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He was tired; so very tired.
Spike sighed and leaned back against the crypt wall. It wasn’t his crypt in Sunnyhell, but a cemetery was a cemetery, no matter where it was, and cemeteries generally had crypts.
And it’s just… fitting, he thought wearily. Creature of darkness, dead thing… should be in a bone-yard. He closed his eyes and slid down the chill cement of the tomb wall until he was seated on the cold ground. The grass was wet with dew, soaking through the heavy denim of his jeans, but he barely noticed.
Doesn’t matter anyway. He pulled a full bottle from his duster pocket, but then just held it, letting the weight of it fill his hands. He knew from experience that the false warmth of the bourbon wouldn’t do anything for the way he felt frozen inside.
Besides, he had a feeling that this was something he had to be sober for. Already lost enough time drowning in a bottle…the whole first two days…
Carefully, because his hand was shaking, he set the bourbon to one side, just out of temptation’s reach, then slumped back against the wall. He stared up at the overhang of the tomb’s roof, and beyond that, the black blanket of the sky, streaked with silver-grey clouds. There was no moon, and even the stars seemed to be hiding.
And that was fitting, too. His vision suddenly blurred and he felt the sobs escape his chest with a sense of relief, because he couldn’t hold them in any longer.
She was dead. His Slayer, his beautiful girl… she was gone from the world again.
Despite the hundreds of slayers she’d called all at once, Buffy had still fought, unable to do anything else after standing so long against the darkness. And like every one the thousands of slayers before her, she’d died doing her duty. She’d taken out more vampires and demons than any other slayer ever had.
And soon you’ll be able to add one more to that tally, love. One more vamp gone to Hell. Never mind that I’ve been in Hell since I heard that you… He choked on his sobs, still unable to think it. At least this time you didn’t make me promise to take care of Dawn, though I s’pect she still hates me. That was still another grief, almost as painful in its way as Buffy’s death. He often wished that he could have talked with Dawn that last year in Sunnydale, but she’d avoided him relentlessly.
Still did, though, pet… that’s what took me so long. Set it up so the Nibblet gets all my worldly possessions, includin’ the money I told you I could get that you didn’t want, you stubborn…’Course, she won’t know for a while yet. Told the solicitor to say it took since Sunnyhell to confirm I was dust. Hope bloody Andrew didn’t tell her anything otherwise.
Gotta tell you one more time… I love you, Buffy. Spike imagined her expression and smiled through his tears. I know – you think I’m givin’ up. But believe me, baby, Hell can’t have any torture worse than knowing that you’re… I can’t go through that again, not alone. I’m tired, love, and I just want to rest.
Instead of continuing to argue with the Buffy that lived in his head, he remembered. Starting from the first moment he saw her, he let the memories replay, every blow they traded, every insult, every kiss. He’d done this often enough over the past few years without her, but the memories were still as fresh and new as the days they’d been made.
He was so lost in the past that he never noticed the sky lightening, or his daylight-sense trying to warn him, each moment more strongly than the last. He only noticed when his nerves jangled too sharply to ignore, jolting him to his feet. Instinct honed for more than 125 years tried to make him run, to hide inside the crypt until it was safe again.
Instead, he shrugged off his coat and stepped away from the tomb’s wall, watching as the clouds became tinged with pink, as the sun crept above the horizon. Pushing fear aside, he refused to look away from a sight he hadn’t seen in well over a hundred years.
When the first rays touched him, the pain was bright and hot, and that ingrained reflex tried to take over again. But the sunlight had taken him once before. I remember how this feels, he thought, and welcomed it.
This time, though, as the sun burned him to ashes, he wasn’t laughing.
Spike had no idea how much time had passed when he opened his eyes. In fact, he wasn’t even sure why he was able to open his eyes. I’m supposed to be dead, here. ‘Fact, I should be roastin’ in hellfire this very moment.
The sun was shining on him, almost blindingly bright, but the instinct that he’d fought earlier wasn’t telling him to find shade. He climbed slowly to his feet, shielding his eyes against the light, and saw he was still in the graveyard. Then he noticed it – the faint unearthly glow that he first took as an after-flare effect of the sunlight, but it lingered long after it should have worn away. “Oh, bloody hell. Am I a ghost again?”
