She raced up to the fourth floor. William was in 4A, just to the right of the stairs. She banged on the door. There was no answer and she was almost about to kick it in when she heard movement inside.
A moment later, it opened and William stared at her. He was wearing a white terry bathrobe and his hair was tumbling in damp strands over his forehead as if he had just come out of the shower.
"Buffy? Is something wrong?"
"You're all right!"
"Why, yes. Why shouldn't I be?"
"Oh, wow!" She sagged weakly against the doorjamb with relief.
"Are you all right?" he asked, concerned. "You look quite pale. Come in and sit down."
"I thought..." She let him lead her over to an armchair. "You wouldn't believe what I thought!"
"You look as if you've had a fright." He sat down on the coffee table in front of her and took her hands in his.
"You have no idea. Have you, um, had any visitors?"
"No. Actually I just got up." He colored a little. "I know it must seem strange to still be sleeping at this time of the day, but you know how tired I've been recently. The last thing I remember is grading some papers around eight last night. The next thing I know, I'm taking a shower at, what, four in the afternoon? It's rather embarrassing. And the worst thing is, even after all that sleep, I'm still tired."
"Didn't you say you'd been working hard? It's probably catching up to you," she said distractedly. "So you haven't seen anyone?"
He shook his head and gave her a puzzled look. "Whom should I have seen?"
Buffy flushed. "Um, it's just...I'm looking for a friend of mine and I thought you might have seen him."
"Is it that Angel person? Are you in some kind of trouble, Buffy? Because if you are..."
"Oh, no, no. It's nothing like that." She jerked hurriedly to her feet. "I-I have to go. You must probably think I'm crazy. I know I should explain, but things are really weird right now and it's complicated and I don't know how to..."
He rose too, his grip tightening on her hands. "You don't have to explain anything that you don't want to. Not to me. But if there's any way I could help, you know that you only have to ask..."
Footsteps thudded up the stairs and they both turned, startled. A moment later, Angel loomed in the doorway.
"So Xander was telling the truth," he said, staring at them. "You are involved with him!"
"I don't believe this!" Buffy exclaimed. "You dare! I told you! I choose who I'm involved with and no one has the right to interfere!"
"Just because he's the one who shanshued..."
"The shanshu has nothing to do with it!"
"If it had been me who..."
"If you had shanshued, I still wouldn't be with you, Angel. I've learned that now. This has nothing to do with the shanshu and everything to do with the man I love."
"Are you trying to tell me that you have feelings for him?" Angel stamped in and waved a contemptuous hand in William's direction. "I can't believe that. It's hard enough to believe that you could have feelings for Spike, but this...this nerd? And after everything Wes told you was going to happen!"
"Yeah, well, I don't care about that!"
"For God's sake, Buffy!"
"I want you to leave, Angel. You're not welcome here. How dare you come in here and insult someone under his own roof!"
They were standing toe to toe now, glaring at each other.
"I'm trying to stop you from making a big mistake!"
"For my own good," mocked Buffy. "Where have I heard that before? Every time I get kicked in the teeth, that's when!"
"Listen to me!"
"No! You listen! I'm sick and tired of people shoving me around and telling me what to do with my life!" She looked around as Willow, Giles and Xander showed up in the doorway, panting in their haste. "You all do what you want. But I have to do what you say. Live by your rules. Those rules have cost me too much!"
"Not arguing," said Willow softly.
"Yeah," muttered Xander. "Leave us out of it. We're only here because Willow got worried when Angel ran out like that."
"It all comes back to you, doesn't it?" she said angrily to Angel, then stopped short suddenly as her own words finally hit her. "Under his own roof!"
"What?" said Angel blankly.
"You're a vampire. You're standing in the middle of a human's living room. And you haven't been invited!"
Angel looked around at the front door, which was several feet behind him. His eyes widened with surprise and triumph.
"I told you there was something wrong with him!"
A vibrating snarl that had been reverberating just under the edge of her hearing for the last few minutes suddenly became clearly audible.
