Too many of them. A tidal wave that she had to struggle to make sense of, almost overwhelming her. So many implications, ramifications. She sorted through them slowly, carefully. So much to deal with and she didn't know where to start.
The simplest first perhaps. She went to see Giles.
"A tutor for Willow?" he said in surprise. "But she's not really a witch, Buffy. She's just playing, experimenting as so many people do. Just because someone lays out a Tarot deck or charts their horoscope doesn't mean that they have a real gift for it."
"Willow can float pencils. That may not sound like much, but it's something most people can't do. What if she really does have a gift, Giles? All sorts of things can go wrong if she does and no one shows her the proper way to use it."
"Well, I suppose there's no harm in bringing someone over to evaluate her. I do know of a couple of covens in the area who might be willing to help. If they say she does have potential, they might be able to recommend someone to train her." He glanced at her dubiously. "If that's what she wants. Surely she's more interested in computers."
"She seems to be branching out," said Buffy dryly.
A quarter full glass of Scotch was sitting on the counter of the kitchen passthrough. She noticed it worriedly. It should have been a cup of tea, not Scotch at only ten in the morning. For Giles to be drinking at this time of the day was a bad sign. She remembered what Spike had said to her future self about Giles' horizons contracting. Everyone needed purpose and Giles had none now that Buffy was learning to stand on her own feet.
"It must be boring having nothing to do now that the high school's gone," she said casually. "You should branch out too, Giles. Maybe get your own business. You know that magic shop on the main drag whose proprietor got herself eaten? She was only a 'blessed-be', but the store did make money. You should look into something like that."
"Good Lord! Retail?" Giles stared at her. "I don't know anything about sales, Buffy. Research is what I'm good at."
"Well, how much do you have to know? You just put things out for people to buy and take their money when they buy it."
"It's not as simple as that," said Giles patiently, taking off his glasses and starting to polish them.
Buffy grinned. "I know, Giles. I was just kidding. But you could hire people who know what to do, couldn't you?"
"Well, yes, but..." Giles put his glasses back on again and gave her a bemused look. "I don't quite understand why you're suggesting something like this."
"Oh, well." Buffy shoved her hands into the back pockets of her jeans uncomfortably. "It's just with this research thing that you're so good at, I don't want you suddenly thinking you're not needed here and going off to work at...at Great Britain's Fantabulous Research Library or whatever it's called. With all our apocalypses, we're always going to need someone here to research about demons and stuff."
Giles pushed his glasses higher with one forefinger. "Well, that's true..."
"I need you, Giles. I know it may not seem that way right now, with me being so involved with college and all. But I need your support and your help and your integrity. I always will. I don't want you going back to England, Giles. I want you here."
Giles' shoulders had straightened and he looked a lot happier. "I-I'll stay as long as you want me to, Buffy. You can count on me."
"I do, Giles. More than you know."
"Retail," muttered Giles as they both looked away awkwardly, embarrassed by the emotion. "One could have books even in a magic shop. Perhaps a...a lending library of demonology consisting of tomes too expensive or rare for the average practitioner to own. Yes. Yes, that has possibilities..."
Buffy left him happily digging out catalogues. She hadn't put it very well, never being very good with words, but she had managed to get the idea across that he was needed. Which was no lie. He was and she should have told him so before.
Okay, hopefully she had Giles squared away. There was still Xander to be dealt with, and that was a matter of time and patience, calling Xander on his demon prejudice every time he showed it so that he would know it was not acceptable.
Anya...No, she didn't have the right to interfere with anyone's personal relationships. When Xander and Anya first got together, they had all thought that Anya wouldn't be good for Xander, ex-demon that she was and unused to ordinary social niceties. And now here was Buffy thinking the reverse, that Xander wouldn't be good for Anya. But maybe that too could be worked on and corrected.
And a tutor was only part of Willow's troubles. The memories said that Oz would be leaving soon and that would devastate Willow. But nothing could be done about that. Oz had to find his own way around his werewolf problem. All Buffy could do was be there for Willow as she went through the trauma of his loss and hope that Tara would show up soon. Tara was what Willow really needed.
Being loved. Yeah, who didn't need that? thought Buffy wryly. Even Spike said that. Even Spike lo...
She stopped the thought right there. But it kept coming back. She could see now what her future self had refused to see. Even Dru had said it, hadn't she? Vamps could love—not wisely, but well.
