“She saved the world, a lot.”
Spike had been patrolling. Really. He hadn’t intended to wind up where he did, at her grave. Buffy’s grave. He just stood there, like he expected her to come up behind him and tell him that the last two months had just been one long nightmare. Of course, that didn’t happen.
He felt his eyes welling again and forced the tears back. When he was home. Alone. Then he could cry. But not in public. Never again. He hadn’t cried at the funeral, which had been held at night solely so that he and Angel could be there. He’d just stood there, solemn and stoic, letting Dawn lean against him and cry her eyes out into his duster. He’d walked like a zombie up to the closed casket, placing his single white rose on top with all the others. The other nine. Only ten, total, because they hadn’t made the death public. No. That would be bad. If any nasty had found out that the Slayer was dead, the town would be overrun in no time at all. For now, Willow repaired the ‘bot, to stand in for Buffy wherever she was actually needed to be. It patrolled, it made food for them at times, but mostly it just rested in Willow’s closet unless they needed it. To tell the truth, depending on their moods, it would either freak them out, or cause bouts of crying just by being around. Because the real Buffy wasn’t. And would never be again.
Dawn, Willow, Tara, Xander, Anya, Giles, Spike, Angel, Cordelia, and Wesley were the only mourners at the funeral. She deserved more than that, Spike had thought. She deserved a parade, and throngs of mourners, and hundreds of roses. Instead of only ten. No. She deserved more. She deserved to live. Instead she was dead, and he still walked the earth.
He was the one who was supposed to die that night. Not Buffy. Never Buffy. He should have known. Should have moved faster. Should have stopped Doc. But he hadn’t. He’d failed. And now she was gone. His fault. All his fault.
He stubbornly swiped at his eyes, which had overflowed in spite of himself. No sobs this time. He could hold that back. But now that the tears had started, there was no stopping them. He stared at the tombstone, until his vision became too watery to allow him to read the words. At that point, he turned and stalked off, making sure that his walk and demeanor were enough to deter anyone from coming close enough to tell that he was crying.
Guilt, remorse, pain, love, all things that vampire’s weren’t supposed to have, and yet he did. In spades. He walked through the darkened streets of Sunnydale, heading for the house. The house that used to be her house. By the time he got there, he thought that he’d gotten rid of all the evidence of his little breakdown. He used the spare key that Dawn had given him, and unlocked the door, then walked in.
Giles got up from the couch, and gave an almost imperceptible nod to the vampire, which he returned. The changing of the guard, as it were. There was always someone in the house, for Dawn, who’d refused to leave. Poor Bit, Spike thought. First her mum, and then her sister. The Scoobies were the only family she had left, now. And he was her big brother, sort of. How and when exactly that had happened, he didn’t know. But it was the one bright spot in his now miserable existence. If it weren’t for his promise to Buffy, to protect Dawn until the end of the world, he would have staked himself months earlier. Dawn was all that kept him going, sometimes.
He’d been leaning against the entryway frame to the living room, while Giles had collected his bag from the kitchen. Spike was unaware that the tears had started again. Until Giles returned and put a hand on his shoulder, wordlessly asking if he wanted him to stay. Spike blinked hard and shook his head. To his surprise, Giles put down his bag and wrapped his arms around the vampire in a tight bear hug. Spike responded, needing the comfort that the Watcher’s father figure provided, and let one deep, wracking sob go against Giles’ shoulder. The Watcher patted his back and rubbed comforting circles on it gently. If Spike had been squeezing any harder, it would have cost Giles a couple of popped ribs. But the vampire knew his strength, and didn’t squeeze quite hard enough to restrict airflow, or break bones, but it was close.
After a moment, the two British men pulled apart, both with tears in their eyes. Giles held Spike by the shoulders for a moment. “We all miss her, Spike,” the Watcher said quietly. “If you need me, just call. Alright?”
Spike sniffed and nodded, then pulled away from Giles. “Don’t tell anyone. Please, Rupert? I’ve got.. to try not to lose it again. Okay?”
Giles nodded. “Our secret.” He picked up his bag and left, locking the door behind him.
Spike sighed and sank onto the couch. He did need someone to talk to, but it couldn’t be Rupert. Sure, he was great, and Spike liked him, but it was just… awkward. He’d given in just then, but he doubted that he’d do it again. Then again, he’d thought he was through crying, too.
