iChapter 12/i

iBy Your Side/i

bFive years later/b

Buffy couldn't believe it, looking at the gaping hole that was once Sunnydale she felt her heart constrict, tears burning her eyes as she realized that he was gone. After everything they had been through she had lost him. She wanted to believe that is wasn't true, that he was still alive some where there among the rubble but she couldn't denie the empty feeling she felt, lifting her hand she touched the scar from the night Spike had claimed her, the once warm, tingly feeling was gone now replaced by numbness. Sobs tore through her body as she thought about all they had been through together.

He had been by her side every step of the way, through demons, apocalypses and just your typical bad day. He had always been there for her no matter what fight they had or what stupid thing one had said to the other in the heat of the moment.

After the council had left all those years ago life had gone back to normal. Giles had stayed on as her watcher and Quinton had kept to his part of the deal, only contacting them when they had information they thought she may need. No new watcher had been sent and although it had taken time, Giles had earned back her trust and affection.

The worst phone call from the council had been a month after her 18th birthday. Giles had called her to the library saying he had bad news. Sitting her down he told her that Kendra, a vampire slayer that had helped Buffy out the year before, was dead, killed in New York by a pack of vampires on a nightly patrol.

Buffy couldn't believe it; she knew that their job had risks and chances where they would die young but Kendra was only seventeen years old, younger then Buffy. She had cried for her, feeling her heart break for the young girl and Giles had been there to comfort her, putting a start to earning Buffy's trust back.

Not long after Faith had arrived, the slayer who replaced Kendra. It turned out Faith's watcher had been killed by a vampire and Faith was on the run. Buffy had helped her, saving her life and helping to kill the vampire who had killed her watcher. Giles had become both Faith and Buffy's watcher, but there was always something about Faith that made Buffy on edge. It wasn't just the fact that the slayer was always hitting on Spike, although that's what the gang had thought at first.

Shortly after they had discovered the mayor was evil and hell bent on destroying the world, starting with Sunnydale. So when the mayor's assistant had showed up dead Buffy found her interest piqued. Buffy and Spike had investigated together in secret and everything led back to Faith, but when they tried to confront her Faith had panicked and tried to frame Buffy before attempting to skip town.

Buffy had been able to stop her, but it seemed Buffy was too late in trying to save Faith from herself. Buffy suspected that Faith was working with the mayor so one night Buffy and Spike enlisted Giles help in order to trick her into confessing, with the help of a demon who owed Giles a favor. One fancy light show later Faith believed Spike was 100% evil and on her side.

After spilling her guts about being in league with the mayor and his plan, Buffy and Spike revealed that her little spell had not worked. After that Faith disappeared until a few months later when she had attempted to shoot Spike with a poisoned arrow, but thanks to Spike's vampire hearing he had heard the shot fired. Turning fast he caught the arrow just meters from his chest. That had forced Buffy to act. Confronting Faith in her apartment, they fought before Buffy stabbed Faith putting her into a coma.

Only days later Buffy defeated the mayor, luring him into the school using the knife she had used to stab Faith before blowing both him and the high school up. After that they had enjoyed a well deserved couple of months off before Buffy and Spike moved into their own place near Sunnydale University campus.

Things had been mostly quiet. The occasional big bad they did have never did last long though. Faith had woken up from her coma and hijacked Buffy's body, but Spike quickly realized that Buffy was "not herself" and he and Giles investigated, figuring out what had happened. With the help of Willow and new comer Tara they forced Faith out of Buffy's body and back into her own. Faith quickly fled to L.A effectively becoming Angel's problem.

Then Buffy had discovered a military operation called the Initiative being operated on campus. At first it seemed fine. They where stopping demons. It was when Buffy discovered they where experimenting on them that she realized things where not okay.

Going undercover she got close to one Riley Finn. She felt bad, of course, for leading him to think he stood a chance with her, but he was her way in. She knew he had a little crush on her and she hoped it would get her into the Initiative and it had. It was shortly after that Maggie Walsh the head of the organization tried to have her killed. She failed, of course. Buffy, Spike and the gang had to go into hiding. Buffy soon discovered she was asking too many questions and getting too close to the truth.

Adam, Maggie Walsh's little demon experiment, who was once a man, was now a soldier turned mutant super solider pieced together using demon parts. With the help of the gang Buffy and Spike had destroyed Adam and forced the Initiative out of Sunnydale.

