Starting Over

By Sweetprincipale

Post Season 7- Non-canon beginning at the end of the final episode. No comics. Buffy and Spike find themselves trapped in a void between two dimensions, watching their mirror images acting out pieces of their lives in another realm. If both halves can find true love, choose each other, and make some other important choices, Buffy and Spike will have a chance to rejoin their world, and have a chance at starting over from the point where they perished in the Hellmouth.

Author's Note: This was originally a piece with much more detail regarding the "other halves" of Spike and Buffy. However, I am re-writing Behind the Scenes to be focused mainly on Spuffy. If you've already read Behind the Scenes, this is basically a shortened, more singular dimensional piece, and you don't have to read it again :). New readers- I really hope you'll give it a chance. About 90% of this is solely set in the "Spuffy" world. The first few chapters are the hardest to get into, but I encourage you to push past it and see the life Spike and Buffy create for themselves. If that "parallel universe" premise is not to your liking, I understand, and hope you'll check out some of the other pieces that I've been working on.

Author's Second Note: The non-magic realm is written in plain text, the shadow realm and the world of Sunnydale is written in italics.

Dedicated to all the numerous fans and supporters of Behind the Scenes and Deleted Scenes.

Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.

Dramatis Personae

There are two dimensions in this story, which slowly blend to one. If you want to read the mainly Spuffy side, you'll need to skim through up to Part X.

If you're reading everything, let me introduce you to the characters in our little two-fold drama.

Spike- Jim
Buffy- Essie
Xander- Max
Giles- Patrick
Willow- Ashley
Angel- Daniel
Anya- Ellie
Dawn- Monica
Oz- Sammy

Part I

The fire burned and consumed, a fire that was otherworldly. As it burned, it cauterized, and sealed one of the wounds in the world.

Only something went wrong.

That wasn't supposed to happen.

Two souls were trapped inside, and the injustice of two heroes' fates cut off before they'd even begun caused the cosmos enough distress that another wound was created, in another world, in a parallel time, a parallel space.

While two souls found themselves cognizant but ensnared, two others were simply found. Lives that had been content to diverge were suddenly frantically realigned by heavenly beings to meet and intertwine.

But forces argued as they surveyed these layered realms.

They don't have true evil in this place. They have no true magic. They cannot understand the Chosen One and her Champion.

Love is always magic. You must always choose it, and champion its cause.

They won't understand the struggles, the depth.

We will give them a taste. Imagination can take even mere mortals to the deepest depths.

They do not know how to battle!

Being in love is always worth the fight!

We will let the Powers That Be decide.


The Powers didn't try to erase the sudden rift. They surveyed the four souls, alike in face, not alike in other ways, though now the same in purpose. They decided to offer a deal.

Four lives, very different, were changed, so that two living might give two warriors a chance to live again.

Two figures, a man and a woman, talented and passionate professionals, left a studio lot, left their fictional world of film, to go spend time together, best friends, partners on the set. Unconsciously wrapping their arms around each other, they went to take a break from a job that pushed the limits of what they could embrace and turn into characterization without losing themselves.

"They seem closer, don't you think?" Above the sunny skies, two indistinct blurs of gray on gray mist watched the pair as they stepped into a black Mustang, and soon drove off to lunch.

"For all the wrong reasons." The slightly larger blur replied.

"Any reason is a good reason at this point." The feminine-voiced shadow disagreed.

"You're right, Luv. Took 'em long enough."

"They have a long way to go. If they could just get past what's coming."

"It's nothing real. Not for them, Pet. Don't fret." The blurs seemed to fuse for a second, and then drifted away, tendrils stretching like taffy. "Though, for them it'll seem so real. They're good at this actin' bit."

"I wish we could tell them to hang in there. That it's worth it."

"If he even feels a grain of friendship in comparison to how much I love you- he'll know it's worth it."

