Buffy sank down in his ratty green armchair and stared sightlessly ahead. All the life in the dusty old place had been sucked out of it. He wasn’t there to fill the air with his constant stream of dialogue; his frenetic energy was gone – the constant moving around, bouncing on the balls of his feet. Even when they just sat there the dynamism of his personality filled the space. Buffy wrapped her arms around her knees and rocked back and forth.
She was confused. When had Spike gone from a pest to a friend? Buffy dashed the ever-present tears off her face and rested her heated cheek on her knees and stared at the wall. Part of her was ashamed at her mourning and the guilt over her inaction leading to Spike’s senseless death. But another part of her railed at the loss of her one and only confidant, the only one she could talk to since she had come back. She had tried to kid herself at first that she only spoke to him because he didn’t matter to her, and that by telling him it didn’t count. But Buffy realised now that Spike had meant more to her than she had ever realised.
And it had taken him dying and leaving her for her to realise.
He had saved her. Every night since she’d come back, Spike’s presence-- no matter how annoying-- had saved her from crumbling into insanity. He had managed what none of her friends and family had done; he’d kept her sane and able to function.
His face in the alley when she’d told him where she had been. It was indelibly etched on her memory, the horror and dawning understanding as to why she was so lost and his silent support and companionship as she struggled to understand why Willow and the others had done this to her. He had even acquiesced to her demand that they never know.
But they knew now.
Buffy closed her eyes, remembering the other’s faces as she had sung of her longing to return to heaven. She could easily picture the tacit understanding on Tara’s face, the simplistic confusion on Xander and Anya’s faces, the barely suppressed ire on Giles’s and the tears on Willow’s. Buffy frowned at how quickly Willow’s guilt had dissipated, seemingly almost overnight. Instead the usual guilt cookies baked by the bushel, she had begun to pursue Buffy around the house and at the Magic Box with a relentless determination, needing forgiveness--something Buffy wasn’t sure she would ever be ready to give her.
It really made her uncomfortable. Ever since Willow had moved deeper into magic, something at a very basic level had changed in her friend. Gone was the shy intelligent girl from High School and in her place was a woman that Buffy barely understood. In all honesty, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to anymore.
Xander was still Xander. Nothing seemed to change him; the only thing that had developed into something that bordered on mania was his dislike of Spike. Buffy had no idea why, or where that had come from. She shuddered at the guilt that swarmed through her skinny body; she never really did anything to stop Xander’s bullying. She had always hated bullies for as long as she could remember, and by her silence during Xander’s jibes, Buffy realised she was tacit in her complicity. A moan escaped her chapped and chewed lips and she tightened her grip on her shins, trying to twist into an even tighter ball. ‘Bad …I’m a bad person.’
“Dawnie, why did you do that to Buffy?” Tara leaned forward earnestly and offered the teen a smile.
Dawn shrugged and sipped on the large milkshake that Tara had bought for her. All around them everyone in the Mall were going about their business, oblivious to the little drama that was being played out at the small metal table in the food court.
Tara sighed; she was starting to get a stress headache. Nothing in her life had equipped her to deal with the way Dawn was behaving these days. She was swung from being utterly wonderful to the harridan that had driven Buffy out of the house in tears this morning. Both she and Tara were puzzling over Buffy’s cryptic comment about all she had left of him. Neither of them could work out what it meant. Willow had wondered if Buffy had put a picture of either Angel or Riley in the locket, but Tara had felt it was something more immediate than that.
Turning her worries from Buffy, Tara focussed on the teen that was currently staring holes into her and slurping on the chocolate milkshake she’d bribed out of her. “Honey, you need to be nicer to Buffy. She’s been through a lot and you being mad at her for wanting to wear something of your mom’s to make her feel better is not fair.” Tara took a deep breath, secretly amazed that she had managed such a long speech without stumbling over her words.
“It’s not fair, “ Dawn whined. She sat up straight and glared angrily at Tara. “It’s always about Buffy…for as long as I can remember.” Dawn flinched away from the realisation that what she remembered and what she had lived were two very different things. Unbeknownst to the teen, that was the core of her emotional problems. “First, cos she was the oldest and then cos she was the Slayer…no one ever thought about me…I hate her. Why should she get to wear mom’s stuff, huh? What if I wanted it? I hate her!”
“If you hate her so much why were you so upset this last summer?” Tara’s calm query stopped Dawn in her tracks more effectively than the slap the Wiccan desperately wanted to dole out on the girl.
She took a breath and then huffed loudly, folding her arms defensively across her chest and staring truculently across the Mall. Tara was right, but there was no way she was gonna admit it. Dawn exhaled deeply and reached for her shake. “It’s not fair…”
“Life isn’t, Dawnie, it really isn’t, but all I ask is for you to be nicer with Buffy.”
The brunette shrugged, mentally promising herself to go and see Spike as soon as Tara let her go. So she could have a big bitch fest about Buffy at him, secure in knowing that even if he didn’t contribute, he would atleast let her get her poison out before she went home.
Rubbing the back of her hand over her eyes, Buffy stood. She managed three steps before she started shaking wildly, tears welling up and pouring down her cheeks. Buffy stared around the crypt and realised she had been about to walk out and leave everything here. She raised her chin and a smidge of determination filled her red-rimmed eyes. There was no way she was leaving any of his things here in the crypt for scavengers to take. She didn’t care that the others would freak over her bringing his belongings home, Buffy didn’t care – Spike was dead.