Buffy spun to stare at William. He was snarling as he glared at Angel. Except there were fangs in that snarl. And his eyes had gone yellow. And there was a scar across his left eyebrow.
It had been right under her nose all the time and she hadn't seen it.
She had been all hung up with 'normal', with all the shoulds and shouldn'ts, so tied up in knots about the choice between human and demon that she hadn't even considered what was right in front of her, that there was another alternative, obvious if she had only thought.
All the pieces suddenly fell together. There weren't two of them. There never had been. The PTB had done a Jekyll and Hyde.
No wonder his body had felt the same in both guises. It was the same. She had never thought to question why William, a scholar, should have the ripped body of the fighter Spike was. The vamp vibe had thrown her off track. She had been concentrating on that, seeing only that one was a human and the other a demon, seeing only the dissimilarities and not seeing that the similarities extended further than just the way they looked.
Even the hair. The first time she had seen Spike, his hair had been honey-brown. The second time, it had been white and the very next day William had turned up with white hair and said that he had gotten drunk and couldn't remember bleaching it. But it must have been Spike who bleached it.
And the way both William and Spike had complained about being tired. Of course they had been. They really had been burning the candle at both ends— William during the day, Spike at night. Between the changes, they couldn't have gotten more than a couple of hours sleep. No wonder Spike hadn't been able to find his doppelgänger. When William existed, Spike didn't and vice versa.
She was seeing the pattern now. William constantly falling asleep over the papers he was grading. It hadn't been sleep; it had been the rise of the demon side, which was stronger than the human and could take over whenever it wanted to. The human side had had to wait until the demon was submerged in a deep sleep. She hadn't woken up to William in her bed last night because the light dozes that Spike had fallen into between their bouts hadn't been deep enough to allow William to come out. He had had to wait until Spike fell completely asleep after she left.
"It's Spike!" Xander was gasping. "He's not William! He's Spike! Buffy, did you know?"
"I knew about the demon," Buffy admitted. "I just didn't know that they were one and the same."
"Shifting between vamp and human." Willow was following the same track that Buffy had. "Spike kept coming into your apartment even though you never invited him. But you invited William and William was really Spike, so..."
"So of course Spike could come in," Buffy nodded. "That explains why Angel can enter what's supposed to be a human's home. William being Spike and Spike being a demon, there's nothing to keep Angel out."
"Buffy, don't!" Willow called as Buffy moved towards Spike. "He's in fugue state and he's dangerous!"
Spike was in full gameface, snarling as he glared at Angel. The yellow eyes were completely feral and mindless, their pupils turned to pinpoints. His focus had narrowed to a predator's tunnel vision and he was nothing but a killing machine. 'He comes near you, I won't be able to control myself, Slayer,' Spike had said. He had become entirely demon and there was no recognition of any of them in those burning eyes. He didn't know who he was or who they were.
"Disassociative fugue," Giles was murmuring. "No memory of the other personality. There have been cases. But for the form to also shift so radically from human to vampire, that's unique."
"Spike," said Buffy gently, trying to get through to him before he attacked Angel. She could see he was on the point of it, the demon responding to territorial imperatives.
Angel grabbed her arm to hold her back. "Stay away from him! He's pure vamp and he'll take your throat out!"
She struck his hand away angrily. "Spike would never hurt me!"
Angel grabbing her like that however was the final straw for the demon. With a ferocious snarl, Spike leaped forward. Buffy intercepted him barely in time.
"Spike, no!" She grabbed him around his waist, leaning into him and pushing him back.
"Buffy, get away from him!" Angel was shouting. "He'll kill you!"
"Angel, stay back! That's an order! Get out of his flat! That's what's setting him off! Spike, it's me," she said intensely. "Spike, come out of it. Come back."
He looked down at her blankly, still not himself and not seeing her. Fugue state, Willow had called it. On his feet but asleep, caught somewhere between sleep and waking. Jarred out of William and into the demon, but not yet fully conscious.
It must always have been like that. William hadn't remembered leaving her apartment and going to his own; he had only remembered waking up in the shower. There must always have been those unnoticed blank spots when the two of them transitioned back and forth between their two different identities.
