spoilers: spoiler-heavy for eps. 20 and 21 -- massive fanwank for a scene i'd like to see near the beginning of ep. 22. ;)
"I was looking for you," Buffy said, falling in step beside him.
"That right? Got a job for me?" His voice was casual, and nothing in his movements betrayed any emotion save a telltale tightness in his jaw.
She didn't answer, and the silence between them grew deafening.
"Can we just *stop* for a minute?" She'd run ahead of him and stopped abruptly in his path, forcing him to halt whether he wanted to or not. "Look, I know what you saw, and I wanted to explain--"
"What's to explain, pet? Pretty clear from where I was standing." Spike held her gaze steadily, and the resignation in his voice caused a strange heaviness to settle in her chest. "And don't worry, I'm still on your side. Old Firsty already tried to get me to do the whole traitor thing, and I told the ultimate evil to bugger off. Gave it the whole 'I'm my own man now' speech -- quite a turn-off, apparently. Scampered off without so much as a backward glance."
Buffy slowly exhaled the breath she'd been unconsciously holding. But she'd known that already, hadn't she? Known that he would do the right thing, not just for her, but because it was the right thing to do. For the first time, she saw with perfect clarity that his moral compass no longer revolved around her. Ironic. Now that he'd stopped trying to impress her, he'd managed it after all. And in the moment that realization bloomed, she loved him. But she'd already known that, too, hadn't she?
Off her sigh, he raised an eyebrow in curiosity. "That worried, were you? Didn't know my being an ally was such a big deal -- the former Big Bad in me would be flattered." A hard smile faded from his lips as he continued. "Seriously, Buffy, I meant what I said -- I'm not doing this out of some misguided notion you'll love me back. I finally let go of that illusion, delusion, whatever. I said I'd stick by you, and I will."
"I know that," she said simply. Always known, too, that he would be the one who wouldn't leave her, no matter what. Why hadn't it mattered until now?
"Then we're good, yeah?" He tried to take a step forward, but she placed a hand firmly in the center of his chest.
"No. I need you to hear me out about Angel."
"I'd rather not, thanks." His voice was clipped. "Just becuase I'm trying to be okay with it doesn't mean that I need to hear all of the gory details."
"Damn it, Spike, I know I don't have the right to ask you listen to me, but I'm gonna do it anyway." She hadn't realized her hand was still planted on his chest, and she pulled it off. Not that he showed any inclination toward moving; his whole body was frozen, and he looked like a statue, staring off in the distance with unseeing eyes. The thought that she'd finally pushed him so far away that she couldn't get him back suddenly seemed a very real possibility, and she felt as thought she'd been kicked in the stomach. She took a breath and rushed on anyway. "What you saw, it wasn't what you thought. It wasn't about me and Angel picking up where we left off, or starting over again; it was about ending. It was also thoughtless and stupid, and I'm sorry. I'm also sorry for the thousand other hurtful and selfish things I've done and even sorrier that there isn't time to make it up to you, that there may never be time to make it right." Her voice was so heavy with genuine regret that Spike glanced at her in surprise. "All I can do now, in the time we have, is make you understand that I know Angel isn't my future. If I have a future, it belongs to you."
Spike didn't move, but he was watching her very intently, and that was all the encouragement she needed to continue. "I don't know why I've always asked the impossible of you, expected perfection from you when I don't expect it from anyone else except myself. I don't ask Willow to be something she's not, or Dawn, or Xander. But they all expect me to do the impossible on a regular basis. Everyone else lays these huge expectations on me, but not you. Never you. And that scared me, that someone could just love me for me, that someone could *see* me the way that you do." Buffy could feel tears threatening to spill, and she didn't care. She wasn't going to hide from him anymore. "I lied when I said that what happened between us didn't have to mean something. It does. Always before, I wanted to lose myself in you, because it was easy, because I had all the power, because I could push you away whenever you got too close and showed me things about myself I didn't want to see. Not now. I don't want to lose myself in you anymore -- I want to find myself in you." She reached out hesitantly and touched his face. "Last night, I believed in myself because you believe in me. You gave me your strength, and it meant everything to me. It *means* everything to me."
"You love me." It was a statement, but his voice was tinged with so much incredulity at the concept that it almost sounded like a question.
"Yeah, I was just coming to that part." Buffy looked into his eyes and spoke the words that had once seemed impossible to say to him but now seemed impossible not to say. "I love you."
The way she said it left little room for doubt. And even if there had been any doubt, it would have been erased by the way she melted into his arms and the way she kissed him for a long moment, making him feel like the future was now and that now was forever.
Spike glanced skyward and exhaled. Then he smiled down at Buffy. "Looks like someday is today," he murmured.
"I'll tell you later." He slipped an arm around her shoulders, and they began to walk again. "Don't we have evil, non-corporeal ass to kick? And don't you need to make plans for making things up to me? I've got several ideas on that subject, by the way, in case you're interested in hearing them. And if we just so happen to have that discussion while Angel's in a position to overhear, how terrible a thing would that be?" He tried to sound innocent, but his eyes were practically dancing.
Buffy shook her head and rolled her eyes in mock disgust, but she was grinning. "Good to see some things never change." And he knew she wasn't just talking about his trying to one-up Angel.
"In the end we all are who we are," he replied. "Now, let's go show the First who we are, so that we can get to work on that future."