By Cody Nelson
Buffy deals with her grief, with a little help from an unlikely source. Spoilers for "I Was Made to Love You."
Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and probably some others who aren't me.
She resolutely put aside her friends' attempts at comfort. She could barely look at Willow's face, or Xander's. Even Giles was far too often shiny-eyed behind his librarian's glasses, his stiff English reserve frayed at the edges, quietly dissolved into wordless stammers. She couldn't bear it, not yet, she had to work, she had to take care of things, or it would all fall apart.
She stood dry-eyed at the grave as they lowered the coffin in. It wasn't right for her mother to be here in this cemetery, where Buffy already spent far too much of her time. The cemetery was for patrols and slaying and dead things. Unreasonably, she wanted her mother to rest somewhere else.
Dawn's hot body was tucked into her side, damp and limp with grief. Her sister had cried herself out at the service and was now just a rag doll under her arm, except for an occasional sniffling tremor. Buffy felt her hand stroke her sister's back, up and down, like an automaton. Willow stood weeping at her other side, both hands clutched in Tara's. Xander and Anya were on the other side of the grave, fidgeting in helpless confusion, red-eyed with misery.
Buffy wanted desperately to leave. She wanted to go to a home that no longer existed. She wanted night to come so she could kill something. She forced herself to stand straight, to watch the dirt fall on her mother's coffin, to hold her sister at her side. She felt as though a shaft of ice had lodged itself in her chest. She felt cold and dead as the grave.
* * *
It was the longest afternoon of her life. If it had been only herself, she would have told them to leave her alone, but for her sister's sake she let them come to her house after the funeral. Food was set out, flowers were put in vases, cards were opened and laid on the coffee table. Small talk was made, condolences gingerly offered. Anecdotes about Joyce were told. Buffy endured.
At last it was over. The traitor sun went down and the mourners went home. Her sister was kissed and packed off with Giles, and Buffy was finally alone. The house was jagged, alien, unbearable. Buffy ran up the stairs to her room to throw off her funeral clothes and pull on slacks, sweater, boots. Almost in a frenzy she snatched up her stakes and rushed from the house, adrenaline surging as if she were already in battle.
Her mind a roil of blood thoughts, she went straight to the cemetery. Here there would be vampires to stake. Forcefully she ignored that other presence, freshly interred.
But sheer perversity brought her to that newest grave. Stake in hand she approached, as if waiting for vampire Joyce to emerge.
A figure bent over the grave. Wearing a long black leather coat. With bleach-white hair.
Spike. Christ, she'd managed to forget him and his sickening obsession in the horrible haze of the past few days. What in hell was he doing here? If he disturbed a single blade of grass on her mother's grave, she'd....
Rage overtook her. She launched herself at him with a guttural cry she barely recognized from herself. He was still bent over when she fell on him, fist smashing into the side of his face, flinging him backwards, the other fist driving under and up into his gut. He landed on his back with a crunching thud and a pained shout; she landed on his chest, hand on his throat, stake raised, throat full of curses and dire threats.
But... there were tears on his face, glinting in the moonlight. Tracks of them, all down his hollow cheeks. And in his left hand, outflung, the remains of a bedraggled bouquet. Violets. Her mother's favorite.
With a stricken cry, she staggered up and away from him. "What do you think you're doing?"
He pushed himself up onto his elbows, glaring at her under dark brows. "What's it look like? I liked her too, you know."
Buffy's chest hurt, which made no sense, because she didn't land on it. She was gripping the stake so hard her fingers had gone numb. She was aware that she'd had no intention of using it. Which didn't mean she didn't want to use her fists on him, and her feet. A good round of beating up Spike could be just what she needed.
But he'd come to put flowers on her mother's grave. And he was crying, for god's sake, she was so sick of everyone crying, couldn't they see it was useless and stupid and weak? "Well, go on and do it and get out of here. I've got work to do."
Slowly, without taking his eyes from her face, he swept to his feet. Sleek and graceful, despite being a poisonous little toad. It was all in the coat, she thought. The one he'd stolen from the last Slayer he'd killed. She crossed her arms and watched as he stepped again to the grave.
