying.

Buffy continued to talk. "I'm not her. I may look exactly like her, but what's inside, I'm not her. We're not the same person. You aren't either. You aren't William anymore, you haven't been for centuries."

She was right. William was a far and distant, *very* distant, memory- if you could even call it a "memory." William was a lost soul. More precisely, William was Spike's lost soul. He hasn't been William for centuries. He didn't act like him, he didn't speak like him, he didn't dress like him (thankfully)... he just *wasn't* him anymore. He was Spike. Just Spike.

"You may not be her, but you know her," he said finally. "You *were* her."

It was true. Buffy was Bianca. Yet two different people from two different periods were not the same. They were the same person, but with two different souls. She knew what happened in the past because she saw it. She lived it, even if it was just for a short time, but that was not where Buffy belonged. That wasn't her place. Now was her time, and now was her place.

Spike continued with, "You were her. You know what happened to her."

Yes, she did. She was killed by Angelus.

*Angelus,* Buffy thought to herself, sorrowfully. So that's what he meant after all. All this time, she thought that the only thing Angel wanted from her was forgiveness for leaving her. He wanted forgiveness for taking Bianca's life.

Buffy's eyes darted down from Spike's and she said quietly, "I do... And I forgive him." Her eyes moved to meet his again, and she continued with, "The last thing she thought about was you. It was painful for her. Her happiness was taken from her in an instant."

And that, Buffy could relate to. Her happiness was taken away from her in an instant as well. She was in heaven, and then pulled back into this world by unnatural means.

Spike was afraid to ask her what really happened. She said it was painful. Had Bianca been in an accident? Did someone kill her? He never knew, she just disappeared. "Tell me. Tell me what happened," he said stoically.

She didn't want to. She just shook her head.

"Tell me," he said again.

Buffy let out a breath. "She was killed."

"By who..." Spike started, then came to a realization and restated his question, "By *what*?"

Nothing but sorrow could be seen in her eyes. She didn't want to say anything. She didn't want him to know.

If he was thinking correctly, it was a vampire. That was why she wouldn't answer his question. The year was 1880, and the only vampires in his town were Angelus, Darla, and Drusilla. If it was a vampire, it had to be one of those three, and if it were... someone would have hell to pay.

"Who was it?" he asked, almost savagely.

Buffy kept shaking her head. She wasn't going to tell him. "No, it doesn't matter. All that matters is that she lov-"

He cut her off. "You keep saying that! I know it, or at least I knew it, when she was alive... When we were *both* alive! Bloody hell, I already know it was a vampire. Who was it? Was it Dru? Was it Darla? Or was it that brooding poof, Angelus? Tell me now!" He was determined to find out.

Silence.

That was all he needed. Silence. That was the answer. The odd silence. Was she really trying to protect him? "It was the ponce, wasn't it?"

Just silence.

As if he didn't do enough to him already. That soul-infested, brooding poof? The one who was the bloody "champion," the perfect one, the one who almost took Drusilla away from him, the one who had Buffy first... Now he *was* the one who took away his one love? Spike hated him before, now his animosity towards him was unbearable. He wanted to rip his head off. But no, the Slayer wouldn't let him do that. It filled him with rage, that his own *sire* did that. He told the bloody poof everything- about her, the dream, and how she just vanished. And all along he was responsible for it.

"All he wants in forgiveness," she said at last.

Forgiveness? Never. "He knew, he knew all along. He wants forgiveness because he's got that soul of his. Feels it now, he does. But he hasn't felt it for over one-hundred-and-twenty years! I have! His soul... it's a damned excuse for everything he does. But let me tell you, you don't need a soul to feel."

In all of his rage, Spike actually looked like he could just break down and cry. It was peculiar to Buffy. Could he actually be hurt by this? Did it hurt his still heart?

His rage seemed to melt away after a moment, and the expression on his face was sad. "There's this dream I have of her that keeps repeating itself in my mind. Over and over. She says we'll be together. She says that we have all the time in the world."

Instinctively, Buffy softly placed her hand on his cheek. "I'm not her," she told him softly, with a touch of remorse. "I'm sorry, Spike."

Love her, he did. The Slayer. Buffy. She was everything to him. She made him feel like a man, not a monster. She made him *want* to be a man, made him want to change. He didn't want forgiveness, he just wanted her to accept him, to love him like he loved her.

"I know..." he said to her. "And I'm not William."

She gave him a grim smile. "No," she whispered softly.

"But I love you, Slayer," he said simply.

Buffy was ready with an answer, but instead just sighed.

Spike gave a smirk. "I know, 'you know.'"

Slowly, the noise was returning. The party in the background was reappearing. In moments, the party atmosphere was regenerated. Buffy and Spike were still in that same position- he was holding her arm, while she was ready to walk away, but they were just looking at each other.

What happened? Neither of them were sure. Did they really have that conversation? How long were they standing there in that position?

"I have to go," Buffy murmured. She didn't want to know if it really did happen.

Spike nodded. "Go enjoy the party, love," he said and let go of her arm.

Then she turned around and walked away.

He watched her join her friends and laugh and dance the night away. He would always be there, watching her. That conversation was real, and it meant something to him. She may have not said anything in words, but he knew she felt something for him.

And that was all he needed... Hope.

So he would wait for her. He would change. He would make himself into what she wanted, what she needed, what she deserved. To make her happy. Though Bianca and William were done, Buffy and Spike were just beginning. Time wasn't an obstacle for him.

She said it herself, rather, Bianca did. They had time. They had all the time in the world.

~~~~~

Wish I could prove my love to you

But does that mean I have to walk on water?

When we are older, you'll understand

It's enough when I say so

And maybe some things are that simple



When you walk away

You don't hear me say,

"Please, oh baby, don't go"

Simple and clean

Is the way that you're making me feel tonight

It's hard to let it go



Hold me

Whatever lies beyond this morning

Is a little later on

Regardless of warnings

The future doesn't scare me at all

Nothing's like before...



~ Utada Hikaru, "Simple and Clean" (Kingdom Hearts theme, US version)

~~~~~

Finis.