Bored. Bored, bored, bored, bloody freakin’ bored.
Spike walked through the fourth cemetery of the night, kicking at a rock absently. Nothing was out tonight. In fact, nothing had been out for the last several nights. He thought about going to the Summers house, seeing if Joyce was feeling up to a cup of cocoa, but decided against it. The Slayer was most likely home, and that meant that he wasn’t welcome. And, for some strange reason, that hurt.
He loved her. Buffy. The Slayer. And he’d been tryin’ to tell her for the better part of the last… well over a month. Recently, he’d gotten so desperate that he’d contracted that robotics whiz Warren to build him a robot double of the Slayer, just because he was so lonely lately. He wanted… needed to be loved. Even if it was just… wires and programs. It was better than being alone. He didn’t think anything could top how alone and horrible that he felt right then.
He was wrong.
Headed through the park. Usually a common hangout for Sunnydale’s less than human population, that night it was just as empty as the heart of the vampire who patrolled it. Passing by a trash can, Spike picked up a almost complete newspaper that someone had discarded recently. Began flipping through it absently as he walked. Hmm. Good movie comin’ out that Saturday. Might even warrant buying a ticket, rather than sneakin’ in. Oh. Gee. Apparently someone had seen what they reported to be a ‘giant spider’ near the cine-plex. Yet another reason to check out that movie. Might get a good fight in, to boot. He was flipping past the obituaries, when something made him stop and look closer. He almost shrugged it off, but, for some reason, turned the page back. When his eyes focused on the name, he froze in his tracks. Read over the obituary twice before he even came close to comprehending it. Flipped back to the front of the paper, looking at the date. Nearly a week earlier. Back to the obituary again, reading over it slowly.
Joyce Summers is gone, but her spirit
lingers with her close circle of family
Recently, she has battled a tumor of
the brain, and, due to an unforeseen
complication, died of a brain aneurysm
last Tuesday afternoon.
She was a regular at the Sunnydale
Gallery For The Arts, both working
and just visiting the exhibits.
A loving mother, Joyce leaves behind
two daughters, Buffy, 19, and Dawn,
At Mrs. Summers’ personal request,
there will be no wake, and the funeral,
set for tomorrow afternoon, in Oak
Ridge Cemetery, will be a private affair.
Only close friends and family will
be in attendance.
When Sunnydale lost Joyce, we lost
a person who has made countless lives
brighter and better, just by her gentle
presence and guiding hand.
Sunnydale will miss you, Joyce.”
Spike stared at the page, almost uncomprehending, for the longest time. It was almost as if he couldn’t move. And who was he kidding. He couldn’t. It was a good thing that Spike didn’t have to breathe, because he’d completely forgotten to. His eyes roamed over the page again, locking on the name of the cemetery. It was close… and he had to go.
Still dragging the paper… or, at least, the page with the obituary on it, Spike ran.
Buffy sighed. It had been a week, and things were… getting. Not getting better. Just… getting. Life went on, despite the fact that a huge chunk of it was now missing. Despite the fact that the ever-so-resilient Slayer cried herself to sleep every night. Despite the fact that Dawn crawled into her bed, sometimes before she even got back from patrol, every night. Despite the fact that the Scoobies were all trying to get over this blow, but having little, or no, success. Despite the fact that they *still* didn’t know what to do about Glory.
She trudged through the cemetery. She’d begun making special trips. Doubling, or even tripling her sweeps of Oak Ridge, just to make sure that nothing happened to her mom’s headstone… To her grave.
‘That’s enough self-pity, Buffy,’ she mentally scolded herself. ‘Come on now. There’s a world out here that needs saving. And you still don’t know what you’re gonna do about Glory. So get over it and… What’s that sound?’
Buffy cocked her head. It was a quiet, almost in auditable sound. Sobbing? Not too out of place in a cemetery, except for the fact that it was nearly three in the morning, and the gates had been locked since ten at the latest. She followed it, her Slayer hearing pinpointing and focusing on it. Her heartbeat sped up as she drew closer to the source of the sounds and recognized the area of the cemetery that she was in. Her mother’s grave was less than a hundred feet away. Right on the other side of those bushes.
And that sound… so.. pitiful. Heartbroken. It made her heart ache just to hear it. Part of her wondered if Dawn had snuck out to come visit Mom on her own, but Buffy doubted that. She was much too nervous about Glory to leave the house without one of the Scoobies, preferably her sister. So who was… She rounded the bush slowly, cautiously, and her unspoken question was answered.
He was kneeling next to Joyce’s headstone, whimpering, letting out those gut-wrenching sobs that she’d followed to find him. He had his arms wrapped around the cold marble, and his cheek pressed to it, eyes closed, tears spilling over his pale cheeks, without him even attempting to control himself.