"Spike," she said softly, calling to him. Because that was what he was, who he was. She only had to remind him of it. "Wake up, Spike."
His body shuddered suddenly against her.
"It's me," she said. "It's Buffy."
The gold of his eyes suddenly snapped back to blue. "Buffy..."
There was a hesitation. His eyes went from blue to gold, from gold to blue. She could feel him wavering between human and demon, like a compass needle swinging wildly back and forth from one extreme to the other, trying to find true north.
His hand rose. She caught it in hers. Their hands folded tightly together just as they had in the Hellmouth.
"Here, Spike, here. Your place is with me."
No sunfire flames this time. But still that seismic-deep throb of connection, that merging and complete awareness of each other that had come when they had clasped hands then.
"I love you," she said, just as she had said before. But this time it was no lie. This time it was the utter truth.
She could almost feel the click as something fell into place inside him, the decision made.
The gameface vanished and there was Spike looking back at her, his eyes widening. Really Spike. Her Spike with nothing missing, not only his consciousness back, but also full knowledge of who she and he were.
"Buffy!" he whispered. "Buffy! This time...you mean it!"
"Oh, God, yes, Spike! I do!"
His arms closed about her; hers clenched fiercely about him. They held each other convulsively tight.
"But how?" he muttered against her cheek, their faces pressed hard together. "You didn't...you never...What happened?"
"You died." She kissed him lovingly. "Oh, God, Spike, you died."
"I died?" His breath hissed against her skin as he sorted through memories. "Oh, that's right. The amulet. It burned me up, dinnit?"
"Yes. You burned. To ash. I knew then how much you meant to me, how stupid I've been. I've learned now. I've learned. And then you came back. The PTB sent you back to me."
"'Course I came back. If I exist, I'd find my way back to you. Somehow."
And to save him from that search, the PTB had brought him back into existence in Rome where she was. Made him want to stay in the city enough to bargain with the Master for the privilege, even when he didn't know why he wanted to stay.
"Wherever you are, that's where I have to be. Wouldn't want to exist anywhere but with you. Don't you know that?" He laughed breathlessly against her hair. "I just didn't expect to exist."
She understood now what the PTB had been about. They hadn't been playing games as she had thought. They had had a serious purpose in mind.
In reward for what he had done in the Hellmouth, they had given him a choice, even let him try the choices out to learn the benefits and drawbacks of each condition. The final decision was to be his. He could be human or demon. Or he could be that combination of the two: that unique individual that was Spike, with all the benefits and drawbacks that came with that too.
Somewhere deep within himself in these last few minutes, he had made that choice, chosen not one or the other, but that persona that he had shaped and created for himself over the last hundred and twenty years: Spike.
They had given her the same choice too. They had known what she hadn't. Look, they had said. See. What do you really want? The human? The demon? Or the strange, wonderful, singular entity that was Spike? Spike might not have noticed how his human and demon sides had begun to merge together, but she had been shown all three, even if she hadn't been able to understand what was happening.
"I love you," she said again, accepting him now as she never had before, glorying in him.
He caught her to him, kissed her over and over.
"Uh, guys," said Willow behind them. "You are not alone."
Buffy and Spike leaned their foreheads together and laughed helplessly.
"Sodding hell, Red," said Spike. "Did you have to remind us of that? Why couldn't you all just have quietly folded your tents and snuck off into the night?"
"That would not be polite," said Willow in a severe, schoolmarmish voice, then giggled uncontrollably.
He grinned at her. "Hey, Red."
"You remember us now," said Buffy with relief and he smiled.
"I'm me again, so, yeah, I do."
Willow came and hugged him. "I'm so glad you're alive, Spike."
"Well, technically undead," said Xander. "Good to see you, evil...uh. What do I call you now that evil dead no longer applies?"
"Morally challenged dead?" suggested Spike, scarred eyebrow flying.
"Doesn't have the same zing somehow."
They shook hands with warmth.
"But does he have his soul?" Giles asked, hovering nervously.
"Oh, ye of little faith." remarked Spike. "You still got that coin, Red?"
