Spoilers: Set during season five. If you haven't seen "The Body" yet, read at your own risk!
Rating: PG-13 for excessive profanity and dark content
Content: Angsty. Buffy/Spike
Disclaimer: They are Joss's! All Joss's! I'm just *cough* borrowing them for a bit.
Feedback: Pleeeeease! Feedback is what every wannabe author lives for. Plus, it gives me a good idea of what to write. :-)




Someone pounded on the door, as if the stained wood mortally offended them. I really didn't have time for it. God, so much was going on right now and here some moron felt the urge to beat up my poor door. Bleh.

I lowered my head to my hands, hoping that if I ignored them long enough, they'd just go away. Persistent bastard. Even covering my ears didn't help. Dammit.

I sighed heavily as I stood, more than a little reluctant to cross into the living room in order to answer the damn door. Maybe if I just waited here a couple more minutes, they really would go away.

No such fucking luck.

Fine, that was it. I felt totally sick of this; sick of all these people stopping at my house day and night to tell me how sorry they are and how I shouldn't be alone at a time like this. And I guess me wanting to be alone makes no difference, huh? Hey, who cares what Buffy wants! Lets just make her life a living hell so we can assuage our consciences.

I leaned against the doorframe, frowning as I looked towards the living room.

That couch has to go. I didn't want it. I didn't even want to look at it and yet, it was kind of hard to take my eyes from it. Fucking couch.

But Mom loved that thing. I could still remember how excited she was when she told me she picked out the new living room set. Personally, I would have gone with something a little more modern, but Mom has a thing for the antique look.

She had a thing for the antique look.

I swear I'm going to fucking kill that moron who's banging on my door. You'd think they'd get the hint. They keep this up and Dawn's going to wake up from her nap. Yeah. That's just exactly what I need: another tantrum by Miss "Its Not True And I Hate You For Lying To Me".

A part of me totally resented that. I shouldn't, but it's kind of hard not to. It's like "Helloooo!" She was my Mom. She's been my mom for over 20 years. She's been yours for what? six months? Where the hell do you get off acting like this? My Mommy. If anything, I should be the one freaking out, not you. But once again, you aren't thinking. You never seem to.

That's it. I'm sick of it. I stomped into the living room, giving wide berth to the couch and entered the hallway.

I suppose the person must have heard me because suddenly an envelope was pushed under the door and I heard someone running away.

As if.

I grabbed the letter and managed to open the door simultaneously. What can I say? It's a Slayer thing. And I caught sight of a familiar bleached blond head as he ducked behind some bushes. Forget this, I thought as I pulled a stake from its hiding place by the doorway, he really is going down this time. He's fucked with me long enough.

"Where the fuck are you, Spike?" I heard my voice echo in the night. Man, my voice really doesn't sound that hoarse, does it? "Answer me, you little prick."

There was no answer. Figures.

I closed my eyes, feeling for the undead bastard's presence. He must be either stupid or extremely cocky because my spidey sense told me he had moved to just to the left of the porch.

Maybe he could tell I was about to leap out and stake him because he chose that second to step out of the bushes to look up at me.

He stood there silently, his eyes hooded in some emotion or another. Fuck. Knowing him, I probably just turned him on. Again.

"Hey, wait up," he said softly, his voice hardly carrying at all in the din of the night. "Read it."

I looked down at the envelope in my hand. Fuck this, I thought as I went to tear it up.

"Can you just read the bloody letter first? You can always use it against me," he offered, sounding more than a tad desperate in his helpfulness.

In all honesty, although it had come from Spike, a part of me had to admit that the expensive stationary had caught my attention a little. Anyway, he had a point. I could use this stupid thing to torture him before he's dust. After all, a girl's gotta relax somehow.

With a defiant look, I tore the envelope open, making sure to drop the shreds by his feet. I don't care how much money he spends on me. I don't work like that.

Oh, hell. Who am I fooling? It's not like he bought it, anyway. Damn thief.

The writing was actually quite pleasant to look at. I frowned, hoping my face didn't betray my thoughts. The last thing I ever want him to know is that I find anything pleasant about him.

"'Dear Buffy,'" I read aloud, mimicking his voice as nastily as I could. "What? I didn't realise you actually knew my name, William." He seemed to cringe a little as I emphasized his first name.

Good.

"'Dear Buffy,'" I began again, this time a bit more slowly. "'I'm sorry...' Yeah, William, m'boy, you really are the sorriest creature I've ever met."

"Either read it or don't, Slayer," he enunciated each word angrily, a white hand going for a cigarette. Spike looked towards the street as he lit up, almost as if he wanted to get out of my presence as soon as possible. Heh. I'd say that's the first smart inclination he's had his entire life.

"'...to hear about your mother,'" I continued suddenly, my eyes catching glimpse of the next words. My voice seemed to fail me as I realised this wasn't the love-letter I was half-expecting. I continued reading silently.


