TITLE: Nocturnal Visitations

AUTHOR: Matt, March 2004

SUMMARY: At night time she comes to him. Set after The Gift. Angsty.

RATING: PG

DISCLAIMER: Characters are not mine, belonging to Joss, ME et al. No money is made off this venture.

ARCHIVE: Sandlot and my site. All others, please ask.

FEEDBACK: Welcome.

The first time he sees her, he's completely unprepared. Dawn's in the living room, chattering excitedly about something – the most animated she's been in a long time. He wants to encourage this, but one casual glance up at the staircase changes all that.

The vision might be called breathtaking – if he had breath to take. She's standing halfway up, almost transparent against the wall behind her. Her hair is brushed out, falling golden against her shoulders. And she's smiling at him in a way he could never have hoped for from her.

He stares in silence, and she stares back at him. He waits for her to speak, but she doesn't. Finally he has to look away, if only to get Dawn's attention. "Oi, Niblet," he hisses.

"What?"

He turns back to the stairs, to see only the banister and the wall. His beautiful vision has disappeared, causing him to wonder if his mind has just played a cruel trick on him.

"Nothing," he replies.

&&&

The next time she appears, he has the house to himself. The Wicca have a late class, and he's dropped Dawn off at a friend's house for a so-called study session. But even though there's no one home, he likes to be here. Not only is it nicer than his crypt, it's also full of memories – of her.

He's been watching the telly in the living room. Now that the show is over, he decides to take his empty mug through to the kitchen. He knows they don't like him leaving his empty mugs around so he'll rinse it out and put it in the dishwasher for them.

The kitchen is in darkness, but he doesn't bother turning on a light. He doesn't need the light to sense that he's got company.

"Buffy?" he asks curiously.

She's standing by the central counter, smiling at him. Once again her hair is hanging loose, but the shadows won't allow him to make out what she's wearing. Her hand reaches out as though to take the mug from him.

"I don't think so, pet," he says nervously, still taken aback at her appearance. "You know the bit doesn't like it when mugs get smashed."

She nods in acceptance, but to his eyes it also looks as though he's upset her a little. Still, he's not sure what might happen if he did hand over his mug to her.

He turns briefly away from her to rinse the mug. When he swings his head back towards her, she's gone.

&&&

Dawn's in her room, music blaring, and if he wasn't so beaten right now he'd go in and make her turn it off. But he's desperate to get this demon slime off his hands first.

When he exits the bathroom the music is still playing. Willow and Tara are in their room, no doubt – the door is closed – and that's probably the reason Dawn's got the sound turned up. Still, she needs to study. Perhaps he can convince her to bring the books downstairs and he can make cocoa for them both.

He's walked past Buffy's room when something occurs to him and he doubles back. The door to her room, usually kept closed, is wide open. Hesitantly, he steps inside.

The moonlight shines in through the window, casting strange shadows on the bed. She's standing in the path of light, looking down at the garden. Her head turns towards him and he smiles comfortingly at her.

"Nice night, innit," he comments.

She doesn't say anything and he cautiously walks towards her until he's standing next to her. It's bizarre how he can't smell her, can't smell anything. Who would have thought ghosties wouldn't smell?

He notices her staring at her, and feels compelled to explain his dishevelled state. "Neilla Demon," he says, without taking his eyes off her. "Big slimy thing with horns. Took me forever to realise I needed to remove a particular horn. You'd have laughed your head off if you'd been there, considering where the horn was." He pauses, imagining how she'd have looked if she had been there with him. No doubt she'd have been wearing her 'that's disgusting' face. "Got him in the end though."

She nods, as though acknowledging his work. Then, as he watches, she fades completely from view – leaving only the moonlight for company.

&&&&

He doesn't tell the others, even though he'd like to know if anyone else has seen her. It's not like they'd be freaked out by his revelations. They've seen plenty of weird stuff over the years, and it's not like anyone in the group is particularly normal – two witches, a mystical ball of green energy, and an ex-demon. Even Xander's scarily not normal for your average young Californian working male. He's the one dating the bloody former vengeance demon.

