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Last week I finished a set of ten drabbles for the Valentine's Day challenge on [profile] spuffy_wonder. Prompt was to write Buffy and Spike saying I want you, I love you, I need you, ten different ways.

The episode name is doing double duty as a setting and drabble title (except the last one which is post-series). Each drabble is 500 words and rated PG at most.  

Drabble 1: (The Gift}
"I know you'll never love me." She turns quickly on the step, so quickly she grabs hold of the banister to steady herself, before she can face him. He's still talking. "You treat me like a man."
Buffy inhales sharply. He doesn't notice. It hurts to look at him. She turns again, starts back up the stairs; two steps before she whirls back to face him. "If we don't make it," she starts, the words catching in her throat, "tell Dawn I love her." 

Spike makes a face. "Tell her yourself."

Buffy hurries down the steps so they're staring at each other. "No. You promise me. If something happens to me. If I don't make it. Promise me that you'll sit her down, look her in the eye and tell her how much I loved her. I need you to tell her. Need you to promise me." She sucks in a deep breath, waits for his answer.

"You'll pull through." Buffy opens her mouth, ready to protest. Spike anticipates her interruption, shakes his head. "But I'll tell her," he adds. She nods. 

"Will you tell Giles...tell him I'm sorry I yelled at him tonight? I know he's just trying to save the world but...." She trails off. "He was being a git," Spike offers.

Her smile is plastic. "Don't tell him that part," she insists, squeezing the banister tightly. She might never walk back through that front door again. The thought should make her cry but Buffy has choked back tears for so many months that she's forgotten how to cry.

Spike cuts her off before she can mention Willow and Xander. He says her name but it's enough to halt her stream of words. She'll lose her nerve if she doesn't keep going. She has one more thing to tell him, but she can barely say his name. He looks at her, expectant. 

"Thank you." It feels inadequate but his face lights up. She's finally said the right thing. He says her name again, softer this time, and she hesitates.

Buffy knows she has to listen, after the burden she's just hoisted upon his shoulders under the guise of a favor, and she tilts her head ever so slightly to the left. 

"In case, you know, it all goes to hell..." Buffy shakes her head, gallows humor isn't her favorite, but she appreciates the effort. "I love you. Even if you don't believe me."

She takes his hand suddenly, surprising them both, "I do. Believe you." She hadn’t meant to tell him, but it’s true. Buffy believes that he thinks it’s love. And tonight that’s enough. 

They’ll never live this moment again.

"Oh." He's speechless and she giggles suddenly. It's all wrong, the world's turned off its axis, but for one stolen moment she can laugh. They're going into a battle neither may walk away from, but they'll fight until the end. 

"Go on then," he says, jerking his chin towards the landing, "get your stuff. I'll be here."



Drabble 2: {Something Blue}
“Stop it right now, I can hear the smacking.”

She can hear Giles, his voice outraged, and Buffy really should stop kissing Spike so she can make sure everything is alright, but Spike’s hands are everywhere and she can’t focus her thoughts. Her mind is processing feelings, sensations, emotions, responses. She moans into his mouth. Spike tightens his arms around her, one hand working the clasp of her bra without slipping beneath her shirt, the other clutching the back of her skull, pressing her lips closer. 

Buffy pushes her left hand against Spike’s chest, forcing air between them. The hand in her hair falls to her hip. She shifts her position, her thigh brushing Spike’s stomach and he hisses. “Careful.” 

“Hold that thought,” she whispers, slipping one bra strap down her arm and then the other. She shimmies out of the pink lace, dropping it onto Spike’s lap as she stands up. He leans forward but she’s already off the chair.

Giles is still on the sofa, a cloth over his eyes, and Buffy tries to make her voice sound normal. She offers sunny apologies, barely aware of what she’s saying because she can’t stop staring at Spike. Her fiancée. She shivers at the thought, her cheeks darkening, and Spike raises an eyebrow. 

Suddenly Buffy doesn’t care about subtlety; the wedding’s going to be soon enough and everyone will have to get used to a little kissing. Buffy turns her head slightly but she can still see one of Spike’s hands resting on his stomach, just above….she shakes her head quickly, a fresh blush rising. 

“Giles I’m going to see if there are any books that we can look through. Spike’ll put on some music. It’ll be relaxing,” she offers, jerking her chin towards the record player. Spike raises his eyebrows and Buffy tilts her head to the side. How thick could he be?

