"No! No, you've done enough, you can still "
"Nooo," he drawls, and the snark in his voice wraps painfully around her heart. Buffy thinks it has always been like this, Spike understanding everything except why she can't see what is so clear to him but she'd thought it was clear, two nights ago and last night when they they were going to win. And the ubervamps are all dust, damn skippy, but how can that be a win if the world still ends? "You've beat them back, it's for me to do the cleanup," he says. How can he make it sound so simple when sunlight (or something more intense, the light of his own bright heart) is pinning him in place and pouring from his chest and bringing the world down around them?
Spike is looking at the crumbling hellmouth, and Buffy follows his gaze, turns to see what he sees when Faith yells, "Buffy, come on!" Buffy quickly casts Faith a horrified glance, but not before looking again at Spike. Go? Leave him here? The words tumble through her mind and catch in her heart.
Buffy knows she has rarely been able to hear or understand the language of her heart these last few years, especially when it tried to tell her about Spike, but there is no confusion now. She sees Faith run up and out of the hellmouth even as her gaze is pulled inexorably back to Spike. No! Nononono! Stop him, save him, I won't leave without him! Her blood screams through her, carrying her heart's cry like oxygen to every fiber of her body the body he knows so well, that knew him even when she refused to; but even as every cell, humming as one with Slayer adrenalin, hears the blood-cry and demands she rescue her Spike, she sees the inevitability of his... ending. Sees him draped over a cross in an empty church, Buffy, can we rest now?
"Gotta move, lamb. Think it's fair to say, school's out for bloody summer." He is smiling.
"I mean it! Gonna do this!" His hands come up defensively, believe me, let me do this, and he is not looking at her but at the walls he is collapsing with his light.
She looks at his hand, palm open in the air before her, and back up at his face, and knows that she will leave him, one more time. But not yet. She swallows hard, and laces her fingers through his, slowly, deliberately. I'm with you, right now.
Spike hesitates, and there is a moment when Buffy's hand is closed around his open one, but then his fingers fold reflexively around hers, giving in to the magnetic pull that has always drawn them together whether they want it or not, and he follows his fingers and turns to look at her. Even with everything else tearing at it, she thinks the wonder in his face might be what breaks her heart. Doesn't he know yet? And everybody will forgive, and love... he will be loved.
And then, as their gazes lock and their hands tighten, gripping one another as only two people with super-strength can, a thousand worlds come together where they touch. As dimensions coalesce around them, sparks snap up along their skin and erupt into flame around their hands. It burns, but not in an "ow-my-hand-is-on-fire" way; the fire comes from them, from the thousand thousand realities where Buffies and Spikes come together time and again to save the world or just each other in a blaze of love and fire. Buffy presses her hand hard to Spike's, her anchor in the dimensional vertigo, and their burning pulses up her arm and through her core. With a little gasp, she realizes she is feeling his soul. He's right wasn't he always?, it does kinda sting. It's a pleasurable sort of pain, though, as it usually is with Spike.
For a moment, as Spike's soul burns across universes, they are connected to one another in all the myriad worlds, and as Buffy stares into her Spike's eyes, the only one she sees though she can feel a million more, she knows that this isn't the only way it could have ended, but this is their end, in their world, and she isn't sorry that this is where their choices have brought them.
Slowly but all too quickly the other worlds dissolve back into themselves, and all that remains burning in this one is his soul, hot against her hand. Buffy smiles a little, because his spark is all aflame, though it hurts to feel that fire branding her own soul, squeezing painfully around her heart, which is trying at once to swell with joy and contract with loss. She feels his strength, his confidence, real at long last, and knows he isn't doing this for her, but for the world, and for himself, because he can. She is proud of him, so proud, and as she feels the words swell up in her throat she knows he doesn't need to hear them but she needs to say them.
"I love you," she breathes, and the tears in her eyes now might be joy or sorrow or something else entirely, but they don't blur her vision she sees him clearly, for this last time, and maybe it is the first as well.
He looks at her with that soul-cracking wonder for a moment longer, and almost smiles. When he speaks, he brings them back completely into the rapidly collapsing world. "No you don't, he says gently, but thanks for saying it."
She wants to argue, and she knows that later, during long, black nights without him, she will wish she hadn't fucked things up so badly that he couldn't believe she loved him even when she finally told him, but right now his strength stuns her, and she doesn't want to make this moment about herself. She thinks, anyway, that he felt it a moment ago, when their big sappy love was surrounding them from all dimensions. But for once in his long life he's doing something big and important for reasons other than earning the love of a woman, and she loves him too much to take away from that. So Buffy does something new too, and puts what's right for him before what she wants. For once.
And then the earth shakes and something crashes beside her, and her hand wrenches out of his as she fights to keep her balance. The flames fade around his fingers at the broken contact, and she looks up at his dear, beautiful face a last time as he shouts, "Now, go!" And she does.
As she runs up the stairs she hears him say, faintly, with a smile in his voice, "I wanna see how it ends."
Even if you see 'em, coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really, but it does. So what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come, you can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are. You'll see what I mean.
Becoming, Part 2
The End of the Beginning