A/N: Wow, I was really going strong there until I nearly reached the end. Sorry, folks.
As you might have guessed, my creative energy has been placed elsewhere for the past five months or so. I’m currently working on three WIPs for publication, and while I’m keeping a foot in the door where fandom is concerned, my full-time writing attention has shifted. That’s not to say I won’t write anymore for fandom, because just when I think that day has come, my Spuffy muse demands attention and I crank out another chapter, scene, or whatever. Likewise, I haven’t given up on Strawberry Fields, but am resigned to the reality that I will likely wait until that story is complete before updating it, and by that time those of you still waiting for an update might well have moved on.
These last eight years in fandom have shaped me, educated me, and comforted me in ways I can’t describe or repay. The friendships I’ve forged, the people I’ve met, the stories I’ve read, and every part of being a Spike/Buffy writer is something I will always treasure. This particular story has about 1.5 chapters left before it’s done, and then you might not hear from me for a while. I am working on an epilogue to The Writing on the Wall, but I have no idea when it’ll be finished.
I’m taking this week to work on fandom-related projects. Hopefully I’ll be able to wrap up Sacrament between now and Christmas. If nothing else, I’m giving it a try.
Thanks to everyone who’s stuck with me to see where this story’s going.
Buffy still didn’t know how they’d gotten here. The last thing she remembered, her body had fallen into a warm post-coital slump, Spike’s arms around her, his cock thrusting still into her body, demanding more of her than she had to give. His yellow eyes had tears in them. She’d never seen a vampire cry while in game face, and if he wasn’t the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen, she didn’t know what was.
Now she sat in a mausoleum, her body still humming from her recent orgasm, her clothing askew. Had she dressed herself? She didn’t remember. All she knew was that she was sitting on a cold, stone sarcophagus, watching Spike’s feet as he tore up and down the stretch of cement in front of her. He didn’t like to sit still. It was a trait they shared.
Buffy blinked numbly. “What?”
“You could’ve told me, pet. Could’ve told me anything.”
“And how would that conversation have gone?” she asked. “‘Good morning, honey. You’ll never guess what happened to me last night?’”
“You could’ve said something.”
“I didn’t know that.”
Spike’s nostrils flared. “Oh, is that so?” he demanded. “Never gave you a reason, I’d wager. An indication. A bloody inkling. Not one sodding clue that I’m the long haul bloke? I love you, Buffy. What more do you need?”
“This isn’t me,” she said. “She wasn’t me.”
“So we’re back to that.”
“We never left. Look, Spike, you can slice it any way you like, but the girl you love…she’s gone. She’s long gone. I’m all that’s left.”
His eyes darkened dangerously. “Mmm hmm,” he murmured, stepping toward her. “I suppose you got it all figured out, then. Big Bad Spike, so bloody predictable. Never looks beyond the surface. You know what I’d see if I looked at you good and hard, love?”
Buffy swallowed but didn’t answer.
“I’m not a coward. I’m a realist.”
“Yeah? You think so?”
And then, something inside her snapped. Something deep and primal. The comatose state she’d wandered in and out of since stepping under the sky vanished without hesitation, leaving her in the open. She saw him, then—saw her Spike standing just inches away, his crystal eyes wide and pained. His chest heaving hard, crushing breaths, even though he needed air the same way other people might need a hole in the head. And she loved him so much she could barely sit still.
He was passionate and fiery, witty and full of life. He lived more in five minutes than she did in a week. He knew her head to toe. He knew how to make her laugh and how to keep her from crying. He knew what made her happy.
He had, at least. He’d known her as well as a man could know a woman. But things were different now. They’d changed, and circumstances changed with them.
Buffy would always love him. Always. Whatever else happened, whatever else was thrown their way, that one absolute would remain with certainty. She couldn’t change herself or anything that had happened, and she couldn’t hate Spike for being what he was. All she could do was love him. If she was supposed to hate or shiver in disgust, then she failed. Plain and simple. He was what he was, no apologies or regrets, and she loved him. Anything else, she lacked the wiring for.
“Do you have any idea what this is doing to me?” she asked softly.
“This. Sitting here, watching you. Being so…” She wrung her hands and expelled a deep breath. “I left because I didn’t know what else to do. The last time I was with you—really, really with you—you hated me. You wanted me dead. You—”
“I didn’t hate you.”
“Yes, you did.”