Why had he dragged her back from the brink? Harassing her, challenging her, he had pulled her back into living, hadn't let her give up. His methods had been crazy, but they had worked. But why had he done it? God, they had tried to kill each other how many times? He was her enemy. Even when he had first turned up in that future, he had been her enemy. He should have killed her. He'd never have a better opportunity and in the beginning she had even wanted him to kill her, until he himself had shown her that she didn't want to die.
Somewhere in there he had started to change, become as conflicted as she was. Emotions seeping through. She hadn't missed him betraying that the other Spike had loved her. It hadn't just been obsession for that Spike as her future self had thought.
She sorted through the memories, seeing them now as she had never allowed herself to see them before. All that long history of conflict and involvement between them. In her present, he was essentially a stranger, barely known. But in her future he was always there, that one fixed point, never wavering. Angel always walking away; Spike always there.
She caught herself up in shock. She hadn't thought that about Angel, had she? But he had walked away and there was no future for them.
Wasn't that what she had been trying to do when she had gone out with Parker? Find someone else, put Angel behind her and move on? Somewhere in this crazy mix of present and future jostling each other in her brain, she had ended up moving on.
Teenage love. Spreading one's wings, experimenting, learning about oneself. Rose-colored and evanescent, not really meant to be taken as seriously as she had. Tall, dark and handsome, glamorous and enigmatic, Angel had been every teenager's dream.
But adult love was raw and messy and complicated. And if one could take that, deal with it, one had something of real value, not just a dream.
She folded Angel away fondly into a compartment in her heart, the same way one ties a pink ribbon around old love letters and puts them away affectionately but with finality into some desk drawer.
Nothing rose-colored about Spike. Everything harsh and abrasive and all too real. And yet there had been a caring, a protectiveness behind his harshest words. All of it had been a slap upside the head. That old clichéd contradiction—cruel to be kind.
The other Spike had loved her. She could see that now. All her memories of his actions, their long history, told her so.
'I'm him,' said Spike.
And how does one deal with that?
Walking through Tranquility cemetery on patrol that night, she picked up that particular vamp signature that memory made so familiar.
"Where are you?" she called. Silence answered. She sighed. "I know you're there, Spike. Come out where I can see you."
There was a hesitation, then he was suddenly there, right in front of her. Fledglings couldn't do that, but the older and more experienced vamps could and he was one.
"Didn't think you'd pick up on me," he said ruefully. "Thought I was out of range."
"I'm kinda sensitized to you right now," she said, then flushed as he gave her a swift, flickering glance. "Are you going to be hanging around all the time?"
"Got nothing better to do."
"You could leave Sunnydale."
She scowled at him. "But you won't."
He shrugged, but didn't answer.
"You're always going to be around, aren't you? You'll never leave."
"Do you want me to? I could be of use."
"You're offering to help? Like Angel?"
He made an amused, scornful sound. "How much help was that wanker to you?"
Not much, she realized. Now that she thought about it, Angel had only told her about things and seldom really fought the fight with her, and even the little information that he had given her had been grudging.
"Why should you want to help?"
He glanced sideways at her. "Why ask when you know the answer?"
She turned away hurriedly and was aware of him falling into step beside her. On her left because he was left-handed and she right. It felt oddly fitting to have him there. Memories. She didn't know whether they were a curse or a blessing.
"I've started making changes," she said to break the silence. "With Giles and the Scoobs. I think things will work out. My Mom..."
"I'm keeping an eye on her, Slayer."
"Thank you," she muttered.
He made an uncomfortable movement, looking away. "Not doing it for you, Slayer. Doing it for her. I like Joyce. She's special. She's a lady."
"She didn't treat you like a thing."
She stopped and turned to face him. "We did. Why aren't you holding a grudge against us? You were angry when you first arrived in that other time period."
"But you're going to change that, aren't you? It won't happen now. Or will you still be seeing me as a thing?"
She looked down, embarrassed. "No. I can't. I should have listened to Tara. Tara had it right all the time."
He smiled faintly. "Glinda has the right instincts. She hasn't been affected by your Council and their teachings."
"Even Mom has it right. You're not a thing, but a person."
His hand lifted as if to stroke her hair, then he caught it back sharply.
"You're making giant strides, Slayer."
"A little late, but I'm getting there." She frowned suddenly. "This year's apocalypse was Adam and the Initiative. But that won't happen now. You took care of that."
"Glory's the one to watch. But I'll take care of that too."
"How? She's a god. You can't kill her."
