"She must have done it when she was weakening," Spike was muttering. "Just before she turned into Ben."
Of all the times to leave her cell at home! Buffy whirled. "Angel. Go get Giles. And tell him to call Willow and Tara. Oh, and ask Willow to bring my binder."
Angel nodded and went.
"Won't be anything in that binder about this," said Spike. He was studying the rift intently as it quivered and shook, a red gash across the night. "It's not the same as the one we had before. That one was white and things like dragons came out of it and buzzed us—dimensions starting to bleed together, I suppose. To open that, Glory needed spells and the Key, and it had to be on a certain date. This is different."
"Maybe it's worse," muttered Buffy. "That red light isn't very reassuring."
"Bet you anything it's a hell dimension."
"Gee, thanks. Make my day." She was watching the rift start to widen. "What did she think to gain by it?"
"That bint was stuck on herself. Couldn't conceive that she could possibly die. But she'd have been furious I even tried to drain her. She'd have wanted to unleash hell on this world for one of us daring to do that to her. I should have been faster," he said bitterly. "Wanker! I should have known she'd do something."
Buffy touched his arm gently. "It's not your fault. No one could have predicted this."
He just shook his head grimly, blaming himself.
"So this is her hell dimension?" she said to give him something else to think about.
"Can't be. She wouldn't have needed the Key if she could just will hers to open for her like that. No, this is another one. Whatever spell she cast, she had trouble with it, being more human than god. Look how long it took to work and how slowly that portal's opening."
"Yeah, but it's still opening. How did you close it in your dimension?"
He swallowed painfully. "You threw yourself in. You died. Your blood closed it."
She was silent for a moment. "I see."
"It's the blood. Someone else with your blood could do it. Dawn, for instance."
"No," he agreed. His face was gaunt with strain, all the bones standing out under the tightly stretched skin. A muscle jumped diagonally across his cheek as his jaw clenched. "Maybe there's another way. This isn't the portal we faced, the big one where the walls between all the dimensions were breaking down. Maybe Red and Glinda can figure out a way. Red's a powerful witch and Glinda's got the right instincts. Together they might be able to close it."
Angel was back, with Giles panting after him, his arms loaded with books.
"I didn't know whether I had time to do research before coming," Giles panted, plopping down on a tombstone, the books tumbling onto the ground around him. "So I just came and brought what I could."
"We might have some time, but not much." Buffy was watching the smoky red slash of the portal. It was opening only by slow millimeters, but it was definitely and inexorably opening. A hellish red light glared from it and black fumes were seeping through into the air of Sunnydale. "What's that stuff coming out of it?"
"Don't breathe that," said Spike sharply. "Those fumes are poisonous. Like chlorine or mustard gas. I can smell it. We're lucky the wind's blowing the other way."
"We can't let that spread!"
Giles was skimming through his books at a headlong pace. Willow and Tara came running up, their arms full of magical supplies, and behind them Xander and Anya carrying weapons.
"We found a spell that closes portals," Willow gasped.
"Try it," said Buffy, taking the binder that Willow had brought as asked. "Try anything."
While Willow and Tara set out the ingredients needed for their spell, Buffy waded through the binder, a lot slower than Giles was doing through his books but still as fast as she could. But Spike was right. There wasn't anything in the binder to tell her how to close the portal except in the way Buffy2 had done it, flinging herself in and dying.
'It's always about the blood,' Buffy2 had written. 'Dawn bleeding opened the portal. But the monks made her out of me and her blood is mine. Summers' blood opened it and Summers' blood had to close it. Dawn wanted to jump, but I couldn't let her do that. I'm the Slayer. It was my job. The work I had to do.'
Blood hadn't opened this portal. Glory's will had done that. But Buffy had the sinking feeling that her blood might still be the only thing that would close it, unless Willow and Tara could find another way.
Spike was watching her. His lips were parted and drawn tightly back against teeth set on edge, his eyes black with strain and fear. He knew, Buffy saw. He knew she would have to do what Buffy2 had done, if Willow and Tara failed to close the portal. It was the one thing that they knew for sure would work.
"You and your plans," Angel said to him contemptuously. "If you can find a way to fuck up, you always do."
Spike didn't even glance at him, his focus totally fixed on Buffy. Buffy ignored Angel as well. He was just trying to put Spike in a bad light with her. Spike had had to kill Glory. She knew that now, couldn't even blame him for Ben. If he hadn't, Glory would have ended up opening the greater portal anyway before the year was out. And Angel was a fool if he thought anyone could have predicted this lesser one or kept a Hellgod from opening it.