Spike looked at her dumbly, blinking slowly, a small, incredulous grin spreading across his face. “No,” he repeated. “I didn’t. Figure you’d know it better than anyone, now. Did you hate anyone you hunted, pet? Did you hate the slayer you snuffed? She kept coming after you, but you never hated her. You didn’t hate the watchers who hunted us or any of the people we picked off the streets for mealtime. Hate never played into it. Not with you. You were fun and spirited, and when you were the Slayer, it was the same. I admired you. I loved fighting you. I never hated you.”
Buffy stared at him a second before piecing coherent thought together. “And…wanting to kill me?”
He shrugged a shoulder. “Comes with the territory. You were the Slayer. I do in slayers. Just the way it is. Nothing personal, love. Not at first.”
“Not at first.”
“Everything’s different now. I know you. I’ve felt you. And you can’t bloody run away from me.”
“Why not?” Buffy asked.
A dangerous shadow played across his face. “The fuck you mean, why not?”
“What did you think was going to happen? You find me, and then what?” She gestured emphatically. “We go back? Find a new home? Keep living the life we were living?”
“I didn’t know about the soul until tonight.”
“And now that you do know, you can’t at all see why I thought leaving was the right choice?”
“I love you,” Spike replied simply, his voice pained.
Buffy glanced down when she realized her vision was blurring. She hadn’t even felt the tears sneak up on her this time. God, she’d cried so much already. “Which me do you love?” she asked. “The one who doesn’t give a crap who she hurts? The one who kills without remorse? The one who paints blood on your tummy and licks it off? I can’t do those things, Spike. It’s not me. It was never me. You love someone who’s left the building, and I’m sorry but—”
“So that’s it. You think you got me figured out. No, no, Spike doesn’t actually have feelings. He confuses action for what’s real.” He shook his head in disgust and waved a hand at her. “I didn’t love your laugh or your wit, or the way your nose crinkles when you grin. I don’t at all think you’re brilliant in ways you don’t even realize. I’ve never once thought you’re resourceful, beyond clever. I didn’t love the way you looked at me. You know why? ‘Cause I was too busy being a vampire.”
Something strong had a hold of her throat. “Spike—”
“No, Buffy. Go on. Tell me more about how I don’t know who I love.”
“If you say it wasn’t you again I’m gonna pummel you till it sinks into that thick skull of yours.” He closed a step between them. “Might not feel the same, pet, but I’ve been there. You know why I love you so much?”
She barely heard herself reply. “Why?”
“’Cause you weren’t different. Not where it counted.” He placed his hand against her heart. “Not here.”
“You didn’t change the way others do,” he said softly. “I’m not gonna stand here and preach to you about how vamps, deep down, really are the people they left behind, because that’s rot. It doesn’t work that way. We’re not all one thing or the next. Some of us have more of who we were left in us than others. I know I did, and the reason I fell for you is you did, too. You were like me. We were the same.”
Buffy shivered hard. “That scares me.”
“Because if I wasn’t different, then what kind of monster am I?”
“No, rot. If you can’t tell the difference, then your bleach is seeping into your brain.”
“I said you were more the way you were, not all. And if you stopped and thought a second, you’d see that, too.” Spike sighed and brushed his lips against her brow. “I wanted you since the second I laid eyes on you. I loved how bright and free you were. How you smiled. I loved your jabs and wit. I loved everything…and then you came to me that night and everything that kept you from being what you could be was gone. You were gorgeous, and I couldn’t help but fall the rest of the way.”
Something had a tight hold of her throat. “Is that true?”
“You know it is.”
“You really…the soul doesn't bother you?”
Spike sighed heavily and rolled his eyes, though the action was not aimed at her. “Of course it bothers me,” he said, the hand at her chest migrating to her shoulder. “Not the way you figure, though. Not because you're not a picture of what you were before. You were free before, and your chums chained you up again. You weren't haunted. You weren't torn up, and you knew I loved you. There wasn't a doubt in your mind.”
“And you knew you weren't different. Not where it counted.”
She looked at him a long minute before the invisible grip on her throat loosened, allowing a long sigh to tumble through her body and carry away a world's worth of tension. “And you weren't different, either?” she said. “Not where…”
His chest puffed out and his nostrils flared, and though his expression colored with objection, his eyes grew evasive and pained. For a second, she expected him to shoot her down, but when words found him again, he had evidently decided the truth was the better route. “When I turned, I woke up with power I couldn't imagine and a thirst to wage war on the prats who did me wrong. But I was still bloody hopeless, love. I still had my head in the stars and my heart…I didn’t feel different where it counted, so much to the point that I went to my mum to turn her. She was sickly, you see, and I loved her. I wanted her to get better. I didn't know what would happen. I didn't know she'd…be different.”