Thankfully he catches on somewhere between standing up and sliding the cover back on the record player. He drops the needle, turning up the volume to a reasonable level. Buffy locks the front door with a smile, turning to face Spike. “Bathroom,” she mouths, even though the record has a great bass.

He’s already laying down a fluffy towel when she closes the door and Buffy grins. “What do you think we’re gonna do with that,” she asks, hips swaying out of tune with the music. 

Spike’s settled on the ground, legs spread wide, back braced against the tub. He catches Buffy’s hand, pulls her down and she swings one leg over, straddling him. 
“Brilliant girl,” he murmurs, kissing her roughly.  He catches her earlobe between his teeth and Buffy arches against him. “What,” she asks, trying not to pant, “we’re being considerate.” Spike pulls off her top with a grin. 

She’s perilously close to whining.  “Spike!” He turns his head to look at her, cheek against her breast.

“I love you,” she says, one hand on either side of his face, pulling him towards her.



Drabble 3: {First Date}
She doesn’t recognize her own voice.  Buffy won’t cry, refuses to plead. She still hears her earlier conversation with Giles, replaying in her head like a relentlessly catchy pop song. Giles had noticed the connection, a connection Buffy tried to ignore but doesn’t care about hiding. 

She wants to touch Spike, feel his muscles relax under her fingers, but she can’t. He doesn’t love her any more. She doesn’t blame him.

Despite what he may think, it isn’t all about her anymore. It’s all about him.

She watches him closely, ready for the wince, any indication that her words have cut too close to the unhealed wounds he carries. Buffy understands she’s not ready to stand without him, not prepared to face the evils of the world; she’s selfish. Last year she lost her friend and now she doesn’t know what to say to him. 

She misses him. Misses being close, feeling connected; misses everything, the physical and the emotional parts, but he doesn’t have to listen to her burdens now. 

Words tingle on her tongue but he’s talking now. Slow and measured, the kind of voice he would use with Dawn if her sister would talk to him. Buffy stiffens; she broke that relationship as well.

“You’ve got another demon fighter now.” 

“That isn’t why I need you to stay!” He doesn’t know? Buffy looks over at him, sad and resigned. Of course he doesn’t know.

“Why then?”

She can’t be an obligation, won’t make him stay out of guilt or misplaced loyalty.

“Forget it.” Her voice is bitter. 

“Buffy?” He’s looking at her like before, two years ago, like she’s said more than intended and he’s ready to pounce.

Her voice catches, “I think...” She stops abruptly, her words aren’t making sense. 

Spike twists his body around so he’s facing her. Buffy untucks her legs, mirroring his position. 

She reaches out her left hand, covers his knuckles with her fingers. He doesn’t pull away. 

“I don’t want you to go.” She lowers her voice, “will you stay? Here.” 

“Might be hard to fight evil from the couch but if that’s what you want…”

She relaxes, “you know what I mean.”

“Do I?” Instantly his face changes, he’s on guard. It’s her fault.

Buffy says his name softly. “I know you don’t have to,” she admits, “but I need you. Not just another demon fighter. You, Spike.”
She tries to fill her words with as much feeling as possible while looking at her right hand. 

Buffy looks up and he’s nodding slowly. She waits for his answer, skin humming, silence overwhelming. One one-thousand, two one-thousand…fifteen one-thousand, sixteen one-thousand. 

“Alright,” he says. She stops counting.

“I’ll stay. If that’s what you want.”

He pulls his hand away, leaving hers resting on his thigh. The movement disrupts her concentration.

 “You will?”

Spike jerks his chin forward, eyes dark. She’s forgotten how to be gentle. 

“Because I’m not ready for you to not be here.” He touches her knee and she remembers.



Drabble 4: {Intervention}
"The robot is gone. It was sick and twisted." She steps back towards him, her voice level, trying not to wince at his wounded visage. "What you did for me, for Dawn, that was real." She hadn't planned to kiss him again but it felt right to brush her lips against his.

Buffy turns to leave but can't resist a look back. His head is down, hands clinging to the edge of the sarcophagus. She can't leave. Words fall from her mouth before she can censor herself. "Do you need anything? Blood? First aid?" It's a weak attempt at humor but he chuckles. It turns into a wheezing cough. 

She hurries back to stand beside him, hands on her hips, "don't do that, you'll hurt yourself." 

"I'm fine," he growls out. 

"You know if your face wasn't so swollen I might believe you." Buffy looks around his crypt, "do you have water? Alcohol? We should clean those cuts." 