"I can kill Ben."
"Watcher killed him in the future. Why can't I? Watcher knew that the only way to kill Glory was when she was in her human shape. But Watcher left it until it was too late and by that time you were dead and a lot of people were damaged. Not gonna happen this time. I'll take Ben out the moment he shows."
It would prevent an apocalypse and save billions of lives.
"That future we were in, it's not going to happen now. It'll all be different. I'm gonna make sure of that." He gave her a tight, wry, oddly self-mocking smile. "Not gonna let you die, Slayer. Not gonna let you be damaged. No resurrections this time. Not if I have anything to do with it."
"It doesn't make sense," she muttered. "I'm the Slayer and you're a vamp. You should want me dead. I'm your enemy."
"You may be my enemy. But I'm not yours. Want to stake me? Go ahead. I won't stop you."
She shook her head helplessly. She couldn't.
"I'll always be here," he said quietly. "Watching your back. Even if you don't want me to. Not gonna let your light be put out. Neither by death nor by resurrection. Not even by yourself. Not gonna let it happen, Slayer."
"Why?" she whispered.
He looked into the distance, smiling a little twistedly. The moonlight washed silver and shadow over the planes of his face, stressing its strong, clean bone-structure.
"You know why. Even Dru knew why. That's why she dumped me. She said she could see you floating all around me. And, yeah, I couldn't take my eyes off you. Right from the beginning. Because of what you are. A shining light. Because of the light in you."
"Didn't even know myself. Fought it. But when I got there in the future and saw what you were doing to yourself, I realized. Couldn't let you do that, Slayer. Couldn't let you put out that light. And nobody was helping you either. They were all just making it worse. I had to do something."
He was playing with his lighter again, turning it over restlessly in his fingers. He looked down at it in surprise, then made an impatient gesture and shoved it back into his pocket.
"Went about it a little rough maybe, but that was the only way I could think to do it. Shake you up, knock some sense into your head. That other me might have done it differently. I don' know. But I don't think you'd have listened to him, Slayer. You had him whipped. Maybe it was the chip. There is something in what Harris said about it gelding me. But you saw what I could do even with the chip. Could have killed you all if I wanted. He could have too, but he didn't. He let you push him around because he loved you."
He laughed a little.
"Women don't respect a man they can whip. And there's no love where there's no respect. With that chip in his head, he couldn't hit back. Then he realized he could hit you back and that set him free. Set you free too. That's when you slept with him."
She frowned. "Because he could kill me again?"
"Because he was your equal again. Maybe that's the reason you're so hung up on Angel and why your relationships with anybody human failed. They couldn't match you." He looked around at her challengingly. "Well, I match you, Slayer. And there's no chip to unman me here. You won't break me. And, unlike Angel, I'm not scared of any part of you. I see the light and I see the dark, and they're both beautiful."
His eyes were intensely blue.
"I love you, Slayer. He loved you and I love you. We're the same. And don't call it obsession. It's not obsession. It's because you're the best and the bravest and the most beautiful. How could I not love you? You're my light."
"Are you feeding?" she asked abruptly.
"And there's the rub." He gave her a rueful look. "Can't take that sodding pig's blood, Slayer. Really can't. But isn't a compromise possible? I don't have to kill them, you know. I can take a drink and let 'em go. They'd recover in no time. Even give them a happy if you like. You know I could."
He grinned at her. "Or there's Slayer's blood."
"We'll go with catch-and-release," she said repressively and he laughed, then went abruptly sober at the sight of her apprehensive face.
"Won't jump your bones, pet. You don't have to worry about that. Won't even touch you. Swear. Not asking anything of you. Learned better, seeing the mistakes he made. I'll do anything you want me to, Buffy. Except leave. I won't ever leave. You'll have to stake me to get rid of me."
"I couldn't stake you," she said under her breath.
"Are you letting me stay then?"
"Can't stop you, can I?"
"You're taking a risk, aren't you?" he said wryly. "You don't know me."
Oh, but she did know him. She knew the taste of his mouth and his scent and his skin against hers and his weight upon her and the way he would feel filling her. She knew him intimately.
And then there was the way he saw her more clearly than anybody else in the world. He saw both the dark and the light of her. Just as she'd seen both the dark and the light of him. They understood each other.
All her experience of him in her future self suddenly swung around a hundred and eighty degrees and assumed a different shape. Everything that he had said, everything that he had done. Not out of hatred, but out of love. Pushing her, goading her, driving her out of that darkness and back into the light.
