Author's Notes:

(A/N Poem quoted is "Sonnet 17" by Pablo Neruda, translated from the Spanish)

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Chapter 6
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~ Sunnydale, California, 2001, final resting place of Buffy Summers ~

"Where was I?" Spike asked, expecting no answer. "Oh, yeah, the first time I ever saw you. 'Twas a night much like this one, filled with warm breezes, bloomin' flowers and grief enough to still a beatin' heart.

"You were the most beautiful sight I'd ever seen. I was but nine years old, yet you had my heart from that moment. You drove away the demon and promised me paradise, gave me comfort and hope, an ideal to dream of and desire."

He stopped, sobbing as if his unbeating heart had been torn from his chest. "Ah, Buffy love! She took you from me. The same night she killed me, she took the only good and lovely thing I had in my life. You were my hope, my desire for years. You were always there, beckoning to me over the ages, but she ripped you away from my mind, leaving only her dark temptations. Her evil parody of your promises."

Spike thought back over the last four years of his existence. "How different it might had been if I had remembered you, pet." He shuddered at his hiring of the Order of Taraka and his many attempts to kill her himself. "I would have known you from the first and laid my heart at your feet."

"True," he laughed ruefully, 'you'd like as not kicked it back in my face with your dainty feet. Still, I'd have not wasted all those years calling you my enemy."

He thought of his century with Dru, years more bitter than sweet. He had adored her, felt he was designed just for her pleasure. Hadn't his dreams told him so? He never betrayed her as she had him, time after time. His dark princess had used him as a convenient substitute for her longed-for daddy, molding him into as fierce a vampire as ever their sire had been. He had remade himself to please her, always to please her. Turned himself inside out. It had never been enough.

"By the time we came to Sunnyhell, Dru had stopped carin' if I wanted another, that's why she didn't tamper with anything that happened between us from then on," Spike explained. "Let me build walls, burn bridges while she laughed to herself."

Spike thought of why he was there in the cool night air and how his failure had led to Buffy's death. "Maybe if I'd had those memories you wouldn't have had to jump. Coulda known I needed to protect you early on, you and the Bit. Saved us all the battle with the hell bitch.

"How do I go on, Buffy?" he asked in despair. "My destiny, my TRUE destiny is layin' in the earth. But I did promise to look out for the Bit. Not gonna let you down again.

"Give Dru a bit of credit though. Thought by comin' here and returnin' my true memories of those dreams that I'd find a bit of comfort." Spike snorted in disgust. "Who am I kidding, she only did it 'cause she knew it was too late. Angelus woulda been proud of her mind fuck.

"Can't talk to the Watcher 'bout this, but wish I could understand how you came to me all those times. Know it was you, even down to your creative use of the Queen's English." He laughed as he remembered how his golden goddess had so confused him with her words and phrases all those years ago.

He rose from her grave and decided to recite a bit of a poem he only wished he could have crafted. It said so much of how he felt for her…always had felt for her. The first verse didn't fit-not for his shining one-but the second was perfect.

"Bloke named Neruda wrote a bit of somethin' that always calls you to mind. Least I know his words won't make you laugh and I mean every syllable."

"I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

"Always feel that way, love. Don't know how to go on elsewise. Told you once that I was drownin' in you. You takin' that jump off that tower won't change that. I'll do my duty by the Niblet, then meet the sun. You are part of me, love, the best part. Can't be going on with part of me gone, now can I?"

Spike headed back towards Revello Drive and a last check on Dawn before daylight. The Scoobies had been meeting over some do-gooder plan or other and Spike knew the girl would be fast asleep. He figured, with any luck, Dawn would live to a ripe old age and then he could pack it in. He wouldn't shirk his responsibility to the girl. He'd have her back as he should have always had her sister's. "Could have loved you all those years, even if you'd not loved me. Been a better man too, someone you might have been able to love back."

As he walked, he thought of his years with Dru, years built on a lie. He might have been so different had he remembered. He certainly would never have put up with Drusilla and her infidelities and insanities had he remembered his dreams properly.

