Title: Fulfillment in the Hands of Fire
Spoilers: through the end of the BtVS series
Her name is so soft and feminine, with a phonetic resonance with bubbly which suits her personality to a T. His name is hard, aggressive, intimidating. So much two opposites that have no business hooking up let alone fighting on the same side.
But at the same time they are so incongruously alike. She can be hard and ruthless when she wants to be. And deep down inside this brash undead braggart has the soul and sensitivity of a poet. And both of them the bubbly Vampire Slayer named Buffy and the Slayer-killing Vampire punk named Spike can be very, very stubborn.
ANGEL: He's worse. Once he starts something he doesn't stop until everything in his path is dead.
--School Hard; Season 2
WOOD: She got it done.
SPIKE: Always has.
--Storyteller; Season 7
It is this stubbornness that is part of their reason why their story is so compelling. Somehow, someway they always end up together. Whether as enemies, as allies, as lovers. They always end up facing each other. And they love it. Equals who find that each encounter inexplicably ends in a stalemate.
SPIKE: I'd rather be fightin' you anyway.
--What's My Line Pt. II; Season 2
BUFFY: .….And the only person I can even stand to be around is a ...neutered vampire who cheats at kitten poker!
---Flooded; Season 6
I got into it for purely shallow reasons. And it's built around the same reasons why I like Han/Leia or Logan/ Jean Grey. It's built on an adversarial level, and I love that. This kind of back and forth banter that never quits and drives the other person up the wall. I love the idea that Buffy thinks she's won this round, Spike comes up with a finishing barb. And she doesn't say anything, but sneers and walks off. And then she's pitching the mother of all hissy-fits out of his sight and taking it out on a vamp. I love that someone gets so under the skin like that.
But Spike and Buffy went beyond that archetype. It became a truly moving story about a guy struggling against his demons to become better. To become the kind of guy that hopefully will be loved back by the one he has affections for, but to be loved period. And there's something compelling about redeeming the irredeemable. And for Buffy, loving that which is unlovable, in him and in herself. It's not so much a love story in the shallowest term. It's more...resonant of all that we as humans or as even children of God, if that floats your boat, should strive for. Forgiveness. Faith. Hope. And to never underestimate the power of love and the human spirit. And I'd like to think that's why Buffy couldn't articulate very well what she was feeling for Spike. Because it went so far beyond that of simple love. It was holy. It was fulfilling. It's the kind of love that Corinthians states so eloquently.
Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to take offense. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and endurance. In a word, there are three things that last forever: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of them all is love.
But most of all they work at it. Love is a verb. It is an action. It is work. Spike/Buffy is a relationship that rises and falls, ebbs and flows. They start out as enemies and because of circumstance, become reluctant allies. And when Spike falls for Buffy it just grows from there. Then she discovers she has her own feelings for him. Both of them make baby steps in a new kind of thing that isn't romanticized or glossed over. And it scares them. They suffer. They go through pain. But somehow they grow through it. They help each other along the way. When she stumbles he picks her up and vice versa. And somehow, someway they make it work despite all the pain. Despite their past. They try to save this relationship because they know it's the only thing that can save the both of them.
The most prevalent symbolism of Spike and Buffy's relationship is hands and fire. Hands and fire and define them. Hands were used on each other in brawl after brawl until the brawl turned into a dance. In the closing song in Once More With Feeling, Spike and Buffy are the only ones who have their fingers interlaced, much like their final moment together. In Dead Things, the door scene focused on their hands being separated by the door, but their attachment still evident through the barrier. Then in Potential and beyond things changed, the hands held each other, caressed, fondled, stroked.
Fire has been used to describe Buffy's capacity for love. Spike saves Buffy from burning up in a dance to her death. Throughout the show we get references to the burning passion of live. How it consumes, takes over. After their first moment of having sex, Buffy keeps Spike's lighter as a keepsake, a reminder of the fire he gives her.
And I think we saw this ultimately exemplified in Buffy and Spike in the end when in their revelatory handclasp there is a perfect marriage of hands and fire. For Spike there was fulfillment in loving rather than being loved. There's no malice when he denies her love. He loves her more in that moment than at any other time. And he doesn't regret any of it. Which makes it all the more remarkable. They both fought to reach this peak when it would have been so easy to ignore each other or hate and spite each other. It is so easy to hate, and Lord knows they had plenty of justifiable reasons. But it's such a harder thing, and more courageous thing, to love.
There are literally hundreds of sites on Buffy and Spike. My favorite sites tend more to the intellectual side, which is why I go to Tea at the Ford (http://www.teaattheford.net/index.php), Bloody Awful Poet Society (http://bloodyawfulpoet.com), and Tabula Rasa (http://www.btvs-tabularasa.net). Some great fanfic sites include Buffy/Spike Central (http://www.spuffyonline.com/bscentral), Spuffy Archives for alt-universe fanfic (http://www.spuffyfantasy.com), and www.allaboutspike.com has Spike-centered fic.
Thanks to www.buffyworld.com for use of episode quotes.