"I do know you, Spike," she said and laid her hand against his cheek.
He caught his breath and his hand rose to cover hers and press it against his face. Then he stopped himself a millimeter away, as if he were afraid to touch her. His eyes had gone a blazing, incandescent blue, their pupils widening over an intense, burning blackness.
But behind the heat, there was another look, of silken, helpless tenderness.
"I have to think," she said and he nodded.
"If you need me, send a message to 207 Huron. I've got a basement flat there. Rented it from this Krasevic."
"Send it by whom? The Firoud?"
They both grinned.
"Yeah, the Firoud."
"I think I'll have to get to know them. And the other non-harmful demons. I think what you did, networking like that, is a good idea."
"Watcher won't like it."
"He'll have to deal."
They would all have to deal, she thought, back in the dorm with Willow sleeping peacefully on the other side of the room. Because Spike wasn't going to go away. And she didn't want him to.
She did know him. This stranger who was not a stranger, whom she had known for such a short time in reality, but years in her memory.
Why had she slept with him in that future? It would have made more sense to have found some human like that Riley Finn guy from the Initiative. She could have, easily. Riley had proved a broken reed, but someone else might not have.
You need your match, said Spike. But she didn't think it was as simple as that either. She hadn't gone out and picked some other vamp or demon off the street. It had had to be Spike. Because she trusted him, because for all that she had denied it she had known he loved her.
Her personal memory held the deadly vamp who had tried to kill her and the Scoobies several times over. Her future memories held another vamp and those memories were equally vivid.
Spike trying to kiss her in the alley behind the Bronze that night he had told her about his past. The hope in his face when he thought she might care for him and the devastation when she had rejected him so cruelly, both things her future self hadn't seen at the time.
Spike chaining her up and pleading for a crumb. Hurt when she disinvited him from her house. Allowing himself to be beaten so brutally by a hellgod to protect her sister. Touchingly grateful when she had seen him as a man, not a monster. Fighting beside the Scoobies and caring for Dawn when Angel hadn't that time she was dead. Looking up at her in awe and wonder and pure joy when she had been brought back from that death. Being the only one she could have told about being in Heaven. Supporting her when no one else saw or understood the trauma of her return. Stopping her from dancing herself to death. And, at the last, that helpless pleasure and hope when she jumped his bones that night and the hurt the morning after when she had dismissed him as only a convenience.
All vivid in her mind. All real, as real as her own memories. As real as this Spike forcing her out of her death wish. It was the same Spike and the same love and protectiveness.
She knew him. She knew him as she knew herself. And he knew and understood her the same way.
Killer, soulless, evil, Giles would say. And so had her future self. But he wasn't just that, was he? The Scoobs had never looked, never seen.
The killer who cared. For her, for Joyce, for Dawn. Even for Tara and Willow and Anya. It wouldn't be fair to expect him to care for Xander, she thought with wry amusement. The demon without a soul but with an astonishing heart, who so often ended up doing the right thing and even putting his unlife on the line because of that heart. The evil creature of the dark who had changed, who was now choosing to aid and abet the light, to embrace it.
A quotation floated up from somewhere in the back of her mind: 'By their fruits ye shall know them.' By his actions, that she had never looked at before.
Her future self had thrown away something of true value. She wasn't about to make the same mistake.
He was what she needed and had looked for, but never found in Angel, Parker, Riley, who had all in their various ways let her down. Spike would never let her down. She knew that now.
He was deadly and dangerous and lethal. And he was hers. He'd made that plain. He would stand by her and help her and be her partner and her friend and would never ever abandon her.
Suddenly everything felt very, very right to her.
She was smiling as she went down to Tranquility that night.
Spike was sitting on a tombstone waiting for her, one knee bent and his other leg stretched out in front of him. The moonlight glinted on his platinum hair and silvered his face into an abstraction of beauty. He looked up as she came towards him and his eyes lit up.
He smiled up at her, a little puzzled, as she stopped in front of him and looked him over thoughtfully.
"What's up, pet?"
"Trying to figure out a way to change something."
"Oh? Well, you know me. I lean towards direct action." He grinned at her. "But that might not work for you."
"Action is of the good. I'm not much for talking. Yeah, I like that. Good plan."
She took his upturned face in her hands and kissed him.
He nearly fell off the tombstone. She felt the backwards sway of his body and the jerk as he caught himself, smiled against his mouth. Then his arms were tight about her waist and he was kissing her back devouringly.