Awareness pierced her chest. “Because you weren't. You still felt…”
“Except obligation and duty, of course. I wasn't the lovesick poet who doubled as the village punching bag, anymore. I made my rules and lived by them.” Spike cast a hand through his hair and sighed again. “You were the same. If you’d been another Angelus knockoff or anything of the like, I would've had my way with you, then put you in the ground. Sired slayer with a god complex would've been bloody annoying, and fucking hard to kill. But you didn't turn into that. You were you, and that's why I fell. That's why we're here.”
The wealth of emotion fueling his eyes was almost too much to bear. She’d often catch herself thinking that, how a man as bad and rude as he could betray so much with a simple look. The many layers he kept hidden from anyone who didn't bear her face were just one of the many reasons she loved him.
And then she knew. She knew what Angel had told her was right.
“He was right.”
“What?” Spike asked. “Who was right?”
Just as quickly, the passion in his eyes melted to ire. “Yeah,” he growled, his jaw tightening. “About that…”
“You knew he was here.”
“And unless you're about to tell me he's turned poofter, he's not gonna be here much longer.”
Buffy grinned in spite of herself. “He’s here as a friend.”
“I’m sure he is.” Spike’s head rolled back with heated impatience. “How the sodding hell did he find you so fast, anyway?”
“Apparently the Council decided to dose their watchers’ blood with mystical trackers before sending them to find us,” she said. “Angel found out which bus I was on, where I was headed, and beat me here. Giles is on his way. Hell, he might even be here now.”
“Brilliant.” He huffed. “Suppose that’s how that trigger-happy bint found me, too.”
“New slayer. Kicked in our front door just as I was planning to make a run for it and fed me the usual threats before I put her into a wall.” He shrugged. “Didn’t know how she found me and I didn’t care too much.”
Buffy shuddered and wrapped her arms around herself. “New slayer. Already.”
“That’s how it works.” Spike reached for her chin and redirected her gaze to his. “But let’s not get off track, love. What was it you were saying about Angel? What was he so right about?”
It took a few seconds to relocate her train of thought. The prospect of a new slayer already on their trail shouldn’t have surprised her, but it did. In the hustle to get as far from herself as she could, she’d all but forgotten she was the target of a never-ending parade of tweed-wearing, weapon-wielding middle-aged watchers, as well as the slayers that came with them. Either they didn’t know, or care, about the part where she had a soul now, but with Spike looking at her the way he was now, what lay ahead seemed less important than the immediacy of the moment.
“Angel said we were mated too easily.”
Spike snorted and rolled his eyes. “Of course he did, the jealous berk.”
“He said that the ritual is complicated and rarely successful because of everything that goes into it.”
“What does he know?”
“A lot, Spike. He’s researched it.”
“So have I!”
“Not like this, trust me.”
He rolled his eyes again. “’Course. Always falling short of granddaddy forehead.”
“That’s not what I mean. And it’s not bad. None of it is bad…in fact, he pretty much said we were…well, for lack of a better term, made for each other.”
Spike favored her with a long, incredulous look.
“Well, he did,” Buffy insisted. “He wasn’t happy about it, but he said it shouldn’t have happened like it did were we anything but what we are. What it boils down to is if every vampire declared ‘mine’ in the heat of the moment, every member of the undead nation would be mated to someone right now.” She expelled a deep breath. “A connection like that only works if the people involved are…well, connected. Otherwise it fizzles out. What you were saying about us…and me…and how I was different from any other vamp you’d seen…it makes sense to me.”
“So Angel found you, and told you that you…what? Belong with me?”
“Like I said, he wasn’t about to throw us a parade or anything, but I think once I told him the circumstances surrounding the claim, he just kinda accepted it.”
“You told him.”
“He saw the bite mark and he knew what it was. I told him that I claimed you first, and things progressed from there.” She held his gaze for a second before breaking off in another sigh. “Look, I know you and Angel have some eternal pissing contest that I can’t and don’t want to understand, but he’s not here to win me back or tell me how evil you are or anything of the sort.”