He watched crappy late night TV for awhile, then got up and went into the kitchen, looking for a snack. He opened cabinets quietly, and searched the fridge. There was blood in there that he kept for when he stayed, but he didn’t want food food. He wanted comfort food. Considered the ice-cream in the freezer, and decided against it, due to the drop in body temperature that it would cause. He didn’t want cold. Nothing cold. Then he saw it.
On the shelf, in the pantry, a bag of tiny marshmallows. A small smile crept onto his face as he remembered when Joyce would fix him hot cocoa and listen to his troubles. She hadn’t ever judged him. Hadn’t ever told him that he was disgusting, or evil. She’d made him feel better about almost anything. Too bad she isn’t around now, he thought, as he fixed a cup of cocoa. Cocked his head to the side. Why should that matter? When he’d been human, and his grandma had died, he’d written letters to her, and left them at her grave. He could do that for Joyce. Maybe it would help get rid of that gnawing ache in his heart and stomach. He got a piece of paper and a pen, and his cocoa, of course, and sat at the kitchen table. This wouldn’t do. Too much light. He turned off the ceiling light and lit two candles that he placed on the table on either side of him. There. This would work. With a sigh, he took a sip of cocoa and set to work.
I know I’m probably the last person that you’re expecting to hear from, but I really need someone to talk to right now. It’s so hard, Joyce. I have to be strong for Dawn, and the others. I can’t let on just how much this whole thing is hurting me. I’ve been shot, stabbed, run through, burned, repeatedly, and even stuck with a pitch fork. None of it hurts as bad as this.
It helps a little when I think that you and Buffy are together again, wherever you are. I guess a bit of my Catholic upbringing hasn’t completely left me, although I doubt I can get into heaven now. Maybe put in a good word for me, eh? You don’t have to, though. I deserve where I end up. It’s no mind to me if I wind up burnin’ in hell, just as long as no one else winds up there because of me.
I failed, Joyce. I loved her. No. I *love* her. You don’t stop loving someone just because they aren’t here anymore, do you? Of course you don’t. I still love my human family, and they’re all long gone. Before you start, no. It was not by my hand. Old age, every single one of ’em. You could say that they had a bit of a guardian.. well, vampire. I never let anything near them. Even took quite a few beatings from Angelus for it, but I couldn’t kill them. I don’t hurt people I care about. I just fail them, apparently.
I see it in my dreams. Every time I close my eyes. And not just the way it was, either. I save her, most times. Lots of different ways. I do something. Faster, more clever, something. Anything. And she doesn’t have to jump. And it’s happy, and good. And everyone thanks me. It’s like.. like I’m really a part of the Scoobies. Then I wake up to this living hell. I can’t deny it. I failed, and she’s dead because I let that idiot Doc beat me.
He was stronger than I thought, you know. A lot stronger. I’m not making excuses, just stating facts. If I’d known just how strong he was, I would’ve been more cautious. Wouldn’t have been so cocky. You were right when you told me that my cockiness would be my downfall. It was. Literally. A hundred story downfall. And it hurt. Knocked me out for a moment. When I came too, she was already on the ground. God, Joyce. I hope you caught her. I hope she didn’t feel the ground like I did. Heaven help me, I hope she was dead before she hit.
Ignore the drops on the page, ducks. The bleedin’ waterworks are going again. Seems like all I do lately is cry. I’m sure making up for my hundred year absence from that particular practice, aren’t I? Used to do it all the time.
Do you think she meant it, Joyce? Did she really see me as beneath her? I’m talking Buffy, now, not Cecily. I mean, I know she did when she said it, but… later. I was starting to think that we were becoming.. friends? Maybe. Ever since I took that beating from Glory, she’d been nicer to me. A lot nicer. Did you know that she came back? She did. ‘Bout two hours later. She came back and fixed me up a bit. It felt so nice for her to touch me. Know what she did? She scratched my back while she wrapped my ribs. I don’t even know if she knew how much I enjoyed that. Could you tell her, maybe? When you see her next, that is. I don’t want you interrupting her from whatever passes for fun up there. I wonder if she’s in the choir. She probably didn’t even know that I heard her singing while she was patrolling that one time. Some song. Britney Spears, I think. Didn’t really keep up with that stuff till I started hanging around with Lil’ Bit. Still don’t, really. Just enough to know what she’s talking about.