"Not that I don't like your version of direct action," he muttered when he let her come up for air. "But what the hell is going on?"
She drew a much needed breath. "That should be obvious."
"Don't be literal. You playing games, Slayer?"
"But you like playing games, don't you?" she mocked.
She could feel him shuddering as she leaned against him, dropped her forehead against his and felt his breath shake against her mouth.
"This one could backfire. Experimenting, are you? Trying out your wings. But I'm not Parker Abrams and I'm not ever gonna be that whipped dog you turned me into in the future. You've only made love once in this time period and I've got a very rapid boiling point. Some mild petting is not what you're gonna get here. Push me and you'll get a hell of a lot more than you bargained for."
"Only made love once." She laughed softly. "Maybe that's true physically. But not mentally. You and I, we've made love how many times and in how many positions? Our future bodies got to know each other pretty well. I just thought, you know, that our present bodies should know each other too."
He closed his eyes on a lost breath. "Sodding hell."
"Of course, if you don't want to..."
She couldn't help grinning at the look he gave her.
"Fun-ny. You know better than that." His eyebrow tilted challengingly. "My place is just around the corner."
"So let's go there."
"Yeah. I may have darkness in me, but not so much right now that I want to make love out here where anybody can see us."
"We'll have to work on that."
They were both laughing. His eyes were shining and turning black at the same time, their pupils expanding over an intense darkness, his irises thin rings of burning blue.
"Don' know what's going on," he muttered. "Don' care. Not gonna ask questions."
"Taking what you can get?" she said softly.
He looked up at her and she saw the yearning and the vulnerability and the resignation in his eyes.
"You ask too little." Maybe this time she had something to teach him.
His flat was in the basement of a one storey house and had no windows, but the Krasevic who had rented it to him had arranged things so that it felt airy and open rather than confining. She got an impression of comfort and coziness, but wasn't really looking around. That was for later. Right now there was only him.
No haste or violence or animalistic greed this time. He cupped her face in his hands and she leaned against him, her hands lightly on his hips, and they kissed and kissed. Exploring this new dynamic where they were no longer in conflict, but in communion.
She pushed his duster from his shoulders and he let it fall behind him, bent his head to allow her to pull off his tee. She ran her hands down the strong cords of his neck and across the straight line of his shoulders, a caress, enjoying the feel of his body. She felt him shiver against her.
"Will you miss it?" she murmured.
"The violence. The dark side."
"It will always be there, you know. The dark side. The rawness and the greed. We're both violent people. But this..." He shuddered against her, his eyes half-closing as her hands stroked his face, slid down his torso. "This caring, this warmth. It's so..."
He shook his head helplessly, words failing him.
"To be enfolded, cherished, loved," she murmured. "You've wanted it."
She saw him swallow hard.
Tenderness touched him in a deeper, more fundamental way than that primal passion had. He had needed it for all those decades of his unlife, never received it, yearned for it. She gave it to him now and saw it reflected back at her, saw that helpless, silken look of love in the intense blue of his eyes. They both needed it.
So different, now that there wasn't that disconnection between them, now that they weren't both rejecting emotion and determinedly focusing only on the physical. So different with his eyes watching her with tenderness and wonder, with his voice murmuring endearments just as she was whispering them to him, with their hands caressive and cherishing as they slid over each other's bodies, stroked away each other's clothes.
Skin against skin now, drawing each other down onto the bed, twisting and coiling about each other like snakes.
"So different," he murmured.
It was better. That intense connection. Their mutual surrender. No longer in conflict, but in true union. And how much sweeter it was! Her other self had never let it happen, fighting herself, fighting him. And yet it had all been there, even on that first night, if she had only allowed it to happen.
His eyes were pure gold now and that raspy tongue was sliding over her body, working every inch of her. Exquisite, honeyed sensation that was at once so new and yet so familiar. Giving that sensation back with mouth and hands and the slide of her body, and feeling him shudder and surge against her. Exploring his body, at once unknown and deeply known, with hands that were at once expert and inexpert. Seeing the joy and the wonder in his eyes.
Inciting and inflaming, but not rough or hurtful, even when she caught at him and her nails dug into his flesh, the violence that was always there rising, but out of intensity not conflict.
She wound her arms convulsively around his neck, pulling his full weight down upon her. "Want you in me. Want you in me now, Spike!"
"Yes." A lost breath.
