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Authors Chapter Notes:
This fic has been nominated in Round 30 of SunnyD Awards for Best: New Author, Angst, Drama, NC-17, Pairing Conventional, Post-Series Fic. Squee!

‘A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them.’ Carl Jung


The ground shook as Buffy turned towards the sound of Spike’s voice. Peering through clouds of dust and falling rocks she saw him, spotlighted by a beam of sunlight, bathed in its deadly radiance. There he stood, head flung back, pinned in place like a fallen messiah, crucified on a shaft of pure, golden light, all the while generating some sort of freaking laser show.

Terror shot through Buffy’s core as Faith screamed at the remaining girls to get out quickly. Dodging both the dust and the debris of the disintegrating Turok Han and the collapsing cavern, Buffy pressed her hand over the gash in her abdomen, gritting her teeth against the pain as she darted towards Spike.

God, he was glowing, his skin almost translucent as the light poured out of him, through him. Her beautiful vampire! He was hers, damn it, and she wasn’t going anywhere without him – heroics or divine purpose be damned. She’d make him toss off that treacherous amulet and come with her.

But then she looked at him, really looked at him, ‘seeing’ him for the first time, in the way that he had always ‘seen’ her. And she got it. She could see how important this was to him, to finish this himself. It terrified her, but she had to trust him. She knew he’d never willingly leave her. And he could do it right? He could do the ‘clean up’ and they’d meet up outside. He’d always managed to make it through before, of course he’d make it this time.

Trembling with fear and love and pride and acceptance, Buffy stretched her hand out towards Spike’s. Now, more than ever before, she had to let him know how she really felt. Belatedly, regret washed over her. Regret that she hadn’t realised earlier how very deep and real her feelings for him were. Regret that she hadn’t found the courage to share those feelings with him.

She’d wanted to tell him last night. She’d tried to force the words out while they sat on his cot and he’d held her in his arms communicating his support and belief in her and she her trust in him. She’d longed to say the words as they’d looked deeply into each other’s eyes before leaning into a soft, achingly sweet kiss.

The words had been on the tip of her tongue when that kiss turned passionate and swept away any remaining hesitations as swiftly as they’d torn away one another’s clothes. It was all she could do to stop from whimpering her feelings as Spike had gently, almost reverently pushed into her core. She’d barely kept from screaming them out as their desires ignited and their bodies ground and thrust together hungrily, dancing as never before. And later, as they lay wrapped in each other’s arms, naked limbs entwined, sharing tender caresses, she had all but spilled the words alongside the affection she pressed lightly upon his cheeks, his brow, the strong column of his neck with her tightly sealed lips.

So yes of course, in a myriad of ways she’d told him exactly what he meant to her, with her eyes and her hands and her body. But as always, she was ‘not so good with the words’ girl.

But right now, as their fingertips touched, the feelings surged through Buffy with an utter sense of inevitability. All at once, her love for this man, this vampire, her one-time enemy, and now her greatest ally, her soul mate, seemed impossible to contain. She was overwhelmed by an intense flood of emotion so strong and true that it seemed incredible to her that she hadn’t spent the last days, weeks, months or even years declaring her love for him to any and all who would listen. Yet the only one she really needed to tell was the amazing man standing before her.

Stepping forward, she pressed her palm against his. At once flames erupted from their clasped hands. An electrifying, tingling warmth spread up her arm, radiating throughout her, stimulating and restoring muscle, bone and fibre, galvanizing every cell in her body and setting her very essence ablaze with an astonishing feeling of strength, acceptance and profound happiness. She drew in a deep steadying breath, never feeling more alive than she had at that moment.

Buffy gripped Spike’s hand more firmly, his touch and heat lending her courage.

“I love you,” she said simply, letting the emotion emanate from her eyes and face, from her heart, as the words finally flowed from her lips. She watched Spike’s reaction as he took in her words, his eyes briefly widening in astonishment before delight and devotion suffused his countenance, lending him an intense, passionate focus as his dreams were finally answered. At that moment, Buffy knew everything would turn out fine. Somehow, they would both survive and tomorrow or next week, whenever, they could begin their life together.

Spike’s body seemed to glow more brightly as the dazzling beams of lethal light emanating from his chest radiated wildly around the cavern. Buffy’s gaze remained locked with his, their fingers firmly entwined while beneath her feet the ground shuddered violently. The dust-laden air reverberated with an ominous rumble and creak as the rock walls and ceiling began to shatter and fall.

Then time seemed to halt, and Buffy watched in confusion as Spike’s expression transformed from loving amazement to dazed uncertainty. He clutched her hand anxiously as his body trembled and jerked against the pulsing light. As if awakening from a dream, he blinked rapidly and shook his head, glancing frantically around the chamber before once again settling his gaze upon her. She frowned as he returned her apprehensive consideration with a look of cold detachment, no remaining trace of affection evident in his face. A deep chill crept over her as his aloof demeanour shifted to aversion and then to scorn.

With icy disregard he looked down at her, “No you don’t, but thanks for saying it… bitch!”

Buffy froze in horror and disbelief. She tried to step back, but he gripped her hand more tightly and threw his head back, laughing cruelly as the flames, burning now with a cold, unholy light, leapt higher between them. Fear and bewilderment washed through her as she struggled to release herself, fought to release him from whatever had Spike in its grip.

“Spike, what are you doing? You’re hurting me. You can’t mean this. Please, Spike I love you. Please, baby, lets get out of here.” Buffy begged desperately, the tears running down her cheeks.

“Well pet,” Spike said quietly, “the thing of it is, this little bauble of Peaches’ has done a right job on old Spike. You know, I could feel my soul, it really was there. But the bloody light show did more than just sting, Buff. Seems like it burnt the buggering soul right out of me. And guess what it took with it? Suddenly I feel cured of my pathetic romantic yearnings for the Slayer. No more gutless lap dog shenanigans for me. Oh no! The Big Bad is back and he’s ripe for the hunt.”

Once again he laughed, then jerked her towards him. Horrified and heart broken, Buffy stumbled into his arms. But this was no loving embrace. Trapped against his burning chest, she moaned as the light began to sear its way through her body. Writhing in agony, she barely heard the words Spike hissed into her ear.

“Guess I’m gonna bag me my third slayer after all pet. You smell so delicious, full of fear and despair. Don’t worry, it’ll soon be over. Its finally time for Spike to have his one. Good. Day.”

She heard the sound of bones shifting, and then viciously he struck, sinking his teeth into her neck, ripping and tearing wildly before gulping noisily, draining her life greedily. Finally he pulled back and grinned at her, his demon face leering drunkenly, her blood smeared across his mouth and chin.

Throwing his head back once more, howling wickedly, the blaze within him flared brighter, hotter. Before her eyes the light began to burst through him, consuming him, searing away skin and flesh, muscle and bone in a matter of seconds, till only his laugh remained, echoing in her ears. Dizzy and nauseous from blood loss and now unsupported, Buffy sank to the ground as the fire in her belly burned her from within. Holding out her hands, she watched them start to crumble before her as she opened her mouth to scream…

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