"Yes." Willow pulled it out of her pocket and tossed it to him. "Te patefac."
Everybody smugly watched Giles' face as the coin flared green.
Giles looked embarrassed. "Well, I had to be certain."
"That's Ripper. Doesn't even trust the PTB," sighed Spike.
"One should never take anything on faith," said Giles sententiously, but he was smiling. Then he went abruptly serious. "I have to apologize for conspiring with Robin Wood to..."
Spike held up a hand. "Doesn't matter anymore, Watcher. That's another life, innit?"
"So it is." Giles shifted uncomfortably. "You're very gracious. William's still there, isn't he?"
"Oh, yeah. William's still here. And so is the demon. It will always be like that. Can you live with that, Watcher?"
"William," said Giles thoughtfully, "could be very useful for research."
"And the demon for combat," murmured Buffy. "Definite advantages that we should have made use of before."
"Yes, I'm beginning to see that."
"Get used to it, Giles. Because no one's splitting us up now. I've got him back now and I'm not letting him go. Spike and I, we're a team."
"Fighting on the side of light. But then you have for quite a while, haven't you, Spike? I just wouldn't admit it."
"As long as you know it now, Giles," said Buffy. "Because we're going to be getting a lot closer. Inseparable, in fact."
Giles looked at her. "You're talking about a claim."
"Buffy!" exclaimed Spike. His eyes flared.
She smiled at him. "Do you have any objections?"
"D'you think I'm out of my mind? But Watcher might."
"I don't waste my time on lost causes," said Giles. "Especially when the PTB seem to be in favor of it. Otherwise they would not have sent him to where you would find him."
"No!" exclaimed Angel violently.
Everyone looked around. They had forgotten that he was there. He had backed to the front door as ordered, but was still standing in the open doorway, leaning on his hands on the doorposts, glowering at them. His knuckles showed white where he gripped the jambs.
"My cookies have finished baking, Angel," said Buffy softly.
Spike didn't say a word. But he smiled. One huge, triumphant, shit-eating grin.
Angel turned on his heel and walked away.
"That is not one happy camper," remarked Xander.
"It's gonna burn him forever," purred Spike with profound satisfaction. "He's never gonna forget she picked me."
Xander was smirking himself. "You've whupped his ass, Spike."
"Have, haven't I? Sweet!"
"The demon is definitely still there," sighed Buffy.
Spike tilted a teasing brow at her. "You'd miss it if it wasn't."
"Yeah, I would." She leaned against him, smiling. "I do need some monster in my man."
"Let's go back to your place."
She looked up, puzzled. "Why?"
"Bed's just a twin here. Not enough space to get really creative."
"I think we'd better be going," said Willow hurriedly and he grinned at her.
"You always catch the subtleties, don't you, Red."
Xander groaned. "A two by four would be more subtle than you."
"Nothing else would get through to you, wanker."
They were all smiling as they went down to the third floor together.
"Weren't you even tempted to become human?" Giles asked wistfully.
Spike gave him a mocking glance. "The honest truth, Watcher? Not an iota. You humans are such wimps. I like being a vamp."
"Despite the disadvantages?"
"There's only two. But I've got my soul now and Buffy's got the other covered."
"He'll be drinking from me."
Giles sighed. Buffy patted his arm.
"It's not like he'll be taking very much, Giles. Slayer blood's powerful."
"I suppose I'll get used to it."
"You're just sorry it wasn't William he chose. But you know that wouldn't have happened. Don't you remember Wesley's prophecy?"
"What prophecy?" asked Spike.
"The one that said William would be consumed by the dark side."
Spike started to laugh. "Well, he was, wasn't he?"
"Why can't they ever just say things straight out in prophecies?" muttered Xander.
"That would make things too easy, Xand," sighed Willow.
The group split up, Buffy and Spike heading along the hall to her apartment and the other three continuing down the stairs.
"Be at the College tomorrow, Spike," Giles called back over his shoulder.
"A certain amount of paperwork has to be filled out if you're going to help Buffy train the SITs."
