Summary: Buffy receives word of Spike's fate. Cue angst, recriminations, and denial. Post "Grave" (of course).
Disclaimer: BtVS, its characters and situations, are, sadly, not even remotely close to being mine. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit is being made from this piece.
Distribution: As with all of my other stories, if you would like to archive this, please just ask first. Otherwise, fanfiction.net and my home page, are where you can find it.
Author's Note: This is another shorty that popped into my head late last night and just begged to be put down on paper. I guess I just got tired of so many 'Spike-returns-from-Africa' stories (even if I'm working on one of those myself right now), that I had to throw this one out there and mix things up a little. But I really am working on a couple of larger Buffy fics right now. It's just that I'm a little nervous about posting them, especially since I haven't finished writing the last few chapters yet.
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And that's just what it was, too. A note. A torn piece of paper just as worn and yellowed and looking like it had seen better days thirty years ago as the envelope it had come in. Thin and folded several times over, then unfolded, then folded again in a completely different pattern. The spider web of lines ran throughout.
It was the writing, though, that would catch attention. Faint and hurried and looking, at once, a thousand years old and as modern as the grocery list hanging on the fridge. The pencil was smudged in several places. The first few words were hard to make out in all of the ambiance. And the next ones took a few times over to sink in.
It really was just a note. Short and to the point. But appropriate, if one took the time to think about it, really.
Her hands actually shook on the way to retrieve it.
But she tossed aside any notions of enhanced senses. Slight precognition. Or whatever it was that sent a chill down a person's back right before the news came that little Jimmy had been in a car accident on his way home from school, or that darling Sarah wouldn't be making her famous pot roast. Not that night. Not ever again.
She opened the envelope. Stared, for a moment, at the red ink postmark, which formed the name of a country she didn't know. Carefully unfolded the paper. Cringed as an edge tore, regardless.
Her heart stopped, not for the first time in her life, when it became clear, through all the graphite smears and sloppy cursive, what she was reading. Maybe it was a joke. Or a plot against her. Or anything really, other than what it was, because this was Sunnydale and when was anything ever what it appeared to be?
The frailty of the paper made her question its sincerity.
She knew she was kidding herself to think that this might not be real.
Three months, nine days, and sixteen hours. It felt like it had been longer. It felt like it hadn't been long enough, not for everything that had happened. It felt like a ridiculous amount of time to have passed between then and now. That night and this afternoon. The bathroom and the kitchen. What room in this house hadn't seen her so vulnerable?
What did it mean that she had counted the days?
She read over the note again. Went over, again, how long had passed between that night and the letter in her hands. Must have been ages. Must have been decades and then some to have gotten her to this point.
But no. Only a few weeks. And this afternoon. The poorly spelled words on an aged piece of paper. The signature at the bottom that sounded familiar and might have been that demon from that one time, but could have just as easily been that bartender from that other. She couldn't quite remember.
There was something almost kind about the way the whole thing had been handled. Because at least she knew, right? At least some one had thought to let her know.
Even if she would have rather gone without the image of him in such pain. The guilt that must have racked his body. The regret that must have plagued him. The hope for redemption that must have sung through every one of his veins. The knowledge that there was nothing he could do to make it right.
The image of his face in sunlight. Golden... Then dust.
He'd done it because of her, hadn't he? He'd gone away to find himself, not because a part of him had yearned to know who he really was, but because a part of her had. Because she would never- could never- love a monster. And so he had gone. He had fought his battles. He had earned back that piece of himself that she somehow still couldn't believe was true. Not now, after everything.
And he had walked in day, like an ordinary man. Walked through sunlight for a split second- all that he had done too much for him to be able to go on- and didn't have to regret another memory ever again.
Three months. Nine days. Sixteen hours. All the time that had passed between then and now. The night before she had been told by some one else that he had left. The afternoon she had read the news of his death in a stranger's handwriting.