Many Many THANKS to Megan for her betaing!
"If I were to stop saving his life, it would simple things up so much.” Buffy sighed, and stuffed her hands into her pockets and began to head out of the cemetery. She mentally veered away from the tenderness he had shown her the night Willow and the others had left her to dig her way out of her own grave. She didn’t want to be reminded of the claustrophobia that she still suffered from. Instead, she focused on pulling the fledging out of her grave and staking her, all done in quick efficient moves and hauntingly resembling the robot that had replaced her all summer.
Focusing on the tentative friendship that had evolved was also not of the good—the strangeness of her telling him the secret of where she’d been. She tried not to remember the expression on his face the first time she sought refuge in his Crypt. The hope blossoming in his entire being, the excitement and the barely concealed longing in every move and word he spoke to her, the shy abashed glances before his eyes dropped away as if burned by her.
“Yeah, so I kissed him. What’s the biggie? We’ve kissed before,” she muttered to herself as she kicked a rock. Her mind shied away from the memory of soft sweet yummy lips of Spike. “Gahhh…stop with the smoochie thinkage.” Buffy stomped out of the gates and then slid to a stop. She smacked herself in the head for good measure to knock out the repetitive images of the other night in the alley when they had kissed – again.
Buffy came to a surprised halt, almost tripping over her own feet, her hazel eyes assessing the violent tableau in front of her.
The same vamps that worked for the shark-headed demon were now pummelling the stuffing out of Spike, supervised by their boss. She stared in surprise, not figuring that Spike would’ve let any of the goons get an upper hand. Then she blinked at the sight of three arrows sticking out of his back, all spaced around his heart. They must have shot him as he was getting away. Buffy frowned at the cowardly way they’d cornered the peroxide pain in her ass.
“Not so tough when you’re not hiding behind the Slayer’s skirts, are you, Mr Spike?” he taunted as he adjusted the cuffs on his shirt. “You're an odd duck, Mister Spike. Fighting your own kind ... palling around with a Slayer, but you owe me and the debt has to be paid.”
Spike looked up defiantly and spat out some blood at his tormentor. His upper lip was split open and his eyes were swelling shut. He opened his mouth to retaliate and then spotted Buffy’s frozen form; a flicker of warning went through his eyes and he shook his head slightly at her. His confidence that he could get out of this situation was firmly in place; he was a survivor, only reason they’d gotten the upper hand was because they had shot him in the back. Spike rolled his shoulders as best he could in the tight grips of the two no-neck vampires, ready to make his move. But it was already too late.
Before he could say anything or Buffy could move to help, a stake slammed into his exposed heart. Spike’s head dropped down and he stared at it in shock – he had never thought they’d go through with their threats. If he was gone then the debt would never be paid.
“Nooooo…” Buffy didn’t realise she had screamed out until the demon looked round and his minions leapt away from Spike’s body. Fear was reflected in all their eyes as they turned and ran. Spike dropped to his knees, his hand clutching at the stake as he gasped needlessly in panic.
His eyes locked with Buffys’; in that split second, he managed to convey a multitude of feelings. Foremost in them was his love for her, resolute and unchanging despite the way she treated him. Buffy bit her lower lip until it bled. He really loved her, even though he didn’t have a soul.
Spike loved her.
Buffy gripped at her throat, trying desperately to stifle the screams that were surging in her chest. With a rueful smile and her name the last thing on his lips, he disintegrated.
“Hey, Buffy, wake up! I made waffles.”
Buffy groaned and rolled over onto her side, pulling her covers up over her head. Too much perky Willow made her sick to her stomach since she’d come back to Hell. In fact, any incarnation of Willow made her sick. Ever since the big ‘I was in heaven’ reveal in The Bronze, her so-called best friend was always making with the puppy-dog eyes and please forgive me faces. Buffy wanted to shake her every single time she saw her and scream, ‘why – why did you do this too me? Why would you think I was in Hell? I was a Champion, a Slayer and nice person, never mean to small kids and always ate my greens – why would you think I wasn’t in Heaven?’
“Come on, sleepy head, rise and shine,” Willow trilled through the door and then rattled the door handle, but the door was locked. Willow frowned. Her thin lower lip jutted out in a moue of discontent, unhappy that there was yet another barrier between her and Buffy, although this time it wasn’t an emotional one. A flicker of something dark roiled in her eyes and then vanished just as quickly as it appeared. “Okay, I’ll keep them warm. Come down when you’re ready.”
Buffy sighed and flopped onto her back. Something was missing; she couldn’t remember what it was. Then it hit her like a train wreck. She curled up reflexively into a tight ball and shoved her fist into her mouth to stop herself from screaming.
He had died last night. He’d gone and left her.
His last word had been her name and the look in his eyes had put her to shame. Guilt coloured her every thought and breath. He had loved her and she had tried to deny that love. Screaming to all that he had no soul and no soul equalled no ability to love. But then he had loved Dru. He had loved Dawn, he had loved her mom in his own in inimitable way and then, he had loved her.
Buffy lifted her head and stared at the Mother of Pearl box on her bedside table. She had managed to scrabble in the dirt and collect his ashes, cramming them diligently into her pockets and then ran for home. Her feet had pounded out a panicked rhythm as she barrelled through the front door and up the stairs to her room. She’d ignored Dawn’s whiney comments and Tara’s gentle questions, sobs smothering her every breath as she sank to her knees in the privacy of her own room.
