Disclaimer: This chapter contains dialogue from the episode "Touched", 7x20, written by Rebecca Rand Kirshner, originally broadcast May 13, 2003. All direct dialogue is courtesy of , transcripts provided by Alexander Thompson. I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All recognizable characters, dialogue, plot points, settings, etc. are copywrite Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Sandollar Television, Kuzui Enterprises, 20th Century Fox Television and the WB Television Network.


21.

She'd been gone for days. He didn't know how many, somewhere along the way he stopped counting, but however long it'd been it was too long.

He missed her.

It ached.

He'd gone through all the stages now. He'd tried angry, but that hadn't stuck. Couldn't blame her for the way he felt. Wasn't her fault she was bloody well near perfect. Couldn't blame her for running either. He was a demon, an evil, soulless, thing –

of course she hadn't expected him to declare his undying love for her. Was only natural.

Couldn't linger in denial either, not as more and more hours passed and still she did not return.

But he wouldn't accept it. He was nothing without hope.

For the first few days he gave her space, but after that . . . He couldn't stay away. Physically couldn't. It was painful not to see her now that he knew. He found himself following her on patrol, lurking about beneath her window once she got home. Always being careful to stay just outside the radius of her vamp senses. It was eerily reminiscent of his first few weeks in town. Only then he hadn't known why he was drawn to her – now he did.

God, this was wrong. So wrong. He was William the Bloody, Slayer of Slayers. He wasn't supposed to fall in love with her. He was allowed to respect her, like her even, but love? It shouldn't even have been possible for him to be in love with her – but he was. He was so in love with her, and nothing had felt more right in his entire existence. A century with Dru was reduced to cinder. What he felt for Dru had been nothing, nothing to this. He felt as though he'd been born, been turned, just for this moment. Just so that he could find Buffy and be with her. She completed him. Light for his darkness.

He remembered Dru rambling at times about sunshine and how it would burn him up. God, she'd been right. Buffy was pure sunshine and he was consumed by her.

This had to stop. He had to stop. Not loving her, of course, that would never happen, but this lurking, stalking, brooding thing. He was becoming the bloody ponce! He wouldn't leave her, couldn't. He'd always be there, even if all he could do was watch from the shadows. Someday she might need his help again. But he didn't have to stalk the girl to be there for her. Could get his information from the demon bars; be useful to her without getting in her way. He retreated to the emptiness of his crypt, determined not to interfere in her personal life in any way.

Of course, as often happened in life (and unlife), the moment he decided to give her space she came to him. Not that he was going to complain. Coming home from Willy's to find Buffy in his home was something he had only imagined. For a moment he wondered if this was a dream – he'd had so many that started this way since he discovered that he loved her (discovered because it had always been there – he'd just been too blind to see it).

"Buffy," he breathed, afraid to speak, afraid to move, afraid to spook her, but unable to keep that single word from his lips.

The look she gave him was unfathomable, indecipherable. "Hello, Spike," she said softly.

He could do nothing but stare at her, this angel standing in his doorway. How had she found it? In all the months they'd spent together, walking, fighting side by side, she'd not once taken him up on his offer to see his home. Not that he could blame her. Last thing the girl probably wanted was to spend even more time with the dead. He'd been a fool to ask her.

He blinked and she was still there. Not a dream then, probably. In his dreams she never looked so hesitant.

He took an uncertain step towards her and she sucked in a breath. He froze.

"Why?" she asked.

"Why what, pet?" he asked, even though he knew there could only be one question that would bring her here. "Why do I love you?"

She nodded, a bit teary, he thought, but maybe he'd imagined that.

He sighed. "Why does anybody love anybody, pet? You, you're . . . you're sunshine and light and goodness and everything I shouldn't want, but I do." He wanted to reach for her, but settled for taking a few slow steps closer instead, satisfied when she didn't retreat. "Look, I'm not saying this right, I know, but . . ."

He drew in a deep breath, met her eyes tenderly. "I've been alive a bit longer than you, right? An' dead a lot longer than that. I've seen things you couldn't imagine, and done things I prefer you didn't. I don't exactly have a reputation for being a thinker. I follow my blood, which doesn't exactly rush in the direction of my brain. So I make a lot of mistakes, a lot of wrong bloody calls." He gave a self-deprecating little laugh. "A hundred plus years, and there's only one thing I've ever been sure of – you." Maybe it sounded poncey, trite even, but God help him if it wasn't the absolute and unadulterated truth.

She tried to look away, embarrassed, and he lifted a hand, cupping her cheek to keep her with him. "Hey," he murmured. "Look at me. I'm not asking you for anything. When I say I love you it's not because I want you or because I can't have you. It has nothing to do with me." His thumb stroked along her face of its own accord and she was so bloody soft, so beautiful. "I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I've seen your kindness and your strength. I've seen the best and the worst of you. And I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You're a hell of a woman. You're the one, Buffy."