"We can do this, Buffy!" Willow was saying as she and Tara finished setting out a ring of candles and hurriedly shaping a pentagram of salt and herbs within it. "We can close it!"
"You have to, Red," said Spike intensely and Willow saw how he was looking at Buffy. He was cold afraid. Her eyes widened in horrified realization and she redoubled her efforts.
The rift was a couple of feet wide now and forms were moving within the glare and the fumes. A black and grotesque shape squeezed its way out sideways and fell onto the roof of the crypt, crouched there, its knees rising in sharp angularity high above its head like a spider's, bones contorting in non-human angles as if they were double-jointed. Others followed.
Buffy grabbed at one of the swords Xander had brought and started to head towards it.
"No!" Spike caught her back. "Those fumes are all around there. You mustn't breathe them! They'll burn your lungs out."
"We can't let those get loose!"
"We won't." He caught up a sword and threw it at Angel, grabbed another himself. "Come on, poofter. This is our job. Vamps don't have to breathe. Take care of the ones that get past us, Slayer."
Willow and Tara were chanting and making arcane gestures, Giles holding a moldering book open in front of them so that they could read out the spell. The flames of the lit candles surrounding the three of them wavered in the light breeze blowing the fumes away from where everyone stood. The portal jerked, then stopped opening. It jerked again and narrowed a little.
Not much, but enough to block the bulky shapes beyond, even when they twisted sideways to try to get through the opening. But the gap was still wide enough for someone the size of Angel to get through it. The demons they could see were larger than that, but there was nothing to say that smaller ones didn't exist in that dimension and weren't being called even now.
Spike and Angel were cutting down the creatures that had made it through already. One slipped by them and Buffy leaped forward to kill it.
"Don't let its blood touch you, Slayer," Spike yelled over his shoulder.
She slashed at it with all her strength, her sword slicing its head off, then jumped back hurriedly as greenish-black fluid sprayed from the stump. She saw what Spike meant when the ground charred and burned wherever that fluid struck it. The thing's blood was caustic. The corpse curled up into a ball like a stricken spider and began to steam. She leaped back even further. The fumes stank, a rotten egg smell, sulphuric. The corpse dwindled, then vanished. At least they wouldn't have any clean up to worry about.
But the portal wasn't narrowing any further.
"It's stuck," Xander muttered. "Come on, Will! Make with the mojo!"
Buffy didn't think Willow and Tara had much power left. They both looked white and exhausted. Only that glare of red light and the fumes were coming out of the portal now, but it stayed stubbornly open.
"Hellgods are powerful," muttered Anya. Giles had explained what was going on and Anya with her demonic background understood a lot more than Xander. "It's not easy to fight any spell they cast."
Spike and Angel finished off the last of the creatures and came running back towards them. They had both been fast enough to avoid being sprayed by that caustic blood and there were no burns on either of them.
"You did a good job, guys," Buffy said to them.
"We didn't," said Willow in a raw voice.
Buffy looked around. Willow was on her hands and knees on the ground and Giles was supporting Tara who looked like a limp rag.
"We can't close it and we can't hold it," said Willow, agonized. "We're just not strong enough. The spell Glory did is too powerful. Even though her powers were watered down by her human body, she's still a god. That rift will widen soon and it'll keep on widening until it takes over the whole world."
"Why would she do something like that?" Xander exclaimed. "Wouldn't it mess up her own plans?"
"She only had to be in a certain location at a certain time with the...a Key," said Spike harshly. "Wouldn't matter if the place is in meltdown and hell beasts are frying people all over it. That'd just be a giggle to her. And a hell world would make her feel right at home."
Willow looked up at Buffy, tears rolling down her face. "Buffy, I'm so sorry!"
"But...isn't there anything we can do?" whispered Xander.
"Yes, there is," said Buffy quietly. "There's something I can do. Tara, hand me that scarf of yours."
Tara took off the silk scarf she was wearing around her neck and held it out, puzzled.
"No!" said Spike as Buffy took it from her.
"It has to be done, Spike. You know that."
"There has to be another way, Slayer!" he said violently.
"What are you two talking about?" Xander asked in bewilderment, but Giles had a sick look on his face and Tara and Anya's eyes were widening in appalled comprehension.
