And today I jumped through hoops the whole day...He's still shaky on his crotches, and boy, is a full-leg cast heavy!
But it's all good, he's home again and doesn't need surgery since he's luckily just young enough to heal with only a cast. Probably.
So, still no 55 days today.
But at least the last chapter of Melting Fire.
Title: Melting Fire
Length: >100,000 words
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine. Only the plot, one demon and the veil are.
Setting: Right after 'Dead Things'
Summary: The night after, all he wants is talk.
The night after, there’s nothing she wants less than talking.
And suddenly they find themselves in another dimension; one that Buffy can’t leave. There’s only one way to get her out. A way with consequences.
After the Storm (Part II)
And there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.
(Mumford and Sons)
God, that was close.
He almost killed her. Almost killed the woman he loves.
He pushes the door open, staggers into his crypt and slumps to his knees.
He can’t believe he almost did that. All it took was a simple spell, one that even the small boy could come up with. One spell, and not only did he disregard his soul, mauled and almost killed again, but nearly killed the one person in the world whose death he knows he can’t survive a second time.
A tremor races through him and leaves him shaking - he’s a danger. After everything he did, he’s still a danger. The vampire in him is too strong, even for the soul. The soul doesn’t change a bloody thing.
He remembers what he felt when he was connected to Buffy – her despair, but also the streak of light. He remembers the hope and happiness that washed through him, remembers the warmth inside when he understood that he was the one bringing it out in her.
But what is all that worth if…His face contorts in anguish, and a small sound of pain slips out of his throat, like a whimper, but not quite.
Hurt her! That’s all you want to do! Kill her! He still hears the boy fueling his instincts. Even worse, he still feels the echo of what the skank elicited within him. For a split second it’s there again, the need to kill. The spell might be broken, but there are still remnants of it lingering.
Or maybe – maybe it’s not the spell anymore. Maybe it never has been.
Maybe it’s just him.
The shout bursting out of him is meant to convey assurance, to banish the existence of it being remotely possible that getting his soul was in vain; yet, it eerily lacks conviction.
Instead, it sounds much more like despair.
The tears rolling down his cheeks confirm that he already knows.
He’s a danger. And if it’s so easy to bring out the beast, if he’s a danger even to the people he loves, he has no business being here. He has to leave Sunnydale. Go someplace where nobody knows him, nobody knows that there’s a monster in him that is just waiting to be unleashed.
Go someplace where nobody will let it loose.
Leave Buffy behind.
“No,” he whispers again, and now he doesn’t even try to convince himself of anything.
She sits on her bed like a statue, staring into the distance. She’d like to pretend that she’s thinking things through, but the truth is far from it. Her brain is too jumbled to catch any clear thought at all.
I don’t know, she told Xander, and God was that ever true. He practically sent her to Spike, even if he denied it in the end. And she knows he was right, she should go there and check on him. But what could she even help him with if she doesn’t know anything herself? Still, she knows he was shocked to the bone by what had happened to him, him running away -despite being the one that never runs away from anything - not the only clue. And she longs to go to him, yearns to reassure him, because she knows he needs it.
But at the same time it feels very much like not wanting to go anywhere, least of all where Xander sent her. Not like the last time her friend sent her after a man, back then, when she ran until her lungs were just shy from bursting to be in time to stop Riley from leaving her, on the odd possibility that it might work out.
And yet, her heart races just like then, and there’s this longing part of her that wants nothing but to go there. It’s as if this connection she felt when their souls had fused, this connection that felt somehow like it had always been there between them, is pulling her to him. So why does she still sit here?
Stupid fear. She’s the Slayer; she’s supposed to be fearless. But this, this isn’t something she can beat on long and hard enough until the problem is solved. Because the fear is inside her, deep down, where she can’t even reach with her fists.
God, he gained his soul for her! He didn’t bring flowers or complimented her on her good looks. He gave her the gift of getting his soul, for God sakes! When she had been the one to lose Angel his soul, something she could never undo, no matter how hard she tried. No matter how often she saved the world, this was always part of what defined her, however deep she’d tried to bury it. Buffy Summers, Slayer, destroyer of the good; that has been her ever since she made the mistake of falling in love.
