Shade: Endgame: The Last Moves of the Match

Lyrics from "69 Love Songs, Volume I" by Magnetic Fields

The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing.
It's full of charts and facts and figures
And instructions for dancing...

But I, I love it when you read to me
And you, you can read me anything.

It was twilight when he came to the house, and it had been so long that she was actually surprised to see him there. God knew where she thought that he might go; Spike had always been as hopelessly trapped by Sunnydale as she herself had been. The idea of leaving, running from this place where demons sought her out on a daily basis, making her some sort of unholy grail in the demons dimensions. Buffy couldn't imagine what it was here keeping him there. Certainly no other man- demon, undead, whatever- had thought she was worth that kind of trouble or attention. With an annoyed sigh, she turned her back to him, trying to get as engrossed as possible by watering the lawn, which had been looking really ratty lately.

"I know you saw me"


For someone who thinks he's so smart, you think you'd be able to take a hint better. She still didn't turn around. She didn't want to focus on Spike, didn't want to see if the bruises and cuts had healed yet, didn't want to know if he was wearing his new soul well. She just wanted her lawn green again. She was becoming a regular Californian housewife, if she did say so herself. Well, okay, minus the husband, the decent job, and kid that was hers as opposed to a sister made out of a glowing ball of energy. She liked taking care of the lawn, though she'd be lying to herself if she didn't admit that part of it was just getting out of the house, and doing something simple and straightforward.

She could hear Spike shifting behind her, trying to deal with the fact that she was ignoring him. She didn't think that he'd be able to take it for long. He was nothing without the mirror of people around him, reflecting his presence in a thousand small actions. She figured she was no better than any of the other people who had stared in the past, fascinated by his snake-like charm, deadly yet smooth, like scales sliding over the skin.

She tried not to think about what it had felt like to have Spike sliding over her skin. She needed to end that part of her life, she needed to find something healthier, something human. So what if nothing was presenting itself- himself, she meant himself- to her. There had to be somebody out there. So what if, when possibilities did present themselves, they bored her with their humanity, their innocence of the darkness. What was she supposed to say, when they asked why she looked like she had just been in a fight, or where the blood came from?

"Oh, for god's sake, the bloody lawn is well wet already. Turn the sodding thing off already, will you?"

"You're still here?" But she couldn't quite stop herself from turning to hose off and facing him. Even in the shadows of the impending night, she could see he was looking better. Healed. There was just the smallest of cuts on his lip to remind her of what he looked like the last time she saw him. He stared at her silent, almost sullen, but if she looked at him just right, she could see some emotion in his eyes. His arms were at his side, an apparently forgotten bunch of bruised and beaten looking daisies hanging forlornly from his left hand. "Those for me?"

He looked vaguely surprised by the question and glanced at the dying bouquet. "No, they're for the garbage man. Thought I'd try to convince him to come by the crypt sometime."

"Charming as ever, I see. I see having a soul hasn't changed what really makes you you."

"Didn't your mum ever tell you not to wait on a man to change?"

"Didn't you spend something like six months straight telling me you'd changed?"

"Yeah, love, but not cause you expected me too."

Buffy drifted listlessly over to the porch and set down on the steps. She didn't want to admit to herself that she missed him, his snide sense of humor and the way he always had a wisecrack ready. The way he looked standing in the moonlight, his body glowing ghost like in the night, he was so pale. "Why are you here, Spike?" Three guesses. Why was he ever here? She was running out of the strength to so no. Each time she said it, she meant it less and less. And her excuses were getting flimsier and flimsier as time wore on.

She wasn't surprised when he sat down next to her on the stoop, the flowers still dangling loosely in his grip.

When he spoke, he sound disgusted with himself. "Missed you. Only so long a bloke can go without being insulted, beat on and rejected before he gets to missing it."

She slid her eyes over to him, although she was careful to keep her body still. He knew too much about her without her giving him any huge, impossible to miss clues such as looking directly at him after he spoke.

