You told me I'm the one, but I realize now that I don't know if that was in the "only one who can stop the apocalypse" way, or the "one for you" way. I think the second one is scarier because I've at least faced the apocalypse before, and won. And my relationships never seem to turn out as well. So if I make it back from where I'm going, then maybe there can be a chance at figuring out what's the deal with you and me. If I don't make it back, please, look after Dawn and our friends.



Spike pushed open the screen door and stepped out on to the porch. Buffy looked from the night sky to him and smiled softly.

He pulled the kitchen door behind him and shut both quietly so as not to wake anyone who might have found it possible to sleep that night. Buffy looked down and chuckled as he handed her his jacket. She turned and he slipped it on her.

"I knew you hadda make it back. Cuz yer damn note was so cryptic I knew you'd wanna see the look of absolute confusion it caused me t'have plastered all over my face."

"Sorry it was so cryptic. I didn't mean it to be. I was just running out of paper, so I didn't get to say everything I wanted," she explained.

"What did you want to say?"

"Oh, you know, the standards. Thanks for saving my life a bunch of times in the past. Thanks for convincing me to save the world. Thanks for the great but guilty sex with awkward after cuddles. Hallmark might have cards for it."

"Just the standards, then," he nodded.

"Right." They were quiet for a moment, then he smiled ironically and pulled the note from his back pocket. He whipped it out with a flourish and cocked his head to the side.

"Oh, jeez," she sighed.

"I especially liked the part where you said 'our friends.' As if there's one in the lot b'sides Dawn wouldn't stake me from the word 'go.'"

"Well, I thought it would be kinda rude to ask you to take care of 'my friends.'"

"Yeah, you're lucky I love you an' stuff," he said with forced annoyance. "Otherwise I probably just would've eaten them first chance I got an' who am I kidding? I can't even put it up in fronta you anymore. Feel like such a plank. Every time I'm around you, I just start spillin' everything I think, everything I feel." He shoved the letter back into his pocket and leaned against the post.

Buffy wrapped her arms around herself and Spike's jacket squeaked softly. "You probably think you say too much because I don't say anything. Of substance anyway. I just talk around all the important stuff. At least you're honest. Even if you're infuriating," she added.

He brightened. "Well, you like the challenge, I reckon. You got that Spider-Man kinda snappy banter an' all. If I didn't know better myself, I'd say it's part of the super power package."

"You trynna tell me I got a big mouth?" she smiled, looking sideways at him.

He shook his head. "Oh, there's like, a bunch o'different directions to go in there. Yer not gonna get me that easy."

"You gonna put up a fight?"

"Heh, yeah. Don't tempt me, Buffy. End of the damn world makes a man do strange things."

"That's all relative to Hell Mouth strangeness."

"You talk plenty," he sighed. "Things you said night 'fore last... You said a lot for not saying a lot."

"I was going for the minimalist approach."

"Minimal. Yeah." He paused a beat then admitted, "I didn't get that," with a shake of his head.

Buffy turned to the sky again, and Spike, behind her, reached out to touch her hair. But she turned to him and he backpedaled before she noticed.

"I'm kinda edgy right now. You wanna sit with me for a while?"

"Yeah! Yeah, of course. Your house," he shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant.

"Heh, doesn't feel like it," she sighed, taking a seat on the top stair. "There're, like, fifty girls in there. I haven't actually seen any of my personal effects, minus what I'm wearing, for two weeks."

He nodded as he sat down next to her. "Yeah, s'like a couple dozen Dawns without the personality. Least the Nibblet's good conversation. She came downstairs, y'know that? Maybe a half hour ago. She gave me a hug. You believe that? Six months ago, she's ready t'set me on fire, an' t'night she's hugging me. First yer mum's all axes an' cocoa, then you're takin' the piss outta me while we snog, then Dawnie. It's a Summers' women thing, I think."

"Oh, God, don't let Dawn go down the same road I did," she pleaded. "Of course, she already kinda has. She sits in the kitchen whittling stakes while getting obsessed over vampire boys who cause large amounts of destruction and then break her heart. I'm not doing very good by her, am I?"