"Will she, though? She's like me. I was so stupid, for so long." The shadows briefly joined again, seeming to comfort one another.

"You did get there, Luv. A bit late, perhaps, but as long as you got there..."

"But, Baby- I don't want them to have to wait until the end." The voice, only able to reach to one other, was tearful, if patches of mist could be said to have tears.

"It's not the end for them, Precious. Not for us, either. Give 'em time." Swirling forms seen dimly, like phantasms walking in heavy fog, managed to clasp what passed for hands in their shadow realm. "This is only the beginning."

Spike's hands flew off of Buffy as he stammered out an apology. Buffy staggered to her feet, eyes full of tears and hate. "Ask me again why I could never love you."

"And cut!"

Two actors, friends, comrades, in a harsh and unforgiving setting, helped each other up, dusted each other off, and shunned the help of the trained counselors the studio had provided, preferring to turn to the shelter of their cast and crew, a small group who'd begun as strangers and had now became a family as they wrapped up six years of working together.

Spike's other half shook his head, blinked back tears, and scrubbed at his stage makeup. That was not him, that was not him, he would never, and she knew he would never. He wanted to leave the set immediately and go shower for about a hundred years, and then call his son and tell him not to watch television ever again. At least nothing he was in.

He also wanted to check on his co-star, but he didn't know if she was freaking out. Or rather, how badly she was freaking out. Probably on the phone with her boyfriend. He had been both upset and relieved when she said her long-time live-in would not be there that day. He should be there, give some support to his girl. On the other hand, he didn't really want an irate boyfriend to kick his ass up and down the set. With a groan he lurched out of his chair and out the door. No use putting it off, he'd see her tomorrow anyway.

People were packing up for the day and he was so relieved. He didn't really wanna look at anyone right now. Didn't want to see their looks of disgust, or horror, or even sympathetic understanding. Not even his most trusted partner, but for all he knew, she was sitting in her dressing room sobbing, or just staring at the wall.

Buffy's other half pulled on her jeans and a tee shirt, stuffing her stupid, ugly, gray robe into the wardrobe laundry bag. If they were going to humiliate her, couldn't she be wearing something less disgusting? She picked up her cell phone, put it down, and picked it up again, for about the tenth time. She wanted to call her boyfriend, but she didn't want to be pitied. And she didn't want the usual lecture. She was an actress, actresses had to do things. Including rough "sex" scenes and getting-

"Hey, Hon? I'm heading out soon, just wanted to check on you, Luv." He tacked on his stage pet name for her without thinking. He winced, but at least the "Spike" accent hadn't come out as well.

She opened the door in relief. "I'm glad it's you. If it was the shrink lady I was gonna have to slip back into character and break someone's nose." She tried to make a joke, so he tried to joke back.

"As long as it isn't mine." He gingerly felt his nose, the thing Spike most often had targeted during fight scenes.

"I'm not the one who can't pull kicks and punches." She frowned playfully.

"Hey, I'm good at that now! Stage is different from stunt and you know it." The lean blonde turned and carefully left the door halfway open.

"You can shut the door." She smiled reassuringly. He returned the smile sheepishly, shut the door and perched on the one chair she wasn't in.

"I'm sorry I did that. I'm - you know I wouldn't have done that. I still think maybe I should have just let them sue me for breach of contract." He put his head in his hand.

She nodded, lips pressed together. "I've been thinking that a lot. I'm just the stupid studio whore. Money isn't worth this. And it's not worth those burns you've got goin' on." She could see the raw burns on his scalp. Weekly peroxide treatments would do that to you. He sighed and tried not to touch his hair.

"Don't call yourself that. I'm the one doing the violence. God, how am I going to look my little boy in the eye next weekend?"

"Don't tell him?" His friend suggested. He rolled his eyes.

"Wait until you have children. What if you have a daughter someday? You gonna want her to watch you and I beating the shit out of each other and then falling into bed- or whatever the writer-gods tell us to lie on? D'you think I want my son, my only son, watching me hold you down like that?