Dru had been a fairie after all, bent on stealing a human child and luring it away from the world it belonged in, into the darkness.

~~~

Buffy looked down at the devestated vampire headed towards her home and turned to the being next to her. "So this is it for him? You let me slip into his dreams, try to help, only to leave it at this?"

She had been watching the events of the summer closely and had quickly realized that Spike's words of love before the whole Glory fiasco had just scratched the surface of the depth of his feelings for her. She saw the good man he was under all his sins and the man he wished to be for her. There was no sugar coating of the Big Bad's deeds, but she now resided in a place of love and forgiveness. There was enough of both to spare for the broken creature who loved her so desperately.

When the Powers told her that her friends were going to pull her back into life, Buffy had begged them to prevent it. It was only then that she was told of the beautiful future that could be hers if she would only reach out and take the hand already offered. She saw him, really saw him. She saw the future they could make, the world they could first save and then rebuild together. She felt a hunger unlike any before as she witnessed the life being offered to her.

That was when the Powers allowed her to visit the boy's dreams and later the young man. Heaven was a place outside of time, so it was easily accomplished. Buffy wanted badly to do in reality what her dream self did over and over. For the pain Dru had caused Spike, she wanted nothing less than to have the chance to dust just that one more vampire.

"So, I'm going back huh?" Buffy said with a touch of excitement."Gonna get another shot at that whole destiny thing?"

"Yes, child, but you will carry with you no memory of this. You must chose from your own free will and there are events that depend on your not knowing." The being of light that had become Buffy's close companion was sympathetic but firm.

"You mean the whole 'Spike's gotta get that soul and then die' has to happen?" When the being nodded in the affirmative, Buffy asked, "What about after, when the doofus is too insecure, thanks to me, to come looking for me after he gets a return ticket from the great beyond? Why does that have to happen?"

"Spike must find himself, come to decide who and what he will be. Free will is the most powerful law in the universe, Buffy; you must realize that."

"Sure, but I mean I've seen how it turns out and that's cool and all, but isn't that kinda like fate? Where's the free will there?" Buffy scrunched her forehead in confusion.

"Remember, the same reason you were able to be in the dreams of a boy in Victorian England is why you can know how it turns out. It is not that things are fated, it is that all choices have been seen from here, outside of time itself." Buffy still looked confused. "Fate implies you have no choice. The reality is only that your choice is known, not forced."

"And again with the 'huh?'" Buffy quipped. She thought she understood but loved tweaking the being who had been saddled with her instruction.

"You know what you want. We did not make you want it. The same is true for William. We have the joy of having witnessed the outcome, that is all." The being sighed and let it go. "Never mind. Thankfully, you won't remember this either."

"Isn't that kinda what Dru did to Spike though, the whole forgetting thing? Why was it so bad then and okie dokie now?"

"Dru did it for manipulation, to force her will over William's. You will chose wisely without the knowledge. You will arrive where you are destined without you feeling the need to force things. There is much learned from pain and both of you need to learn. Learn about yourselves, learn about each other. The pain you inflict upon each other will be like a fire to metal, make you stronger when that fire is removed. You will become a different person because of choices you will make, choices that will hurt others at the time. The person you become will be unlikely to hurt others in the future. William will cleanse his past and regain his sense of self. The best things in life come at a price." The being smiled at the girl walking beside him.

"Still, it seems a shame I can't give Spike SOMETHING to carry him over the next few years. Something to give him that hope he had before Dru messed with his memories. Hey, I saw what's coming and he's going to go through hell for a while there, thanks to me."

"Perhaps one more dream, one carefully worded, might be acceptable," the being agreed and proceeded to suggest something to Buffy that made her smile.

~~~

The crypt was cold and uninviting when Spike finally returned home. Dawn had been asleep as he suspected. While he watched over the sleeping girl, she had another of her nightmares and he slipped into her room to offer what comfort he could before making the way back to his own waiting bed.

A quick wash-up from the makeshift shower in the tunnel and Spike lay his exhausted self down in hopes of a dreamless sleep. He had never felt so empty.

Naturally he fell into a dream almost from the start. Buffy was there, all pink and warm and alive. She smiled at his astonishment. "Hey, didn't think you'd be rid of me that easily, did you? Especially after the pretty poem you said at my grave."

Spike blinked in surprise to have even a dream Buffy look at him the way she was, filled with affection and pleasure to see him. "I went to a lot of trouble to give you dreams only to have that miserable witch take them away. Since you'll need something to hold onto when I get back and decide to use you as my own vampire-shaped emotional punching bag, I've decided to give you one more dream before all the fun starts.

"You only read the last part of that poem." Spike raised a skeptical eyebrow at the thought that Buffy recognized it at all. "Yeah, you're right, I had to look it up. That first verse… it could be about you, you know. Why don't you just keep those words tucked in your heart for the bad times to come? Whenever you doubt how I really feel about you, remember this dream."

Buffy took out a slip of paper and began to recite:

" I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
"

"It won't be a secret always, Spike, I promise. One day I'll shout it to the world." Once more, as in dreams of old, she leaned in to kiss him. Only this time it was a kiss filled with promise, with hope. As always, Spike wasn't sure what it all meant, only that their story was
far from over.

She was, after all, his destiny.

~ fin