Until now. Because suddenly everything’s different. Suddenly she’s worth a soul. What she could never do, he did for her - earn back a soul.
She shivers. He was willing to give up everything, to deal with the pain that he must have known would follow, only to be for her what she needed him to be. Without any hope for reward.
Her thoughts drift to Riley again; he had gotten everything from her she was prepared to give, and yet he left. It wasn’t enough. Because she wasn’t ready to commit herself completely to him.
Not after Angel.
After Angel, she could never risk that much again, because she wasn’t sure she would survive it a second time. She had to keep her heart behind a wall to protect it from shattering. So she built it up inside, and she let no one through to the very core.
Until someone came along and began to chip away at that wall, against all her defenses, brought it tumbling down and left her vulnerable.
And then, instead of taking advantage of her state, he went and did this huge thing for her.
Gained his soul.
The first time in years that her heart lay bare and open for someone to crush, and he not only didn’t betray her hesitant trust and hurt her, but made himself even more vulnerable instead.
She thinks back to what happened two hours ago. Had she been asked whether or not she thought it possible to override a spell put on someone, she would have denied it in a heartbeat. And still she had absolute faith in him; there hadn’t been a single second that she had any doubt that he’d get it done. Not after what she’d just seen in his soul. After she’d witnessed the grief and anguish he felt at what he had done, but also the immeasurable love inside him that warmed her heart, and the strength that came with it.
All well and good. But where the hell does that leave her?
She snorts; only one way to find out, she thinks, picking up her boots to pull on again, and with them all the courage she can get a hold of.
After only about ten short minutes, she finds herself at his crypt. Her hand rises, but instead of pushing the door open, she just lays it against the weathered wood. She still has no idea what to do once she is inside. She seriously contemplates whether going back home maybe would be the better choice, until she realizes that her hand once more seems to have a life of its own, because the door is already moving in its hinges.
She enters the crypt, slowly, cautiously, a little out of breath, even though she didn’t run. It’s surprisingly dark in here. She needs a moment to catch sight of him, standing by the sarcophagus, unmoving, his head bent down, his shoulders slumped. It takes another second to detect the cause for the unusual darkness - there are no candles lit. Not one.
Her heart sinks.
She’s unsure about what to say, so she stays quiet. Then her eyes fall on a lump a few steps from him, and she recognizes it as his duffle. Fright hits her like a punch, and that finally propels her a step forward.
She can hear the panic in her voice, panic because she knows how this story goes.
You’re leaving me?
The tension doesn’t leave him, but he doesn’t stand like a statue any longer. He lifts his face to the ceiling and takes a breath, as if coming to a relieving decision, and she wonders if the fear in her voice has anything to do with it.
“Thought about it. Can’t,” he says very quietly, and suddenly she’s not so sure anymore if he’s really relieved.
“Why?” Her voice sounds very small, and she doesn’t know herself whether she means ‘why did you want to leave’ or ‘why can’t you’. When he turns his head and gives her this look, one brow raised in disbelief, she knows it doesn’t matter, because his answer fits in any case.
He closes his eyes, and when he reopens them, she sees so much agony in them that it almost knocks her off her feet. This is not what she expected, not after what she’s seen in his soul, and not after what he accomplished tonight. Not even after him fleeing. She steps closer, tentatively, just a few inches. She feels the impact of fear pouncing on her, impaling every cell of her body, making her breath hitch in pain. Fear to be too late, to not be able to reach him anymore. She can almost feel the bubble he closed himself in, can almost smell it, and she has to fight the nearly uncontrollable urge to burst through it to get to him. She’s held back only by the sudden certainty that he’d vanish into thin air if his protection did.
“You know,” he says, and then he’s there, she can feel him all around her, even though neither of them moved. He raises his hand, slowly as if unsure how to move faster, and she sees the slight tremble in his fingers when they near her face just as they change direction and land on her bare shoulder. Only the fingertips, and only for a second, but a jolt surges through her unlike anything she ever felt.
That’s when she knows.
She’s right to be here. Here is where she belongs. With him.
