Many thanks to Byrne for the beta.
Spike isn't the only one who feels it. He knows that from the instant he sees the expression on
Xander's face -- fleeting, a brief flicker behind his eyes that's there and gone again in less time
than it takes to blink. But it's enough to tell Spike what he needs to know.
They bury her by the light of the moon. There are a few grumbles from the witches about this, and there's a set to Giles' lips that speaks volumes despite silence, but Xander doesn't complain at all. Insists on doing all of the digging himself, until his hands are scraped nearly raw on the rough wooden surface of the shovel handle. Spike can smell it.
There are flowers and tears, but Spike waits until it's over and they've all turned to head back before he takes the white rose he's got in his pocket out and sets it at the foot of the gravestone.
He straightens back up quickly, not wanting to be seen, but it's too late. Xander is watching him.
That's when Spike knows he's not the only one to love Buffy with no hope of the feeling being returned.
Spike can't meet his eyes. The feelings are too raw, too intense. It's worse than the physical pain of his injuries - he'd gladly fall from a higher tower, the tallest building -- hell, the moon -- rather than feel the way he feels inside. He looks down at the white rose and steps back, waiting.
Xander steps forward and lays his own flower down. It's a lily of palest pink, and he runs one finger down the stem as it settles on the ground. He, too, steps back, and Spike is surprised to find that their shoulders are touching, barely brushing.
He doesn't know what to say. Not as if there's anything, really. No point. She's gone, and it seems to Spike that she took all the light with her when she went. All that's left now is his promise to look after Dawn.
The voices of the others are fading -- not a lot of talking going on, but a few words here and there. Attempts to convince themselves that there's something ahead other than emptiness, when, Spike knows, there'll be something else for them around the bend. They might not be able to see it right now, but it's there. Life goes on.
Xander's shoulder presses against his again, warm. "You okay?" Xander asks.
"No." It comes out shakier than he'd like, and he tries to pull himself up taller to compensate. Which would work fine, if he didn't have four busted ribs, and if he could keep the hiss of pain from coming out. But he does, and he can't.
He doesn't quite know what to expect from Xander -- from this Xander. He figures they're too bloody and too bowed for snark, but he's never known the boy to miss the opportunity to misplace some anger, so he braces himself for... something.
The something he's expecting is certainly not a warm hand between his shoulder blades and a sighed, "Me neither."
They stand there for a long moment, and Xander's kindness, for some unknown reason, makes Spike's bitter, hopeless feelings rise to the surface. "Shouldn't be like this," he says. Not more than that -- those four words are more than enough -- and Spike can't help but wonder if he's not just trying to give Xander one more opportunity to kick him when he's down. Opening up the door to it, since they might as well get it over with.
"You're not wrong," Xander says, and Spike can't help but get a tiny bit pissed off that he managed to reply in three words. Four, really, if you count the contraction, which he doesn't, even for the symmetry. The hand is still there on his back, solid and warm and a world of wrong.
"First time for everything," Spike says, clinging to the pattern of four words like a lifeline. He'd like to have said it with... something. Irony or hate, maybe, but there's just not much left; he's hollow.
Another pause, and then Xander draws a breath, shaky, almost pained sounding. That's when Spike realizes that the hand on his back's like an anchor for Xander, too. It's keeping both of them still. Keeping them from fading away, maybe. "You loved her," Xander says.
"Always will." Spike says it that way, correction instead of negation, since they seem to be finding a common ground here, uneven though it is.
"Yeah," Xander says. Then, "Me too."
Spike knew that. Shit, Xander can't hide it, for all he's good at masking things. It always shows through -- was like a bloody circuit for a while, Red looking at Xander looking at Buffy. The lines had faded recently, the other two finding different objects and Buffy going within, focusing on Dawn and Glory and her mother, but Spike remembered the flash of longing he'd catch sometimes, zinging around that circle.
"That why you hate me?" Spike asks, and is instantly appalled at himself.
If it was possible for the hand on his back to falter without moving, that's what Spike would have said just happened. But the touch remains, like Xander can't quite bring himself to let go completely.
"I don't hate you," he says finally, with that weird yet familiar hesitation in his voice, almost a stutter, or like he forgot how to breathe properly. "Well... you know. Not anymore."
Spike turns his head to look at him, Harris up close and in profile, staring ahead and not at Spike even though he has to know that Spike's looking at him.
He looks... older. More worn around the edges. His hair's shaggy and his skin is pale, and the circles under his eyes tell the story of the sleepless nights since the tower. But somehow, without Spike noticing, Xander's boyish face has crossed a line. Tightened up, found a set that speaks of loss and pain and worry and fear. Something's gone -- something's been taken from him, and it shows in every line.
Back in the abandoned gas station Xander had been exhausted and scared and angry and all of the things he is now, but his face had still been young and hopeful as he'd lit Spike's cigarette and shared a wisecrack in the Zippo's flare. He'd still had that last bit of innocence; an innocence that died when Buffy came crashing to earth, practically at his feet.
Xander turns his head, and Spike can't quite place the look in his eyes. The hand on his back seems more intimate now that they're looking at each other.
"No?" Spike asks, because he can.
Xander's hand drops away, a lifeline lost, but otherwise he stays where he is. "No."
There's something twisted up inside Spike -- not just his shattered ribs. Doesn't see how it could be his heart, not when it's been a hundred years and more since that beat, but he thinks it might be. Is glad that the romance of that notion isn't something anyone else needs to know about.
Xander looks like he's still waiting for Spike to say something, but Spike doesn't know what to say.
He can't help it, he leans closer, and Xander seems to get it and he brings his hand up again to rest on Spike's back. But it's higher this time, his thumb nearly touching the nape of Spike's neck. Their bodies are both still facing outward, but they're looking at each other, and the moment draws out, still as the stars overhead.
For just an instant, Spike wants to turn fully, move closer, press his body to Xander's and let the human warmth of him soak through to his bones. Nothing more than that -- it's the contact that he craves, the comfort of it.
But he won't.
"Ought to get back to the others," Spike says, because he doesn't want Xander to be the one to say it and break the moment.
"Yeah," Xander says. His hand makes one small circle on Spike's back, and then both his hand and his intent gaze slide softly away, and they're standing as they started, side by side, looking down at the two flowers at the base of the gravestone. "I feel like I should... say something. To her, for her. Seems wrong to just walk away, you know?" Xander's voice is soft, and he sounds very young.
It all makes Spike feel that much older. Feels like he's been around forever, and until the moment he'd seen Buffy, broken and still beautiful, dead on the ground, it's not something he would have complained about. "She knew," he says, blinking back tears as he looks at the gravestone, words carved in it blurring and sharpening. "Nothing we can say now that would change that."
"I... I guess you're right," Xander says, stepping back, away. He turns toward the road, where the others wait by the car. "You coming back to Giles'?" he asks.
Spike doesn't look up, doesn't trust himself to see whatever is written on Xander's face, doesn't trust himself not to take more than is being offered.
"Go ahead," he says. "Tell Dawn I'll be around tomorrow night."
He hears Xander suck in a breath and waits for the words, waits for them to be harsh or angry or cold.
"Okay," Xander says mildly. "I'll tell her."
He's a couple of steps away when Spike hears him speak again, his voice quiet in the still evening air.
"See you tomorrow, Spike."
|Feed the Author||Feed the Author|
|Home||Categories||New Stories||Non Spander|