Buffy grabbed the vamp by his jacket as he charged, letting his momentum carry him forward as she flipped him and sent him flying into the side a tombstone. He stumbled to his feet and she slammed the stake into his chest before he had time to realize what was happening.
There were no
quips tonight, no cute one-liners. Working through the graveyard on
her first proper patrol in a week, Buffy would have made Gwendolyn
Post proud; she took each vamp (and there were quite a few) down hard
and efficient, as if by killing a bunch of vampires barely out of
their caskets she could somehow make up for the past year. She kicked
the last one – an old woman dressed in a hideous flower-print dress
that made Buffy feel like she was fighting the kitchen drapes – so
hard she snapped the vampire's neck, then staked it as it tried in
vain to get up. She spun to the right and spun to the left, searching
but apart from a few small piles of dust the churchyard was vampire-free. Frustrated, she threw the stake into one of the trees, where it was wedged – THUCK – three inches deep in the trunk, and then she started home.
As she walked by Sp... Clem's crypt she noticed the light was on, and when she realized she was trying to come up with a good enough reason to knock, she took that as a good enough reason to knock.
"It's open!" Clem was over by the casket that served as a kitchen counter preparing a bowl of dip, and when he saw who it was his face lit up with a big grin. She shot him a mock-stern look as she stepped inside, causing him to look puzzled for a few seconds before slapping his forehead. "Right! Check who's at the door first before inviting people in. I'll remember next time, promise."
"See that you do. I've been to enough funerals this week." She sat down in the comfy chair and he sat down next to her, as he had three nights ago.
"So how was it? I wish I could have been there, it's just... you know... wiccas, demons, not always the best combination."
"It's OK, I understand. It was... I guess it was nice, though. I've never been to a Wiccan... uh, anything before. They really like their goddesses." She sighed. "I just kept thinking there were all these people there – us, people from the university, some witchy girls I never even saw before... and the one person who should have been there wasn't. It felt like we were punishing both of them, as if we couldn't get Willow out of the country fast enough so she didn't even get to go to Tara's funeral. And so then when it was over, it was... over. We didn't do it right and now we'll never get another chance. Actually, that's probably the title of my autobiography right there", she added with a sardonic grin, realizing she'd been thinking out loud. "I'm sorry, Clem, I don't mean to be Depress-O-Girl whenever I'm here. I'm sure you've got better stuff to do than listen to me whine, I should probably get going..."
"Oh, no, please, don't leave on my account." Clem jumped to his feet, then awkwardly sat down again, gesturing towards the TV set. "I was going to make it a quiet night anyway, I just got the collector's edition DVD of Thelma And Louise and I was going to watch that... but, you know, if you want to talk, my ears can take a lot of bending."
Buffy smiled at him. "You're sweet, Clem. Really, though, I shouldn't..." She picked up the DVD case and looked at it, throwing a quick glance to her watch. "You know, I haven't seen this in years, not since Mom... do you mind if we watch it together?"
"Oh, not at all", he beamed. "You just make yourself comfortable and I'll rustle us up some snacks."
Buffy watched with amusement as the large demon fussed about with bowls of chips and popcorn before settling down to pop the disc into the player. They watched the movie in comfortable silence, a few comments about Geena Davis' hairstyle aside. About halfway into the movie Clem noticed she had fallen asleep and turned the volume down and fetched a blanket to drape over her.
As he tucked her in, he couldn't help but take a long look at her, the slight crinkle on her brow, the way the candlelight danced across her worried face, the way the corners of her mouth would twitch as if she couldn't relax even in her sleep... He remembered telling Spike the Slayer had issues. No kidding. She was physically strong enough to snap him in two, but seeing her like this, she just looked way too small to have to deal with all of this by herself. He remembered the first time he'd met her, at a poker game almost a year ago; she had seemed so happy – of course, she had also seemed very very drunk, to the point that he'd wondered if he should really let her leave with Spike. Since then, he couldn't think of a single time when she had seemed that carefree again. There always seemed to be a black cloud hanging over her. It wasn't right. She deserved to be happy.
And it occurred to him that what he wanted most of all was to make her happy. It was a feeling he hadn't felt in a long time, not since... A couple of the glands he had instead of a heart did little backflips, even though he knew it was pointless. What would a Slayer want with a pudgy demon with enough skin for two? Clem sighed deeply as he gently brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes, letting his fingers linger on her cheek for just a second. Then he sat back down on his stool and kept watching the movie.
"Spike, NO!" An hour later she woke with a start and sat up straight in the chair, panting, the blanket falling to the floor as she whipped her head around like a trapped animal, still half inside her nightmare. When Clem got up, concerned, and moved towards her she shrunk back as if she were terrified of him... then she seemed to become aware of where she was and hid her face in her hands, sobs wracking her body. Clem awkwardly patted her on the shoulder, half-expecting her to pull back again; instead she leaned into him, burying her face in his shirt as she let go of everything. He did the only thing he could, put his flubbery arms around her and held her until the tears and the shaking subsided.
Eventually she calmed down and let go of him. "Thank you, Clem... Sorry for making a mess of your shirt. I guess Harvey Keitel just gives me nightmares, huh?"
Clem thought back to the last time he'd seen Spike before he left Sunnydale (What have I done? Why didn't I do it? What has she done to me?) and cursed himself for being so naïve. "Buffy, I'm not the smartest guy in the world, but I'm no fool. Spike did something to you, didn't he?"
Buffy hesitated before nodding. "H-he tried. I stopped him. For all the good it..." She laughed, but there was no joy in it; a sad chuckle of self-loathing. "I couldn't stop Warren or Willow or anything that actually mattered, but hey, at least I saved myself from screwing Spike one more time. Like that would have made a big difference. I'm such a sorry excuse for-"
"Oh STOP it already!" Clem was surprised himself when he interrupted her. "You keep saying you're sorry for everything that's not your fault! You're a Slayer, Buffy, your job is to kill guys who look like me, not save every single person on the face of the Earth; no one can do that. Life really sucks sometimes, bad things happen and most people take that as an excuse to give up. But you keep trying. And in my book at least, that makes you anything but sorry. It makes you one hell of a woman."
She looked at him and smiled through her tears. "You know, Riley told me that once."
"Then maybe he has more sense than Sp... than some people give him credit for."
This time they were both surprised when she raised her head and kissed his cheek. Clem's ears flapped on their own, which Buffy was starting to realize was his version of blushing. "You know..." She gestured at his DVD collection, heavily featuring Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks. "All these people seem to wrap everything up and get a happy ending in two hours. Why can't life ever be that easy? Why can't we just meet someone who's perfect for us and live happily ever after?"
She fell asleep again like that, curled up in his arms.