"You are not Spike, you are one of my friends! And you've never acted this confused about that before."

He looked up at her, eyes suddenly looking overly bright. "I've never acted out an attempted rape before. Certainly on on someone I-" He sighed bitterly. He took in her bruised arms and the scraped knee protruding from the tear in her jeans. He could still hear that scream, that pleading in her voice. He shook his head hard. Not real, not real, not real.

"That's not from today." She was quick to reassure him.

"It's from me though, isn't it? Last week, that scene with the rug? No, that was too long ago, but it would be from one of our many rough and tumbles..."

"I think you're more bothered about this than I am." It came out as a forced laugh "Fight scenes are what we do."

"That wasn't a fight scene, it was a sex scene! I don't mind the fight as long as I'm not supposed to be... That is not how a man should act." He said with despairing emphasis.

"I know." She plopped herself down suddenly in his lap. "It was scary. It's been kind of scary lately." He rubbed her back comfortingly.

"You're still trembling. You might need to talk to that shrink lady."

"You're trembling too, d'ya want to go with me?" She countered. He laughed, and she laughed back. "We'll be okay. And tomorrow night we close that episode. And in just a couple weeks, there's the end of season party. My boyfriend'll be back from shooting on location. Is Liz going to be able to fly out?"

"Not sure yet. Couple choices." He grinned cheekily. She lowered her forehead to his and hugged his neck, giggling at him. "Am I forgiven then?"

"Yes, idiot!" She slugged his shoulder-pulling the punch at the last second. "Nothing to forgive." She got out of his lap, pulling him up with her. "Let's get out of here."

The exhausted actor hesitated. "Just one more quick thing. Um. I don't know exactly what they have in mind for next season. Are you gonna be okay with us acting together? Cause if not, I need to know. I'll talk to the boss and I'll make him listen for once."

"I will be fine. Geez, you are acting super thick skulled today." They locked eyes again and she saw the tension in his face. "Yeah, stupid thing to say, I know." Particularly since if they ask me to do that again, I'll quit. That was the worst I've ever felt in my acting life... But she gave a big, cheesy smile, one he knew was a mask. "Everything's cool."

"I think I'll take you up on the getting wasted now." He rolled his eyes.

They left that night, arm in arm, intending to share a drink, maybe something alcoholic, or maybe something fattening. They intended to talk about their lives and loves and plans, and forget about the most emotionally grueling scene either of them had ever performed. One that made them ask if they could trust each other, if they could forgive each other for what felt so real, but could obviously not be farther from the friendship and respect they truly felt.

"My house or your apartment?" She asked, stretching out her sore legs. "If we go to my house, we don't need to stop at the store. We have a stocked cupboard."

"I'm all for that then. You have people at your place, right?"

"Um, sometimes, but not always. You mean the housekeeper and stuff?"

"Yeah. Are they there now?" His fingers tensed on the wheel, and it wasn't just the stupid city traffic.

"It's after five, so no. Why? You want to get me alone?" She teased, trying hard to lighten her friend's somber mood.

"No, the opposite. I want someone to be there. In case you get weirded out."

"I am not going to suddenly think you are trying to attack me!"

"Good! Because I don't want that to be the way you think of me!" He put his head down on the steering wheel as they braked. "I just want to die. During that scene, that was all I could think about. Just let me bash my skull on the concrete of the set and die."

"That's dark." She said quietly. Much darker than all the dark things they had talked about lately, in the aftermath of the troubling scenes. "But I know how you feel. I kept looking up at you, and thinking I just wanted this whole damn day to be over. Not because of you, just the scene." There was an awkward pause as he started driving again. "Oh, and I wanted to tell you that your hands were actually very gentle. I knew you wouldn't hurt me and I wasn't scared of you. Not scared at all. Just- uuugh, that was awful. I just want to take a shower for about a hundred years."