She feels the pain drain away, flowing out of her body like water, taking a lot of the dirt and filth with it that had burdened her for months. She lifts her eyes, finally ready to meet his, and when they do, she feels him sink into her, holding onto her to keep from drifting away.
“Buffy,” he whispers, and for a moment hope flares in his eyes. And for a moment she feels complete. Warm. Loved.
But then he reels back. Snatches his hand back from her as if burning from her heat. His eyes darken, and then they close off.
He’s surprised just how small her voice sounds. For a moment he wavers; she’s been offering so much, just with her being here. How could he reject her? But then he straightens.
I’m dangerous. It made him so proud to say that about himself, once upon a time. Now it has a different ring to it. It terrifies him like nothing ever has.
She’s silent. Did he expect her to object? No, not really. Still hoped it, maybe, stupid git that he is.
He sees her swallow, then she finally speaks.
“That never stopped you from being here.”
He averts his eyes, forces himself not to see her face, the uncertainty written all over it. Not to think about what she’s so uncertain about.
“Everything’s different now,” he whispers.
He hears her inhaling sharply, and he can almost feel the change in her, can feel the air charge with it. “Yeah, exactly, Spike. It’s different now.” There’s a conviction in her voice all of a sudden that is new to it, an urgency to listen to her that makes him glance at her again.
Then he understands. “The soul?” he spits out, and her flinching tells him that was what she meant. Of course it was, he thinks and laughs bitterly. “The soul doesn’t make me any less dangerous. You saw that tonight, Buffy. The soul doesn’t make a bloody difference.”
“It makes all the difference in the world,” she says, her voice so low that he’s not even sure he understood her right.
Oh, how he would love to believe her. That now that the spell is broken, everything will be okay, from now on and forever. Just like in a fairytale. Because of the soul.
But she’s wrong, and she has to understand.
“What good is it having a sodding soul if it still can be so easily overridden by the demon? I almost killed. I almost killed you.” He nearly chokes on the last word, his eyes flaring in an icy blue.
She nods. “Yes, but you didn’t. You came through in time.”
“Yeah, because it was you. What if next time, it’s the niblet? Or Xander? Not hard to manipulate the demon into raging fury there.” He steps closer, looms over her menacingly. “If it hadn’t been you, I’d have killed. Soul or not, it wouldn’t have mattered. What you saw back there was nothing short of a killing machine. The demon rejoices in the kill, it knows no fear, and it loves inflicting pain. If this part of me can’t be controlled by the soul, if even a sodding child can achieve that, then it doesn’t really make a difference.”
Bewilderment flashes in her eyes for just a second, but it’s replaced instantly by a stern look. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I have – “ He’s rendered speechless for a brief moment, then he grabs her shoulders, hard. “Didn’t you listen to me? Haven’t you looked earlier? The demon was out of control. I was about to kill the woman I love, and there was nothing I could’ve done to stop it!”
“Yes, there was.”
His head snaps back a little. “What?” He stares at her incredulously. “Where were you when my teeth were mere seconds away from ripping your throat out?”
“I was right there. Don’t you understand? There was something you could do, and you did!” She’s stepping closer to him again, her eyes blazing into his with a conviction he doesn’t understand. “It wasn’t me holding you back from hurting me. It was you! If you hadn’t done that, I’d be dead now. It was the good in you making you stop. And,” she pauses, drawing in a breath, “I’m not sure it has anything to do with the soul.”
He looks at her, watches her start to shake, and knows he’s not the only one feeling exposed without protective walls, and he knows more than ever that what he’s about to say is true.
“The only good in me,” he whispers, “is you.”
She shakes her head, determination coloring her voice. “No, see, that’s where you’re wrong. There was always good in you, as much as you liked to deny it, and as much as we all tried to make you believe your lies that you were purely evil.” She reaches for his hands, but shies away the next second, as if she’s afraid she’ll be less convincing if she touches him. “It was you gaining your soul, not me.”
He feels that he’s shaking now, too, and his knees feel as if they are about to give. “But – “
She wipes his objection away with her words cutting him off. “It was the good in you that yearned for the soul, and that was also what held you back from killing me tonight. You didn’t need the soul for that. You never did.” She breathes in deeply, but she’s not done yet.