    Dear Buffy,

    I'm sorry to hear about your mother. I wish I could tell you that this was only a dream and you'll wake up any second, but I can't. The truth is that your mother was taken before she should have been, leaving you here to take care of everything left behind. Including your sister.


Dawn.

"I don't want to read this," I growled, tearing it up into little tiny pieces. Spike cocked his head, a weird look in his eyes. If I didn't know any better, I'd say his eyes were full of compassion.

Compassion. From evil incarnate? Now that's just sad.

I leapt over the railing, tackling the vampire to the ground. Sitting on his stomach, I jabbed the stake over his heart, pressing deeply enough to cut him but not enough for the kill. Yet. But he just lay there, looking up at me with those eyes.

"Death wish accepted, scumbag. Chip or no chip. You're going down now."

I pressed deeper. Not quite enough to get to his heart yet, but all it would take would be a flick of the wrist. Just a flick.

"Are you quite through?" Spike asked, his voice even and solid. I admit, I was kind of impressed with his composure, though something in his eyes told me he was terrified. Those brown eyes of his are really expressive, especially considering they've been dead for 200 years.

Dead.

I didn't want to cry. Not here. Not now. God, Dawn could wake up at any time and see me like this. She needs me. She really does. I can't cry.

Somehow, Spike now had a stake in his hand and was placing it gently on the ground. I looked down at my own hands. Stakeless. When did he take it from me? Oh, hell. I guess that doesn't matter anyway.

"Buffy..." he whispered softly. I could see his fingers twitching as if they longed to touch me, but evidently he was smart enough to realise that the second he tried, he'd be dust. Bummer.

I desperately tried to regain my strength, but it was just bleeding out from me as if it were a serious wound. And there seemed to be nothing I could do to stop it.

"Where's a fucking Band-Aid when you need one?" I snorted, earning a look of such sorrowful concern from the vampire that I swore my heart would break.

I really, truly hated him in that second. For looking at me so sadly. For being here when my Mom was not. For watching me cry. For having beautiful eyes that seem to understand when I just really don't want to be understood. Fuck, I can't stop crying. I have got to stop. Dawn's having a hard enough time as it is.

"Buffy, it's not how you think it is," his soft voice seemed to wrap a sort of warm haze about me. "Death, I mean."

"How the fuck would you know, Spike? You're a fucking murderer. A demon. What the fuck do you know about anything?" A part of me just cringed as I realised that my tone sounded more pleading than angry, as if I were begging him to comfort me. Fuck.

"Slayer," he said with a little more force, "Buffy. Listen to me."

I looked down at his chest as he mumbled something or another. Guess he'll have to buy a new shirt now that I've ripped that hole over his heart. Hmm. I wonder why when I kill a vampire, their clothes always disintergrate too? Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

We all fall down.

Leaning on his elbows, he pushed himself up to sit, displacing me to his lap. I should move, but all my energy seems to be gone. It's taking all my willpower to keep from just going limp into his arms.

"Buffy," he started again, making a point of looking deep into my eyes. He really does have pretty eyes. Eyes are the gateway to the soul, after all. I think my loud laugh startled him, he looks a bit concerned. "It's okay, luv..."

"It's fucking not okay, you bastard!" I nudged him hard in the chest. I must really be losing it. He didn't even wince. "Don't you get it? Don't you understand? My Mom is dead. She's dead."

I closed my eyes as I felt his fingers gently caressing the side of my face. I should stake him. But the words inside me just poured out instead. I couldn't stop them even if I wanted to.

"I'm the Slayer, Spike. It should have been me. I never thought, not for a second, that she would go before me. God, she has just so much here, so many things, so many people who love her..."

"And what, Slayer? You have nothing?"

"I didn't say that," I growled, my eyes searching for the stake. There it is. I considered leaning over to grab it, but hell. I really didn't feel like moving. I relaxed back in his arms.

"You didn't need to say it. It's written in your face, I can hear it in your voice. It's in your eyes," he sighed, touching my temple tentatively.

I leaned my head back, my eyes staring up at the brilliancy of the stars in the sky. I felt an arm wrap around my back, just supporting, not demanding.

"Mom's gone. Dad? he doesn't give a damn. He never has," I sighed, my eyes intent on the stars above. I've always liked Orion.

"And Dawn?"

"Dawn wasn't here six months ago. She was a big blob of energy," I told him matter-of-factly. It was true.

"So?" he asked, once again as dense as a dead guy could get.

I whipped my head around to look at him. He really didn't get it. "How long until she's not here anymore, Spike? How long until she's gone too? She's not my sister. She's a blob of energy that I love just as much as could love someone. Oh, god. And one day, she's going to be gone too. Who knows. That day just may come tomorrow."

He cocked his head at me as if I were saying something incredibly stupid. Maybe I was. But it didn't feel like it.