"We're a team, so you will," said Buffy.
"Looks like I will," Spike sighed. "Wonder if I should find some excuse for William to suddenly disappear from St. Mark's or whether I should keep on lecturing there. Figure that out later, I guess."
"And I want a complete account of your experiences for my Watcher's Diary," Giles finished. A fanatical gleam had entered his eye.
"Thought you lot frowned on torture," muttered Spike and Buffy laughed at him.
"It's only for a couple of hours."
"That's what you think. You should know the Watcher better than that after all these years. It'll be days. He's gonna be disappointed though. Don' remember much. Lock it," he said as she closed the front door. "Don' want Harris barging in again at some critical moment."
"He said he'd knock and wait from now on." But she locked the door anyway. "What do you remember?"
"Pretty much what I told you. Fire. An empty green place, which was probably the amulet. Then waking up outside the Colosseum."
"Nothing that matters. But you know the Watcher. He'll want a blow by blow description of my being William and the demon. Well, William was sodding dull. Nothing but lectures. The demon part was a lot more fun. Trouble is, the really interesting bits are X-rated." He grinned at her. "Don't think you'd want me to tell him the details."
Buffy laughed involuntarily. "Definitely not."
"Can't tell him anything about the switching back and forth either. Seem to have blacked out then. So what's left? Zilch. And anything from before I burned up he already knows."
"So you do remember everything now."
"Oh, yeah. Once I twigged to who I really was, it all came back."
"I almost wish it hadn't," she murmured. "So many bad memories."
"No sting to them now. Yeah, I can remember everything that happened, what I've done during all those years of my unlife. But there's no real pain to any of those memories anymore. Neither pain nor guilt. It's liberating."
"But if you remember..."
"I'd already learned to live with those memories, luv. When I first got the soul, it drove me out of my mind, what I'd done. But now it's like there's a distance between me and the memories. The PTB seem to have done something. The memories exist. I remember the deaths. I'm sorry I did them and I won't be doing anything like that again, now that the soul's telling me that it's wrong. But I'm not gonna be like Angel, beating myself up about it and jonesing for redemption. Can just get on with my life. Think that's what the PTB intended by leaving the memories but taking away the guilt. So I'd know what not to do without what I did do tearing me apart."
"I guess you don't need redemption. You've already been redeemed."
"Don' know about that. Don't think that's what it's about. More a fresh start, I think."
"There's things I wish you didn't remember," she muttered. "What I did to you. How much I hurt you."
He took her face in his hands. "And what about what I did to you?"
"It's not the same. You didn't mean to. I did."
"I still hurt you. Can't really forgive myself for that. But you've forgiven me, haven't you? I didn't think you ever would."
"I forgave you a long time back."
"Well then." He kissed her sweetly. "I'll forgive you your sins if you'll forgive me mine."
"Spike," she said helplessly. "I shouldn't get off that easily."
"But it doesn't matter, pet. None of it matters. It's done. It's in the past and all that's important is that it's led us here to this present. Do you love me?"
"I love you so much," she said. "More than I can say."
"You don't know how much I've wanted to hear you say that. That makes it all worthwhile, you saying that and meaning it." He leaned his forehead against hers. His eyes were all blue light, shining with love and that silken look of softness and tenderness. "Will you believe me now when I say I love you? Or will you still think it's obsession?"
She leaned against him, her arms tight about his neck. "How can I not believe you? You've proved it in the most terrible way. Spike, you died."
"Hey," he said gently, feeling the way she shivered. "It didn't take."
"It could have. If the PTB hadn't...I've learned my lesson now. Know how wrong it was, the way I used to think."
"It's called indoctrination, pet. Not your fault."
"Oh, it was my fault. I should have thought for myself. Taken the blinders off and looked. But I was all hung up on the normal. On all those shoulds and shouldn'ts. Took me a long while to realize that none of that mattered. That all that mattered was you."
"Buffy!" he whispered.