It was too much to bear – that he should have to stay in the world as a ghost, still existing without her. Lifting his face to the sky, he bellowed, “What the fuck are you doing to me now? I’m not a bloody champion any more! I’m just a vampire who’s killed an’ killed… an’ now I’m dust! So send me to Hell where I belong!”
Nothing happened. No pit opened in the earth to swallow him up, no lightning bolt from the clear blue sky. There was only silence. After a few moments, the birds started chirping again. When it became clear that nothing was going to happen any time soon, his defiance disappeared, and he looked down at the ground, his shoulders slumping.
Suddenly, the thought crossed his mind that this was the torment that Hell had chosen for him – an eternity in the world that Buffy had given her life to protect, without her, always without her. He swiped at his face with the heel of one hand. “You’ve bollocksed things up again, mate,” he muttered. “Can’t win for losin’.” He took an unnecessary breath and squared his shoulders, hoping someone out there in the world knew how to kill a ghost.
“Spike! There you are!”
The instant the voice washed over him, he froze. It can’t be… I’m dreamin’. No, I’ve gone over the edge from knowin’ she’s… I’ve gone mad again.
“I’ve been waiting for you.”
Slowly, Spike turned around, half-hoping, half-dreading what he would see when he did.
Because it was her voice, the one he had never thought to hear again. It can’t be. I just hope it is…
And God, there she was, glowing in the spill of morning sunlight. Her hair was a golden halo around her head and flowing over her shoulders, and her green eyes sparkled more intensely than emeralds in the light. Her shirt and pants hugged every curve, white, but anything but virginal. She had her hands on her hips, but she was smiling at him, so brilliantly as to rival the sun.
It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen her smile…
“Of course, when I say waiting, I don’t mean waiting right here, ‘cause I would have been all helpful and ‘splainy. I just mean waiting in the general sense. And looking for you, too, ‘cause you so weren’t where you were supposed to be… And… yeah, shutting up now so you can talk...”
“Buffy…” was all he managed before his throat closed up on him. She’s here… God, she’s so bright and beautiful…
Her smile stretched even wider. “Figures… I expect you to be all talky and pffft. Though,” she adopted a thoughtful look, “I s’pose that’s probably the shock of recently being dead. Well, you know, deader than usual.”
With her words, the implications of her presence started to hit him. If she’s here…maybe I’m not a ghost, then. ‘Cause I know she’s going to Heaven. She wouldn’t be a ghost. So I’m bound for Hell after all.
A mere minute ago, that would have been a relief. But now it was just another kind of torture.
Buffy cocked her head to one side, still smiling at him. “Cat got your tongue? Maybe I can practice my own talky thing some more. I mean, I did have a whole speech kinda prepared for when I saw you again, but then you weren’t where I expected you to be.”
For once, Spike just couldn’t find any words at all. The change in her was… well, unbelievable. It was as if she’d lost the hardness that had enveloped her since her resurrection. This was the Buffy that he’d loved and tried to revive on his own that whole year.
And more… God, Buffy, he thought, eyes filling again with tears. So good to see you again, baby, but… pretty soon, I’ll be in Hell, payin’ for all my sins. And could we be any more bleedin’ tragic? The last time I’ll ever see you…
This was nothing less than an eternal farewell. His heart twisted at the thought.
“Hey, sexy boy.” She was still smiling at him, but her voice changed from the chirpy tone of her babbling. Now it was filled with warmth – no, with heat, and given the words she said, more than a hint of desire. “You look great. And… and it’s so good to see you. Did you miss me?” Her grin faded a little, turning sad in an instant. “’Cause, gotta say, I missed you. Every day. And I think I’d really like a hug…” Her whole demeanor transformed, too, into that of a lost little girl who wanted reassurance.