Things had once again gone quiet until six months later when Buffy discovered that Dawn, her little sister, wasn't her sister at all but a mystical key sent to Buffy and Spike to protect from Glory, a hell god. Both Buffy and Spike found themselves in uncharted territory when every encounter Glory beat them off without even breaking a sweat. So once they got all the information they could off the council it was clear that they only had a few options.

1. Kill Dawn

2. Let Buffy sacrifice herself in order to close the portal (if Glory got the portal open) and save Dawn and the world, or

3. Kill Glory's human host Ben

They had struggled with what to do but Spike refused to let Buffy sacrifice herself and Buffy refused to let Dawn die. That left them with option three, but Buffy couldn't bring herself to do it and she knew that it would cost either her or Dawn their life.

While discussing options and battle plans one night Buffy realized that Giles and Spike were running far too late to the meeting, but by the time Buffy realized what they where up to it was too late. She had arrived at the hospital where Ben worked and she saw Spike and Giles parked near Ben's car. Seeing them step out Buffy was going to approach them, but something stopped her, hearing them speak.

"Spike if you can't do this I'll understand and I'll do it myself." Giles spoke looking to see Ben walking out of the hospital and heading for his car.

"Can't let you do that watcher, won't let you have the blood on your hands. I just hope she can understand why I had to do this… I just hope she can forgive me," Spike whispered looking down; Giles touched his shoulder in a comforting gesture.

"She will," he whispered, nodding in the direction of Ben who was almost to his car. Splitting up but heading towards him Buffy knew what was going to happen and knew she should stop it but her feet just wouldn't move. So she stood there watching Giles come face to face with a startled Ben.

"Sorry didn't mean to startle you," Giles spoke.

"That's okay. Can I help you with something?" Ben smiled.

"We just want you to know this isn't personal. We wish it didn't have to be this way, that we didn't have to do this but we have no choice. We simply can't let her kill either of them," Giles quietly explained to the confused boy.

"Her? Her who?" he asked confused.

Stepping up behind the boy quietly, Spike replied before Giles could. "Glory."

He turned around, stunned, and begun to stutter. "H… how do y… you know…" but Spike quickly cut him off.

"I'm sorry," he whispered before snapping the boy's neck. It was so quick that if Buffy hadn't heard the loud snap she wouldn't have been completely sure he had done it. Shocked she had forgotten just how fast and strong Spike really was. Watching Ben's lifeless body slump to the ground she felt saddened but at the same time relieved knowing that her family was safe.

She felt guilt over her relief. She knew that someone was going to have to die no matter what and she knew she couldn't let it be Dawn and God knows she didn't want to die. She loved her life, surrounded by friends and family that loved her and whom she loved in return. Then there was Spike, the love of her life, but she knew if she had to choose between herself and Dawn, she would give her life for her sister in a heartbeat.

She watched Spike fall to his knees the reality of what he had just done becoming too much to bear. It had been over five years since he had taken a human life and while he had killed Ben to save his family he clearly felt grief and guilt over it. She watched as Giles tried to comfort the distressed vampire. Revealing her position from behind the shrubs she moved towards them, dropping to her knees and hugging Spike to her tight as he cried, telling him everything would be okay and that she loved him.

It had taken Spike a while to let go of what he had done, but eventually he was able to move on even though Buffy knew a part of him would never forget the life he had taken. He just wasn't the monster he once had been, she wondered if he ever truly was.

For over a year things had been quiet aside from a small run in with three wanna be villains who called themselves "The Trio," but after Spike and Xander discovered their hidden cameras they had paid the trio a visit. After that Buffy never saw the three boys again.

Then there was the first they had waged war not just on Buffy but the whole slayer line wiping out potential slayers and their watchers, blowing up the council, and killing girls off one by one and here is where it had ended. They had gone into the hell mouth and Spike had given his life to save them all.

He had kissed her, told her he loved her and then made Giles, Xander and Faith drag her from the hell mouth screaming in protest. Spike burned up until there was nothing left, taking the hell mouth and Sunnydale with him. Buffy scurried through the pit she had to find it, maybe there was hope if she could just find it, lifting rocks, wood and broken glass she dug determined. The gang watched trying to get her out but she refused.