Buffy reached over and tentatively caressed the box. She was filled with so many conflicting emotions: anger, pain, guilt, hurt and loneliness, all of them adding painfully to the depression that she’d been zealously nurturing since being ripped out from Heaven. The gestalt of emotions working at tipping her over the edge, Buffy’s hand began to shake and she flipped over and pressed her mouth into the pillow and screamed. Her fists and feet were hammering the mattress as she let herself feel it all – just for a few minutes. It was something she allowed herself to do every morning, just so that she could function through the day.
“Oh hey, you’re up!” Willow exclaimed as she served up another batch of waffles.
“Kinda didn’t have a choice,” Buffy muttered under her breath as she took a seat at the breakfast bar and reached for a cup and splashed in some coffee. Dawn glanced over at her sister and frowned at the latest addition to her wardrobe.
“Hey, that was mom’s!” Dawn gestured at the locket that swung between Buffy’s breasts. “Why do you get to wear it?” she whined petulantly.
“Dawnie, don’t…” Tara placed a calming hand on the sulking teenager’s tense shoulder. Dawn shrugged it off and glared at her silent sister.
Buffy sat hunched, the sharp bones of her spine showing through the t-shirt she’d hastily pulled on, her body curled in on itself as she huddled on the stool. A thin, shaking and scarred hand clutched at the gold locket where she had placed some of Spike’s ashes. She couldn’t explain what had spurred her to do it, but once she had, a smidge of contentedness had filled her aching soul.
“Buffy?” Willow pushed a plate in her direction and dropped two waffles onto it. “Here you go, want some syrupy goodness on those?”
“Sure,” Buffy sighed and cradled the cup in her hands, letting the warmth leech into her freezing fingers. “Thanks.” The food sat there ignored as Buffy sipped at the dark liquid and stared sightlessly ahead. Caught up in her own world-- one where Spike was still around, bugging her and staring at her with those adoring eyes.
“Way with the wordiness, sis,” Dawn sniped. Still peeved about the locket and her sister’s inability to fight her corner anymore, part of her hoped that Buffy would snipe back, anything to show her sister had noticed her. Her initial elation about her sister’s return had faded into confusion and anger with Buffy’s weird behaviour. Even the discovery that she’d been in heaven hadn’t really registered on Dawn’s radar. All she understood was her sister wasn’t the same, and that anger and despair manifested itself in her petty behaviour, skipping school and stealing. All cries for help that no one was able to spot as they were all caught up in their own personal miseries and dramas.
“Are you okay, Buffy?” Tara sat down next to the silent slayer and gently ran her hand over Buffy’s plaited hair. She could see in her aura a blackness that had never been present before. It made her stomach lurch every time she looked at the mute woman.
“No, I have to go…” Buffy leapt to her feet. She wanted to get away from them all. She couldn’t work out why Willow and Tara were still here and in Mom’s room. It bugged her, but not enough to make her care—not yet.
“Wait, you didn’t explain to me why you’re wearing Mom’s locket.” Dawn was now standing, her arms akimbo and an angry glint in her eyes. An image of pure teenage petulance, Buffy mentally shuddered and offered up a silent apology to her mom for any horrors she had inflicted on the poor woman.
It was the last straw. “Fine, you wanna know?” Buffy snapped. She took a step forwards and grabbed Dawn’s shoulders and shook her, her own face red with rage. “It’s all I have left of him.”
“Wha?” Dawn scrabbled at her sister’s wrists, trying to break her hold. “Buffy, slayer strength, you’re hurting me!”
Buffy pushed Dawn away from her and ran past her into the hallway and out of the house. She had to get away – she needed solace from her mind and the memories of the peace that was torn from her. She needed – oh god, she needed him. His surprisingly gentle companionship and friendship that completely belied his Big Bad persona, which he’d offered from that immortal breathless moment he had seen her on the stairs. The look of pure awe and adulation he had bestowed on her still made her throat constrict. The gentle way he had cradled her torn hands, immediately knowing what she had endured and offering his own stumbling form of comfort. The nights that followed – he’d saved her every night. But she hadn’t saved him.
She had failed.
Buffy fell to her knees on the sidewalk, her hand bracing herself on the already sun warmed paving stone, and she retched. The contested locket, so completely precious now, swung forward as her body shuddered under the force of dry heaves. She watched as her nails cracked and split as they dug into the unforgiving cement.
“Hey, miss, are you okay?”
She squinted up through her hair, now hanging over her face. The sun was too bright in her eyes, but a kind face looked down at her. “Here, let me help you up.” The postman reached down and gently pulled Buffy to her feet. The kindly middle-aged man reached out and grasped her shoulders, finally steadying her.
Buffy wiped the back of her hand across her mouth as her other one convulsively clutched at the locket.
“Are you going to be okay?”
She nodded and smiled her gratitude at his concern and kindness before pulling away. His hands were too hot, not cool and soothing like his had been.
“Sorry… thanks.” Her lips failed her intended smile of appreciation, but she managed to walk off with a wave of thanks.Her mind intent on her destination
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