They're always the same synthetic fabric, heavy and quilted, smells sliding off them like beads of sweat. Only the patterns are different. Tonight jungle flowers bloom between Buffy's widespread thighs: last night it was abstract triangles and circles in a purple like dusk.
Buffy works the fingers of one hand methodically over her clit, leaving the empty cunt to spasm on its own. She would like to flick at her nipple, hard in the blasting air conditioning, with her nails, now that they’ve finally grown back round and unbroken. But her other hand is busy, entwined with the fingers of imaginary Spike.
They're both burning. Her eyes are closed, but the overhead ceiling fixture is on and the bright circle cycles red, yellow, white on the inside of her eyelids, like a stalled projector burning through an old movie. Buffy scrunches her eyes tight until she can almost see his face in the center of the flame.
In her mind she doesn't run. She stays until his bones snap between her fingers, until the laugh burns up in his throat and the light in his eyes is probably only a reflection any more.
Sometimes, her fingers scrabbling in a swamp of wetness she can't remember making, she imagines tearing his clothes off one last time. Licking flames from his cock inside her like a thousand tongues. The thick beam bursting from his pendant, or his heart, makes a cartoon hole in her own chest. The edges smolder. The air is gone, but she doesn’t miss it, and she has just enough time to clench and shudder and smile.
But mostly she just watches while he burns. And when he dies, she comes.
She is past apologizing for this, past explaining it, even to herself. She remembers Spike perched on her back steps, on a dumpster, Tara’s lap (musk and powder and small, yellow flowers), wonders who she would tell now if she wanted to.
She doesn’t want to. She comes and she comes and she comes, every night, after the bus stops and the gang troops out to pizza or diner or Golden All You Can Eat Buffet, Truckers Welcome. She wonders, when her breath comes loud and the walls are thin, if they think she is crying.
She always takes a shower, after, before the sweat can sour and dry on her skin. She falls asleep with the TV on low, her ears straining to catch the words. On a good night, she dreams of strangers.
They can’t all be good nights. Sometimes the scene continues. He falls at her feet, something less than a corpse and more than dust. The chain clanks and glints among his bones. But first the shape of him hangs in the air, in the smoke, a second longer than it logically could have. And sometimes, just sometimes, before he falls, Buffy takes that single step and breathes him in.