"It's the chance you take, Slayer."

I poked my finger at his chest, careful not to stick it in the hole I made with the stake. "I don't want to take that chance."

"Well, too bloody bad," he caught my hand as I went to poke him harder. "Dawn loves you. She needs you. And you know what?" he paused for effect. Very melodramatic, I thought with no small amount of irritation. "You need her."

"But you don't understand. She can be gone tomorrow."

Spike just shook his head at me slowly. "So can you. Don't you think she knows it? And still, she loves you anyway. That takes fucking guts. She has the courage, just like her big sister...even if her big sister doesn't realise it right now. I know you aren't a coward, Slayer. So don't act like one."

I don't want to think about this. About Dawn. I can't handle it. My eyes fell to the reddened bottoms of my bare feet. Sitting on the ground outside at 2am with bare feet probably wasn't my most brilliant idea.

"It's so fucking stupid," I said suddenly, my body tensing as I turned to look at him. Spike remained silent for once. "You realise she just went on a date five days ago? With Brian. Brian was some guy she met at the art gallery. Totally wild about him. It was so crazy seeing my Mom acting like a little girl. But yet, I loved it. She was having such a great time with it. With the idea of maybe falling in love again. Just five days ago. Five fucking days ago."

His lips tugged into a small, nearly imperceptible frown.

"And now, it's been stolen from her. From me. God, I really thought she was okay. I mean, even when she was sick, I knew she'd be the one to beat the odds. Fuck, this is my Mom. She's not supposed to be dead. Not her. She can't be dead. She was okay."

I felt his hands tighten around me, as if his sheer willpower could keep me from falling into hysteria. Yeah, fine. Maybe I'm not having a great day, but I'm not hysterical. I feel as alert as ever.

"...such a beautiful person, Buffy. She really was. But a part of you has to know she's watching you, loving you as much as always. She's just in a different place right now," he whispered near my ear, his baritone soothing.

"Why do people insist lying to me like this? Dead is dead," I muttered, scooting off his lap suddenly. "What she was is gone. She's not here, she's not there, she's just gone. Dead. I'm the fucking Slayer. I know what death is." And man, that hurt. It was as if the world had gotten a little colder, more impersonal. Less necessary. My mom was gone and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. No demons to blame, no evil to fight. She was just dead. I looked towards Spike. He looked to be on the verge of saying something. Great, just what I need: someone else to tell me that Mom's in a far better world looking down at me. Whatever. Dead is dead. And nothing, not him, not me, not even the Key could ever change it.

"No, Slayer... Buffy. I really don't think you do," his eyes focused on a blade of grass, watching it carefully as a slight rustle of wind made it bend.

"You know what? I really don't want to talk..."

"I'm a bloody vampire, Buffy. Think for a second what that means. Go on, think about it," Spike commanded, brushing a straggle of my hair out of my eyes. I should stake him, but I don't feel like fighting right now. I'll do it later.

He sighed as he realised I wasn't going to answer. Funny, it's weird listening to someone who doesn't breath sigh. Is it a habit? or do they do it just for effect? Considering that look he's giving me right now, my guess is that he doesn't even realise he's doing it. "I know death. I've dealt with it daily for over two hundred years, Buffy," his voice was steady, its strength so mesmerizing I had no choice but to listen. "Death isn't what you think it is, luv. It isn't. You don't stop existing, you don't stop feeling. You are what you were, just in a different shape. A different form."

I don't want to hear this. I wanted so badly to argue with him, to get him to shut his mouth, but I couldn't think of a word to say. All I could do was cry. I want so badly to believe that Mom is okay. But a part of me can't. If she's okay, why isn't she here now?

"She's not gone, Buffy. I promise you. Her soul lives on, even if her body doesn't," he reached out to touch my face, but pulled his hand back at the last second. I felt like laughing for some weird reason.

"But how do you know?" I wanted to say more, but the words wouldn't come. He seemed to understand.

"I'm a vampire," Spike gave me a winning smile that could have charmed the socks off of me had things been different. "What's a vampire?"

"A bloodsucking fiend."

He shook his head slowly, his eyes never leaving mine. "No, I'm not asking what a vampire does, I'm asking what it is."

I took a deep breath, trying to force myself to think. What is a vampire? "It's a demon. A vampire is a creature that used to be human but has been transformed into a soulless demon."

"Exactly!" he gave me a wink. I didn't mean to smile, but I guess I did a little. It was hard not to.

"Exactly what?"

Gently, his fingers worked down the length of my hair, almost as if he were trying to infuse me with his strength. Maybe it was working a little. I guess I didn't feel as bad as I did just a few minutes before.

"A soulless demon. Think about it. It's all about the soul, Buffy. Without one, a bloke would be nothing more than me," he shrugged, his eyes pulling away from mine.