“The soul,” she says, and then she hesitates. He wants to touch her, give her some of his strength, like he always longs to, until he realizes – she doesn’t need it.
“The soul,” she repeats, “frees you.”
He stares at her, silently waiting for her to explain, because he doesn’t understand.
“You don’t need me any longer,” she whispers, and now he reels back as if slapped in the face. Protest rises in him that he’ll always need her, but he catches it before it can tumble out of his mouth, because he sees her face, and what he detects there is nothing but joyful pride. She’s glowing, her eyes shining brightly, and he understands - it’s not rejection she’s talking about.
“It’s not about what they brought out in you tonight, or that it was eager to kill me in spite of the soul.” Her voice is getting stronger with every word she speaks, until it pierces his skin and gets hold of his heart. “With the right spell, everybody can be made into a killer. Having a soul makes no difference there. It’s about who you are in this instant. It’s about you thinking of leaving, of leaving everything you love behind, because you don’t want to endanger any more lives.”
He backs away from her, seeking distance even while his eyes are riveted to hers. She doesn’t let him, stepping closer yet, no matter that he’s not even remotely ready to hear her, to believe her words. He can’t help but listen. ”I saw your past. I know what you did, how much you enjoyed it. I felt it. But I also felt how horrified you are about it now. You know that nothing in this world can make it undone; not even your soul. But you would do anything to never let that happen again. Even let go of me.” She breathes in deeply, and he can see her fighting something down, an emotion he can’t quite catch. But then he sees it replaced by something else shining brightly in her face – pride. “It’s about me not being the only reason for you not wanting to kill any longer. That is what the soul is about. That is why it makes all the difference in the world.”
He can’t move a single muscle, stunned by her words. At first it feels like a punch into his gut, and he can feel that something breaks inside. But then he feels warmth spreading within him, coming from his heart where she just touched him, and he knows it wasn’t something breaking, but being torn down to let the warmth out, let it disperse. He stands before her, watching her watch him, and he feels everything slowly falling into place. He wants to cry in relief, because she is right - he doesn’t need her anymore. Not like he did before. For the first time since – ever, really, he doesn’t need anybody.
For the first time ever, he is his own man.
A man who can trust himself.
And that is what the soul gave him.
And in the end, that is what Buffy gave him.
Slowly, slowly a smile sneaks into his eyes.
She watches the change in him, sees the truth sinking in, and her heart sings. For the first time in a very long time, she’s truly happy. Happy for him, because she knows he’s earned that.
Yet, at the same time she can barely breathe. Because with every word she says, with every piece of Spike she watches fall into place, she feels the uncertainty rising in her about what this means for her.
She sees his eyes glow brightly, like she has never seen them before, and she feels her insides quiver.
She swallows hard, only a faint whisper leaving her, afraid that any sound from her could shatter something precious.
He watches her for a long time, his eyes narrowing, and she wonders whether he contemplates her question or his answer.
“Am I what?” There’s a softness to his voice that she didn’t expect, that gingerly burns into her with its warmth.
“Leaving.” Leaving me.
Again he doesn’t say anything for a long while, his eyes rooted to hers, as if he’s trying to figure out how to answer that by looking into her eyes. “Do you want me to?” he then asks, and she doesn’t miss the slight tremor in his voice.
Are you now?
I don’t know…
That’s when she finally understands, understands what she wants.
And finally she feels the last pieces of herself fall into place as well; finally she’s strong enough to face the truth.
“No,” she says.
She sees his eyes light up, sees him then cautiously draw a curtain of wariness to shield him.
“That right?” he says, tilting his head aside a little. “Why?”
She swallows again. “I don’t want to miss the man you are now,” she explains, her voice warm and tender again. But she still sees the small wince.
“All right then,” he says after taking a deep breath and straightening, “I reckon I could stay a while.”
Even though he tries to hide it, she sees a look of resignation scurry over his face. He turns away from her, and her heart hurts when she catches sight of his eyes, sees the light behind the curtain dim a fraction. She watches him walk over to where his duffel lies, grab it and open the zipper, obviously on his way to unpack, when suddenly a surge of panic shoots through her, because she feels like she said it all wrong. As if this was her last and only opportunity to do better, she hurries to follow him and grabs his arm.