Buffy had spent the morning dragging cardboard boxes from the local Wallmart to the crypt, the heat of the day making her t-shirt stick to her back and matting her hair to her neck and throat. She was exhausted, wrung out emotionally and physically, but Buffy’s spine straightened and she pushed the door open with her foot. The coolness of the air in his crypt soothed her overheated body as she dumped the last of the boxes in the corner and flopped in his armchair. okay, luv…’
“I don’t know, Spike. Why did you let them kill you? I need you,” Buffy whispered to the voice in her head. Deep down she knew it wasn’t Spike, but it comforted her to imagine it was.
She smiled at the imagined sound of his chuckle in her head. Reaching down, she grabbed the bottle of water she’d left earlier and sipped on it. Carefully re-capping the bottle, she stood and began the long and heartbreaking task of packing Spike’s life away.
“Spike, you asleep?”
Buffy’s hands froze as she rolled up one of the oriental rugs in the lower crypt, the others already neatly rolled and tied up. She had finally finished packing the boxes and placing them by the door. Her silent sojourn into Spike’s life had been a revelation to her. His journals had been carefully packed together, she wanted them near her. She felt almost voyeuristic when she had glanced through them, but she wanted to read them to get to know all of him. She was sad that it would be after his death that she finally allowed him to get close to her. It was all such a waste.
His clothes were in another box, along with some sketches. The main bulk of his possessions had surprisingly been books of all shapes and sizes. Running a close second was a record collection that she suspected that if Giles were still around, he would’ve wept over them.
Her silent adieu to the peroxided menace was now over. Dawn was upstairs yelling her head off and Buffy realised she was going to have to tell her what had happened to Spike. She didn’t want to; she felt if she did then it was all too real. Until this moment she had existed in a dreamlike bubble of her own, but once she shared the previous night’s events, that bubble would burst.
She dragged the last carpet over to the others and laid it carefully down. Turning around, she dusted her hands off and took in the now denuded lower rooms. It was barren, just like her heart. All the warmth and comfort that Spike had carefully created was leeched out and the coffins that stuck out of the dirt walls haphazardly mocked her with the promises of an endless sleep again.
“Hey, Spike, what the hell are you doing? Why’s all your stuff packed up?” Dawn yelled down. Buffy heard her moving around upstairs and took a calming breath. After the not so cool confrontation that morning, the last thing the elder Summers wanted was another ‘talk’ with her sister.
“Ohhh -- cool, can I have this? I love lava lamps!” Dawn called down, utterly oblivious to the fact that Spike had not replied.
Something resembling a growl escaped Buffy’s throat. She felt oddly possessive of Spike’s belongings and the idea that her sister was pawing her way through the boxes she had carefully packed annoyed her. It registered dimly the about face she had undergone since the moment she had watched him leave her, crumbling to dust. Her entire worldview had shifted in that instant and now she was filled with a poignant regret of everything that they might’ve had and now never would. A wracking sob escaped her tightly controlled body and she groaned.
“Eww – Spike have you got a skank down there? I can hear her! I wanted to talk to you about the beaaatch that is my si…Bu…Buffy?” Dawn squeaked in embarrassment as she froze on the ladder, her eyes taking in the sight of her sister standing in the now empty room.
“Oh my god, what have you done?” Dawn shrieked. “Did you make him leave? Where is he?” Her voice was rapidly reaching supersonic levels when Buffy snapped and did exactly what Tara had ached to do earlier. Her thin hand snapped out and smacked Dawn across the face.
“Stop it!” Buffy cried out, tears of anger and sorrow colouring her voice. She had done something that her mom had never done, lashed out. But Dawn was wearing on her last nerve and after the last twelve hours, Buffy had no patience left.
“You hit me.” Dawn’s eyes were massive over her hand, which was cupping her swelling mouth. “I’m gonna tell mo…” She trailed off when she realised that her knee jerk threat to tell their mom was futile. She was gone. Dawn tried not to cry, and she didn’t want Buffy or anyone else to know about the stain of hurt from her mother’s death that still lingered on her heart.
“Enough, Dawn.” Buffy’s voice held a world-weariness that any mother would recognise in an instant. “Sit down, I need to tell you something.”
For once Dawn was mute and plopped down on a coffin. Buffy stared at the coffin with tear stained eyes. It was the same coffin that she and Spike had sat on while she got drunk and he promised to fix her life. “Oh…” She reached up in what was rapidly becoming a habit and clutched at the locket, the tears swimming in her eyes causing her to miss the narrowing of her younger sister’s.
“Where’s Spike? How come you’re here?” Dawn asked angrily.
“I…Dawn…oh god.” Buffy sat gingerly down next to Dawn and reached over with her free hand and tried to stroke her sisters long hair, only to be denied. Dawn shied away, thinking that her sister was going to smack her in the mouth. A small part of her piped up saying she had deserved it and to stop making her sister’s life hell. Dawn focused on that tiny bit of her conscience and straightened.
Concern filled her eyes. “What’s happened?”
“Spi…he…Dawn, I tried to get to him but they were too fast and then he was gone,” Buffy babbled.
“Gone where?” Dawn asked confused.
Buffy’s hands shook and then steadied as she carefully opened the locket and revealed the small amount of dust she had hidden in it.
“No!” Dawn screamed. “No…no…no…nooooooooo.”
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