Hours had passed but still she looked. All that remained now was Buffy, Giles, Willow, Xander, Faith and Dawn. They all helped her, helped in what they thought was vain. That amulet would be buried deep in the hell mouth. They would never find it or so they thought until Buffy started wailing that she had found it.

Dropping to her knees exhausted she clutched the amulet waiting, hoping, praying that something would happen that he would magically appear but nothing happened. Giving in, silent sobs tore through her body making her shake. Giles kneeled beside her, wrapping an arm around her shoulder.

"I'm so sorry Buffy," he whispered, pulling away from him she stood to her feet determinedly.

"No! Don't say that, if you say you're sorry that means you think he's gone and he can't be," she babbled pacing through the rubble. Standing to look at her he sighed.

"Buffy he is gone, there's nothing left."

"You're wrong. We have the amulet. Maybe there's a spell or something we could use to bring him back."

"Buffy…" Willow whispered stepping forward, putting her hand up to stop her.

"Will please don't. I can't hear that there's nothing we can do. I just can't… he's my everything. I love him. He's been with me through so much. I can't lose him. I can't lose hope… do you know that it will be our six year anniversary at the end of this year?" Buffy cried.

"I know but Buffy… he's gone." Willow sniffled wiping some tears away from her own face.

"How do I go on without him Will? I don't know how to… I know I don't want to live without him. I can't and I won't." It became clear then what Buffy was saying.

"Buffy," Willow gasped stunned that Buffy would even consider taking her own life.

"I'm sorry Will but I don't understand. I don't know how to live in this world if these are the choices. If everything just gets stripped away. I know that it may sound weak but I just don't. I can't… I need him, I love him," she whispered crying harder.

"Buffy…" Willow spoke. Stepping back Buffy looked up at her seeing the confusion and fear in her eyes. For a moment she thought maybe a Turok-Han had made it out of the pit but when she felt a slight burn on the palm of her hand she looked down seeing the amulet glow. She dropped it, too hot to hold any longer. Stepping back she gasped as a cloud of dust and light poured out of it swirling until it took the form of a screaming Spike. Gasping for air, he looked up seeing a tear stricken Buffy.

"Weren't going to leave without me were you?" he smiled at her. She stood shocked, not just that he was back but that he was standing in the sunlight and wasn't burning up.

"Spike," she whispered before throwing herself into his welcoming arms. "Oh my god… I thought I lost you forever," she cried.

"Not this time love. Looks like you're stuck with me for a while."

"I can live with that." She smiled.

"My god luv your hands" Spike gasped looking at her cut and bleeding hands.

"I had to find you" she whispered pulling her to his chest he held her tight "I'll always find you" she whispered into his shirt, he smiled feeling so lucky to have her, to have her love. That's when she heard it, the unmistakable sound of his heart beating, pulling back she gasped.

"Yeah, you heard right," he smiled.

"But how?"

"Seems I proved myself to the powers that be, it's my reward, or our reward as they put it. All the good we have done, the evil we have stopped and when I gave my life to save the world that just sort of sealed the deal."

"You're human?"

"Well partly, they called me a day walker. Still got all my vampire strengths speed, hearing, etc. but I don't have to drink blood anymore, I'll age like you, holly water and crosses can't hurt me." He demonstrated by touching the cross that hung from her neck.

"I can have a family now and best of all I can walk in the daylight."

"Wait, we can have a family?"

"Well, I am mortal."

She smiled kissing him passionately and when she pulled back she was still smiling. "I love you so much."

"I love you too," he smiled. "And now that I'm human there is one thing I want more than anything."

"And what's that?" she smiled.

"For you to marry me Buffy."

"What?" she asked stunned.

"When I was a vampire I claimed you but I'm human now and I want the world to know you are mine and I'm yours so…" He started dropping to one knee; taking her hand he removed an eternity ring he gave her a year ago. Smiling he continued, "Buffy Anne Summers, will you marry me?"

"Of course I'll marry you." She smiled as he placed the ring on her finger. Standing he kissed her passionately as the others stood there in awe, happy for the couple and relieved to have Spike back.

Piling into the car Giles had rented from the next town, Buffy rested in the back seat with Spike, laying her head to his chest she smiled contentedly listening to the blissful sound of his heartbeat. She rested, happy and excited to start a new chapter in their lives. The hell mouth was gone, the first defeated, they could go anywhere, do anything but Buffy didn't care where they went because as long as she had Spike by her side she knew everything would be okay.

The End.