“There’s more,” she says.
Her fingers dig into his arm as if she has to hold onto him to keep him from vanishing any second. She urges him to turn toward her, and when he does, he looks into her eyes, round and slightly panicky, just like her fingers on his arms feel. He can hear her heart beating frantically, and as if the panic were contagious, he feels all the borrowed blood draining from his face. He can’t say a thing, his throat constricted with anxiousness, so he just stares at her and waits, silently awaiting her words.
Only they don’t come, because all she does is stare back. It begins to hurt where her fingers still clamp down on his muscles, but he barely notices. His whole being is focused on her; there’s no room for feeling pain.
He sees her struggle for words and begins to wonder if she’ll ever find them when all of a sudden she lets him go.
Disappointment rises in him, cold and heavy, and at the same time he feels for her, because he can see how hard she’s trying. And of course the urge to reassure her gets the upper hand and fights the disappointment down.
“Buffy -,” he starts, backing away from her a little to give her some space, to show her she doesn’t need to say anything, but she cuts him off resolutely.
“No. Don’t,” she says, and he’s rooted to the spot.
She squeezes her eyes shut for a few seconds, and then they fly open again, and he sees something cross her face, as if she’s relieved that he’s still there, and finally words begin to tumble from her lips.
“There’s so much more I want to tell you. About how I couldn’t feel anything after I came back.” She breathes in heavily and slowly inches closer. “About how I met Angel and hoped to trigger some emotion, but there was nothing.” He sees her wincing and knows she mirrors his reaction to his sire’s name. Then her face softens; slowly she closes the distance between them and gently takes his hand in hers, and it leaves him almost shocked. But she pins him with her gaze and goes on. “About how, for a long time, the only one I ever felt something with was you,” she whispers.
He lets out a grunt and pulls his hand back. “Yeah. Made your body sing, didn’t I?” It’s meant to sound like his usual innuendo-mixed snark, but he can hear that it doesn’t work. It just sounds bitter. He mentally kicks himself for even saying it and closes his eyes, not sure if he can bear a look of disgust on her face at the reminder of what happened between them all those months. Not so sure if he wants to be reminded himself.
He hears her inhaling sharply, but then she keeps on talking as if nothing had happened, except her voice is stronger now, holding more conviction. “I want to tell you about how you brought me the first glimpse of light back, right in front of the veil that separated us from the blackest darkness of all. About how I held onto you, even when you had left me there, because I knew I could.”
His eyes snap open at that. He hadn’t known that, never would’ve dreamed of it, and he feels something new, unknown to him, a tingling sensation deep down in his belly. He watches her now, drinks her in, really, because there’s no hint of disgust on her face, only a soft gleam that lights her eyes as a shuddering breath escapes her.
“I want to tell you about how much it means to me that you did this incredible thing for me - gaining your soul back. For me! After what I did to Angel’s soul –” She breaks off, and he can hear her heart hammering in her chest. And suddenly he’s not really sure anymore that it’s not also his heart pounding there.
She swallows, and he sees her fighting with more than just a lump in her throat, sees her eyes glistening. “I want to tell you that things changed after that, got easier. Because I felt different. Because for the first time since I came back I began to feel whole again.”
She looks down on the small place between their feet, and then she laughs, only a small laugh, because she doesn’t know what to do instead. “But what I want to tell you most of all is that it felt like…when you got your soul back, it felt like I could feel mine start to heal. It’s like there’s a fire back in me, and I can feel its warmth again, and all that was dead inside me melts to life. And –” She reaches for him now, not only with her eyes, but with her hands, “you did this.”
He stares at her, then at their hands, and all at once he has to bring distance between them again, because he’s overwhelmed by what he’s feeling, and he fears he’s going to start to cry.
Of all the things she could’ve said, this is the best he could have dreamed of. It was all worth it. He helped her heal. He feels the damned tears spilling and turns away from her even further, walking over to the small window to light a candle, to do anything with his fingers to distract himself, but it’s futile. He can’t stop thinking that he helped her heal, and he feels the small drops on his hand, and then he feels her fingertips dipping in them. He hadn’t even heard her coming.