Willow was crying bitterly. "Buffy, don't...We'll find a way..."
"When? There's no time to experiment and no other solution that we know of. All of you stay here."
"Buffy!" Spike grabbed at her and she dodged.
"Angel, keep him from stopping me!"
Angel didn't know what was going on, but he grabbed automatically at Spike. Spike hit him with all his force, sending him crashing into a tree twenty feet away. Glory's blood still powered him.
But Buffy had already wrapped the scarf around her nose and mouth, and was running towards the crypt. She swung herself up onto it as Spike charged after her. He caught her just as she began to leap into the rift and swung her away from it.
She heard Angel and Xander shout in horror below them as they finally understood.
"Spike," she said with gentleness through the scarf that kept her from breathing the poisonous air. "It's my job. You know that. This is the work I have to do."
"Only you?" He had a gray, deathly look on his face and his arms held her fast.
"Me or Dawn. It has to be Summers blood and I won't sacrifice Dawn anymore than the other Buffy would."
"Can't let you do this, Slayer! Won't!"
He bit her suddenly, his fangs sinking into her neck. Shocked, she tried to push him away, but his grip was unbreakable. She could feel him taking huge gulps, draining her, could feel herself start to slump. He was trying to weaken her as he had weakened Glory, so that she wouldn't have the strength to jump. She heard Angel roar in fury below them at Spike's attack on her and race towards the crypt. But he wouldn't get there in time. Her knees were already sagging.
Spike retracted his fangs and kissed the bite mark, then raised his head and grinned down at her.
"Summers blood. Got that in my own veins now, haven't I?" He stroked her hair. "Third time pays for all. I love you, Buffy."
Then he let her go and jumped.
"Spike, no!" she shrieked.
The rift flared blindingly, scarlet light blazing through the night. In the midst of it, she glimpsed Spike falling, his face contorted in pain. Then heavy winds screamed past her, knocking her off her feet.
The portal imploded violently, sucking the winds, fumes and light with it. And Spike.
Darkness descended, soothing after the glare of red light. Buffy staggered to her feet, ripping the scarf off her face. Something crashed with a heavy thud onto the ground beside the crypt. It was Spike's body. She looked down at him as he lay on the turf, sprawled and unmoving.
"Oh, no. Oh, no, Spike."
She scrambled down from the crypt and gathered him up in her arms. His head fell limply back and she moved so that it was in the curve of her shoulder, knelt there rocking him back and forth, her tears falling on his still face.
"Oh, Spike. It should have been me. It should have been me. You didn't have to die a third time!"
He had meant it when he said he loved her. He had sacrificed himself for her, just as he had for the other Buffy. And just as the other Buffy had, she had lost him.
After a while, she became aware of movement around her. A hand touched her shoulder.
"Buffy," said Tara softly.
"Go away!" she said angrily. "All of you, just go away and leave us alone!"
"Buffy, he's not dust."
"If he's dead, shouldn't he be dust?"
Buffy caught her breath. Tara was right. Spike's heart never beat and, when he was sleeping or out cold, he didn't breathe. The only way to ever tell that a vamp was dead was if he were dust. And, solid in her arms, Spike wasn't.
Still no breath or movement. But behind the one closed eyelid that she could see, there was a flicker as his eyeball shifted just fractionally.
"Spike! Wake up!"
His lashes fluttered and his head turned. Then his eyes opened and he stared groggily up at her.
"Oh!" She kissed him fiercely.
He responded drowsily, still not fully conscious.
"What's wrong?" he whispered, already going into protective mode. "Why are you crying?"
"You goof! I thought you were dead!"
He blinked. "Tears? For me?" His hand came up and touched her wet face with wonder. "Never had anyone cry over me before. 'S nice."
"You scared me half to death, damn you! Don't you ever do that again! I'm supposed to take care of apocalypses, not you!"
"Couldn't let you die."
"No more freaking sacrifices! Promise me!"
"No. Promise you anything but that. Partners, aren't we?"
She snarled in exasperation. "Don't you dare use that against me!"
"If you hold me any tighter," he said contentedly, "you'll squash me to death. If I weren't already unliving."
She dropped her face into his hair and just held him for a moment. Then she drew a long shuddering breath and pulled herself together.
"How are you feeling? Can you get up?"
"Give me a minute." He turned his face into the curve of her neck and shoulder. She felt his lips brush the bite mark that he had left on her neck. "Did I hurt you when I did that?"