It was the voice that did it – Spike had never been able to resist when she gave him the big watery eyes and little-girl voice. Without quite knowing he’d done it, he closed the space between them – or maybe she’d met him halfway, he wasn’t sure – and wrapped her up in his arms. “Buffy,” he breathed, burying his face in the warm gold of her hair. “Oh, love, missed you so much…”
She was solid beneath his fingers, firm muscle and soft curves, and he remembered he hadn’t touched her in… God, years… since he’d burnt up in the Hellmouth, had only caught a glimpse or two of her from afar since then. And even better, she had her arms around him, too, was holding him with the same ferocious strength he remembered, her face pressed against his chest, her hair tickling his nose.
Perfect… she’s just perfect. She fit against him so well, contact in all the right places, and, as always, he never wanted to let her go.
But, as always, he knew he had to. He wasn’t going to be able to stay with her this time any more than any other. Slowly, reluctance in every muscle, he pulled away, until he could see her face, his hands just resting on her shoulders. She was clutching at his waist, unwilling to let him move further.
Buffy pouted up at him, and he almost drew her back into his embrace. “Want more hugs,” she said, lower lip poking out a little more. “Don’t you want hugs?”
He groaned and closed his eyes. “God, yes.”
“Then where are you going?” She tried to tug him back up against her. “Besides, got lots of stuff to tell you…”
He huffed a humorless laugh. “Hell, Slayer, if I’m goin’ anywhere.”
She frowned at him, brows drawn close in puzzlement. “Hell? What are you…”
He gave her a faint smile, trailed his fingers lightly down her cheek, a touch that he just couldn’t deny himself. “Hell… you know, the place where bad people go. Vampire, remember? Destined for fire an’ brimstone an’ eternal torment? Not to say that I want to go there, but it’s pretty much what I signed up for when I let Drusilla turn me.” He stepped away from her, leaving her embrace, and God, it felt as if the little shreds of his heart that had somehow managed to survive the years without her were ripped out of him.
“Spike? Really, I…” She made as if to take him in her arms, but he evaded her, hands out to ward her off.
“No, love, don’t… I don’t know when I’m going to be sucked away, an’ I don’t want you to get caught up in it.” He dropped his hands when she paused. But he couldn’t stop looking at her, couldn’t stop drinking her in, so that he’d have something to sustain him as he suffered in whatever hell would take him. “I’m glad you were here. Gave me a right good send off, but you can just go on back to Heaven now.” He choked on his own pain. “Just… forget you ever knew me. It’s not something fit for an angel to think about, right?” He closed his eyes then, not wanting to see the agreement in her face, to watch her return to her reward.
Instead of silence, he heard a sigh, filled with exasperation. “You are such a dope.”
Not what he expected her to say and he stared at her. “What?”
“A dope. A bonehead. The most exasperating man I’ve ever…” She threw up her hands. “When you weren’t all with the talky, I thought maybe I’d get a chance to do the ‘splainy thing… because there are some things that a certain stubborn someone needs to know before a certain something happens. But nooo, you can’t even let me do that. And oops! I’m already too late.” Despite the irritation in her voice, she started to grin. “Yep, way, way too late. Just remember, we could have done this the easy way.”
Then, as he waited in dread for Hell to suck him away, two great white feathery wings sprouted out of his girl’s shoulders. He stared at her, and saw her looking up at him through her eyelashes expectantly. She smirked just a little. Must look thunderstruck, he thought distantly. Well, knowin’ she’s an angel an’ seein’ it are two different things…
His hand trembled as he reached to touch the crest of her wing, but he jerked it back before he could make contact. Not right, not right, got no right to…
She sighed again. “Spike…” Rather than go on, she grabbed his hand and pulled, not letting go even when it rested on the soft feathers, though her grip gentled. “It’s all right,” she said quietly. “You can touch them. You can touch me.”
He stood there, marveling at the downy softness beneath his fingers, unable to move. He was transfixed by the sight of his hand on her wing, by the gentle warmth radiating from the feathers he touched, by her simple presence.
When she let go of his wrist, he glanced down at her again, and saw she was grinning unrepentantly. Then she pulled away a little, keeping her hands on his arms. “Now, look over your shoulder,” she ordered gently, pulling her wings back until they were behind her. He opened his mouth to argue, but she covered it with one hand, then giggled a little when he licked her palm in reflex. “Just look, Spike,” and she caressed his cheek.