“Don’t leave,” she says.
“Why?” He’s not sure he said that, but she answers, so he probably did.
“Because I need you to be here.”
“Why?” Isn’t it enough that she wants it? Does it really matter why she does? But he feels it deep inside him, very close to the place where his soul burns, that he needs to know. “Why?”
There’s another long pause, and he knows her well enough to understand that she’s fighting again. Not the kind of fight they’ve always danced. But the one he danced alone until today; the steps that she always denied to follow. The dance with truths.
But he’s done with dancing alone. He needs her with him in it, and so he finally turns, not caring that his face is still wet from his tears, trapping her with his eyes. “Why?”
“I was never in my life so afraid of losing someone like I was of losing you when I found you in your crypt.”
At first he thinks she’s evading the question again when he hears her whispering, because it’s nothing new she’s telling him; his memories about the hours in the crypt are more than fuzzy, but that he remembers.
But her hands, always her hands, reach for him again, and this time, she holds his tight, and she’s not averting her eyes, but keeps them locked to his.
“It took me some time to figure out why. So much changed since we got trapped – you changed, and you changed me! You cracked my heart open, that part of me that could finally feel this again, this feeling that I hadn’t let myself feel for such a long time. And then you helped me recognize it. And now I know.” She pauses, and her face loses all tension and dissolves into tenderness. “Now I know why I can’t lose you.”
Her voice drifts away, and he moves an inch closer, not willing to let her go yet, but all he gets out when he speaks is once more only the one whispered word.
But her voice is soft, so soft, and he knows it wasn’t necessary. She would have said it anyway, because he can see it in her eyes, and his knees nearly buckle.
“Because I love you.”
He’s hoped so long to hear her say that, and had, once upon a time, several scenarios in his head about how he’d react, what he’d do. He doesn’t do any of it. He can’t, because he can’t move. He knows his lips are moving, but no sound comes out of his mouth. He’s almost relieved when she speaks again.
“I can’t lose you because I love you, Spike.”
He still can’t say anything. He’s a jumbled mess of emotions, of tingling and buzzing, ache and release, fear and laughter, wonder, hope and happiness – there’s simply no room for words. Until he feels her hands tremble in his, and that’s when he understands how frightened she is, too.
“I love you,” she repeats, her voice tiny this time, anxious, almost panicky, because he still doesn’t answer. It’s what wakes him out of his stupor.
He shifts toward her, tentatively, still frightened to the bone himself. She’s so close now, her scent surrounding him, soaking him. He looks into her eyes, and he feels himself falling into them, and her with him, and he knows she’s never been so close before. Nobody ever has.
“Buffy,” he says, and she lifts her head a little, and he knows she heard it too, the depth of emotion that courses through him; it rings in this one word loud and clear, even if it’s spoken so softly. He loosens his hands from hers and raises them to hover at her cheeks, almost touching them, but not quite. And then he closes the tiny remaining distance, so slowly that he wouldn’t be sure when skin finally met skin if it wasn’t for what he sees in her eyes, this gleaming mix of relief and tenderness and longing the moment he finally connects.
Her hands go up to his chest now where they pause briefly, and he knows she can feel him quivering inside. She lets out a little sigh, and then her hands glide up along his neck and behind his head. She gingerly pulls him to her, his body and his head, his arms wrapping around her shoulders, his hands slipping at the back of her neck, buried in her hair. She pulls him so close that their cheeks touch, and he gasps at the sensation, the most intimate contact he’s ever had with her. With her lips brushing his ear, she whispers once more, “I love you,” and a sound escapes him, almost like a sob if it wasn’t for the happiness swinging in it.
She draws her head back, slowly, cheek caressing cheek, until their lips are close. Her breath floats over his skin, and again he hears her breathing, “I love you,” and then, finally, her lips find his.
They barely touch, and they stay like that for a long while, breathing into each other, and he feels like she is breathing life into him. The tension that had him in a tight, hurtful grip slowly begins to ebb away, and he feels himself flowing into her like her breath into him. He says her name once more, “Buffy,” I love you, and that’s when she shuts out their surroundings, their eyes fluttering closed, and kisses him.