Her friend chuckled softly. "Ironic. That was exactly what I thought. Or maybe it's not so ironic-"

"After spending a couple years together?" She laughed. "Turn here, you'll miss the traffic."

"Miss the traffic? Are you serious? There is no effing way to ever miss traffic in this city!"

"Whatever. Do you want to stop and get anything?"

"I really want ice cream." The male with the sex symbol body admitted finally. That was on his "avoid at all costs" lists, because it meant an extra hour at the gym every time the trainers found out about it.

"You are such a girl." His petite co-star teased him.

"Shaddup." He reached to give her shoulder a shove and then stopped, just letting his fingers lightly brush her arm. She sighed and leaned across him to enter the security code for her gated house in the hills. Well, technically the house she shared. Not that her boyfriend was home much.

They walked into the house together, one heading straight for the liquor cabinet while pointing the other in the direction of the fridge.

"How the hell do you stay so thin if you have all this Haagen-Daz in the fridge?" He shouted to her.

"Endless action on the set. And what about you, ab-alicious?"

"You think my abs are delicious?" He asked with a very Spike-like smile.

"I'm taken, not blind." She laughed. "Oooh, I have this recipe for a vodka chocolate smoothie, do we have chocolate ice cream?"

"It's got caramel in it, does that matter?" He asked, stepping back into the kitchen. "You've got about twelve blenders in here, does it matter which one I use?"

"I'll do it, you're a guest."

He snorted. All the times they had been in each other's homes and never felt the need to stand on ceremony. "I'm depressed, hon, but I'm not ready to be treated like an old man."

They ended up crashed on her sofa, legs twined, mindless cable on, an empty alcoholic smoothie cup on her side of the floor and two empty cartons of ice cream on his side. "And next- A Clockwork Orange-"

"Channel change!" He lunged for the remote.

"Today, we speak with women in abusive relationships who claim-" She threw a sofa pillow at the television with deadly accuracy. "What kind of sick world are we living in?"

"Just wish you could wash the filth off." He spat, sitting up.

"Hey, we forgot that. Showering for a hundred years."

"Oh, yeah, hey, we did. Um, I'll see you tomorrow then?" Spike's double stood up, dusting off his jeans, inspecting his tee shirt for traces of ice cream.

"Where are you going?" Buffy's dimensional twin asked. "We have four showers here, I think you can use one of them. I mean, we both went through shitty scenes, we should get to relax. And you shouldn't drive. They can do ice cream breathalyzers now." In truth she wanted him to stay. He was the only one who knew what she was feeling. Oh God. That was so Buffy/Spike. But it's true.

"Well, no one waiting for me at home. Point me in the direction of the shower." He pulled off his shirt. They seemed to get his shirt off in every show these days. And his pants. He hated that. Shirt okay, pants, not okay. And he didn't like seeing his female friend in her little flesh colored stocking thing either, because she looked so miserable before and after. He especially didn't like her seeing him with just that damn crotch sock on either. Humiliation galore.

She tried not ogle his abs more than usual, but failed. She came over and stroked his arm. "I'm glad you came over. I feel better." She tugged him up the stairs and into one of the palatial guest bathrooms. "Towels in that closet. And really good shower gel."

"Thanks, hon." He patted her arm. "I'm glad you had me over, too. Way less suicidal now."

She smiled and left the room, her hand lingering on the doorknob. She heard the shower starting. Her acting partner was such a sweet guy, nice guy. And a really good actor to be able to go so dark but stay so caring and professional. As much as she loved her boyfriend, also in the business, she was glad it was just them today. Or rather- tonight. Whoa, it was after seven already. "Do you want pizza after this?" She asked over the rush of water.

"What?" He hollered through the door.


"Needs a what?" He asked. "Did you say you need something? You okay?"

"Can I come in?" She finally laughed. The laugh died abruptly as her guest appeared, a towel held loosely in front of his hips, pushing open the door.