Dawn misses you. And Buffy. I’m not sure which she misses more. Sometimes, I go upstairs, and she’s either in Buffy’s bed, or yours. And she’s obviously cried herself to sleep. It breaks my heart to see how much this is hurting her. She can’t even stand to be in the same room as that soddin’ bot. Course, I don’t blame her. Neither can I. Especially with the way it looks at me. Red said that she removed all the original programming, but I’m not so sure. Bloody thing looks at me like I’m a steak and it’s a hungry red neck. In case you don’t get visuals with this, there was a snort at the end of that previous sentence.
Sun’s about to come up now. Dawn’ll be downstairs soon, and I’ve got to get her breakfast ready. Also get ready for Harris to drop by and pick her up for school. I don’t know how Bit manages it. If I were her, I don’t think I’d ever go out in public again. As it is, I can barely go outside without thinking of Buffy. And this house doesn’t help. Her scent is all over the place. Already too faint for humans to pick up, except in her room. I think I must have been up there a dozen times this week alone, just to remember her scent. Her little stuffed pig is a good thing to smell. She must have slept with it for years, the scent is so strong. I wish I knew what to call it. She must have had a name for it, but she never told me. And I don’t want to ask Bit. It’d probably just get her upset again.
You’d be proud of me, Joyce. I’ve taken your advice and gone back to writing a little poetry now and then. Nothing much, and I’ll never let anyone read it, but it’s a start. Maybe, years from now, I’ll actually get good at it.
I can hear Dawn moving around upstairs now, so I guess it’s time to end this letter. I’ll write again, believe me. Just getting all this out has made me feel a lot better. It’s almost like you’re here with me, havin’ a cup of cocoa and listening to my problems. I miss you, Joyce. I swear to you, Dawn will never be alone. As long as she lives, I will protect her. I promise you like I’ve promised Buffy. I will protect her until the end of the world. No matter when it is. If she lives to be a hundred, I’ll be there. And I’ll be with her when her time comes to join you and Buffy wherever you are. Then, I’ll probably stake myself. But until then, I am her family. You welcomed me into your home, and your life, now I ask for one more favor. I want to be Dawn’s big brother. Officially. I know you can’t tell me, really. I know I’ll probably never know for sure, but I have to ask. Maybe a sign, if you can do that sort of thing. Something to let me know that you got this letter, huh?
I’ll write again, soon. I promise.
Spike put the pen down and folded the letter, placing it in an envelope and writing Joyce’s name on the outside. He’d deliver it that night.
He was in front of a tombstone again, but a different one. Joyce’s. He knelt down and dug a small hole with a stake, then gently laid the envelope in the hole, and covered it up carefully. There. No one would even know that the grave had been disturbed. He sniffled a little, but managed to hang on this time. He got up and headed for his crypt.
To his surprise, when he opened his door and went in, there was a small white bird sitting on his couch. Thinking the poor thing to be dead, he walked over and picked it up. To his surprise, the bird, a dove, looked up at him and cooed.
“Hey, little bird,” he said quietly, stroking the bird’s head with on finger. “How’d you get in here? Have you been in here all day? I’m sorry.” He carried it over to the door and opened it. “Go on. Fly away.”
The dove didn’t leave. It looked up at him and cooed again, then bent down and pecked his hand. It didn’t hurt, though. It was almost like the dove was giving him a little kiss. It looked up at him and cooed again. What he saw in it’s eyes made his jaw drop.
In the eyes of the dove was a look that he’d associated with Joyce. Acceptance, caring, love, family. It cooed again, and Spike’s eyes welled up to overflowing. It was his sign. The dove was his sign. It kissed his hand again, then flew away. He chased it outside, and wasn’t really shocked to find that it had disappeared. He stood there, crying tears that were as much of happiness as grief. He’d gotten his sign. His miracle. Joyce’s blessing. He was Dawn’s brother now. From that moment on.
Still sniffling slightly, Spike wandered back into his crypt and sat on the couch, only to pull a small white feather out from under him. He held it up and looked at it. He hadn’t imagined the dove, then. He had proof.
Spike had been raised a Catholic, and it was true that some of it had never left him. As he sat there, considering the miracle of the feather, a bible verse floated to the top of his mind.
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. –Hebrews 13-2”
For the first time in a long time, Spike smiled.