When the silence had finally gotten too heavy to be ignored, she finally said, in the closest she figured would ever come to an apology. "I've been a bitch."

He was sitting close enough to feel his body move when he shrugged. "No worries, pet; that's probably what attracted me to you in the first place. It's not like I'm a bleeding Prince Charming."

"What the hell do you see in me anyway?"

"Christ, Buffy, what's with the constant scrutiny from women in this century? When I first noticed the fairer sex, a girl barely looked at you straight on and now it's all, 'I think we should talk.' Not an improvement, if you ask me. Who the hell cares why I love you? If I came up with the right flowery speech, would it actually make you feel the same way? I could say you make me feel alive, I could agree with you that I'm in love with pain, I can act like that fool Angel and say you're my redemption. It's just words. You feel something or you don't and all the pretty speeches in the world won't change that. I love you. You can figure that makes me a better person, or sick, or a liar but how you feel about the issue won't make me wake up some morning and not love you."

She thought of all the running she had done since coming back from the dead. Most of it had either been to Spike or from him. Most vivid in her mind was the memory of running to the Magick Box, after seeing him and Anya together, of how bad it hurt and of the way she wouldn't let Xander kill the vampire, even when she couldn't remember ever feeling so betrayed. She remembered the fear, the anger, the disgust, when he tried to force himself on her, and the confused shame on his face, the war in his eyes between the monster he had been for centuries and the man he had been trying to show her he could be. She remembered showing up in the crypt, counting on him to protect Dawn, even after everything that had wrong between them, and the shock she felt when Clem said he was gone.

With that thought top in her mind, she whispered the last words out loud, "...You were gone."

"Back now. You gonna hold that over my head forever? Told you why I left."

"You... tried to..." she couldn't finish the sentence, but he knew her well enough to know where it was going.

"Yeah, and I've never felt worse about anything in my whole undead life. I've slaughtered thousands, worshiped darkness, killed kiddies for fun, and I think that's the only thing I've ever done that I regret. I didn't change for you, Slayer, but I've changed anyway. Because of you. Cause of the way you make me feel. Can't a vamp get a second chance with you? Angel almost sent the whole world to hell, and you took him back."

He had listened. From before her ascension to heaven, to after her brutal return to the Earth, it was Spike who had been there for her. When everyone else had been too scared to say anything about her death, more than willing to pretend she had been asleep in bed and not six feet under, it was Spike who sought her out to see if she needed anything. It was Spike that made her feel alive, first her body, and then, more reluctantly, her own soul. If she didn't care at all, he wouldn't possess such a nearly effortless ability to hurt her. If she didn't care at all, her heart wouldn't have leapt to see him standing this night in the long shadows of the garden.

"I can't take the secrecy." It had felt like a cancer eating at her heart, last time, lying to her friends, the shame of knowing how they would look down on her if they knew.

"Wasn't too fond of it myself, either. Shout it from the rooftops. I'm not shy."

And wasn't that the truth? Spike had always swaggered through his unlife, supremely confident that if things didn't go his way the first time, he could beat things into submission and make it work the second. But the lies hadn't been the only problem weighing them down the last time either.

"I don't know if I can love you, Spike."

He stilled, going so perfectly stiff that even the faint illusion of life left him. After a long moment, he spoke again. "Does you saying that mean you're willing to try?"

"You gotta stop all this, 'you belong in the darkness,' crap. I belong wherever I happen to be."

"Fair enough, so long as you don't expect me to become all knight in shining armor like, a hero for the poor folks of Sunnydale. I'm still a vamp. I'll burn to ash if you try to drag me out in to the sun."

Buffy stared at the rich purple sky, the moon rising slowly, and the first stars faint in the distance. She looked around in the deepening gloom, the shadows that seemed to hang in the very air. "I like the twilight. And the shade."

She felt a cold hand wrap around her warm one. "I can do the shade."

The End