He eyes the Slayer sitting on the back steps, looking out over her protectorate. He doesn't want to disturb her. There are plenty of other places to catch a smoke.
"You just gonna hover behind me, or do you wanna sit?"
Her voice startles him as it always does when she addresses him these days. The edge is soft and caresses him, rather than slicing through his thin skin with abandon.
He moves silently, drifting towards her warmth like the proverbial moth. Doesn't speak as he lights up and takes a drag, sitting beside her. She gives him a sidelong glance, full of disapproval. He returns it full of end-of-days resignation. She looks down and then away with a mirthless laugh.
"We'll make it, luv." He says, sotto voce.
"No." He exhales. "Not all but most."
"Most." She echoes, sighing. "Most isn't enough."
"I'll do what I can. Do my best."
She turns to him fully in the moonlight. His skin is luminescent; his hair is on fire, gathering light to it like a ravenous and greedy thing.
"I know." She smiles a small smile. He doesn't look at her. The smudge on the step below him holds his interest. Dried blood.
"It won't be enough." The crinkle in his brow fascinates her. Her hand moves of its own volition, following a predestined path to his forehead; to the source of his consternation. As if on cue, his head turns into it.
She touches him
lightly. The electricity burns him. He has to close his eyes. Her index finger
smoothes out his furrowed brow and his
face relaxes. She traces the line of his nose, the outline of his lips; his chin and drops her hand to her lap.
"I know you'll do all you can and that's more than enough, Spike." Her voice is so soft, so revealing that he shivers. Lifting his eyes to hers, he feels himself becoming submerged.
This is a place of terror for him. He doesn't want to go back there alone again.
"Uh-uh. Don't." She turns from him, resuming her vigil. They sit in silence for a hundred years before he looks back out into the darkness.
When her hand comes to rest in his, he slowly curls his fingers around it watching, with interest, the contrast of porcelain and gold. She takes a deep and soundless breath.
"I love you."
His eyes fly to her face and there isn't even the subtlest of changes. He briefly wonders if it was an auditory hallucination, but then she swivels her gaze and determined green meets astonished blue. She squeezes his hand as if to say `this is real.' He looks down at it and then again over to her. Her other hand reaches up to wipe away the tear he didn't know he'd shed.
"If I don't make it-"
"You will." His strained voice comes to him after a few false starts.
"If one of us or both of us " She looks down for a moment, consumed by the possibility, before meeting his angry and incredulous eyes. "I want I need for you to know."
"Do you love me?" The flavor of whatever he is about to say is wiped from his tongue. He can only taste her fear.
"Say it." Her eyes are wet-rimmed saucers. "Please, I need-"
"I love you, Buffy. Now. Forever...Always." He brings her hand to his mouth and gently kisses it, his eyes closing. She watches him; an odd feeling of relief settles over her.
When their eyes
meet again, they both smile with the absurdity of it all. He removes his fingers
from hers and runs his hand tentatively
over her hair and down her back. She leans into him as he scoots closer. They
sit side-by-side, both lost in thought, knowing it's
the beginning of the end.
"It makes sense. Us. Doing this here." Her tone is wistful.
"Why's that, luv?"
"This is kinda our place."
"This is? Out here in the thick of night an' all?"
"No, I mean here. On these steps. With these trees." He looks around, remembering the first time they sat there together and every time after.
"I suppose." He kisses her hair, leaning his cheek on the top of her head. He flicks the forgotten cigarette onto the dirt and folds her in his arms. They sit quietly, waiting for eternity.
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