"You okay?" He looked concerned. And wet. Wow.

"I'm fine. I asked if you wanted me to order pizza after your shower."

"That'd be good, but it's my treat. And hey- you need to wash off this day as much as I do. Go take care of yourself, Sweetie."

Her hand held the door open and he stepped back. "Yes?"

"Can I come in?"

"Yeah, yeah. Let me get dressed."

"I mean, can I come in. As in the shower." She didn't know what she was saying, just that she meant it.

"I am beyond flattered, but-" But you want to come in the shower with me, after a scene of attempted rape set in a bathroom? "You want to come in here? Shower- tub- tile floor, ring any bells?"

"The set bathroom was a big open space, it never felt like a a real bathroom to me." She felt that way, at least concerning the bathroom. "Besides, I just don't want to be alone right now. And actors, nudity, what's the big deal?"

"The big deal is that we've both had a rough day, and you just had a half cup of vodka." He reminded her gently. She stepped in next to him, and wrapped her arms around his chest, soaking her shirt in the process. "Maybe you need to talk to someone? Boyfriend?"

"I don't want my boyfriend. I want my friend friend. Besides- I've seen you in your sock. And you deserve some payback." She grinned and yanked the wet clingy tee over her head.

"You are going to feel bad about this." He said urgently, not looking at her cleavage, focusing on her eyes.

"I'll feel worse if you push me away." She pouted. She shook her head hard in the next second. "Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I do want to come in- but I'm not listening to what you're saying. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

She pulled her hand back, and he leaned his head against the wall, watching her walk from the room. He wasn't comfortable, but he still wanted to be there for her. And he wanted her there for him just as much. "Oh dammit. Come in here! But for God's sake, put the light out- and leave the door open. Double dammit, I sound like my mother."

"And mine! Except she said 'lights on'." She took off her clothes in a hurry, shutting off the light, leaving the door open as he asked. She swallowed. If her boyfriend ever found out, he would not understand. But all she needed was a hug, and some place to cry. Someone to cry on.

His girlfriend would murder him. More than she would already, with all the faked sex scenes. Plus the way she would look at him after seeing this episode. He sank down on the floor. "Come here. Have a seat- oh no, not on me though." Apparently she decided to ignore him.

"Shut up." She sat on his lap, legs curled up under her, and her head on his chest. Hesitantly he wrapped his arms around her, his hands gently cupping her shoulders.

"You've had a rotten day, huh, hon?" He sighed.

"True. And so have you."

To that remark, the man under her got more quiet, and leaned his head against the wall, thunking it there several times.

"Liz. Liz'll never look at me the same." He muttered softly. I'll never look at me the same either.

"That isn't true." The naked female cried, hugging her friend tighter, heedless of their state of undress in her need to comfort the man who comforted her. "She'll love you just as much as ever. She knows what it's like to act, and she knows you are a good, convincing actor."

"I don't think she'll be like that, she doesn't treat me like that, we're not like you guys. Long distance for one thing. I think that makes her less supportive, more jealous." More scared of me, as well now, thanks to this.

"Mine's plenty jealous! You know that. I'm actually glad he wasn't there today. I don't need him to pressure me, or yell some more-"

His protective side took over, and he interrupted with a hard edge to his voice. "Why didn't you tell me he yelled at you about this?"

"What could you do about it? He knows what I do and it's one reason he likes me so much. All couples fight. All good actors have difficult performances."

"Okay, you're right." She smiled tearfully, but of course he couldn't see it in the dark.

"I had - that was-" all the sudden the dam burst and she sobbed. What really embarrassed him was that he felt choked up, too.

"Shhh. Shh. I know." He consoled, pulling her closer, surprised as she shifted and nearly kneed him in the groin. "It was terrible." He forced some cheer in his voice. "But hey, all done that scene and after this- pizza!" She laughed, but then gripped him harder.