It feels like nothing he ever experienced; like losing the ground under his feet without falling down, but into her; like coming home, but to a home he doesn’t know yet, but he knows it’s home. It’s warm and soft and tender, so tender, and it feels familiar and new all in one, because he never kissed with a soul, and he never has been kissed with love.
He hears a small whimper and opens his eyes and looks at her. Her eyes are still wide, and there’s something shining in them that he sometimes thought to see a glimpse of, but it always instantly disappeared before he could’ve caught it. Now it’s just there - doesn’t hide, doesn’t run away.
He draws back a fraction, breaking the kiss, but never losing contact with her lips, and breathes her in. “Oh God. Buffy,” he whispers, because it’s almost too much. He feels something inside him burst, and he knows it’s what shaded him from her light, because it hits him with all its force then. But it doesn’t hurt him. It’s just shining brightly into his soul, lighting it, filling it with life.
His arms wrapped around her like hers around him, they hold each other tight, bodies connected like eyes and lips and breath; and then she whispers back, “Make love to me.”
His eyes fall shut and he breathes in deeply, something flooding through him he doesn’t recognize, but he knows it makes him want to cry. He feels her hand on his face and hears her whispering once more, “Make love to me,” just before she kisses him again.
Tears are wetting his face, and he doesn’t know whose they are, and he doesn’t care.
It’s like a dam broke, a dam that had held her hostage instead of protecting her, but she understands that only now.
The moment she said those three words, she knew they were true, and the second he finally touched her face, emotion rolled over her that made her tremble from its intensity, and she knows she’ll never be able to express it with words. For an instant she wonders when exactly she began to feel it, but then she doesn’t care any longer, because all she can think of is getting closer to him, pouring into him with everything she has.
Make love to me.
It’s all wrong, because she wants to make love to him, wants to show him what she has no sufficient words for; but when she sees his eyes falling shut and feels his arms around her tighten, she knows this is what he longed for most – letting him love her. And with a flash of sudden clarity she knows it’s also part of why he gained his soul - making him the man that was allowed to love her.
She feels tears pooling in her eyes when she cups his cheek and whispers once more, “Make love to me,” and kisses him, and she dimly wonders if they spilled, because she can feel the wetness between their faces.
He kisses her back with so much fervor and yet so softly that it almost hurts her inside. He holds her tightly to him, so much so that she wonders whether he is afraid to lose her or is as overwhelmed by his feelings as she is, but then he makes a tiny sound in his throat and she knows it’s a little of both.
He feels like in a dream. He can feel it with every fiber of his being that she meant what she said, can feel her love in her hands at the nape of his neck, in her lips on his, and in the trembling of her whole body that is pressing against his as if she wants them to merge to one. Like in a dream, he thinks, and he hopes he won’t wake up.
Her hands slowly begin to roam over his body, alternately pressing him closer and caressing him.
His lips slowly begin to roam over her face, her neck, her shoulder after freeing it from her top, only to return to her mouth and kiss all his love into her.
They help each other out of their clothes, piece by piece and without any hurry; there is a lot of time for gingerly caressing newly freed skin, for seeking out each other’s lips and for holding each other, savoring that there’s less and less barrier between them.
Her fingers dance over his skin, feeling him, soaking him in. Their movements are never anything but loving, not frantic like they have been at other times. It’s nothing like then, because it’s only about the longing to feel the other, be close to the other, closer, closer.
He can’t decide if he wants to let his hands glide over her skin, feel her everywhere, and show her with his tender caresses everything he feels for her, or if he’d rather hold her tight to him, feeling her heart throb against his chest, making him feel as if she brings his own heart to life again. He’s glad he doesn’t have to decide, because there’s time for both, and she lets him.
Until the only coherent thought left in him is that he’s still not close enough, that he wants to crawl inside her to be as close to her as possible.
When he finally glides into her they are still standing, just like the first time. But they are not bringing the house down. It’s nothing like that. This time, there’s no fight. All fight has left them, finally, completely. He holds her tight to him and stills, and she’s aware of every single square inch of her skin meeting his. She clings to him, holding onto him tighter than she realizes, but he doesn’t seem to care.