Spike shakes his head. "I'm alright. Just need to mend." 

She walks over to the fridge, retrieves three bags of blood, and returns to sit beside him. "Drink." She forces a plastic sleeve into his hands. 

"You don't have to stay," he insists. 

"Yes I do."

"Buffy..."

Her hand brushes his forearm, "no. I'm staying. Now eat." She removes her hand quickly, pushing her hair behind her left ear.

He rips into the bag quickly, taking furious gulps until it's empty. "I can take care of m'self." 

"I know." Her voice is choked with tears. 

Spike reaches out to touch her shoulder. "Your sis will be alright." The words feel clumsy in his mouth, right words made wrong, cluttering the space between them. 

She looks over, incredulous, her hair falling across her shoulders "I know. We'll keep her safe."

"Then what...." The question falls like an anvil.

"Why did you do it?" She volleys back a question.

He's surprised. "For you." His throat is raw, voice scratchy.

She looks down at her hands. "You love me."

He nods and opens a second bag. Buffy is still looking at her hands. Her voice is still quiet, clear, neutral.

"Okay." She presses her hands against the lid, propelling herself forward. "I'll bring some more by later. Blood."

He's exhausted."You don't have to." 

Her smile is sad. "I know."

He needs to know. "You didn't answer my question." Spike presses his knees against the edge, tensing for her answer.

Her look is deliberately confused, so he repeats it. 

"Because." She pauses and he leans forward, ready to catch whatever crumb she offers, hidden in a backhanded expression of gratitude. 

"I need you." Her eyes are huge and with only one good eye Spike feels like he's hypnotized. She knows it’s wrong but she’s tired.

"Buffy." Her hand is like fire against his skin, her palm covering his swollen knuckles. 

"I'd do it again.” He looks away, depleted bags resting against his thigh.

Buffy walks to the door, pauses in the doorway. "I'll be back. Later." 



Drabble 5: {pre-Dead Things}
She slipped out of her coat, draped it across the chair, toed off her shoes, and leapt down the ladder swiftly. When she landed Buffy rose from her crouch, her eyes adjusting to the darkness. She pulled off her shirt, jeans and bra in quick succession. He was sprawled out on his back, one arm flung across the empty bed, the other resting against his stomach.

The candles had burned out but she knew how many steps it would take to cross the room. She climbed slowly onto the bed, careful not to shift too quickly, but Spike could sleep through anything. Her cheeks flushed. She had raced home to shower after her shift but he would still be able to smell the layer of grease that clung to her. It was too early to patrol. 

Buffy raised herself onto her knees, her arm twisting behind her to unclasp her bra, and she flung it across the room. She eased herself onto her stomach, weight on her elbows, the length of her body pressed against his side. He didn't twitch. Buffy turned to face him, shifting up so her shoulder bumped his free arm. She nudged it with her shoulder and folded her body across his.

The thin sheet separated their legs but she was certain he was naked. She whispered his name but her voice was a hoarse croak, not a breathy whisper. She tried again. No response.

Buffy exhaled loudly, losing patience with herself. She reached her arm across his chest, propped herself up to touch his face softly. He caught her wrist before she could touch his forehead.

"Thought you were working." His hand wrapped around her wrist, making her feel tiny.

"I was." Her voice was still a whisper.

"What's wrong?" He released her wrist, his eyes suddenly open, studying her in his bed, practically naked.

"Nothing." She did touch his forehead this time, her index finger tracing a line down the side of his face.

He's breathing slowly, barely enough to interrupt her thoughts, and her fingers dipped lower, tracing his collarbone.

"Buffy." Her name is a question and a request.

She smiled as he rolled over, her body beneath his, the sheet tangled around them. They're never playful. 

"What are you doing here then?" He needed to hear the answer even though he won't like it.

"Are you complaining?" She leaned forward to kiss him.  

His hands are on either side of her head. It's a quick kiss. "No. What do you want?"

"You." Her admission was easy in the dark.

Buffy abandoned words and kissed his cheek, the side of his neck, his shoulder. His face was too close, his forehead pressed against hers. “Did you hear me?”

“I did.” His kiss was a firm stop, truncating her questions. 

She twisted her head, “and?”

“You’ve got me.”  He lifted his head slightly, his hips pressed tightly against hers. 

"Good." Her voice was a hoarse whisper. In his bed she can tell the truth.