It broke her heart to see him like this. And she realized, with a feeling almost like being punched in the gut, that no one had told him. It had been over a week, and no one had even *thought* about him. He’d helped them. He’d loved Joyce. In his own way, he’d stood by them through all the tumor debacle. Tried to comfort Buffy, awkwardly, to be sure, but he’d tried. He’d protected Joyce and Dawn when Buffy asked him to. Without even asking for anything in return. And it hadn’t even occurred to any of them to tell him that this person, who obviously meant worlds to him, was gone.
Buffy’s stomach clenched almost painfully as she watched the vampire crying his eyes out onto the cold marble. She couldn’t help but wonder how he *had* found out. A small breeze blew a single sheet of newspaper from atop the grave to land near her feet. She picked it up, absently, intending to discard it in the nearest trash can, when she noticed what was on it.
Her mother’s obituary. And the paper was wet with fresh salt water. Tears.
The paper slipped from her fingers, and she stared at the whimpering, black leather clad lump, desperately hanging onto the tombstone, as if he would blow away if he let go. In his current state, that wouldn’t surprise her at all. She didn’t know what to do. Part of her wanted to run away, and another part wanted to hold him. To comfort him, when he so obviously needed it. She started to walk away, when she realized something. Her mom would go to him. Her mom, who he was so heartbreakingly mourning, would comfort the distraught vampire. How could she honor her mother’s memory, and do anything less? She squared her shoulders, and stepped forward, deliberately making noise. “Spike?”
The vampire reacted instantly, bolting to his feet and almost snarling, before he either sensed, saw, or smelled who it was. Quickly, he set about straightening his shirt and duster, and viciously wiping at his eyes, which were already reddened and swollen from prolonged crying. There was no way he could erase all the evidence, and he knew it. In an accidental imitation of her earlier gesture, he squared his shoulders. “Slayer.”
She stood there, less than five feet separating them. Wrapped her arms around herself, as if she was suddenly cold. Bit her lip.
Deciding that she wasn’t going to say anything, Spike turned to go, only to be stopped by a soft voice, and a surprisingly gentle hand on his arm. “I’m sorry…”
He could’ve just jerked away. Pulled back and run. But he didn’t. Didn’t look at her, either. “What do you have to be sorry for, Slayer?”
She released his arm, not even sure why she’d actually grabbed him, and went back to hugging herself. “That we didn’t tell you… I’m sorry. I.. almost figured that one of the others would’ve… I’m sorry, Spike.”
He glanced down at Joyce’s headstone, a soft whimpering sound escaping his marginal control. “So that’s it then? She’s really gone.”
Buffy nodded, biting her lip. She swore to herself that she wasn’t going to break down in front of him. “Yeah… The doctors said.. there was nothing any of us could’ve done… It was an aneurysm… A.. burst blood vessel in her brain. Almost instant, they said.”
“And you don’t believe them for a minute, do you, pet?” Now he looked at her, and she was almost shocked at the look on his face. His eyes were swollen almost to the point of barely being open, and what she could see of them was red and bloodshot. But what really got her was the pain she saw reflected there. And the understanding.
And the… love.
She sniffled and looked down, unable to meet his gaze for some reason. “No. I don’t. I kept thinking, if I’d been there… I could’ve done something, you know?” A small laugh, with absolutely no humor in it. “Instead, I just come home, and she’s dead on the couch.”
Spike drew in a sharp, unnecessary breath. “What?” When she gave a small nod, and sniffled again, trying to control herself, he gently put one hand on her shoulder. “Bloody… Oh, Buffy.. That’s horrible… You didn’t even.. even get to say goodbye?”
She shook her head, briefly considered shrugging his hand off her shoulder, but decided against it. “And I didn’t… I didn’t tell her… tell her that I.. That I loved her, that day…” A deep, wracking sob tore it’s way out of the Slayer, and, without thinking, Spike pulled her into his arms, letting her cry on the already wet fabric of his tee shirt. “It’s so… unfair…”, she sobbed against his chest.
Spike murmured quiet nonsense against the top of her head, slowly rocking them back and forth, one hand stroking her hair, the other rubbing comforting circles on her back. Allowed himself to purr, softly, hoping that the sound would be a further comfort.
Buffy fisted a hand in his shirt, much the way she would clutch a blanket, or Mr. Gordo at home, and nuzzled her face against his chest, not even thinking how… wrong, this should’ve felt. That she was accepting comfort from Spike, when she’d refused it from everyone but maybe Giles. As he began to purr, she realized something. Something that rather shocked her.
After the funeral. When she’d sat with Angel, almost all night, leaned her head on him, held hands with him… He hadn’t purred. Not once. Didn’t even get that little, quiet ‘almost’ purr that he did when he was trying *not* to purr. Purrs meant love. And Angel hadn’t purred for her.