She had been seeking him all her life, seeking that lover and friend and partner. And she had searched all the wrong places, made all the wrong choices. 'You do have bleeding tragic taste in men,' Spike had said once and as usual he had been right. Pike, Angel, Parker, Riley, had all in their different ways failed her. Spike had not. There he had been, always. In plain sight. But she had never really seen him. She had let her own fears hide him from her.
He was the other side of herself, shadow to her light, just as, light to his shadow, she was the other side of him. They were like that yin-yang symbol, light with a spot of darkness, darkness with a spot of light, each at once mirroring and containing the essence of the other. Opposites, night and day and as inexorably interdependent. Light cannot exist without darkness, darkness without light. One could not exist without the other. It was the balance.
"We belong together," she said. "I know that now."
"Told you, din' I, and I'm always right." Then he laughed when she hit his shoulder with her clenched fist.
"Smugness is not appealing."
"I," he mocked, "am always appealing."
She had to laugh. It was lovely to see him like this—the desperation and the anguish and the guilt gone, the events of Sunnydale that had hurt and scarred him all thrust aside and the scars themselves shrugged away. Able to laugh again, strong and confident and sure of himself, that cocky demon side happily coexisting once again with the loving human side. He had recovered his balance.
"I can't believe you're here," she said, holding him fiercely tight, unable to completely take in the solid reality of him here in her arms again, the feel and scent and touch of him. He was stroking her face, her hair, those sensitive hands moving tenderly, delicately, over her.
"I can't believe you love me." His eyes were full of wonder and helpless joy.
"Where are we going?" she asked as he scooped her up suddenly, holding her high against his heart.
"Where do you think?"
"I thought you were incapable," she teased.
He grinned. "I was the demon. Of course I lied."
"Of course." She toed off her sneakers and let them fall.
It was easy to strip him of his clothes; he was only wearing William's bathrobe. She was fully dressed. But getting her out of her clothes turned into a delicious game of gliding hands and lips and laughter. Naked at last, they folded together onto the bed, locked in each others' arms.
"Do you mind that I didn't get involved with William?" she asked curiously. "After all, he was the human side of you."
"Didn't think much of him when I was him, Slayer. Wouldn't have thought to do something like this." He lifted her arm and trailed his lips along it from her wrist to her shoulder, then slid abruptly down to her breast which he sucked into his mouth.
His tongue had turned raspy. He laughed against her breast as she arced it into his mouth.
"Put women on a pedestal, William did. Uptight as all hell. Unlike Angel, he was a gentleman. Didn't do the maids or the whores. Got rid of him as fast as I could, once I was turned. 'Course you didn't fall for that git."
"He was really sweet. And he's still in you, Spike. He's where the light in you comes from."
"Maybe. But it's sodding embarrassing remembering what a bloody innocent I was. Dru was a total revelation to William. And sweet doesn't turn you on, pet." He moved to the other breast and laughed when she shivered. "The demon turns you on. You always need some..."
"Monster in my man," she sighed. "Yeah, yeah. But it doesn't really apply, Spike. Angel's a vamp. He's got that monster in him. But I didn't want him."
He slid up her body until he was looking down at her face. His eyes were shining. "Yeah?"
"Those months you were gone, I could have settled for him any time..."
"Settled. I like that word," he purred and she thumped his shoulder.
"I didn't go to him. I didn't want him. I didn't want anybody. Just you, Spike. You're who I need. This unique ... particular ... beautiful..." she kissed him on each word, "individual that's you."
His head dropped against hers. "Did I mention that I love you?"
"Once or twice." She wrapped her arms around his neck, nuzzling her face against his. "Don't want to be without you ever again. It hurt so much when I thought you were dead. I don't want to go through that again. That's why I want the claim. So if you die, I'll die too."
"There are drawbacks to the claim. I want you to be aware of them."
"You'll live as long as I do."
"Well, that's the point, isn't it?"
"No, the point is that we're talking immortality here."
"What?" She pushed him back until she could see his face.
"Vamps don't die, pet, remember? They can be killed, but otherwise they go on forever. Think of Rome's Master, who was a vamp before Rome was even built."
"Can you stand watching everyone you know pass away? Everything you know change and keep changing. Immortality has a price."