Drabble 6: {The Killer In Me}
“What’d the merry general say?”

Buffy tried to smile, pretend things were normal, “how do you feel?” The overly bright flood lights made Spike look even worse. His skin was tinged gray.

“Don’t change the subject,” he replied. She took a step towards him, cupped his face with her left hand for an instant. 

“Then tell me.”

“Better. Worse. All depends.”

“Spike.”

“What, think I’m gonna lie…” his face contorted, the muscles and tendons in his neck standing out in sharp relief. He growled, turning his head slowly. 

“They’re getting worse,” she stated quietly. He didn’t argue. “The guy, doctor something, said the chip’s failing.”

“So it’ll kill me?”

“Unless we take it out.”

“They’re not coming near…” He paused, jaw clenched tightly. Buffy wrapped both her hands around his left. 

“Yes they are,” she said, “you don’t get to decide.”

“Let it alone Buffy.” Her name sounded harsh and she sucked in a quick breath. 

“And what, you’ll die?”

“Not your call.” His arm tensed, muscles strained, but she didn’t let go. Spike growled, his head snapped back towards the ceiling.

He looked at her after the spasm passed. “I’m not your rescue pet.”

“I didn’t say you were.”

“You let them do this, I’ll be a roaming killer.”

Buffy couldn’t stop herself from lashing out.  “How’s that different than a few months ago? When the First was pulling your strings?” 

He recoiled and her anger deflated. Buffy knew the soldiers were just outside the door, waiting for her order.  

She squeezed his hand, “Spike I know things are different. I know. It doesn’t matter. Even if you hate me.”

“Don’t hate you.” His voice was hoarse. “Tried to. Didn’t stick.”

“Then why won’t you let me help?”

“I don’t deserve your help. Don’t want your pity.” Spike stared into the darkness. His voice was hollow. “I’m a monster Buffy. ‘Less you’ve forgotten?”

Buffy exhaled loudly and dropped his hand.  “This isn’t about who you are! I won’t watch you die!”

“Why not? I deserve it. No one knows that more than you.”

Buffy froze. “You don’t deserve this, Spike.” She gestured angrily at the empty room. “No one does.”

“Even if I say otherwise?”

Buffy swiped at her nose angrily with one hand. She swallowed hard over the lump in her throat, fear rising along her spine, and gambled. “If you really loved me, you’ll let me help you.”

Spike stared at her, searching for something in her wide eyes. Embarrassed Buffy looked away.

“It doesn’t mean you trust me. You don’t even have to like me. But I have to do this for you.”

“Buffy?”

“Yeah?” Her voice was resigned; she was out of options.

“I do. Still love you.” Spike squeezed his hands into fists, his tone matter-of-fact.

“Oh.” Relief coursed through her. 

He let out an unnecessary sigh. “You’re determined to let them root around in my skull aren’t you?”

“I’ll be right here,” she said, one hand on his shoulder.

“Let’s get started then.”



Drabble 7: {Tabula Rasa}
Buffy looks up from her drink, the plastic cup slick with condensation. He's standing next to her, an empty bar stool between them, and she turns her head to the side, deliberately ignoring him. His sigh is heavy but she can hear it over the drum solo happening on stage. The band is new; the scene isn't. Her and Spike in the Bronze, different costumes, same results. 

He doesn't say anything, already a departure from their normal, but she turns her head to the side as he stalks away. He stops beneath the stairs, leaning against the painted metal, probably waiting for her to follow him. Buffy takes a sip of her drink, grimaces at the foamy beer, but she keeps swallowing until the cup is empty.

Would Joan have ordered a beer? Club soda with lime? Or maybe she would have ordered tequila. Buffy feels like she's underwater, trapped in her memories and half-memories.

She steps off the stool, one hand holding onto the edge of the bar but she isn't drunk, not even wobbly on her feet despite two beers. Buffy doesn't need to look for him as she walks; he hasn't moved.

The music reverberates in her chest. She stops opposite him. Spike looks at her and she can breathe again.

He makes a stupid joke about the day and she wants to smack the silly grin off his face. Spike catches her hand before it lands.

She clings to the lapels of his coat, holding him in place, anchoring herself.

Buffy’s tired of magic intruding in her life, altering her decisions, overruling her own thoughts. Suddenly she can’t hold back the hysterical giggles that have been bubbling up in her throat. The whole situation isn’t funny but Spike’s chuckling. 