No, he doesn't tell because he fears their reactions to him. They all found out what a bloody sap he was when Buffy died. It's an image he's been working hard to obliterate ever since. Now he'd sound delusional, and he couldn't bear their sympathetic smiles and awkward pats on the shoulder.

Besides, he's still not convinced that he isn't delusional.

&&&&

The days without her corporeal presence drag on. He's considered leaving town more than once, but can't bring himself to do so. Now he's been reduced to the role of glorified babysitter. While Dawn studies, he spends the evenings on the back porch, smoking and looking up at the stars. When the others get home he'll be out into the night – more often than not to patrol before going back to his place and drowning his sorrows.

Most nights she comes to visit him. He's come to expect it now, even if he's still not completely sure she's real. She stays longer each time, and he's grown accustomed to her arrival. He doesn't need to stare at her constantly now - it's enough that she's there - and they pass the time in companionable silence.

He's not sure, but he thinks something might be troubling her. She won't say anything – she never does – but the smile doesn't grace her face as often as it used to. She'll barely look at him some nights, while other nights he swears he cans detect a hint of panic in her eyes.

He wants to hold her, reassure her that everything's alright, and tell that she did the right – if stupid – thing. He wonders what it would be like to hold her – if it even would be possible. Would she solidify at his touch, or would his hand pass right through her? He doesn't think he could handle that.

Instead, he settles for the one thing he hopes will suffice. "I'm sorry," he says.

She nods and fades from view.

&&&&

He's on the back porch again, waiting. Willow and Tara are out doing something – with Anya and Xander no doubt – and he's got Dawn duty again. Once they're home, he'll get the Buffybot and go out on patrol. It's not that he even likes patrol, he hates it. He hates the Bot and wonders, not for the first time, why he even had the bloody thing created in the first place. It's so obvious she's fake – and he's got a nasty suspicion that some of the local demon gangs are becoming aware of that fact as well.

It looks like she won't be appearing tonight, and the thought saddens him since he's come to appreciate her silent companionship. He's ready to head back inside and has his hand on the door handle, when he hears a sound. It makes him turn around, and he sees her standing at the bottom of the steps. It doesn't take a genius to immediately tell that something is definitely wrong.

Her hair is down around her shoulders, and she's wearing the dress in which she was buried. Her entire body is shaking, and when he looks closely he can see the tears glistening against her pale cheeks.

"Buffy, luv, what's wrong?"

Her hands reach out towards him, like she's pleading for him to help her. Her shoulders heave, and it's all he can do not to rush forward and attempt to take her into his arms.

"Please." The word comes across as a faint breeze, and he can't be sure that he actually heard correctly.

"What is it?" he asks, stepping closer to her.

"Please, Spike," she whispers. "Please, Spike, help me."

&&&&

He'll never know whether it was just his imagination or if she really did appear and speak to him that night. Later, he'll put the pieces together and conclude that it was quite possibly the latter – which only serves to make him feel even more guilt.

After the shock of seeing her wears off, it's easy to go along with the other's assessment – that Buffy must have been in hell and that's why she's not her usual self. He doesn't tell them about her appearances, but her actions of that last night would certainly support his theory – and he's relieved to have her back.

When she tells him the truth, something shatters inside him. His entire thought process is turned upside down. For if Buffy had been in heaven then she couldn't have needed his help to get out of there. Instead, she'd have been calling for him to help her stay there. It means she'd bloody well known what her friends were trying to know. And he thinks, if only he'd known then maybe he could have stopped the spell and done as she'd wanted.

He's failed her. Once again, he's screwed up and hurt someone he loves. And no matter how many times after that she comes to him, no matter how many times he gets to hold her close and hear her heart beating, it'll never be enough to make him forget that.

FINIS