"Some women actually- it isn't an act for them- and they-" her sobbing doubled and he let a few of his own tears surface. "And the man isn't just acting..."

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry." He murmured in a broken voice.

"I'm not blaming you, Baby, it's just-it's real. For them."

He nodded silently, making sure she could feel his head bobbing in the dark. Wait- "Baby"? That was not a typical friend name for them.

"Just hold me. Tell me we'll never be put in that situation." She whispered tensely.

"Not if there is something I can do to prevent it." He gently kissed her hairline. And suddenly, oh that was not supposed to happen, they were kissing one another. Gentle, real kisses, not those stupid fake, lip biting kisses that they exchanged on the set.

"Oh. Sorry." She pulled back and leaned away from him.

"Just caught up in the moment, I understand." He nodded hard, blocking out the feel of her kisses. Why in heaven's name was he holding a naked woman against him, in an intimate way, that had nothing to do with his job? He had a girl, she had a guy.

"No." She admitted. "I think- I think I've been wanting to do that."

"What are you saying?" He whispered. "Is that the alcohol talking?"

"No. It's me talking. We get so wrapped up in the Spike/Buffy rumor mill, we forget what good things are right under our noses."

He lowered his head to tease his lips around hers, not quite a kiss, more of a gentle brush. "I agree, but we have family and lovers of our own."

"I know. But it's been such a horrible, horrible day. And not such a fun season actually. Do you think they'd mind- two friends- just this one time?"

"Yes, actually, I do think they'd mind." He unseated her and pulled her up beside him as he stood. "If you want this- you have to think about-"

"I just want to make love to my friend. My best friend. Just once." In the dark he couldn't tell if her eyes were pleading or condemning, testing or just smiling up at him.

"As Spike and Buffy?" He asked, voice low against her ear.

"No. As us."

"I needed to know. Because I cannot do the things that we do on the set. I don't want to do the things we do on the set-"

"I'm not asking you to.." She nibbled his lips, then collarbone, letting him lead her out of the tub. She paused, tilting her head. "So you're a strictly vanilla guy?"

"I wouldn't say that..." The stunning figure before her gave her a seductive smile, a slow grin.

"I don't want anything but some time with you." She clarified.

"As long as that's the case, one time... just between us?" He confirmed.

"Yeah. As friends." She now pulled him, not towards her room, towards the nearest guest room available. She exchanged a subdued smile with him, looking at him with a warm light in her eyes, and she was relieved to find it mirrored in his own.

"Very, very, good friends." He hugged her tightly, leaning her back on the bed, taking in the sight of her, but waiting until she pulled him towards her to make any more moves. Clearing his tight throat he whispered, "You say stop if you need to. You let me know the second that you-"

"I want you to come here. And I want you relax. You're my friend. You're not going to hurt me."

"That's right." He murmured, scooting in beside her. Her smile was amused and soft. "What's so funny?"

"If I had known what you kept under your sock you can bet I would have tried a lot harder to get it off." she grinned.

"You too, hon." He ran his fingers lightly across her breasts. She caught his hands and he froze. "I'm sorry, was that-"

"No. I just wanted to tell you something. If you want me to stop, you say so too. And I won't be doing any 'slayer' moves on you." She knew he didn't need the same reassurance he had just offered, but he smiled warmly at her. He knew she said it to make them equal. He wasn't going to be the attacker, she wasn't going to be the prey.

"Kay, sweetie." He nodded his head and moved closer to her.

They lay side by side, the room lit by a single expensive bedside light. "Different without the hundred techs milling around."

"And that stupid sound boom. So this is, just us. Real."

"Real." She pushed herself closer to him.

They kissed, harder, deeper, loving every second of closeness, the day of hurtful filming, hurtful actions, all fading.

No one else has ever made me feel so relaxed. I really do trust him. And it wasn't just the memory of those handcuff scenes either. She burrowed her head into the soft place where his neck met his shoulder and kissed harder.