"No." She kissed his temple. "It felt good, actually."
"It can feel a lot better. I was in a hurry."
"You'll have to show me."
"Love to. That's some rush, that Slayer blood of yours. Never had it before. Tasty. Like the rest of you."
They grinned at each other.
"You're not biting her again!" roared Angel.
"Butt out, Angel," snapped Buffy. "He can bite me anytime he likes."
Spike was looking around in surprise. "Bloody hell, we've got an audience. Bunch of sodding voyeurs."
He grinned at their affronted looks, pushed himself waveringly into a sitting position, then staggered unsteadily to his feet. Buffy got up too and braced him as he wobbled.
"Lean on me," she said, sliding an arm around his waist, and he did so, his arm across her shoulders.
"I'm all right. Just a bit shaky."
He straightened and she saw with relief that he was recovering rapidly.
"Well, that was an interesting experience," he remarked. "Kind of like being put through a mangle backwards."
"Why are you alive?" demanded Giles.
"Got me, mate. Sure wasn't expecting to see your bright and shining faces anytime soon."
"But the other Buffy died when she jumped into the rift." Buffy held him tight, her face against his chest, and he kissed the top of her head. "Why didn't you?"
"Haven't a bleeding clue. Oh, wait! Bleeding. The blood."
"Glory's blood. That god's blood of hers. All that power I was juiced with. It must have protected me."
"Good Lord! Of course!" exclaimed Giles. "Do you still have that power?"
"Nah, it's gone. Must've burned off in the rift."
Giles was just about rubbing his hands together in glee. "I have to write this up in my diaries!"
"Nothing I like better than being a footnote in some Watcher's diary," muttered Spike and Buffy laughed at him. She was almost giddy with joy and relief.
"I think you need a drink."
"Oh, yeah. Pity we're not near Watcher's pad. Could have used some more of that Glenfiddich. But I've got some JD at my crypt."
"We're near that. Come on."
"I thought you were going back to the dorm, Buffy," said Angel sharply.
Buffy and Spike both gave him scornful looks.
"Don't be a bigger bonehead than you can help, poofter," said Spike. "It's game over. Go back to L.A."
"You're not going to break those two apart now, Angel," said Anya kindly. "Look at the way they're hanging onto each other. They might as well be claimed."
"Don't use that word!" said Angel violently.
Buffy gave him an interested look. "Must be a big deal in the vamp world if Angel's having such a cow about it. What's this claimed thing?"
"Kinda like being married," said Spike a little breathlessly.
"Except more so," explained Anya. "The bond can't be broken. It's for all time. Only death breaks the link."
"For all time, huh?" Buffy looked at Spike whose eyes were starting to shine. "You'd belong to me for all time?"
"And you'd belong to me," he said very softly, very intensely, his arm around her waist drawing her tightly to him.
She smiled. "I like the sound of that. Do you?"
"I've dreamed of it."
"There's a catch," said Anya. "The sting is, vamps have a weird twist on that 'till death do us part' bit. If one dies, the other one dies too."
"I don't think either of us have a problem with that," purred Buffy.
"Giles!" said Angel desperately.
"Don't look at me," said Giles, waving him off. "I've learned to bow to the inevitable. The other Buffy crossed dimensions for him. I shudder to think what this one might do. Just don't anyone tell the Council."
Angel looked around in search of support. But to his dismay, the girls were all smiling sappily at Buffy and Spike, and Xander just shrugged ruefully.
"What he said," sighed Xander. "The guy just tried to sacrifice himself for the third time for her. I mean, that's commitment."
"I think Spike and I need to talk," said Buffy. "See you all later, guys."
Angel reached out to stop her. "Buffy..."
"I love him, Angel. The other Buffy loved him and I do too."
Spike's arm tightened excruciatingly around her waist. Angel's hand fell. He turned on his heel and walked away.
Spike made an odd little sound of triumph and amazement in his throat, then swept her towards his crypt.
"We won't be seeing them for a couple of days," she heard Anya remark behind them. "Wanna take bets on how many orga..."
"What? I could make money on it, Xander. I wonder if Willy..."
The crypt was dark. Instead of lighting candles, Spike just scooped her up and headed for the trapdoor at the back. A minute later, they were standing beside the bed and he was switching on the lamp on the night table.
"You keep missing the mark," she complained.
"I'm exactly where I want to be. You said we need to talk." He pulled her against him and took her face in his hands. "You love me?"
