This one was written for Niori, because my angsty drabbles have been depressing her, but what started out as gratuitous fluff became somewhat bittersweet...so still not quite happy. :(


One: Never Leave Me

He looked…oh, god, he looked defeated, and it terrified her. She hadn't really been counting on Spike this year, not after what had happened when he was her lifeline last year, but he'd still remained in her thoughts, the shiny new soul and the love in his eyes keeping her certain that if she needed him, he'd still be there for her.

And now he was ready to give up, and she was seized with sudden despair. She needed him to be there with her, the constant presence at her side. She wanted him always, and not just as a lover anymore, but as a friend and a companion, too.

Was it love?

The thought froze her in place and she took a deep breath, tearing her eyes from him in an attempt to focus without him reading her expression as he always did. Love? No, it couldn't be, not for Spike. Not now, after all they'd done to each other. And yet, then she thought of the slow ache that was building within her at the thought of losing him, and she knew that she was finally lost and she'd finally fallen.

But it was too soon and Buffy was too cowardly to admit it so spontaneously, so she professed her belief in him instead.

Two: Showtime

She wanted to kiss away the pain she saw etched across his body, to reassure him that he was going to be all right and that she'd never let him go. Then she saw the awe in his eyes, the wonder that she was there and that she'd come for him, and kissing just seemed so cheap, considering what it had become the year before, so she held his gaze instead and tried to speak to him with her eyes.

Again, those feelings of what was frighteningly, undoubtedly love welled up inside of her, and she opened her mouth to finally say the words she knew he'd never stopped longing for. She almost did, but then she heard his murmurs that she wasn't real and remembered that he'd been under the not-so-tender ministrations of the First since he'd been captured. Right now, he needed touch, not speech that could be easily construed by the broken vampire as the false words the First must have spewed at him all this time.

She carried him out of the cave, their eyes meeting from time to time and the looks between them passing on so much emotion that Buffy was suddenly certain that Spike could see the love she felt for him. They'd never been good with words, anyway.

Three: Lies My Parents Told Me

She heard the potentials whispering behind her, wondering why Spike had returned to the house so bruised and bloody and what had prompted her fury with Giles. Most of the girls probably recognized that the two were related, and quiet gossip abounded in the kitchen as she calmly heated up some blood and prepared a basin of water. She didn't much care, since her love for Spike had become unspoken common knowledge once he'd been returned to her. Only Willow had confronted her, bringing up a Freudian slip that she had let out just before her date with Wood. Why did everyone think she was still in love with Spike? Because she'd never seemed more in love with him than she was now, and she wasn't fooling anyone, not even herself.

Not Spike, either, she was sure. He must know by now, even if she hadn't yet found a way to tell him. He'd given up everything for her, for her love, and it felt almost anticlimactic to just say the words. There would have to be fanfare, the end of the world, a near miss…she didn't know what, but the time hadn't been right yet.

He looked up when she descended the stairs, and she gave him a gentle smile, saying without words that she didn't blame him for what had happened. They made small talk as she cleaned him up, Spike inquiring about Wood and Giles and Buffy telling him in all ways but overtly that she'd chosen him first. That he mattered more to her.

Once Spike's wounds were all cleaned up, they sat beside each other in peaceful silence, and Buffy basked in love that felt so overwhelmingly right.

Four: Touched

He'd stolen her thunder, she decided. Another day had gone by and this time, more than any other time, had been the perfect moment to confess her love for him. He'd come for her, been there when everyone else had rejected her, and had given her strength and the will to keep fighting, moving her to tears with his words. She'd longed then, more than ever before, to tell him how much she loved him, how she'd never felt this level of connection before, and how she was never going to let him go. He'd fought for it tooth and nail, and he'd finally become her everything.

But to say it after he'd given her the boost of her life seemed almost condescending, like she was giving a dog a pat on the head for doing a good job. Spike was better than that, and she wasn't willing to let her love seem like a reward. It was a gift, a necessity, and one of her only reasons for living at this point, so she wouldn't give it to him out of simple gratitude.

She closed her eyes, ready to sleep against him, and smiled as he pressed his lips to the top of her head. This was utter contentment, at last the eye of the storm. This was love.

He must have known it by now, she thought.

Five: Chosen

Her hand was clasped against his cheek and their smiles were equally soft, but she couldn't quite stop the churning in her stomach, the feeling of wrongness in his easy acceptance of her recent indiscretion. There was a time last year when her kissing Angel would have broken him and she wasn't certain that it hadn't now, and she wondered suddenly if he was only putting up a strong front for her. If he knew that she couldn't deal with a jealous second-in-command right now, and he was hiding his true feelings to give her only his support.

She hadn't meant to kiss Angel, exactly. It had been more instinctive, the sudden nostalgia prompting a meeting of lips that hadn't been at all premeditated, and she'd chastened herself as soon as she'd pulled away, reminding herself that that stage of her life was over and the new one had a man whom she loved with equal, if not greater, fervor. She hadn't been able to shut Angel down completely- she'd never be able to shut him down completely- but she'd tried to make it clear that Spike was in her heart now, and that he came first. He always came first.

She'd been so grateful that he hadn't been present and witnessed the kiss, and then she'd returned home to discover that he had, in fact, seen the whole thing. Shame and love had warred in her mind and she'd tried to make it right without words, worried that in expressing her feelings, an admission of love would escape. Spike didn't need to hear it now, not with the memory of her former souring the exchange. The important thing was that he knew that Angel had changed nothing.

She was positive that he could see the love in her eyes.

Epilogue: Chosen

It was the worst time possible, she thought unhappily. This wasn't a near miss. The world wasn't ending. No, just her own personal world was ending as Spike was set aflame, and now they'd never get the night she'd dreamed of after she told him of her love, in which they spent the whole time reconnecting and loving each other with whispered endearments and endless joy. She'd built up the confession of her love into something so momentous that she knew she was bound to be disappointed, at least a little, but this…this was even worse than she could have imagined. This was the end, and suddenly, even her offering of love wouldn't be enough in the face of Spike's sacrifice.

But he was dying, and this was the last chance she had, so she let the words slip for the first time since she'd thought them, so many months ago.

"I love you."

He'd known, he'd always known, and so it shouldn't have been a surprise to him, just a restatement of what her eyes had said a thousand times.

Except she was wrong, and he was thanking her but denying her words, and she could only watch helplessly as he succumbed to his own insecurities instead of accepting what everyone else had seen. Had they really been so out of sync? Had he never seen her love?

Like everything else in their relationship, the timing had been wrong, and the romantic gesture had failed. Spike had rejected her.

But then he turned away from her a moment too late, and she saw it all, his love and his understanding of her own love even as he cast it aside. He wanted her to run from his burning figure, to live on after him and keep him close as a memory. And if that meant that he would never accept her love, so be it. True love burns and consumes, he'd said once. Until there's nothing left, she'd retorted. And now he wouldn't take her love, not when it would end with her destruction, too. He loved her too much for that.

She knew it all in that moment, understood his selflessness and the ultimate gift he was giving her.

She could see it in his eyes.