Buffy looks up, wiping the hint of moisture at the corner of her right eye. She would have kissed him earlier and blamed the spell. She can’t suppress the urge to touch him, even with her memories restored. The look in his eye startles her; he moves so quickly between emotions and now he's settled on serious. 

"It's crazy. Randy and Joan. We’re a mess." She blurts out the words, unable to look at him. She doesn't realize his hands are around her forearms until she's against his chest. 

"Course we are." He's closer now, his nose brushing against her cheek, the side of his face pressed against hers, and it's too much. 

"Spike." His name is riddle and roadmap. She freezes, caught in a labryninth of her own making, but then his lips are pressed against hers. He’s found her. 

"This doesn’t mean anything," she insists hoarsely between kisses, her mouth against his ear. 

"Says you,” he answers roughly. His kisses are demanding. “I love you."

She can't stop herself from flinching, pulling away ever so slightly, because he isn't supposed to say things like that, not to her. He won't let go of her arms. She kisses him again, swallowing the words he can’t mean.



Drabble 8: {Potential}
When they got home from patrol Buffy retreated to the kitchen. She could hear the excited voiced in the living room but couldn't listen to them recount the first real slaying they had done. She leaned against the counter, her arms crossed below her ribs. They were so young and she felt weary. She had been the only one who understood the mixed up world of demons and vampires and Slayers; these girls had each other.

Buffy raked her fingers through her hair. Patrol had been terrible. Spike had practically thrown off her hand and she'd made that stupid comment about his crypt. "Comfy," she muttered, "who the hell says 'comfy'?"

"You apparently." Embarrassed she ducked her head.  "Talking to yourself?" 

He leaned across the center island, looking more like himself than he has in weeks. Buffy feels guilty when she looks at him. She shouldn't miss what they used to have, shouldn't be jealous of the potentials, shouldn't be so confused about her own feelings, but she is.

"Slayer? You in there?" Spike waved his hand in front of her face and she still didn't answer.He moved around the island to stand beside her. "What's wrong?"

Her laugh is brittle. She wouldn't know where to start.

"Buffy."

She turned her head to the side; if she looked at his nose it was almost like eye contact. His hand touched hers and Buffy nearly leapt in the air.

"Sorry." He had already withdrawn his hand, retreated to his side of the counter. 

"No. Spike it's fine. Really. I'm just out of it." Her smile was apologetic. 

"Noticed that."

"How are your ribs?"

His nod was quick, dismissive. "Fine."

"Good." She tried to match his tone. "We good for another round tomorrow?"

He won't look at her. Buffy wished her stomach wouldn't clench every time he looked at the ground instead of her face. 

"It was," she said softly. He looked up, startled. "Comfy," she clarified. She can't look at him anymore.

"I know it's weird to talk about it." He hasn't said a word. “How are your ribs? They still hurt?”

"Buffy." Strange how her name, coming from him, can render her speechless immediately. "It's alright. We're friends, aren't we?"

"Are we?" Her question hung between them for an instant. 

"Course," he reassured her quickly.

“Good. I mean thanks. Great. Good to know.”

Spike studied her. "Crazy one aren’t you? You know I love you." He hadn't meant for the words to slip out and turned towards her, ready to apologize. 

"Really?" Buffy wished she didn't need to ask. 

He nodded, “yes. Really.”

Buffy squeezed his hand, their fingers laced together for a brief minute. "Okay."

She heard the laughter in the living room and gave him an apologetic smile. "I should go."

He released her fingers but traced his hand over her knuckles. Her breath caught.

"Same time tomorrow?"

"Count on it." She stepped into the hallway. Spike watched her walk away. His ribs didn't hurt as much.



Drabble 9: {Afterlife}
"Clawed her way out of the coffin. Isn't that right?" She hates how he can see through her, how he knows the answers, understands the questions before they're verbalized. His words float over her like gossamer threads. Buffy doesn't want anyone near her.

She can feel his hand move towards her shoulder but he doesn't touch her. Buffy wants to touch him. She clutches her wounded hands against her chest, presses her wrists tightly against the starched white shirt. 

They sink down, her on the sofa, him on the coffee table. He's holding her hands gently. His hands are cool, palms dry. She's suddenly aware of the fiery pain in her hands, the burning in her eyes, the sharp daggers of pain radiating from the fluorescent lights. Buffy stares at Spike. If she looks at him her head doesn't hurt as much and the buzzing in her ears is nearly tolerable. 