She felt the broad head of his cock breach her entrance, then gulped at the deep thrust that filled her, stretched her to her limits, that went all the way in and then just that little bit further.
"So different," he muttered again.
And it was. It was. For all the force with which they took each other, it was unbearably sweet. Lips clinging, faces brushing, breaths panted into the sides of each other's necks, eyes going blind with pleasure but soft with love.
His lips brushed over the vein in her neck and she felt the prick of his fangs. Then he gasped, remembering himself, and jerked his mouth away.
She pulled his mouth back to her neck. "Take it."
"I want it. And you want it too. It's mutual, Spike. Part of the way we love."
"God, I love you so much!" he said and bit.
And that tidal wave rolled over them, shattering, devastating, that exquisite, unbearable rapture.
"Oh, God, I love you," she gasped and then was swept away, fathoms deep and drowning.
She came back to herself eons later to find him leaning over her, his face tense and strained, his eyes black with intensity and terrible hope.
"What did you say?" he whispered.
Her brain was not functioning; it had blanked right out. She wound her arms around his neck and kissed him luxuriously, unwilling to relinquish the afterglow and the feel of their bodies easy and relaxed against each other in satiation.
The hope died. "You didn't mean it then. It was just passion talking."
Then, seeing the stillness and the withdrawal in his face, she suddenly focused. She had seen that in him before, too often in her memories, that impassivity that hid pain.
"Oh, you idiot! You idiot! Of course I meant it! I love you, Spike!"
"Buffy!" His eyes flared into joy. Then he shook his head in confusion. "But you...can't. How can you?"
"If you can, I can." She pulled him down to brush her lips across his. "You're part of me, Spike. So a while back, we were trying to kill each other. So a while back we were strangers. But we were not strangers really, Spike. We know each other better than any other two people in the world. We belong together. You're in my heart. I love you."
"Oh, God! If you only knew...A hundred and twenty years I've wanted..."
"To be loved? Well, you are."
He dropped his face into her hair. She held him fiercely close, feeling him vibrating against her like a plucked guitar string.
"You still don't believe me, do you?"
"It'll take me a few decades," he muttered.
"Want me to prove it? There's something called a claim, isn't there?"
"No," he said at once.
"Why not? An unbreakable bond. I saw it in Giles' books."
"No. Your friends, your Watcher, the Council, they'd go spare."
"Does that mean crazy?"
"Yeah." He grinned a little. "Berserk. They're gonna have a hard time enough with our being together without having you bonded to a vamp."
"But they wouldn't be able to hurt you if we were bonded. If you die, I die. Isn't that the way it works?"
"That's the way it works, but..." He stroked her hair back from her face tenderly. "I'm glad you want to, pet. Thank you. But no."
"Don't you want it?"
He drew a little harsh breath, but said nothing. He wanted it. His hunger for it was naked in his intense eyes. But his lips were compressed together tightly in rejection.
"You're trying to protect me again, aren't you?" she said with tenderness.
"I'm not going to lose you."
He bent and kissed her painfully hard. "You never will. I'm yours. I think I was yours from the first time I saw you."
"And I'm yours."
"Mine," he said under his breath. His eyes blazed. "God, Buffy!"
"Guess it's gonna take a while for you to get used to all of this," she said with loving warmth and amusement.
"Well, yeah. Only a little while back you were thinking of me as a disgusting thing."
"It'll work out," she said, holding him close. "It'll all work out. Giles and the Scoobs. We'll make them see in the end. Mom won't have any problems with it. She likes you. Even the people of Sunnydale are safe because you're going to be drinking from me now, aren't you?"
He laughed breathlessly. "Try and stop me."
"All those apocalypses. Glory, whatever. The two of us together, we'll stop them. The two of us together, we can stop anything."
He kissed her. "Count on it."
"I do. You're the partner I always wanted. You're the other half of me, Spike. We're mates."
His arms tightened fiercely around her.
"You like that word."
"Yes." A hiss of breath. That look of pure joy.
"One day we'll do it, you know," she said softly. "Make that claim. Make official what's already there. We both want it and I'm gonna wear down your resistance."
"Never could hold out against you. God, Buffy!"
"One day we'll make that unbreakable link. Because we love each other that much."
They'd come to loving from an odd angle, both of them, come around from a tangent, past and present and future all tangled together crazily. But they'd arrived at the right place—inextricably linked.
Heaven? It could wait. They were making their own. Right here.