"Fine. There are souls. But what happens after you die?" I demanded, a part of me ashamed that I couldn't stop myself from asking. I should know this.

"Where is my soul, Slayer?" he asked quietly.

I frowned. I wasn't expecting that and I definitely wasn't in the mood to answer. I just looked at him instead.

"It's locked inside of me, luv. Deep inside. So far down that I couldn't even get to it if I wanted to. But it's there. Forever stuck in a place that ensures it's eternal torment while this body remains."

"I made a conscious choice to become a vampire. And now I live with the results. It's the worst punishment you could possibly imagine," his words were so faint, I could hardly hear.

"But you live."

"I exist. It's a different thing, pet. We vampires... it's not the blood we hunger for, it's the lifeforce. It's the soul. You have what we can never have again." He looked at me then, his eyes filled with a pain I would have never expected. I nearly put my hand on his arm, but I caught myself. I can't forget what he is.

"When we kill..." Spike spoke hesitantly, his words strained. He didn't want to say this. Yet he plunged on, all the while knowing each syllable would alienate me more. All this for the sake of making a girl who has told him repeatedly that he's beneath her feel better. I should hate him, but a part of me couldn't help but respect him for this sacrifice. And he was doing it for me. Not him. Me.

"We kill," he started again, "because the moment death comes, we feel the soul pass through us. For a second, it touches our own, making us...making me feel like I'm truly alive once again. The joy, Buffy, the joy the soul feels as it finally is released from the confines of the body is the most beautiful thing I've ever known. I don't just want it. It goes beyond desire. It's an ache. It's the most addictive drug I could ever take. I would do anything for it. I kill for it. And each time I do, I get a taste of what it would be like. But just the smallest taste."

A strange look passed over his face as he brushed back his hair with his fingers. I could see the hint of tears in his eyes. Tormented eyes for all their beauty.

"So I kill more and more, hoping each time that the euphoria will stay just a bit longer. But it never does. It never will. I lost my only real chance at it a long, long time ago." He gave me a small, insecure smile. "Maybe there is a heaven. Maybe it's something else. But I can tell you that no matter what, your mother is in a place that's better. I know because I've felt this place. And I live with the torture because I know I will never feel that beautiful joy your mother knows now. Not even when I'm destroyed."

His nostrils flared suddenly and I knew he was keeping back his tears. A vampire comforting the Slayer about death. How ironic is that? I feel so worn out, but I'm stronger now. He's right, I thought as my eyes traced over the angles of his face. He's right. His very existence was the proof I needed to know my Mommy's soul lived on. Somewhere.

I buried my face into my palms as the tears suddenly came, unable to stop the onslaught and not sure I wanted to. So many things were so fucked up. Mom, Dawn, me, even Spike. All of us got stuck with a fate that would be nothing we'd ever choose. It's like a big cosmic game where we are all trying to make the best of the cards we were dealt, wishing with all our might that maybe we'll break even and not daring enough to even hope we'll win.

He laid a hand on my shoulder as I wept, murmuring soft words. But he didn't understand. My Mom is okay. Mommy is okay. She's safe. I can't protect her from death, but she doesn't need me to. She needs me to take care of my sister. Of my friends. Of myself.

Yeah. I can do that. I can do this for my Mom. I can and I will.

"You are shivering, pet. Into the house with you," Spike smiled warmly at me as he stood up.

I nodded, giving him a weak smile as I brushed away my tears with the back of my fist. It was kind of cold out here. I grabbed his extended hand, pulling myself up off the ground. I paused only a moment to look into those brown eyes, but their expression hurt my heart. I turned my back and walked towards the front door. I opened it quietly, hoping not to wake up my sister. She needs her sleep. Poor Dawn hasn't been able to get any since Mom passed away.

I looked back to Spike as he stood where I left him just beyond the porch.

"Aren't you coming in?" I asked, making a show of freezing in the night. "Come on, it's cold out here."

He seemed to be stunned to silence. I could almost laugh. Now that doesn't happen to him often. He frowned slightly, as if he were gauging my actions.

"Come in, Spike. I think I need a cup of hot chocolate."

There was a certain brightness to his eyes as he realised I just invited him in. His lips curved into a soft smile as he came to the door, nodding at me. "Hot chocolate. I haven't had any of that for a while," he mentioned as he motioned for me to enter first. "I remember the first time Joyce wanted me to try it. It bloody well burnt my tongue, but I didn't want your Mum to know. Big Bad and all that, you know. But of course, she figured it out anyway. Joyce always saw the stuff I didn't want her to see, no matter how embarrassing. Actually, especially the embarrassing..."

How so like my Mom, I thought. Spike's words floated over me with a gentle comfort as I stepped into the house where she had died. I couldn't help but smile as beautiful memories of the best person I've ever had the gift of knowing flooded my soul.

How so like my Mom.