She smiled. "Yeah."
"When did this happen?"
"All along, I think. Since you first arrived. You were so different. You were what I needed. But I didn't know I loved you until you jumped through that portal and I thought you'd die. We Buffys tend to be morons that way. Only knowing when it's too late."
"You love me," he said in wonder and kissed her.
She kissed him back, her arms fierce around him.
"I thought I'd lost you, Spike. I thought you'd died. I wanted to die too. I should have. It should have been me!"
"Never while I exist."
"No one's ever loved me. Not ever. I've wanted it for a hundred and twenty years. Wanted someone I love to love me back. Won't let you die. Not if there's any way I can prevent it. I won't lose you! I love you, Buffy."
"Do you?" She took his face in her hands and, startled, he let his drop to slide up and down her back. "Who do you love, Spike? Me or that other Buffy? Because we're not the same."
"You," he said softly. "You. This Buffy. You're what she was before all the pain and anguish started. You're what I fell in love with. My shining light."
"Spike..." She drew his head down to hers and they leaned their foreheads together.
"You've given me so much, Buffy. So many gifts," he whispered. "You've made me whole."
She understood. He had been so battered and torn up when he had arrived in Restfield, world-weary and almost wanting death. 'I wasn't caring much about staying alive by that time,' he had said, explaining why he had joined Angel's unachievable battle against the Senior Partners.
"I was all in pieces. You and that binder, you've made me whole. Given me absolution."
"You didn't need absolution. You redeemed yourself there in the Hellmouth when you chose to burn. The Powers sent you to Heaven, Spike, not Hell, remember?"
"Don't remember and it doesn't matter." He stroked her face with delicate, loving fingertips. "What matters is that when you look at me, you don't see a monster."
"You're not a monster."
"Most people wouldn't agree. I'm a vamp. But you see me as a man. You see me."
The way he saw her. She understood that, the need to be seen and still cherished.
"I see you, Spike. And you're beautiful. There's darkness in you, but there's also so much light. You say I'm a light. Maybe so, but there's darkness in me and it comes from the same Slayer side that my light comes from. There's light and dark in both of us. We match."
"You're the one who's brought me into the light. Your family, they're my family, Joyce and Dawn. The Scoobs, they seem to be my friends now. There's a place for me beside you in the world, in the light." He shook his head in wonder.
"No more hiding in shadows," she agreed and kissed him. "But the light was in you already, Spike. It was there when you came. You brought it with you. Your soul."
"My soul. In the end, it wasn't a mistake, was it? It's brought me you. God!" he said. "I can't believe this is happening! I can't believe you're with me!"
"I'm with you. Forever, if you want to make it so."
He looked down at her, his eyes blazing. "You mean it."
She looked back gravely. "Yes. I want it. I want us to own each other. I want us never to be parted."
"God, Buffy!" His breath shook in his mouth. "It's never been done. Vamp and Slayer."
"So we'll break new ground."
"There might be all sorts of repercussions..."
"Is that the soul talking?"
He laughed a little ruefully. "Don' know. Must be. The rest of me is being totally selfish. Want you to be mine more than anything else in the world. To never lose you. But you only just heard that such a thing as a claim even exists. You should take a few days, research it properly, be sure..."
"It's a link between us that binds us together and can be broken only by our deaths. What else is there to know?" She kissed him, smiling. "Be selfish. I plan to be. Because I don't want to lose you either. Want you to be mine for all time."
"Oh, God!" He caught her up against him. "I'm yours, pet. With or without the claim. Don't you know that?"
"Yeah," she purred. "But what's wrong with making it official?"
"You're giving me everything I've ever dreamed of," he said wonderingly, gathering her up in his arms. "You're giving me the world."
"Works both ways." She twisted to kick off her sneakers as he dropped her on the bed. "How do we do this?"
He was heel-and-toeing out of his Docs. "We make love and I bite you and say you're mine and you say yes. Then you do the same to me."
"I like every bit of that plan." She was drawing his clothes off him, just as he was sliding her out of hers, their hands tender on each other. "Wanna bite me now?"
"Claim will hurt less if you're closer to climax."
"Oh, not the claim yet. Just want you to bite me. It felt good, but you didn't give me time to enjoy it."
His eyes were dancing. "That's twisted of you, Slayer. You do realize that's bad sex, don't you. Forbidden. A real no-no."