"Just us. Just some time together." She murmured. "Why aren't you in me yet?" She breathed in a passionate, hungry little whisper.

He hesitated. He didn't want to bring up the day they'd had, but yet, that was the reason he was still waiting inches away from a guilty paradise. "I was waiting for you to tell me you want it." He whispered.

"I want it. I want you. I want you inside me." She hissed passionately. And he was in her, deep in her, solid, slick, with one hard thrust.

She clenched him at once, hard, pulsing. Oh my Lord. What am I doing? Oh my God, I'm inside her! With a shock of realization he froze. This was not right. It felt so incredible, but not right.

Oh no, I've finally slipped. Let the fake get into my real life, and my actor buddy into my real body. So why doesn't this feel fake? Why does this feel more real than anything, ever? They said we had incredible chemistry, and it's true. But it's not right.

He paused, and she paused, eyes locked.

"We can stop." He whispered softly.

"Yeah. I know." She murmured. He started withdrawing and she gripped his shoulders hard. "Did you want to stop?"

"If you're not comfortable..."

"But I am. Wrong, but very, very comfortable." She kissed him again.

He entered her more fully, again and again,deeper and deeper. About that time, he had another realization.

"Hey? You take the pill?"

"Yes. I do. Wow. You're thinking a lot more clearly than me."

"Maybe we should stop- you were drinking, I wasn't. You might-" he swallowed hard. "You might hate me later. You might say that I- took advantage." He swallowed harder. "You might think I r-"

"Do not say that! Of course I won't think that! Hate you? You're my best friend, I love you!"

Their eyes met with shock.

Oh no. Did I say that? Stupid, stupid woman. Way to make your life suck.

Did she say that? She couldn't tell me that now, could she, not now. Not after we've made our lives go in separate directions. He groaned internally. Give her the out, man, be chivalrous. She's had an awful day, just like you. Even worse than you.

"Yeah. I love you too. No one could love a friend more."

"I know what you're doing." She said after a moment's silence. "And it was tempting to take you up on it. But I can't lie to you. I think I trust you the most of anyone. I meant I love you. Like Romeo and Juliet."

"Like Spike and Buffy." He corrected, a hint of a sneer on his features. "Sweetie, I think maybe you're-"

"No. No extra complicatedness. I just realized it a little late, but yeah, I love you. Even if you're not really blonde and British. I don't love Spike, some fictional character. I love you."

"All this third person shit is very annoying." After a breathless moment, he laughed finally. "How about this. I love you, too."

"I love you." She smiled and repeated dreamily.

It was sometime in the course of the night that the two crossed the lines of friendship, and admitted to something more. In spite of all the world and all the complexities of their lives, the most horrible and emotionally draining thing they'd ever done, some final piece of their reserve snapped, and said three heartfelt, non-retractable words. "I love you."

They knew they shouldn't. But like two figures they had come to know through their portrayal, two figures who also "shouldn't" be in love, they could not deny any longer that they were.

Somewhere else, somewhere they had never imagined, a place they would have called fantastical and fictional, two figures peered from one reality to another, looking for those "other halves" of themselves, who now held the key to their survival.

Somewhere in the silent, empty studio, two translucent figures walked the darkened stage. "Hey, Luv." The British blonde's voice was rough and low.

"Took them long enough." said the petite female form, half drifting, half walking to her mate.

"A powerful catalyst, you said. Didn't tell me my half was going to fall apart for the whole bloody night. Poor sod, havin' to relive-" he trailed off swallowing hard, "I'm so sorry, Precious. I'll never stop sayin' it." A silver ringed finger reached out and brushed back the hair drifting on her cheek. For the first time in a long time, the fingers made contact with unyielding flesh.