She was definitely blinking back tears now and he closed his eyes, cursing himself for a fool. Why did he always end up hurting the girl?

He didn't know how to make it right, but he had to try. "Told you once how Angelus said I was made wrong. Too human. Too caring." His hand dropped back to his side and his shoulders slumped, dejected. "Maybe he was right." His feelings had never done him a lick of good that he could see, only gave him the capacity to feel pain.

~.~.~.~

He looked so . . . defeated. Something inside of Buffy twisted. She didn't want to see him defeated; it wasn't him. He was bold and brash and confident; he wasn't this broken, lonely thing. Wasn't that what had started this whole rollercoaster ride in the first place? The reason she hadn't dusted him that first night he appeared on the sidewalk outside Angel's apartment? Because no being should ever be in that much pain.

She couldn't bear to see him in pain. She didn't know if she could love him, but she cared for him. So, so much. And maybe . . . maybe that was enough for now?

She cupped his chin in her palms, lifting his head from where he was staring at the ground and if she hadn't been sure the look in those azure orbs would have been enough to convince her of her choice. How could she look into those eyes – those beautiful, tortured, desperate eyes – and walk away?

"Maybe Angel was right," she said. His eyes darkened and she pressed on seriously, "And maybe that isn't a bad thing." Hope like she had never seen filled his eyes, lighting them up and nearly stealing her breath away. His unnecessary breath quickened. "I'm not saying that I love you," she added hastily, unwilling to give him the wrong impression. "Yet. But, but I am willing to give this a chance. To give us a chance."

He was a good man, or he could be, and he deserved a chance.

~.~.~.~

He stared at her in hope that turned to awe as her words sank in. She was giving him a chance. Not a life on the fringes as her mere ally, not friendship only, but a real chance. It was more than he'd thought to hope for. Joy filled him such as he had never known and he couldn't keep a ridiculously dopey grin from engulfing his face. A chance!

Maybe he shouldn't have done it, not with her acceptance so new, so tentative, but he couldn't help himself: he kissed her, feeling happy and at peace for the first time he could remember. And this time she kissed him back, really, truly, fully engaged, and it lit him up in ways that should have been wrong, but were so, so right. Pulling away reluctantly to allow her to breathe he pressed their foreheads together.

The last time they'd been in this position his heart had been breaking and now it was singing for joy.

"You won't regret this, Buffy," he whispered ardently. "Won't let you regret it. I'll be the man you deserve, you'll see. I love you."

~.~.~.~

Buffy smiled, running her fingers through hair she was delighted to see was forming a riot of cupid's curls as the gel lost its hold. God, but he was gorgeous. Inside and out she was beginning to suspect.

"I know, Spike," she whispered back, "I know."

That he would, that he did. She knew it because his eyes, those wonderful, beautiful, expressive eyes told her so. And for now it was enough.

241 days later when Angel sorrowfully told her that he couldn't stay any longer – that he had to go find his own place in the world (because, though neither was willing to say it, they both knew that he no longer had a place here, beside her, that place was taken), Buffy reflected that at one time this news would have devastated her. But not now. Now she had Spike.

In the eight months between her decision to let him in and angel's decision to leave town, Spike had become the man he'd promised her he'd be and more. A man who fought for her and fought beside her; a man who always put her needs and wants before his own; a man who loved her wholly and completely through good and bad, thick and think. Her partner, her equal, and, yes, her lover. And what they shared was so much better than any life she could ever have imagined with Angel. Spike might not have a soul, but he had a heart – and that was more than enough for her.

She would never regret her choice.


A/N: Yes, this is the end. I included the once-epilogue with that last bit of Buffy's thoughts. Sorry this was late again. I really didn't do it on purpose, just had a lot going on this week. Before anyone asks : no, I don't have a sequel planned. I'm not big on those, and I'm already more than a hundred pages into my next Spuffy (a really epic-length season 4-5 rewrite, which is less introspective and has much more action). That new fic won't be posted until it is finished, so you have a while to wait. However, I do intend to fill the time between with some one-shot follow ups to EOAM, including a brief peice giving Angel's take on the events of EOAM as they happen. That piece is nearly finished and should be up shortly after the holidays. I've already got rough ideas for a few others. If anyone has a request for a "snapshot" look into this Buffy and Spike's future please message me. I'd be happy to rewrite specific scenes from the rest of the series or do something completely unique with these two.

Thank you so much, everyone who has read and followed this story. I hope you enjoyed it and please leave a parting review.

Thanks again and see you next time!

reenas-as