"All right, Slayer." He bent again to place the flowers gently on the newly-laid sod. And as he did so, she caught a glimpse of something white clutched in his other hand. A piece of paper, and what did he mean to do with that? Some sort of evil spell?
Her arm shot out and grabbed his wrist, the other snatching the paper from his hand. He leaped up and lunged after it, but she danced back out of his reach.
He was furious, and something else. Embarrassed? "Give it back, Slayer."
"Why? What is it? Love poems?"
He flinched as if struck. "None of your business." He snatched at it again. She jerked her hand away, crushing the note in her fist.
"If you're putting something on my mother's grave, it's very much my business."
He whirled away angrily and stood with his back to her, arms stiffly crossed. She smoothed the crumpled paper.
Good lord, it was a poem. Incredulous, she read: "Your beauty shines like stars at night/Your kindness warms like candlelight/You let me in and dried my tears/I'll miss you for a thousand years."
Buffy felt a strange, hysterical giggle bubbling up inside her. "My god, Spike, that's awful." She laughed, half choking, short painful little barks.
He turned to her again, fresh tears on his face, anger and humiliation along with the grief. "I didn't write it for you."
No, he wrote it for her mother. Spike, bringing bad poetry and violets to her mother's grave. Grieving for her. While Buffy patrolled for something to kill. With a wrenching pain, the giggles turned to wracking sobs, and she found to her own great surprise that she had flung herself onto him, arms around his neck, face pressed into his chest, crying as if the world had come to an end.
For the briefest moment he flinched away from her. Then his arms came around her, tentatively, and held her. Firmly, but not tightly. Arms like ripcord, body still and hard. No heat from him, no heaving breath, despite the tears. Solid, dead but animate. She clung to him like an animal, soaking his shirt with her sobs. Standing on her mother's grave, in the arms of a vampire. An idiot, soulless, lovesick vampire. She couldn't believe how much she wanted it, needed it. First Angel, and now Spike. She told herself she was sick, but she felt no shame, only this horrible, unslakeable need. In love with death, Spike had told her, and maybe he was right. Maybe he was right about everything. Maybe she didn't care about what was right, only about this burning in her aching body, and a dead thing to ease the pain of death.
Her hands twisted in his lapels, catching up leather and silk and flesh. She looked up at him, her throat still heaving with sobs, wetness dripping from her face. Right here on her mother's grave, making love with death, on the coat of a dead Slayer. It felt like blasphemy. "Want to dance?" she whispered between gasps. Then let her be damned.
His fingers dug into her biceps, and air hissed in his breathless lungs. His mouth tightened and his dark eyes bored into her, almost seeming to glow in the dark night. Then his arms were around her again, this time crushing her to him, and she felt his mouth on her forehead, her cheeks, her eyes. His lips brushed across hers, and she strained into them, but now he was holding her away from him. A tear fell onto her mouth, and she tasted it. Only salt water. She couldn't say if she were disappointed.
"Buffy." His voice was rough and broken. "Why don't you let me walk you home?"
She felt limp and drained. On her mother's grave. God, what was she thinking? "Okay."
He put his arm around her shoulder. She couldn't even make herself think she ought to shrug it off. She felt like a rag doll under his arm. They walked silently all the way to her door, where he stopped and stood, making no attempt to turn the knob. He'd been de-invited and could no longer come in.
Buffy detached herself from him and pulled her key out of her pocket. She couldn't quite bring herself to thank him, although she knew she owed him big time. "Spike," she said, busying herself with unlocking the door, "Why?" Why deny himself the one thing he wanted most? Especially when it wasn't likely ever to be offered again.
"Because I love you."
She turned then to look at him. Now he was faced away, staring down at the ground, hands in his pockets, a study in misery. She sighed. Damn it, she was exhausted and aching and only wanted to be left alone. But she owed him something. "Spike, I... if you want, you can come in. Just for a minute." She could always get Willow to redo the de-invitation spell tomorrow. If she thought it was necessary.
One corner of his mouth twitched into a sad smile. He nodded. "I'd better go. Do a quick patrol. You... should get some rest."
She returned the smile, finding it not quite as difficult as she'd thought. Then she went in.
The house was still empty and cold. Alien. But no longer quite so unbearable.