He looked at her with frustration. "Hey, she's a damn sight better fixed up than most of the girls here."

"Yeah, stop reminding me," she said, not unkindly. "It's all I'm thinking about."

"Well, time's runnin' out t'worry about it."

"I know. This plan of mine, it's either going to work or it's not. There's just no stopping it all now." She rested her chin on her knees and looked thoughtful but a bit pouty.

"No. There isn't. The Biggest Big Bad is gonna come down on us, an' the gates o'Hell are gonna be flung wide open. An' we're doin' the flingin'. So it's now er never."

"Spike, I... Dawn's right," she said, distracted by her own thoughts. "You really do tell the truth. Talk like an adult."

"Well, someone's gotta play daddy when you're away. Otherwise it's just Xander an' Andrew arguin' over who gets the toy in the cereal box."

"And Giles is no help?" she suggested.

"He's too busy trynna learn Cantonese."

She smiled but said nothing. The sides of their shoes touched and she started at their feet for a moment. "Spike, we're talking about everything except why we're sitting here together."

"I thought... It was because Faith still had your room," he finished awkwardly.


"Ah, Buffy..." he said uncomfortably.

"No. Don't interrupt me. Please," she said, turning to him. "We talk around all the important stuff. And I don't have time for that anymore. We don't have time. I need to say something to you. And you need to really listen. Please?" she said again.

"'M listenin'."

"You and I have both done very terrible things to each other over the years. Putting aside the whole Slayer versus Vampire thing..." she said, shaking the thought away. "We haven't been very good people to each other." She paused for a moment, gathering the right words. "You might have hurt me, Spike, but I broke your heart."

"Buffy, stop it - "

"No, let me finish! I need to say this. What you did... Was only seconds... But for years, I treated you like... I'm sorry, Spike. Even if you didn't have a soul, you still tried all the time. I've got a soul, and I wasn't as nice to you as you ever were to me."

"Hey, wait! Stop right there! You were the one that got me out of the basement! Stood up for me when you brought me back here. You got that soddin' chip outta my head! And - -"

"All after you got your soul back," she interrupted.

"I was a moron to think you should have trusted me before I did, Buffy! I had no right- Never did- to you. To being part of your life. You cannot sit here and tell me you're sorry for treating me exactly as I deserved. I never treated you like you deserved! I say I love you for two years and then I... Try to rape you. This conversation isn't happening," he groaned, rubbing his eyes.

She turned away and fidgeted with a loose string on the sleeve of Spike's coat. "We're pretty lame, huh? Sitting here. Having a pathetic-off. Worst way to spend our last night on earth ever," she sighed.

He shook his head and then took her hand. She looked at his hand on hers and then into his eyes. "Look. Buffy. I never apologized for it because there aren't words for it. I'd have t'... Invent a whole new alphabet just so I could make the words. I went to get my soul back t'say I'm sorry. I've spent the last year tryin' t'say 'm sorry. An' I still know it's not enough. It never will be. I wanted your trust, and then I did what I did. Just believe me when I say that you don't have anything at all to apologize about. Nothin' I wanna hear you say, anyway."

"It doesn't really matter when the world's gonna end. We're never going to unravel us, are we?" She squeezed his hand. They sat next to each other, their shoulders touching, their hips against each others.

"Aren't you tired?" he asked her after a bit.

"No. Not so much."

"I'm, ah... I'm gonna go in," he said quietly. "I have some things to think about. If you don't mind?" He stood and looked down at her.

She shook her head. "No, of course not. But, hey. Here." She got up and started taking off his coat. "I-I wasn't actually cold," she admitted. "I just wanted to wear it." She smiled shyly as she shrugged it off.

"Nuh, you can hold on to it. But I'll want it back," he clarified. "We're kicking ass tomorrow. S'like m'good luck charm."She smiled back at him, and he reached out to brush her hair back from her face. "Goodnight. For now," he added.

"Goodnight, for now," she answered.