I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don't know any other way of loving
but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.
- Pablo Neruda
Gah, this poem is so Buffy's POV of her love for Spike. All with Spike being her "dark place" and how she experiences these nigh holy moments of connection with him in secret in Season 7. Out on the porch, in the church, in the basement. Just imagine her walking across the shadowed basement in Chosen and thinking of her loving "secretly, between shadow and the soul." And imagine her falling asleep in his arms, on what she thinks will probably be her last night on Earth, and his eyes closing in time with hers. His hand upon her chest is her hand -- they're joined in purpose, union. Hands joined in the fight, side by side. And awakening in flame when she finally says, "I love you."
Of course, Buffy does have problems loving Spike, but it's not about pride -- but about pain and shame. Just as Buffy's afraid her being the Slayer will suck everyone around her into darkness, she's afraid that loving someone does the same. Better to not love because her love brings pain to others -- she curses them, they lose their souls, they become evil, emotionally abusive, withholding, perhaps get a vamp suckjob coded as infidelity (Drusilla, Riley's vampires) and ultimately they leave her -- or she has to kill them.
Being the Slayer means she is the dark. But the Slayer is also full of love. So Buffy's idea of love is also shrouded in darkness. Darkness and shame and pain.
It just takes so much courage for her to say it, to take that leap -- and yet Spike also enables her to love him because he's already dying in that moment, for his own reasons. So she's finally free to love, her love cannot be a death sentence to him because he's already chosen. She tries to save him, says he's "done enough," and she would've brought him back up into the light. And I wonder, she might not have told him she loved him if she did save him, because again her love is a terrible thing (specifically romantic love), but because he chooses to die to save the world, because the world will be saved and she can't doom him with her heart -- she's free to love him.
This is the tragedy of Buffy's perspective on romantic love. So when she discovers Spike survived the hellmouth, but didn't seek her out -- she thinks he's avoiding dealing with her damnable heart. Buffy believes her love is toxic and then Angel again drives home this belief in Season 8.
I just don't know how to reconcile the reading (and sorry for arguing with a shadow fandom person in my head) that Buffy never loved Spike because her love is something inside her, she's full of it, it lights the fire to meet Spike "between the shadow and the soul." It's never been about Buffy not loving Spike, but about her fighting to not love him -- first in Season 6 to protect herself and then later to also protect him. That's what makes her so incredible to behold when she's around Spike -- because she's fighting him and she's fighting herself. And in "Chosen," she finally lays down arms, the fight's over, the world is safe, the walls come tumbling down. It's finally safe to express love. And maybe one can see it as empty, as her saying it at the moment that it demands the least from her since he's dying so it can't be her fault -- but the vulnerability when she says it, the way she's shaking, the tears, the refusal to break eye contact and the way she grips his hand. She doesn't in that moment discover her love for him, she lets her love for him shine through every ember of her being -- and that becomes part of the fire, full of love.
I'd argue that Buffy doubling down on her role as Slayer General is further proof of her inability to really grapple with personal relationships. She again retreats into the Slayer role because Buffy sees her personal life as leading to badness, in addition to there being so much loss that it's easier to be the Slayer -- to show love through service. Losing Spike in "Chosen" then becomes part of why Buffy becomes so gungho Slayer, that moment of vulnerability and open loving leads to her returning to extreme Slayerdom, trying to find connection in her Slayer self and through the Slayer line, yet it only leads to greater isolation (the Slayers put her on a pedestal, even greater than one Spike could create in moments where he waxed poetic. And then Buffy fell because of loneliness and yearning for love, to belong, to be one with someone, equals -- and Angel's there to offer the poisoned fruit. And Buffy's love/sex life literally starts the apocalypse.
For Buffy, Joss has created a plot in the form of Hamlet forever shrieking, "Get thee to a nunnery!" For one, her love destroys others. For two, her love leaves her vulnerable to gross violation and objectification.
Is there any wonder that Buffy's hesitant at loving? She's as cursed as Angel, since her heart draws a plot target on whoever engages it. And she's aware of the doom her love brings to others and herself, even if not how it's narratively contrived.
I wish the context of her trauma would be thought of in those moments Buffy shares with Spike in Season 8 & 9, the moments when she lets show a loving side, where she tentatively shows interest, or even perversely hints at jealousy. Her hesitancy is as much, if not more, about herself than it is about him. I just think it's miraculous how she still tries to love despite how battered and abused her heart's been treated, how the narrative has framed her love -- that she can still believe and hope for a good outcome from loving someone, despite ALL the horrors she's gone through before. That Buffy imagined running away with Spike and raising a baby together.
Part of what I love about Buffy and Spike is that Spike's so brave with offering his heart that it inspires her to be brave, too. Just as her reticence and boundaries helped him discover a need for his own.
I don't even have a point here. I just have a lot of feelings. And Buffy's tragic, wounded heart hurts me. It's why I'm so pro-Spike/Buffy because she needs effusive love as much as he needs to love effusively. It's not simply her taking and him giving, either, but that they grow towards each other with every exchange, meeting "between the shadow and the soul." It's why labeling them co-dependent misses the point because they teach each other the necessity of self-boundaries even as they transgress those boundaries. They grow from each other, learn from each other, propel each other forwards.
Sigh. Which is why I'm sad that Joss peaced out on writing Season 9 and DH/Chambliss didn't know how to write Spike & Buffy serving as each other's catalysts for revelation. Disappointment is me.