I remember that moment. Even now, every day when the clock reaches that time, I remember.
It was when he was holding me. Or...I was holding him.
We were holding each other. That's how I think of the two of us. Always holding onto each other, even when we didn't realize it or wouldn't admit it. He was my support, my rock. He had been for a while.
Oh, sometimes that rock hadn't been entirely steady. Sometimes I kicked it out of place. But it was still always there, ready and willing to help me should I turn to it.
And one day, I finally turned to it. Put all my weight on top, and it held firm.
He didn't leave like the others. He didn't grow tired of me or disillusioned with what I was. He stayed, despite myself. He stayed, and he still loved me. After all the kicking and yelling and punching and tears, he still loved me. I was still lovable. Me. A lone warrior pushed into a destiny she never wanted. I alienated my friends and family by the very nature of what I was. But he never turned away. He never faltered from the path behind me. Even when it was only the two of us walking on that path.
It was only after I had stripped away everything that he wasn't that I finally realized who he was. A man of passion and fire, yet plagued by his own self-doubt and need to be accepted. He was always out to prove something. To prove himself, his love, his life, his worth, his soul. I made the mountain higher and higher, and he still climbed it without hesitation.
He was a man fighting an impossible monster inside himself. And he fought it for me. So that I might one day treat him like a man.
I hope I did. I hope he knew that. He became my Champion, not just in battle but in my heart, as well. With that, he became a man and so much more. He was my partner, my counterpart in the world.
And he was my rock till the end. Not just supporting me, but actively protecting the world that he knew I held dear. He did it, even when I wanted him not to. He did it because he'd learned what it meant to be a hero. Like I learned. We'd learned together.
It was cold that night when we held each other against the darkness. He held me against the isolation and the overwhelming fear of failure. And I held him back in gratitude. I watched him sleep, aware that I'd never done so before.
I realized then that I didn't see a vampire anymore when I looked at him. His face inspired no fear or disgust in me. Instead, his mere presence was enough to calm me and put me at ease. It felt right, him being there. As if his not being there were an affront to the natural way of things.
I feel the pain inside now that he's not there. That ever-present feeling that something's missing. I think I'll always have it. A Spike-shaped place beside me that just can't be filled and never should be filled. It's a void that I'll carry with pride because of what he did for me and for the world.
The digital clock on the bedside table turned to 3:32 AM that night when we had held each other. After his declaration that I was "the One", that's when I had my epiphany. In a stranger's bed, I felt closer to home than ever before in his arms. When my strength faltered, I knew with complete certainty that he would always be there for me. And more, I knew that I wanted to be there for him the same way. I wanted to let him know that he was special and worthy and...not a monster. He was a man.
That was the moment that I realized I was in love with him.