"You'll be with me. Lover and partner and mate." She felt him quiver on that last word, watched his eyes flare. "You'll never leave me."
"Dawn being the Key, she might..."
"She will," he nodded. "Energy balls don't die."
"I think this might be what the PTB were after. An immortal Slayer. But what do you get out of it?"
"Do you have to ask?" He stroked her slowly and luxuriously. "You. Forever."
She reached up to kiss him. "No, seriously."
"I am serious. There's nothing more that I could ever ask for. You're everything I want." He thought about it for a moment. "Claim links us completely, so I might be able to walk in the sunlight."
"Like with the Gem of Amara?"
"We'll be an unbeatable team."
They laughed softly against each others' faces.
"Make it happen, Spike."
He leaned his forehead against hers, looked deeply into her eyes. "You're sure?"
"Never more so."
He tipped her head back, stroked the line of her neck with tender, loving fingers.
"Gotta make it look pretty," he murmured. "You're gonna wear the mark forever. Here, I think."
He kissed the point he'd chosen, down low, close to the base of her neck. Then his fangs slid delicately, painlessly, into the vein and he drew a slow sip of her blood. Immediately that singing rapture started.
"You're mine," he said, his voice low and intense. "After all this time, you're mine, Buffy. Forever."
"I'm yours," she agreed with love and kissed him, tasting her own blood on his tongue, then slid her mouth down his neck to the junction between his neck and his shoulder. "Here?"
"Yes," he said on a shudder of breath.
Their hands folded together on the pillow on either side of her head, fingers interlinking tightly. She bit as hard as she could with her blunt human teeth, licked at the shallow seep of blood that welled up, swallowed.
"Mine," she said.
"Always. I've always been yours, Buffy."
Something caught them up and wove them together. A rapture far beyond even that ecstasy that came when he took her blood. He moved urgently, filling her with one hard thrust. She looked into the eyes blazing down at her and it was as if she could see all of him, all the steps that had brought him to this point. That long history of his, with its shining moments and its dark ones, its beauty and its blood-splattered ugliness. She accepted all of that as she accepted him.
Because she could see, feel the rest. The love and joy, yearning and tenderness, passion and hidden goodwill that was in him, that was his heart. What she was seeing, feeling, was his soul.
Merging with her own, just as their bodies were merging. An ultimate joining, mind and body and heart sieving into each other, interlinking as tightly and sweetly as their hands were joined, their essences transmuting, their two selves melding into one, inextricably interlocked.
"God, Spike!" she gasped in exaltation, drowning in unbelievably exquisite sensation.
"Yes," he said.. She could feel his joy.
They moved together, surging against each other, completing each other, two halves of one whole, like that yin-yang symbol she had thought of before. Both so sensitized by now that every touch, every rock of their hips was an agonizing rapture.
The crisis rolled over them like a tsunami. She felt him pulse within her; stars filled the blackness behind her closed eyelids; they were one being, body and soul, never to be parted.
"You'll never be able to hide from me now," she murmured, holding him tightly as they lay gasping in each other's arms.
"Why would I want to? I've been seeking you for a hundred and fifty years."
"Step out of the shadows, Spike. You don't belong in them anymore. Join me in the light. That's where we both belong."
"Yes," he said and kissed her. "Forever."
And this really is the end, because that's the last of my completed Spuffy stories. I had planned to write more and possibly I might still have the time to do so, but I can't be sure of that.
I've just signed a contract with the epublisher, Ellora's Cave! (Yay! See me, jumping up and down, screaming like a lunatic :D ) They're the largest of the epublishers who do erotic paranormals and they pretty well created the genre - sex, action and romance all mixed together, like the Spuffy I enjoy writing. I'll be doing a series about my Shifters from 'Running Wild' except in our world, under the name Jo Andrews. The first one will be called 'Driving Force' and when it's issued, I'll announce it here and on Live Journal (the name there is adreamweaver). In the meantime, I'll be busy working on the next in the series.
I want to thank everyone for being so helpful and supportive! You guys are great!