"Shh. Everything is okay now. We forgive, even if we can't forget." She held him close, surprised to find him turning more solid against her. "It's working!" The soft voice was tremulous with joy. "We're so close!" She leapt into her lover's arms, inhaling sharply as she felt his partially corporeal arms lift her above him. She planted a longing kiss on his mouth. "Been so long since we could do that."

"You didn't like the spirit love then, Pet?"

"Oh no, I did. I just missed being solid. And flesh colored." She hastily reassured him, kissing him all over his upturned face as he smiled.

"Never was very flesh colored when we were together." He reminded her, worrying her pouting lip with his nibbling teeth.

"It doesn't matter. Look how happy they- how happy we- are."

"We'll be stronger every day, and then we can go home." He grinned down at the representatives of his mate and himself, now cuddling on a black couch in a rather nice flat.

"Do you think a lot of time has passed there?" The feminine voice was worried and hesitant. "Do you think they'll still be there?"

"Time is standing still for us, Luv. As soon as this pair are linked, we'll all, every one of us, be able to live our lives- or our unlives- again."

"These ones were way more stubborn." She frowned, tossing her hair.

"I beg pardon, Pet? More stubborn than you? At least this bint can pull her punches." The silvery shadow was solidifying more and was able to feel the often broken bridge of his nose for the first time in awhile.

"That bint is an actress, and he's not really you!"

"Don't say that. We're them and they're us- just different times and places. So don't be jealous if I admire this side of you. Besides, she doesn't hold a candle to you in any way, 'specially in bed." The figure in black hugged his mate tenderly, whispering the last words in a low husky voice in her ear.

"Ooh, that's right. Guess we better go make sure all our parts still work." With a sly smirk, the pair made a hasty retreat into the void where they had been waiting for several years, watching their other selves learn to trust and finally to love, each other. It was a much easier journey than the one they had faced, but they all needed to reach the same point- so they could all move on.

"We can all move on, Luv." Her partner could read her mind as easily as listening to her words. "But if we do- they'll be unhappy with the wrong people. And we'll still be living in our shadow realm. Which I must admit is quite cozy."

"You know you miss my crazy family and friends."

"I know. Just as we finally start getting along, we take this little trip." A smiling snarl played around his lips.

Wrapped in a swirling gray mist, they found that they could touch each other, indeed. Inhuman roars and growls echoed in the nothingness, accompanied by longing, then satisfied screams.

"Oh God, Slayer. Been too bloody long..." He panted, rolling his glistening, spent body off hers.

"Too long is right. Do you think we'll have to alter anything to get them to- keep realizing what they want?" She didn't want to lose this, didn't want to go backwards.

"Not really. Just be patient. I'm good at that- you're not." He teased.

"Uh- no. You're really not." She rebuffed him. "Besides, shouldn't this be moving much more quickly for them? They just have 'normal' people stuff to deal with, icky relationship stuff and whose name is on the mortgage. Every demon she sees is really a nice man in a costume." She pouted, slumping against his chiseled chest.

"And her bloke is really a nice man in vamp make up, and obviously not at all your style." He pushed her roughly back into their wispy nest, kissing her hard. "You ever think, Pet, that the reason I love you like mad, like the devil itself- which believe me, I know what I'm talkin' about here- is because of all the hell we had to endure?"

"It's the reason we almost died." She retorted hotly. "Oh, and the reason I almost killed you, or you tried to kill me, more times than I can count!"

"Never managed it though, did we, Luv?" his voice was slightly amused. "Love takes trials to strengthen."

"Says the poet with a shiny new soul."

"Not so new anymore." He whispered quietly. "I think I know what my other half is going through. Would rather walk through hell again than do the things he's acted out in the last day."

"Stop. I- I know. And I know it was wrong, but I think- think I hurt you just as bad. And physical pain is way easier than emotional pain."

"Let's not kid ourselves, Pet. I gave you plenty, as you gave me." He smiled fondly down at her. "Init amazing what you'll go through if you love someone enough?"

To be continued...