Spike snickered. “Yeah. Now that he knows you’re bloody off limits.”
“And he told me whatever happened wasn’t me. Not where it counted. He’s just here as a friend, I promise.”
Things fell silent between them, comfortable and strained at the same time. There remained so much to say, so much to discuss, explore, and settle. Yet at the moment, she allowed herself to breathe. The anxiety in her chest wouldn’t rest, she knew, and her guilt knew no place to land, but with Spike at her side, things felt right again. Things felt whole in ways she couldn’t have imagined. She’d have to put to bed her fears of being a monster, but with Angel and Spike telling her essentially the same thing, she felt she might know peace someday. Perhaps not tomorrow or the day after that, but it wasn’t a pie-in-the-sky hope anymore. She knew she’d touch it.
“You still love me?” Buffy asked softly, her throat tight.
The Angel-induced irritation in Spike’s eyes melted almost immediately. “Sweetheart…”
“I’d understand if you didn’t.”
“No you wouldn’t.”
“Well, I’d probably kick your ass, but…”
He cupped her cheeks and kissed her lips. He poured so much into his kisses. “I love you,” he murmured. “Then. Now. Always. I didn’t know I loved you until that night, and I grew to love you after, but the girl you were and the girl you are aren’t different, sweet. You’re still infuriating, beautiful, funny, independent, and a thousand other things. Only thing that’s different now is you don’t have that spark in your eyes that you did three days ago, but for the rest of my days, I’ll do my best to put it back.”
“Even if I don’t eat people?”
He shrugged and kissed the corner of her mouth. “So you’re a vegetarian. I can adjust.”
“Even if I ask you not to eat people?”
Spike stilled for a second. “That’s important to you, isn’t it?”
“’Course it is.” He sighed and rested his brow against hers, and for few long seconds, they sat in silence.
“This is a longer conversation than I wanna have right now,” he said at last. “But what it boils down to is this: I love you. I love violence. I love blood. I can have you and blood and violence, just not in the way I thought I could.”
“Anything’s worth keeping you, love. I spent a century and some change eating people and following around a woman who’d never love me the way I needed…now I have you. If I have to make some sacrifices, I can manage.” He inhaled deeply. “Not saying I’m gonna like it. Might even hate it for a spell. Hunting with you was bloody brilliant.”
“We can still hunt.”
“I suppose you mean my friends and relatives?”
She wiggled. “Well, it’d be hunting.”
“Like I said, pet, longer conversation than I wanna have. But if you need an answer, anything’s worth it.” He brushed his lips against her forehead, running his hand down her arm. “We’ll suss out the details later, yeah?”
“Guess the only thing left to ask is…do you still love me?”
Buffy blinked in surprise, though she knew rationally it was a fair question. So much had changed—she had changed, and he had stayed the same. And it seemed very logical to her in half a second that his concern wouldn’t be with semantics like where they’d live, how they’d cope with the Council, and where to go from where they stood now, but rather if she still wanted that. It just surprised her because that wasn’t a question she’d truly asked herself. She’d wondered about her motives, experienced guilt over her feelings, but she’d always known what she wanted. Always.
Even when everything else seemed dark and confusing, her heart knew where it belonged.
The words tore off her lips with the impact of a semi-truck colliding with a rocky bank. She didn’t realize what had happened until Spike whipped around, his demon tearing away his human face in half a blink.
Debris flew and dust clouded the entrance, but the scent was unmistakable.
Strong. Female. Human.
A young girl stood in the doorway of the mausoleum, a smirk on her lips and a crossbow in her arms.
“Aww, isn’t this sweet?”
“Bloody hell,” Spike said, his voice tempered but quaking with fury bound to boil over any second. “I knew I should’ve killed you.”
“Shoulda, woulda, coulda. But hey! You brought me to the missus. Knew I could count on you.” She perfected her aim, the arrow’s head pointing at Spike’s heart. “Don’t worry, B, you’ll get your turn…though I guess I should be saying something now about last words, and all that jazz.” She shrugged. “Then again, I never was one for theatrics.”
The arrow fired before Buffy felt herself react, and in the whirl from leaving the crossbow gage and piercing Spike’s skin, something in her went off. Something primal. Something unadulterated. Something beyond comprehension and control. She heard a growl but didn’t realize the sound belonged to her until it deafened the air, the rage coming with it the purest she’d ever known.
Slayer and vampire diverged then into a sea of black, and Buffy was no more.
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