He was shocked to see feathers, feathers, white and soft and… He whipped back around to stare at Buffy again, but her wings hadn’t moved. She smiled warmly at him.
She just laughed, a sound he had rarely heard in life and it was music to his ears, even if he was the butt of whatever joke. But it wasn’t harsh or cutting, just gentle amusement at his confusion, and he felt again that the unfeeling shell she had used to protect herself was gone.
“I tried to tell you, you know, but you were all with the being noble and self-sacrificing, so this? So not my fault.” She trailed her fingers over his cheek once more. “Though I do know why you did it… and it was really sweet, acting all knightly and stuff.”
“Buffy…” He tried to growl, he really did, but instead it came out sounding plaintive. And her telling him he was sweet….“You s’pose you could get to the point where you tell me why I’ve got huge soddin’ wings growin’ out of my back?”
Again she laughed, and playfully directed him, “Don’t move!” In a blink, she was behind him, and her hands were on his wings and back – somehow, the wings had materialized right through his shirt, but he could still feel the heat of her hands through the material – running her fingers around the wing-joints where they merged with his skin. “Wings,” she murmured, sounding surprised, and giggled again. “Yes, that’s what these are…”
She was in front of him again, giving him a mock-glare, the effect of which was completely ruined by the way her lips kept twitching. “What? They’re pretty.” Her eyes glazed over slightly as she looked at him. “Pretty Spike with the wings…” Then she shook herself and surreptitiously checked her lips for drool
“Pet, I’m goin’ out of my tree, here!” He wanted to reach out and give her a good shake, but clenched his fists at his sides instead. “Just tell me what the bloody hell is going on! Why have I got… an’ why aren’t I in Hell?”
At last she took pity on him. “You’re not going to Hell, Spike. Not going to Hell or Purgatory or Limbo… Hmm. Guess what that leaves?” She grinned at him again.
He just gaped at her. “You’re kidding.”
“Mmm… Stunned-Spike. I could get used to that.” She stepped closer and brushed her fingers lightly over his eyebrows, cupped his cheeks. “I’m not kidding,” she assured him softly, her thumbs stroking his cheekbones. “You are Heaven-bound.”
He just stared at her, slightly slack-jawed in disbelief. Can’t be true. Can’t be…
He’d been running on nothing but grief and grim determination since the moment he’d heard of her death. He’d always known that when she departed this earth again, she’d be returning to Heaven and that he’d never be able to be with her, but once it had happened, that didn’t matter anymore. He knew with great certainty that he’d never be able to live the world if she wasn’t in it.
Because as long as he knew Buffy was alive somewhere, it made the pain of being apart from her slightly more bearable. And knowing that she wasn’t, that she had died and because of his own foolish choices he wasn’t there to die with her, or at least die in her stead… well, going on just wasn’t an option after that.
Someone ought to have been there to protect her… I ought to have…
“Spike?” The light pat on his cheek and the concern in her voice made him blink and focus on her once again. “You all right in there?”
He shook his head, then glanced over his shoulder to make sure the wings weren’t a figment of his imagination – though the way the feathers tickled his back as they trembled assured him they weren’t. “I didn’t follow you around that bend, love,” he said, and he sounded lost even to his own ears. “’Fact, I don’t think I’m even on the same train at all.”
Her warm fingers trailed down his face, and he closed his eyes, drinking in the pleasure of her touch. Then she stepped closer, her body molding against his as her fingers slid up the back of his neck to tangle in his hair. “It’s simple, really,” she said softly, and drew his head down until their lips were only a breath apart. “It can’t be Heaven for me without you.”
As he stood stunned by those words, she kissed him. And that made it very difficult for him to make heads or tails of what she meant, because she seemed determined to kiss him senseless.
When at last he’d sussed it out, he pulled away from her and discovered that he was breathing as heavily as she. Her cheeks were prettily flushed, and her eyes sparkled, and he was more than tempted to dive back in. But the question he had to know the answer to was, at that moment, suddenly more important even than kissing her. “You mean… you… in the Hellmouth?” He swallowed, and finished in a whisper, “You meant it?”
