Here is my entry in the Spuffy ficathon.
Written for: Elisabeth (lyrajane)
Timeline: Set during S5, after "Forever."
One or Two Things You Want to See in the Fic: Joyce's grave, Xander
One or Two Things You Don't Want to See in the Fic: N/A
This fic is set between “Forever” and “Intervention.” I hope it's what she had in mind. It's not super shippy, as I wanted it to fit into canon as much as possible. Also, Anya phones in an appearance. *g* Hope that's okay. Many thanks to kellyhk for the beta. Rated PG.
The Nibblet had been by earlier. Told him all about the spell, the picture, how she tore it up. Brave kid. Looked scared and sad and fearless telling him, all at the same time, somehow. He hated that she’d been scared, and wondered what the hell was happening to him. Time was, it was a bit of a hobby of his to make girls her age quake in fear, so scared they couldn’t even scream. Made the blood taste sweeter. Why does that seem so long ago? This girl is different, though. He doesn’t want to see her hurt. Bugger. Maybe he shouldn’t have helped her with the damn spell. But he’d hated to see her missing her mum so.
God, he’s gone soft.
He slams the door closed and winces from the wound in his side. That Mama Ghora took quite a chunk out of him. He lifts his shirt and sees that it’s not much more healed than the last time he checked. He’ll need some blood if it’s gonna mend proper, and oinker doesn’t seem to be cutting it. Well, he knows where to get the good stuff. The Slayer’ll stake him if she finds out, but what else is new? Just add it to the list.
Xander tries to tell Anya that this really isn’t necessary, but she insists.
“It’s traditional to deliver casseroles made from condensed soups to the bereaved.”
Of course, he’s the one who has to deliver it, because Anya has to work, and he’s got a day off. It’s not that he’s avoiding Buffy and Dawn, but every time he goes into the house he can’t seem to stop staring at the sofa, and he’s afraid they’re going to notice. He shouldn’t worry; they barely seem to notice that he’s even there.
And so, he tries to find room in the fridge for yet another meal that they will push around on their plates, and then throw away. Xander is glad that Dawn at least has the distraction of school. It’s almost too painful to watch Buffy as she moves from room to room restlessly. Her arms are wrapped around her as if she’s cold, but then she begins to open windows all over the house.
“Need some air, Buff?”
She nods and wrinkles her nose. “These flowers,” she says, about the bouquets the funeral home has recently delivered. They cover nearly ever flat surface. “They smell like death.”
“You think? Still, better than those rather fragrant Putrous demons we were fighting the other night, doncha think?” He doesn’t exactly expect his lame attempt at humor to get the big belly laughs, but he’s shocked when she starts to cry. “Buffy, I’m sorry,” he says, going to her, but she puts a hand up and shakes her head.
“It’s not you, I just can’t stand them. They keep reminding me ... get them out of here!” She sits abruptly on the sofa, her head in her hands.
What the hell is he supposed to do with them? “Uh, sure Buff. No problem.” He begins to tote the arrangements, lilies and gladiolas and orchids and varieties he can’t begin to identify, out to his car. It strikes him, suddenly, that Joyce must have had a lot of friends. He never really thought about her that way before. It was like she was always in the kitchen, plying them with food and advice, waiting to be needed by someone. But no, Joyce had a career. She had her own friends and interests beyond the two daughters that she clearly adored. Joyce had a life.
She even had a vampire for a friend. Xander picks up the last little vase, and hesitates; he’s not sure why. Maybe he feels a little guilty. A smidgen. A trifle. Maybe. “What about these?” he asks, holding up Spike’s lame mixture of weeds and wild flowers. Willow has saved them from being trampled on the sidewalk, and has put them in a small container, only a bit worse for wear.
Buffy regards them curiously. “Who are those from?”
“I ... there’s no card,” Xander says. Well, at least he didn’t lie.
“They’re kind of pretty, in a ‘so ugly they’re cute’ kind of way.” She holds out her hands. “Give them to me. I’m going to put them in the kitchen window.” She takes the vase and holds it up, a bemused look on her face. “It’s like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of flower arrangements!”
Xander can’t believe it - he makes her cry, and Spike’s stupid flowers get her to smile for the first time in days.
He’s driving around town trying to figure out what to do with his flower shop on wheels, window open to avoid being overcome by the fumes, and calls Anya for advice.
“Take them to the hospital. I’m sure there are lots of patients there who have no friends to bring them any. They’ll brighten up those depressingly colored, bad smelling rooms. But be sure to remove the “with sympathy” signs first. I bet they wouldn’t go over well with the hanging-on-by-a-thread crowd.”
Thoughtfulness, Anya style. He smiles and says good-bye, then heads for the hospital.
Well, it is a good idea, and at least the hospital staff will appreciate his efforts. He tells the girl at the front desk why he’s there and prepares for the heaps of appreciation that are sure to be bestowed upon him for his generosity. Instead, she snaps her gum and without even looking up from her computer screen tells him to take them around the back and unload them himself.
He pulls around to the back, close to the loading dock, and begins taking the arrangements out of his car. Xander’s lived in Sunnydale long enough to be expecting the occasional creature of the night, but he still jumps when he turns around to find Spike only a foot away, and practically clocks him in the head with a vase of white roses. By accident. Mostly.
“Jeepers creepers, Spike! What the hell are you doing here? You scared me half to death!”
Spike takes in the two tons of blossoms in Xander’s possession. “Half? I must be losin’ my touch.” He pulls his smokes out of his pocket and lights one. “So that carpentry thing ain’t payin’ enough, you gotta deliver posies on the side?”