"It’s alright," he says and she stares blankly.  The words sound ridiculous but she's forgotten how to laugh. She'll never be alright, trapped in a prison masquerading as her house, where everyone stares at her like a circus attraction.

“Breathe.” She looks up and he demonstrates, exhaling and inhaling steadily. Buffy tries to match him. “Breathe.”

He can read her expression, the vacancy behind her eyes. When he squeezes her hand his touch is clinical and Buffy wants to howl. She isn't made of glass or porcelain. 

Buffy takes a shallow breath. Spike leans forward, his smile approving. 

"Spike." His name sounds like a foreign word, unfamiliar syllables on her tongue.

"I...I need...I mean...could you?" She holds out her wounded hands. 

"I'll look after it." She can hear Dawn banging around in the cabinets.

"How is she?" 

"Managing," he admits, still holding her hands.

"How long..."

His left hand moves up her wrist. "Don't fuss. We'll talk later." Buffy nods, comfortable to let him brush aside her questions, to not focus on the gaps between then and now.

"Anything else banged up?" He's still trying to catalog her injuries, drink in any differences between the girl he carries in his mind and the one before him.

Buffy shakes her head. "I'm fine." He doesn’t believe her, the look on his face gives that away, and she relaxes. 

"It'll take some time," he says and Buffy's forgotten that he's done this before, that he understands what she feels because he's experienced it. She isn’t living, despite the beat of her heart, she's just passing time. Spike understands. He'll know what to do. 

"Why are you being so nice?" She tries to remember how to sound skeptical but fails. 

His name sounds more familiar this time. He looks up, his finger no longer tracing a pattern over her bony wrist. “I need…” 

He shakes his head, “hush. I know.”

Buffy relaxes. There was a time she would have been ashamed to show him such vulnerability, to be dependent, but now he's the only one strong enough. He’ll be strong for her. 



Drabble 10: {post-Chosen, post-NFA}
Later he wonders why he didn't tell her "I love you." He did. Had. Does.

The days blur together - minutes indistinguishable from hours, weeks no different than months - until he realizes it's been an age.
He stands still longer, sits and stares into nothingness. Everything has changed. 

She was so young, burdened by heavy responsibilities. He had started out like that, crushed beneath burdens he hadn't asked for but couldn't escape. Would she have gray hair? A strand or two of silver hidden within a knot of gold. Would those lines around her eyes be deeper? Smile lines. She needed to smile.

There are too many holes in the world now, gaps he couldn't repair. The list of the dead outnumbers the fighting, barely outstripped by those existing. 

He hates to fly. 

They exist in different worlds now. For her, he will stay. For her, he will try to forget. For her, he will not go. Spike touches pen to paper. He's tired.

Six days, eight hours and forty-six minutes later she stands in front of him, a crumpled piece of blue paper in her left hand. Her hair, still blonde, still bouncy, curls loosely around her shoulder. 

“You didn’t believe me.” It’s not a question.

He’s forgotten her voice, the way her breath catches, how she stops herself before she reveals too much. In his mind she is kinder, softer, someone who loves him. This Buffy is different. 

Suddenly her arm is around his shoulder, thigh against thigh, her breast flattened against his chest. Her touch scorches him. 

Spike’s hands move before he can think, one at the small of her back, one on her hip. She hasn’t kissed him. 

“Did you mean it?” She’s asking the question even though it’s his turn to speak.

“Did you?”

Her face softens. There are purple smudges under her eyes, barely hidden by makeup, and he leans closer. She smells of salt water and mint. 

“I did.”

Spike nods. “Good. What took you so long then?”

She smacks his chest with her open palm, barely hard enough to count, but she’s laughing. He tightens his grip and laughs with her. She drops the note.

Her hand cups his cheek, palm sweaty against his skin, “you’re a dope.” The kiss is messy, her glossed lips sticky, elbows bumping against his shoulders as she tries to wrap her arms around him. 

He’s laughing as he tries to coax her legs around his waist. She resists with a smile. “Wait.” He stops moving, feeling time slow around them, and prepares for the worst, her jeans rough beneath his hands.

 “I love you.” He’s forgotten her voice, the way she can make such a simple collection of syllables sound more brilliant than anything else in the world. 

“Took you long enough. But thanks for saying it.” 

Buffy lets out a howl, half-anguished half-teasing, before catching her lower lip between her teeth. He traces his thumb over it, forces her to relax. “I believe you.”

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