She rolled her eyes skyward. “Save me from vampires with insecurity complexes. Yes, I meant it! You think I just throw those words around like they’re nothing? That I would do that to you?” Her voice quavered despite her show of bravado.
“No… but I…” He took a deep breath. “I thought you just said it because you knew I was dyin’… that you just loved me for savin’ the world, an’ that was all. An’ I just couldn’t bear to have you say that you didn’t mean it… that it wasn’t how I wanted you to mean it. If you never said you didn’t mean it, I could… That’s why I didn’t come see you after I came back.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, he cringed. That was something she wasn’t going to be too thrilled over if she’d meant what she’d said in the Hellmouth. But it was too late to take the words back.
He expected her to pull away from him and cross her arms, as she usually did when she was brassed at him. But she didn’t move; she just held him in place and glowered at him. “Oh, yes. I get to Heaven and try to find you, hoping you’ve been given some kind of whatchamacallit – dispensation! – because you got your soul and saved the world and millions and millions of people. But no, no Spike anywhere. So I figure you’ve been sent to Hell unfairly, and I ask some of the Higher-Ups if there’s any way to get you out. Then this really sweet Principality tells me, ‘Spike? You can’t mean William the Bloody – one of the vampires with a soul? But he’s not in Hell! He’s still on Earth, helping the helpless.’ Imagine my surprise.” If possible, her glare intensified.
Spike shifted in her arms, guilt etching his features, but didn’t try to break away. “I’m sorry, love… I just… I’m a wanker. I know it.” Then he frowned, hearing her words again. “You did all that? But it’s only been a week since…”
Buffy arched one perfect eyebrow. “It’s been longer than that here. Remember? I’ve had more than enough time to work up a good mad about that little gem.”
He couldn’t help it; he swallowed again. “You have, have you?”
“Oh, yeah. And as soon as I’m done being so insanely happy you’re with me, we are so going to fight about the not-telling-Buffy-you’re-back-from-dust.” She said it so seriously that he flinched. Then she flashed him a completely lascivious grin and said, “Then we can make up and go back to the insanely happy part.”
After so long away from his girl and her mercurial moods, it took him a second to switch gears, but as soon as he did, he curled his tongue behind his teeth in the way he knew drove her crazy. “You sure we can’t just skip to the makin’ up, pet?”
“You mean get some practice in?” She nodded slowly, wearing a solemn look that was completely belied by the way her eyes danced. “I suppose that’s a good idea… make sure that you haven’t… you know, lost your touch.”
Before he could make the smart-arse remark that was on the tip of his tongue, though, Buffy spread her wings, and with a little flap-and-jump that shouldn’t be as graceful as she made it appear, she was airborne. There she hovered, reaching down to him, more beautiful than he’d ever imagined.
A bit hesitantly, Spike took her hand and lurched awkwardly into the air beside her. She gave him her million megawatt smile and clasped his hand, wings beating confidently against the air. He balked though, and she glanced back at him in confusion.
“Buffy, this… is it real?” The desperation in his voice brought tears to her eyes. “I mean… not some dream from too much whiskey? I won’t wake up and…” His fingers tightened around hers. “’Cause I couldn’t…”
“This is real, Spike,” she said, wrapping her arms around him again; she could see how much he needed her. “As real as real can be. I love you. You won’t be alone again.” And with one more gentle touch to his cheek, she ascended, towing him in her wake.
Buffy knew they really needed to talk – about how she wasn’t taking it for granted that he wanted to be with her, how it wasn’t just her plea that tipped Heaven in his favor, and the fact that if Spike had been condemned to Hell, she would have abandoned Heaven in a heartbeat. But that could wait a little while, until Spike had adjusted to all that had happened. They still had tears and hurt and grief of all kinds to work through.
But even with all that, it still really isn’t Heaven without him, she thought, and snuck a peek over her shoulder, to see love glowing in his eyes. He deserves Heaven… that’s his reward. Then it struck her, right out of nowhere. Maybe his reward is my reward, too. She smiled and brushed away a tear. Yeah. That’s it. We deserve this…our reward.
May 20, 2007
© randi (K. Shepard), 2007
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