Summary: The missing basement scene from "Chosen."
Disclaimer: Did I mention I own nothing?
Author's note: I couldn't let Spike die believing himself unloved, so this is the story of how "No, you don't. But thanks for saying it" means Spike knows he was loved. Hope really does spring eternal.
"Whatcha thinkin' about?" Spike asked.
"Oh, you know," Buffy answered, crossing the room to him. "Big scary evil, big scary vamps, big scary magick. The usual. You?"
"I'm thinking I have nothing that goes with this little bauble." Spike fingered the amulet.
"I was just saying the same thing to--. Ahh, never mind," she amended hastily as his eyes narrowed.
"Trading fashion tips with Peaches, were you?" He couldn't resist.
He really needed to. "I thought we were done with this," she said, hands on hips in a posture of disapproval.
"Yeah, we are." He sighed. "Sorry. Old habits dying hard and all that." He took a moment to study her face, saw the exhaustion in her eyes. "Why don't you try to get some sleep?"
"I can stay here? I wanna be with you." Buffy took a step closer to him.
"Holding you all night while New Age music swells in the background? I can think of worse things." He paused and touched her cheek tenderly. "Strike that. I actually can't think of anything better."
Buffy placed her hand over his, tilted her head into his hand, and closed her eyes. "I had a slightly different idea."
Spike took a step backwards, startled, and she opened her eyes. "Spike? Are you okay?"
"I don't think that would be such a good idea, pet," he said quietly.
"You don't want to be with me?" she asked.
He just stared at her. Had the woman gone completely sack of hammers? She could think that he didn't want her?
"So you do want to be with me," Buffy filled in. He studied his cariacture of Angel across the room. A good likeness, that, he thought absently. Anything to keep himself from looking at her.
"Spike, look at me."
When he couldn't bring himself to meet her eyes, she lifted his chin and forced the issue. "Look at me. It's okay. To let yourself be with me, I mean."
Oh, God. Not *those* words. He's said almost the same exact words a lifetime ago, upstairs, when he'd.... Spike felt sick.
Buffy's brow was furrowed as she watched the emotions play over his face. Then she inhaled sharply. She was remembering, too.
Spike sank to his knees in front of her. "I'm sorry," he said brokenly.
"Shhh," Buffy whispered, dropping to her knees as well. She took him in her arms and guided his head to her shoulder. "I'm sorry, too."
He pulled away from her. "That was *not* your fault," Spike stated thickly. "I'm not gonna have you feel responsible for that."
"And I'm not gonna have you feel responsible for it, either," she shot back heatedly. "The people we were then, they don't exist anymore. That doesn't excuse what happened, or make it okay, but it means we stop beating ourselves up over it." Her grip on him tightened. "You said you love how I try? I love how *you* try." His eyes widened, and he tilted his head to one side as he watched her. "You left because you thought you were someone that I couldn't trust? Well, I trust the man you are now." Her voice softened. "Do you hear me? I trust you."
"I don't have the right to ask for your forgiveness," Spike started, but she cut him off.
"You already have it," Buffy finished. She took his face in her hands and repeated gently, "You already have it." She studied his eyes and, satisfied by what she saw there, said, "I'm going to kiss you now, if that's okay."
"Yeah, that's all right," he answered faintly, every nerve exploding as she leaned in and pressed her lips to his. All right? Bloody perfect.
It felt...different. Every touch, every look, every sigh. They weren't the athletes or the contortionists they'd been last year, but for the first time, they weren't alone. And it was good.
"I love you," Buffy murmured some time later, tugging the edge of the sheet over her skin and kissing his neck.
There they were, the 3 little words he'd been waiting forever to hear. That girl, the one who knew the future, said she'd tell him someday. Most of the time after he'd first come back and was living in the school basement was still cloaked in a haze of mystery, but that he remembered clearly. She hadn't mentioned that Buffy would tell him in the face of The Apocalype, capital T, capital A, Spike thought ruefully. Put a bit of a different spin on things. Tended to make a fella think impending death might be the motivating factor.
And it wasn't like he needed it. He was okay without it. He'd meant what he said, about not wanting anything from her. She was enough.
So he stroked her hair and replied gently, "No, you don't."
"Ummm, is this some clever new way to tell me that you love me? Cuz, FYI, the old standards like 'I love you, too' still work for me," Buffy said, planting her chin on the tops of her hands, clasped in the center of his chest. "And next time, you could at least say thanks or something. It's only polite."
A flicker of a smile crossed his lips at that, and then he sighed. "Buffy, you don't have to--." Wait a sec, did she just say "*next* time"?
She didn't give him the chance to contemplate where that line of thought might lead. "I know I don't have to say it," she stated firmly. "I'm not saying it out of obligation. I'm saying it because I love you." She paused. "I know, radical concept, huh? I'm not even sure when it happened. But it did happen."
Spike searched her eyes, and a look of wonder passed over his face.
"I'm not so good with words," she continued hesitantly. "But it's important for me to try to explain this to you, and you deserve to know."
He nodded, encouraging her, afraid words might break the spell.
"I think that the part of my heart that could love stopped working when Angel went away. It was too hard to feel that vulnerable, to open myself up to hurt like that again." She stopped for a moment, unsure how to go on. Then she plunged ahead. "That's part of why I always used to get so irritated whenever you would say you loved me. No matter what, no matter how many times I put you off, you could always put yourself out there again and take the risk and the consequences. I had stopped doing that a long time ago.
"I told Angel that you were in my heart," she said, "but that's not entirely true. The truth is," she gazed steadily at him, "you're the reason it started working again. I may not be done figuring out who I'm gonna be, but at least this lump of cookie dough is capable of love again, and that's because of you."
Spike raised his scarred eyebrow.
"Uhh, you really don't want to know." Buffy cringed. "God, I'm really bad at this."
"Poetry," he assured her softly. When she looked sceptical, he added, "I didn't say it was *good* poetry, but it sounded perfect to me."
"Good." Buffy laughed.
"Hmmm, I wonder if this is all part and parcel of the whole champion gig," Spike mused. Off her look of confusion, he finished, "You know, the whole groupie thing, birds throwing themselves at my shoes -- or other parts of my attire and anatomy." His eyes were dancing.
Buffy snorted and rolled her eyes. "Full of yourself much?" she teased.
"Oh, you know you love me," he retorted playfully.
"Not because you're a champion," she answered simply. "Because you're my champion."
Spike closed his eyes and exhaled. Forgiveness and love, very, very good for the soul.
He felt her lips on his as she whispered, "I love you."
"No, you don't. But thanks for saying it," he replied, grinning.
"Oh, great. This is gonna be a *thing* now?" Buffy thought for a moment. "Ooo, this can be our thing." She looked at him, smiling. "Check us out. We've got a thing."
"Yeah, Buffy, we've got a thing." As she curled up beside him, her cheek came to rest on his shoulder, and he kissed the top of her head. "Now shut that gorgeous mouth of yours and get some sleep. Big day tomorrow."
He was loved. It was gonna be a good day.