Nine - Everybody Needs Somebody

.

The house remained unnaturally quiet. Dawn wouldn't speak to Buffy, Buffy wouldn't speak to Spike, and Spike stayed cloistered in the spare room, awaiting his eviction notice. Apparently the Slayer was still fond enough of him to not kick him out before he healed. He tried to hurry it up as best he could. No point in prolonging the inevitable.

.

.

She came home to find him staring forlornly into their bedroom, duffle bag in hand. "So you're leaving?"

"Thought it was for the best. Make things easy on you."

"Right. For my own good. It's always for my own good." Nobody ever told the truth: You're unlovable, Buffy Summers. Not worth the effort. The fading bruises on his face, the ones she couldn't bear to look at, were proof enough. "Where you gonna go?"

"Crypt's still open."

Well at least he didn't hate her so much he had to leave town. Or was that a good thing? To run into him, see him, know what she'd lost? "You sure you want to stick around Sunnydale?" came out before she could stop herself. A sideways glance showed his face closed off. Blank.

Oh God. It was happening again.

And this time she wouldn't recover.

He turned, jerked. Hesitated. "You know where to find me if you need me." Walked down the stairs, to the door, put his hand on the doorknob. Ready to walk out of her life.

Xander's advice of a year ago echoed in her head. If you think you can really love this guy… think about what you're about to lose.

Different guy. Same scene.

Always the same scene.

No. Worse. Because this guy? The One. Capital letters and all. No wondering if she loved him; she knew it in depths of her soul.

The doorknob turned.

"Spike! Wait!" she screamed, flying down the stairs. "Please, I'm so sorry, it'll never happen again, I need you, love you…" Over and over, a litany of pleading while he stood there, frozen. She fell to her knees, wrapped her arms around his. "I'll try harder," she whispered through her tears. "Just don't go."

Somehow he knelt, tipping her face to his, his own eyes full of tears. "You – you don't want me to go?"

She couldn't face those beautiful, marred eyes. "If you want to, I understand."

"D'you even know me, Buffy? Last thing I want to do is walk out that door."

"But. Why?"

.

.

Why what? Why didn't he want to go? Why was he leaving when he'd rather greet hell than walk through that door? Which did she want answered?

"Bad influence, here. You as good as said you didn't want me around the little Bit."

"Huh? No I didn't."

"Sure you did. To the nice lady from social services. Don't blame you either, cocked it all up for you and your little Sis."

"So you were just… going to go? What if I hadn't come home?" The tears were gone now, replaced by the fire he loved so well, but he was no less confused.

"You really don't want me gone?"

"Isn't that what I said?"

"Why not?"

There was no hesitation. "Because I love you, you moron." She was instantly contrite, hands fluttering in dismay. "Sorry. Sorry. I'm so sorry."

"Buffy. Love. Stop."

"But I hurt you. And I didn't mean to and I shouldn't have and I'm so-"

"Hush, sweet. No lasting harm, an' I more than deserved it, though I'd be ever so grateful if you'd mind the nose next time."

"Stop forgiving me."

"You've forgiven me far worse."

"But-"

"You listen to me Buffy Anne Summers. You know the worst of me. Know what I am. And yet you've taken me into your home, your life, your heart. Don't want me to leave even when we both know I'll be nothing but trouble for you. You know the worst of me… And I know the worst of you." He tipped her chin up again. "And it only makes me love you more. You want me to stay, I'll stay. As long as you let me. Never gonna leave your side unless you ask it of me."

"I don't deserve you."

"Daft woman. You solve problems with your fists. So do I."

"You never would have -"

"Been known to use chains. And a cattle prod."

She laughed, but not in amusement. "Fine. We're both idiots."

"That's right. Deserve each other."

"I'm sorry, Spike."

"Yeah well. 'M sorry too. Wasn't thinking of the consequences. 'M a moron, as you said."

They'd ended up wrapped in each other's arms. "You sure you don't want to leave me?" she asked, the tears returning.

He stroked her hair. "'M not the leaving kind, pet. Loved the same woman for a hundred an' twenty years, and she was bleeding insane. So you're a little bitchy. S'bloody heaven in comparison."

"And there's a ringing endorsement of our love. I'm easier to handle than the crazy woman."

"More to it than that, and you know it."

.

.

It wouldn't be their last knock-down drag-out fight, or even their worst. But it was the one that mattered most, because it was when they'd realized nothing was going to tear them apart.

Not even their own stupid selves.