Xander would love to personally wipe that smirk off Spike’s face, but instead he speaks with what he believes to be infinite patience. “They’re from the funeral. Buffy didn’t want them anymore.”
Spike’s gaze softens, and the smirk fades away on its own. “How’s she doin’, anyway?” he asks, looking down at the pavement. A couple of rose petals float down and land near the toe of his boot.
None of your business, evil undead, Xander starts to say. In fact, those are the words he fully intends to come out of his mouth. Instead he finds himself answering, “She’s sad, you know. She misses her mom. There’s not much we can do.”
Spike nods and blows a plume of smoke into the air, staring out into the night. After a moment he looks back at Xander and his flowers. “So, you want some help with these?”
After helping Xander, Spike leaves the hospital, doubles back, and nicks a few bags of O neg. They have a lot of that type, not that he’s worried about a shortage or anything. What does he care? He also stops by the liquor store and picks up a bottle of something to keep him warm through the long, lonely night.
He decides to stop by and visit Joyce before heading back to the crypt. Make sure the Bit hasn’t reconsidered. Besides, it’s on the way. He stops short when he sees the Slayer, still several yards away. She looks so small, knees in the dirt, golden head bowed as if in prayer. He takes a few more tentative steps towards her, decides against it, and turns to go.
“You can stay,” she calls out to him. Her voice wavers, like she’s been crying. Her back’s still to him, but she knows it’s him. She always knows it’s him. He figures it’s just because he’s been around so long. He’d like to think it’s something else, but doesn’t dare.
She looks up as he comes closer and wipes the tears from her face with the back of her hand. He approaches her warily. She’s no doubt still pissed at him over that whole Drusilla thing, and with good reason, he supposes. And what if she found out that he helped Dawn with the spell? No, she would have staked him already if that was the case. Still, she might be feeling the need to release some of those bad feelings with a nice round of kick-the-Spike. He wouldn’t mind so much, really, if it would help her. As he watches, she sighs and picks up a handful of dirt, letting it sift between her fingers and fall back to the ground.
“Sure you want company?” he asks. Sure you want my company?
She shrugs. “For some strange reason, my mother always liked you.”
“I liked her, too.” From the look on her face, he’s afraid he’s said the wrong thing. But then she motions for him to sit down. He’s not sure if she wants to talk or not, so he lets her take the lead. For awhile they just sit there, a not uncomfortable silence between them. Buffy picks at the grass, and Spike pats his pockets for his cigarettes, then thinks better of it.
“I don’t know why I come here,” she finally says. “I was telling Xander earlier that I didn’t want to keep being reminded of Mom’s death, and then I come here and sit by her grave.”
Spike inhales the cool night air and looks up into the starry night. “Quiet here. Good place to think about things.”
“Yeah, that’s what I do. I mostly think about the little stuff, you know? Like the old movies we used to watch together, or how I miss her chicken and biscuits. I can’t make chicken and biscuits. I tried and it just turned out all wrong!” She starts to cry again, then shakes her head, embarrassed. “Sorry. I sound so stupid.”
“Nah. It’s the little things we miss the most, I imagine, when someone’s gone. Things we might not notice so much day to day, when they’re around.”
Buffy nods in agreement. “I should have appreciated her more. Told her I loved her more often. I was such a disappointment to her, I think.”
He wants so much to reach out and touch her, comfort her, but he doesn’t want to do anything that might ruin this fragile peace between them. He folds his hands in his lap and speaks as gently as he can. “She knew you loved her, Buffy. And you didn’t hear her talk about you the way I did. Never saw a woman as proud of two girls as Joyce was of you and Dawn.”
Buffy gives him a grateful look, and his heart soars. “She took good care of us, me and Dawnie.”
He’s about to say something, something stupid no doubt, about how he’ll help her take care of Dawn or some such nonsense, when thankfully the familiar and almost comforting sound of a fledgling vamp breaking through the earth makes them both turn toward the noise. And there it is, a few graves away.
She sighs. “You were saying how quiet it is here?”
“Let me take care of that for you,” he offers. Spike grabs the stake that’s lying next to her on the ground, and stakes the vamp before he’s even fully out of the ground. “Sorry, mate.”
When Spike turns around, she’s already standing up and brushing the dirt off her clothes. The moment’s over; time to go.
He tosses the stake back to her and she catches it deftly and sticks it into the waistband of her jeans in one graceful movement. “Suppose it’s time for me to shove off, too,” he says. She nods to him and heads off in the direction of home without another word. With a sigh, he leans over to pick up his bag and winces from the wound in his side. Blood and booze and a nice cold crypt don’t sound half bad about now, and he starts off toward home. But his heart is heavy and his feet drag. Slayer’s been practically nice to him tonight, so why does he feel so ... empty? Maybe that Ghora took more out of him than a chunk of flesh.
“Hey Spike?” she calls after him.
He stops and looks back over his shoulder. “Slayer?”
“Thank you. For the flowers, I mean.”
“Flow ... flowers?”
“Yes, the wild flowers. Thanks for them. Mom would have liked them.”
“You ... you’re welcome.” God, he’s stammering like a nervous schoolboy. He tries to think of how she got them. Harris would never. Would he? Must’ve been Red. And now Buffy’s thanking him for his pathetic little bundle of weeds, after all those expensive bouquets she gave away? “How did you know they were from me?”
She stares at him a moment, her expression once again inscrutable. Or does he see a hint of a smile there, just before she turns away? “Until just now,” she says, in a voice so low only a vampire could hear her, “I didn’t.”