"No such thing as bad sex between us. Not when it's willing and with love. We've probably already gone through every position there is. Did you ever bite her?"
"Never. She'd have freaked."
"It was all bad sex to her, wasn't it? And I might have gone that way myself, if it wasn't for you and that binder."
They were both naked now, twisting and coiling around each other, worshiping each other with their hands and their mouths and their bodies. His eyes had turned gold. That raspy vamp tongue slid up the underside of her breast, teasing her. She shuddered and arched to it. He reached her nipple and suckled on it, that tongue rubbing and rasping upon it.
"Oh, God!" She would never get used to that.
"Love the way you respond," he breathed. "Love that you like it, want it. From me."
"Always want it. Wanted it right from the moment you turned up in Restfield. Even earlier really, except that I couldn't admit it." She groaned as that tongue slid down her belly. "Bite me!"
He bit her high up on the inside of her thigh and she gasped, not having expected it there. His fangs slid painlessly into the vein, began to draw. But not in great, hurried gulps like before. Slowly, sensuously, stretching it out.
Fire shot through her every nerve. A drunken, almost orgasmic feeling. A heated, voluptuous rapture thrilling through her veins. No wonder humans went crazy over it, kept going back obsessively to the bite shops.
She felt him smile against her thigh.
She had never felt anything like this before, this incredible sensation singing through her. She was drowning in it. And it went on and on, seemingly forever. Her body writhed uncontrollably and her mind blanked out and she was hopelessly wet between her legs.
His thumb slid across her clit, rubbed at it. She was so aroused, she needed hardly a touch. She came excruciatingly hard, her brain spinning out.
When she came to, he was leaning over her, laughing.
"We have got to do that again!" she gasped. "A lot!"
"Oh, we will."
His eyes were blazing and she could feel him impossibly hard between her thighs.
"It does something for you too."
"Slayer blood," he explained. "Aphrodisiac."
"As if you need it," she groaned.
He grinned down at her. "Ready to go again?"
"Are you kidding? I'm wiped!"
"But we've miles to go before we sleep." His head came down.
"God, I love you, Spike!"
"Make me yours, Spike."
"Yes," he said. "Yes."
His eyes were ablaze with wonder and delight and triumph. She pulled him down to her, her whole body rekindling under that look and the feel of him upon her and the deliberate, inciting caresses of his hands and his mouth that knew exactly how to drive her crazy. He was whispering blurry, indistinguishable endearments into her skin and she was whispering them as well into his, feeling him quiver and tremble as he heard them.
He took her and she cried out with the sheer pleasure of it, that first thrust always forceful, always an excruciating rapture. Felt him thick and hard within her, driving her higher and higher.
His fangs slid into her neck and that glorious fire started again, that sizzling, agonizing, ecstatic delight.
"Mine," he said. "Mine."
"Oh, God, yes!" she gasped and bit his neck as hard as she could, sucked at the blood that welled up. "And you're mine."
"Always was. Always will be."
Something locked, clicked within them, weaving them inextricably together, every cell linking and matching.
"Mated," she whispered, understanding exactly what that meant now. "Partners forever. Always and for all time."
"Yes," he hissed. "Yes. Buffy, you're mine now."
They fell over the edge together.
Hours later, she watched him sleeping, lay lovingly caressing and brooding over him.
He was hers. He didn't belong to that other Buffy. She suddenly understood what the Powers had been doing when they sent him to her.
He and that other Buffy had too much history between them. Too much pain and violence and anger to ever be completely forgotten, too much guilt and anguish whose memory might shadow and mar the loving. They had needed the slate to be wiped clean. That Buffy had needed a Spike whom she hadn't hurt. This Spike had needed a Buffy who had never hurt him, never rejected him, saw him, valued him, loved him as he desired to be loved, right from the start.
And she had needed a Spike with a soul, who saw her and valued her, was mate and partner and the dearest of friends.
"What are you thinking?" he asked and she realized that he had woken and was watching her himself, his eyes soft and smiling. That silken look of warmth and love and devotion that she had feared in the beginning and now prized.
"That you could have been in Heaven."
"But I am."
"No, I mean, they sent you to Heaven, Spike, and then they took you out of there."
"They gave me a gift." He pulled her down to him. "They gave me the only reward I wanted."
"You don't get it, pet. It wouldn't have been Heaven for me without you. Heaven's right here, pet. Right here. The only heaven I want."
"Oh, me too, Spike," she said and kissed him.