And Spike was. Loudly. Much louder than Angel ever had.
She decided that she didn’t want to deal with those thoughts right that moment. She had too much on her mind as it was. Most namely the fact that, as her tears stopped, Spike’s had started up again.
He didn’t know what had set him off. He’d been fine, holding the Slayer, making her feel better, then, just as she’d calmed down, he’d realized that he’d never talk to Joyce again. Never have hot cocoa with her. Never discuss Passions again. And this had sent him into a fresh wave of grief. To his surprise, Buffy didn’t pull away from him. Instead, she let go of his shirt to wrap her arms around his neck, pulling his head down to her shoulder, doing exactly what he’d been doing for her a few moments before. Shushing him gently, taking control of the gentle rocking motion that he’d started, rubbing his back with one hand, and stroking over the short hairs on the back of his neck with the other hand.
Spike nuzzled his head against the Slayer’s shoulder, eyes closed but tears still flowing. The fact that she was comforting him, somehow made him cry more. For months now, he’d been longing to be held. To be comforted about everything that he’d been going through. But, because of Joyce’s illness, he’d been reluctant to bother her, wanting nothing more than to give her time to rest. To heal. And now she was gone, and he’d never even get to say goodbye. He said as much, interspersing the racking sobs that still tore through him.
Buffy found tears flowing from her own eyes again, as she comforted her once mortal enemy. He sounded so.. lost. Alone. And, dare she even think it? Yes. Scared. Beyond scared. The closest thing to family that he’d known in over a century, and it was gone. Forever. Oh, poor Spike… Now, the tears she cried were for him.
She had the Scoobies. Giles, Willow, Xander, Anya, Tara. She had her sister, Dawn. Spike… didn’t have anyone. And the one person who had extended the hand of friendship was now gone from his life forever. He felt so alone… and it scared him. It terrified him. He kept whispering, over and over, that he didn’t want to be alone again, and it broke Buffy’s heart. This man, for she found she was now having trouble thinking of him as a monster, just wanted someone to love him. To care. Was that too much to ask? She didn’t think so.
When he’d calmed a bit, even though his body was still shaking, she gently pulled back from him, keeping his hands in hers, reluctant to break the contact that Spike obviously saw as a lifeline. Her thumbs rubbed small circles on the backs of his pale hands, and she looked up into his still teary blue eyes. “Come with me,” she said quietly.
He was trembling, still, unable to stop. His actions had dropped his body temperature to a very uncomfortable low, and his human reflexes, useless as they were, were trying to warm him. “W-what?”
She repeated herself. “Come with me, Spike. I’m taking you home. With me. I’m sure that Dawn would love to see you, and I don’t like thinking of you going back to that dreary crypt of yours tonight.” Looked up. “Besides, it’s almost morning. So let’s go before you wind up deep fried.”
He let her lead him, one of his slightly larger hands clutched in her smaller one. Let her pull him behind her, still partially wondering when he was going to wake up. She lead them all the way back to her house, and inside, careful to lock the door behind them, then up the stairs.
They went in the bathroom together, and Buffy gave Spike a warm wash cloth to wash his face, while she did the same, ridding herself of the now runny mascara that streaked her cheeks. She shooed him out into the hall for a moment, while she changed into her ‘sushi jammas’, and then stuffed him in the bathroom while she waited in the hall. He came out with his duster, shoes, socks, and belt missing, but nothing else changed. Hmm. A modest vampire. How.. different. And yet, somehow, endearing.
It took a little convincing for her to get him into her bedroom. Even after she made a nest out of blankets on the floor for him, and covered the windows. But, after a small, and very quiet argument, she got him to lay down, and crawled into bed herself.
Spike, being emotionally and physically exhausted, dozed off rather quickly. But not before a stuffed horse that was on the floor near him found it’s way to being snuggled up underneath his chin. It made Buffy wonder if he had some sort of stuffed animal in his crypt that he slept with. But she dismissed that thought in favor of contemplating her ceiling.
Sighed. She would have a lot of explaining to do in the morning. More so to Willow and Tara than Dawn, since she knew that Dawn not only liked Spike, she had a small crush on the peroxide blonde vampire. But, those were all thoughts that could wait till the morning, she decided, cuddling Mr. Gordo beneath her chin, much the same way Spike held the horse, Jupiter, on the floor.
Buffy yawned, and was just about to doze off, when she noticed a rumbling coming from the floor. Spike was purring again. She didn’t know why, but it made her smile. It was a very… relaxing sound… now that she thought about it. And the bed was really warm… and Mr. Gordo had just the right amount of cuddliness to help her.. help her…