Author's Notes: Written for Schmoop_Bingo, prompt "spooning."
He's nestled behind her, his arms tight around her waist and his face buried in the crook of her shoulder, caught in the afterglow of a night of making love with the woman he cherishes. "Tell me."
She wriggles a bit at the way his breath tickles her shoulder, sighing in contentment. "Tell you what?"
"How you found me." He's dotting kisses down the side of her neck now, and she doesn't think she's ever reached this kind of peace before. "After everything."
"You found me," she objects good-naturedly, but she calls back the memories regardless, rolling over to face him.
"It started after Sunnydale," she remembers, a sad smile crossing her face. "I'd lost...I'd lost someone who meant everything to me. Someone I'd always had around but never really known, not until the end, and then he was gone."
"S'almost like you loved him," he murmurs, a sad smile gracing his features.
She pinches him on the rear reprovingly. "I did. I do. But the moron couldn't accept it, too set on being a martyr to accept what he deserved. Idiot," she grouses, and he kisses her breathless in apology before she finally settles back against him, appeased for the time being.
"Anyway, I was heartbroken and I needed time to recover." She shudders, remembering long nights wrought of tears and regrets. "Giles talked about starting a new Watchers' Council, but I wasn't interested in moving on from Sunnydale so soon. I'd sacrificed so much. I didn't want to forget and continue with my life. I wanted...I just wanted to mourn."
His hands are rubbing soothing circles on her arms, helping to calm the still-painful memories that fill her with sorrow and rage. "I'm sorry."
"I know you are," she murmurs, but there's a trace of bitterness in her voice that she can't quite conceal. "You didn't know how to do it again, to be with me anymore."
He backs away and she burrows against him again, reassuring. "I'm upset," she says softly. "But I love you, and half of that is forgiveness, right?"
"Forgive me," he whispers into her skin. "I was so afraid that I wasn't that person, what I'd become that you loved. I couldn't lose that love, not even when it came at the cost of seeing you again."
She closes her eyes. "Well, it wouldn't have mattered, anyway. By the time you'd become all solid, I was already gone." She inhales sharply at the thought of it.
"Dawn dragged me out one night, demanding that I go clubbing to get my mind off of lost love." She shakes her head. "I didn't want to forget. But...but there was a part of me that did, that just wanted the misery to end and life to return to normal. Sorrow...it took so much out of me. It was easier not to think." She sniffles a bit, the old guilt returning with the retelling.
He gathers her up into a tight hug. "Hush, love. I wanted you to live, not mourn for me forever."
She manages to raise an eyebrow. "Really? 'Cause I'd think you'd love the idea of me pining away for you all this time."
He laughs softly. "I won't deny that it warms my heart, but it's not what I'd want for you." His lips trace the arch of her forehead as she looks up at him. "I want you to be happy."
"I wasn't," she says flatly. "I was determined to forget, so much so that I spent the entire night partying and drinking until I couldn't remember my own name, let alone yours. That's when I met the first acolyte of Twilight."
She shudders. "They called him The Immortal, you know. He lived for longer than this world, and he bought into the idea of Twilight, because hey, why not? I guess when you live forever, it starts to get pretty dull."
"Probably," he says agreeably, but she can feel him against her, tense with the knowledge of what's to come.
"You won't like this," she warns him.
She half-expects him to comfort her like he has before, but this time, he says nothing but, "I know."
"I...I woke up the next morning in a daze," she says, grimacing at the memory. "I don't know what it was about him, but he...he had a way about him. Not a good thing!" she adds hastily, pulling him back from where he'd been edging away. "I barely knew myself those days. All I knew was partying, and dancing, and-" She stops at the growl low in his throat. "Yeah."
"Hate him," he mutters, and she smiles against his chest.
"So do I," she agrees. "But I couldn't have known that then. I was so separated from everything... Sure, I was aware that The Immortal had deployed a decoy of me to infiltrate The Council, but I wasn't coherent enough to understand what that meant."
"He buggered up your mind." It's supposed to be a statement, but she hears it as a plea. He doesn't want her to have been lost in another, just as surely as she doesn't want to have been, either.
"He must have," she agrees. "I heard all these things from his reports...there's no way that I would have accepted them in my right mind. That decoy was robbing banks, torturing demons, even..." She wrinkles her nose. "The Immortal claims that his intelligence has proof that she slept with one of the slayers under her."
She can sense the moment he freezes. "Female slayer?" he says carefully, and she can hear the leer in his voice.
"Subordinate," she emphasizes. "I don't know much about the army and all, but I'm pretty sure that's inappropriate."
"As wrong as shagging your TA," he says agreeably, and she pinches him again. His skin feels rather nice between her fingers, so she does it another time before she continues.
"None of it mattered to me. I was so lost..." She closes her eyes, rolling over him so she can position herself at his back. He doesn't cooperate, turning to face her again instead. "I don't know why nobody realized it wasn't me." She shakes her head. "No, I do know. I closed myself off from them so much, those first years after my resurrection...they didn't even know me anymore. It's not their fault."
The irritated rumble in his stomach clearly indicates to her that yes, it is their fault, but she ignores him. He's always been harder on her friends than he should be. "What happened next?" he asks finally.
She snuggles closer to him. "A long, long time. Years passed, I think. I couldn't keep track. And then one day, some idiot storms into The Immortal's mansion and tries to take him down right then and there."
He pouts at her. "Idiot?"
She snickers. "He tried to kill The Immortal. Did you think the name was just a turn of phrase?"
"Kind of," he admits sheepishly.
She shakes her head. "Luckily, said idiot managed to get in without being staked where he stood. He went to hunt through the Immortal's most precious files to find information to use against Twilight-"
"-And stumbled across a mirage of beauty, a woman he loved more than life itself," he finishes, smiling warmly at her. "And he decided that it didn't matter what the bloody hell she was doing there; he wasn't letting her go again."
She reaches up to cup his cheek in her hand. "You saved me," she murmurs, all pretenses of storytelling gone. "You brought me back to myself and you loved me."
He turns his head to kiss the tips of her fingers. "I'll always love you."
"I know." She sighs happily. "We're going to win this, aren't we?"
"'f course." he nuzzles her palm affectionately. "We'll get rid of your lookalike and stop Twilight for good, yeah? Just you and me."
She scowls at him. "Speaking of which, I've been meaning to talk to you about this...thing you call a ship. Why couldn't it have looked more like those ones from Star Trek? At least those look like spaceships. This one's just a giant tank."
He brushes his lips against hers. "We meet up with your friends and save the world, and I'll get you anything you'd like. Even the Enterprise."
"Fine," she concedes grudgingly. "Does this mean we have to put on clothes?"
He groans with the realization. "It does, doesn't it? Bugger."
They give each other the kind of sappy, loving smiles that she'd always scorned in the past because she'd never thought herself that kind of girl, and reluctantly part to save the world from Angel for the first time in nearly ten years.
Everything's changed since then, and she couldn't be happier about it.