Title: At Her Side

Author: Diva Stardust

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, Marti Noxon, Mutant Enemy, Fox, UPN, etc.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Spikeyvamp for the beta!

Summary: Post-"The Gift". Spike doesn't handle death very well. Or at least, not when it's someone he loves.

Feedback: Sure! Give it to me good!

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None of the doctors can figure it out. The old woman is dying of heart failure, but that's not the strange thing. That sort of thing happens every day. After all, she's eighty-nine years old. Her body is simply shutting down, wearing out, passing away after having lived a good long life.

What they can't understand is the strange young man in the waiting room who's shouting at the top of his lungs, having just thrown a table full of magazines at the wall. The wood breaking and the pages falling onto the floor with a heavy sadness. He's spent half his time threatening every person he can find with bodily harm if they don't fix her, and the other half looking like he's going to break down on the floor sobbing any minute.

They try to explain to him that there's nothing that can be done for her, that she's simply dying from old age but he refuses to listen. He makes threats about ripping their lungs out while looking at them with pleading eyes. He's a walking contradiction in everything he says and does and they don't know what to make of it.

They have no idea how the two even know each other. He claims they're "family" so perhaps he's a grandson, but he doesn't act like any grandson they've ever seen in their hospital before. They've seen grandsons be heartbroken before, sure, but not with this sort of desperation. God help anyone who loves this fiercely. It must be a terrible burden, they all silently think.

That's why they don't call security. He's breaking every piece of furniture in the room but still they do nothing. They can't, not when he comes up to them and says the most horrible violent things, but all with tears forming in his blue eyes. Soon they don't even hear the words, all they see are his eyes. So they do nothing.

He's making so much noise that the woman can hear him on her deathbed. She smiles, some things never change. She tells a nurse that she wants to speak to him.

When they tell him that she wants to see him he stops everything. His body becomes still for a moment and then he rushes away, ignoring the destruction he caused behind him.

He sits beside her and holds her hand, growling at the nurses to get out. They do as he says.

"Sounds like you were making a lot of noise out there," she whispers. Her voice tired and worn out, unable to make it any louder.

"'S nothing. Don't you worry about it. I just bumped against a table is all," he lies.

"Oh, is that all?" she asks, her eyes twinkling at him.

He notices the laughter in her eyes and smiles. "Well, one or two things might've gotten broken. I can't help that this bloody hospital has such delicate things, can I?" His face becomes serious. "We should transfer you somewhere else, love. I don't trust this place. The doctors are a bunch of quacks, they have no idea what they're talking about. The whole lot of them probably got their degrees through the mail."

She gives his hand a squeeze. "No, Spike. This hospital's been good to me. It's not their fault that--"

His eyes become dark and stormy. "Stop that." He growls out the two words in a low voice laced with pain. Then his voice changes suddenly into a softer more comforting tone. The pain still there though. "I won't have you saying it. You're going to be okay. We'll get you home soon enough, get you all fixed up. Trust me, sweet bit, not going to let anything happen to you."

She smiles and thinks back to how many times she's heard him say those words. Over seventy years and some things never change. His voice still sounds reassuring with that edge of fear hidden beneath the surface. Fear that he'll screw something up and won't be able to save her. It's never sounded as desperate as it did this time though.

He smoothes back a piece of her hair and forces himself not to cry. He can't let the Nibblet see him like that, not when she needs him to be strong. When he looks at her he doesn't see the old woman with white hair and wrinkles. All he can see is the girl with the long brown hair and big trusting eyes who needs him to protect her. He's not going to let her down.

She wishes that she was leaving someone behind for him to watch over, but there's no one. He's been there with her for everything. When she graduated high school, went to college, her first job, her marriage, and her only child. He was there at her side when her husband and child passed away too. Dying doesn't bother her, but leaving him alone does. She doesn't know what he'll do with himself then.

"I made a promise," he whispers softly, almost to himself.

"And you've kept it, Spike. Buffy would--" Dawn stops when she sees Spike's eyes flash in anger at her.

"This isn't about her, bit. I hope you haven't thought all these years that I've stayed with you only because of her. No, this was a promise I made to myself, because I care about you..." he trails off, not wanting to get emotional.

"I know," she says gently.

Spike stays with her through the night, stroking her hair while she sleeps. He concentrates on her breathing and when she takes her last breath a sob escapes his lips. He kisses her forehead and slowly leaves the room. The doctors and nurses all watch in silence as the man quietly leaves the hospital and goes into the night.