It feels too good to be real, and for a while he just waits for the other shoe to drop. He breathes in her scent, committing it to memory, suddenly afraid that this will be the last time.
When he raises his head from the crook of her neck where he buried it, she’s almost overwhelmed by what she sees in his face. It’s so much love, yet unexpectedly mingled with so much despair that again tears are springing to her eyes. It’s a look as if he’s preparing to say good bye to her, and it makes everything in her ache.
“I love you,” she says again, holding his face in her hands like his heart, his eyes with hers, and again, “I love you.”
He closes his eyes in relief, and it’s then that she realizes how damaged she really still is and how much she damaged him - how many times she has to say it and he has to hear it, feel it, that she really loves him.
It’s this moment when he begins to really believe her.
She doesn’t know how he managed, but somehow he got them down to his basement. He reverently lays her down on his bed, and she’s glad, because she knows, of course, why he does it. He needs it to be different from all the times before, because he is different. Because they are different. And the bed is as different as it gets.
And down here in the dark, she can feel the brightness coming off of him, filling her with light and warmth and love. She feels it rise within her, finally not held back by walls for fear that it could drown in his darkness. And she lets herself feel it, and him, too.
Their fingers entwine, like their bodies and their hearts and their souls.
They both don’t last long. She knows he’s close when he suddenly stills and looks at her, his eyes wide, consuming her, filling her. “I love you,” he whispers, and then he moves toward her one more time, his eyes never leaving hers, tenses and shudders into her arms.
Her eyes riveted to his, she tumbles over the edge with him, tightly holding onto him, because she’s afraid if she doesn’t, he’ll vanish into thin air, just like a dream. It’s in this second that she realizes - she’s never felt connected to someone like she is right in that moment. But then, it’s always been that way, with him. Except she hadn’t known.
Afterwards, they lie still for a very long time, holding each other, feeling each other close. They both need it.
When she breaks the silence, it’s with a shaky voice.
He lifts his head and watches her. Her face is flushed, her eyes round, open, warm. Something crumbles inside him, liquefies under her look, and he smiles gently. “I’m bloody terrified, so I’m kind of gettin’ it.” He tenderly touches his lips to hers, savoring that he can, that she’s still here, didn’t run off.
He carefully shifts them both, making sure to separate their touching skins as little as possible, until they both lie on their sides, their bodies still securely intertwined. He runs his hand over her warm skin, his fingers caressing her, feeling her, taking her in. They go up to her head, letting the silk of her hair soothe the nagging worry that this may be the only time he’ll be allowed to feel that. He sees her eyes flutter shut, hears a soft sigh, and he knows, this is not about permission. She’s here, with him.
“What are you scared about?” he whispers. He knows he has to ask, but he’s not sure he wants to know, even after all they shared.
Her eyes reopen, search his, and she feels the fear easing a bit. “I’ve never done this,” she confesses.
She sighs. “I’ve never been with someone I loved. Not really.”
He casts her a long look, his brow rises, and she can see the question in his eyes, can practically hear him wondering about Angel. She just looks back, holds his eyes with hers, and after a moment, understanding dawns on his face. His eyes soften; something loosens in them and makes room for a glow she’s never seen there before. It gets brighter the longer she watches, and suddenly she knows - it’s happiness.
He envelops her with his arms again and she’s glad she can feel him, feel him surrounding her.
“So, I guess that’s a first for both of us,” he says, and she feels his low voice vibrating against her chest. “I’ve never been with someone who loved me back. Not really.”
She shifts her head to look at him. Their gazes lock, and she feels the glow shining in his eyes infusing her with joy and contentment, and she can feel the fear beginning to slowly, slowly ebb away, flowing out of her like the tears in her eyes.
He sees her face changing, softening, sees the tears rolling down her face. A stray flicker of early day light finding its way down to the basement makes their traces glisten, shining as brightly as her smile that has slowly formed.
He cups her face with both hands and kisses her, deeply, warmly, loving. They melt to each other, both shaking, and she isn’t surprised a bit when she feels the wetness at her temple where his face touches hers.
Much later this is how sleep eventually finds them – tightly wound around each other, bodies and hearts and souls, as close as possible, smiling, peaceful.