by Cody Nelson
SPOILERS: Through "The Gift"
SUMMARY: Buffy/Sandman crossover, following "The Gift." Buffy and Spike have one last meeting.
FEEDBACK: Please, to email@example.com
DISCLAIMERS: Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and probably some others who aren't me. The Sandman belongs to Neil Gaiman and DC Comics. No infringement intended
NOTES: This is for my friend Pat, who died last night. I hope her journey is a happy one.
* * *
Buffy stood in the rubble beneath the tower. She felt a little dizzy, but otherwise all right, which was amazing when you thought about it. She looked up at the top of the tower -- the fall alone should have killed her, even if the portal hadn't. Super Slayer powers. Pretty handy. She wasn't even sore. She'd have to talk to Giles about this.
He was coming towards her. Strange -- his face was contorted with pain, and -- was he crying? Giles crying? Buffy felt a sudden cold shaft of fear. Why was Giles crying? Was Dawn all right? Oh my god, had something happened to her after all? She hadn't tried to jump after her, had she?
But no, there was Dawn, making her way slowly down the stairs from the tower. She was holding her stomach where that vile little demon had cut her, and she was crying, too. But of course -- she thought Buffy had jumped to her death.
"Dawn!" she called out, and rushed towards her. But someone was suddenly in her way -- a tall, thin girl with spiky black hair, and big eyes circled with heavy black eyeliner in a chalk-white face. Buffy didn't know her, didn't recognize her from Glory's pack of mind-sucked workers.
"Excuse me, Goth Girl. I've got to get to my sister."
The girl smiled good-naturedly and stepped aside. "It won't help."
Buffy ignored her. "Dawn, it's all right."
Dawn continued down the steps, weeping. She looked right past Buffy, towards the pile of rubble where Buffy had fallen. "Dawn! I'm here!" she nearly shouted. Surely, Dawn could hear her -- unless, somehow, her hearing had been dulled -- by the shriek of demons, the pounding of the portal, the shock of blood loss? But why didn't Dawn see her -- she was standing right in front of her!
She ran up to Dawn and reached out to grab her arm.
Her arm went right through her sister.
Buffy stood and stared at her hand. "Dawn... ?" she whispered, shocked. She touched her own hand. It was solid. What the heck?
The black-haired Goth wannabe was standing at her side again. She was wearing ordinary blue jeans, and a dark blue tank top. She wore a necklace with an ankh pendant. More of a Goth hippie. "It's always hard to believe at first," she said. Her voice was pleasant, pure and sweet. There was a note of kindness, but only a note. She seemed detached, even amused.
"What?" Buffy asked irritably. The last thing she wanted was to be stuck in some stupid spell. The battle was over. They'd won. Now her friends needed her.
"You're not really here any more. Well, you're here, but -- you're over there."
Buffy automatically looked where the semi-Goth girl pointed. It was the pile of rubble where she'd fallen... and she was still there! Lying motionless on the two-by-fours and pipes and bricks. "That's not me! What happened, did I get split in two? Or no, it's Spike's robot. I thought Glory knocked her head off, though. And she was wearing my other clothes...."
"It's not a robot. It's your body."
Frustrated, Buffy looked down at herself. She was here, damn it! She was alive! Not lying over there. "But I'm here! I'm not dead!"
"I'm afraid you are, Buffy."
Buffy froze. Somehow, hearing her name spoken by this weird anorexic fashion victim made what she said feel true.
Dead. Dead. Could it be? Well, she'd expected to die when she jumped off the tower. And that sure looked like her body lying over there. And there were her friends, gathering around it, crying. Willow and Tara were clutching each other. Buffy was relieved to see that Tara seemed normal now -- she had been so caught up in the battle she hadn't had time to check whether Willow's spell to restore Tara's mind had worked. Xander was carrying Anya -- she must have been hurt, but she was conscious and alert, so she'd probably be okay. Giles put a hand on Dawn's shoulder -- and Buffy felt a stab of jealousy, that he could touch her while Buffy couldn't.
And there was Spike, poor guy. Crumpled on the ground, covered in blood, and sobbing his heart out. She wished she could tell him it was all right. She was glad she'd invited him into her house before the battle, anyway. It seemed to mean so much to him.
But they were lost to her now. She sighed and turned back to the black-haired girl. "And who are you? Death?"
The girl shrugged and smiled. "That's me. I've come for you, Buffy. Actually, I didn't know for sure it would be you until you fell from the sky. I knew there was someone here for me tonight, but I wasn't sure who it would be."
"You weren't who I was expecting, either. Thought you'd be a big guy with a scythe."
"I could appear that way, if it would help."
"No," Buffy said. "I like this. Just us girls."
"It's time for us to go."
"Go where? If you're not the guy with the scythe, I'm thinking the afterlife might not be exactly what I was expecting, either."
"Oh, it never is. But it's really up to you."
"Oh yeah? Then why can't I just stay here?" She might be dead, but she wasn't going to give up without a fight.
"Well, you could. But no one can see you or hear you. It's better this way."
She looked at her friends again. She'd been able to say goodbye to Dawn, at least, but everyone else had to find out by watching her fall from the sky. "Isn't there some way I can give my friends a message? A touch on the shoulder? A cold breeze? Something? It just doesn't seem right to leave them like this. They look so... sad."
Death shook her head. Her spiky black hair tossed around her pale face. She was even whiter than Spike, Buffy thought. But she seemed like an okay... person? spirit? Whatever. Maybe they'd get to hang out. "You're in a different place now. You can't reach them, except...." Suddenly, she frowned. She looked over at the grieving knot of Buffy's friends. "Actually, there is one of them you can talk to. The pretty bleached-blond one. He's dead, too."
Buffy looked over at him. "Spike?" And, impulsively, "You think he's pretty?"
Death just smiled. "But don't take too long. We really should go."
Buffy nodded. Then she walked over to where Spike still sat in a painful heap, sobbing into his hands. He'd fallen, or given up and sank to the ground, about ten feet from the body -- and it was incredibly weird to think of herself that way, but there it was -- a little apart from the rest of her friends. She knelt down beside him, wondering idly if she needed to worry about getting her clothes dirty, or if there were laundromats and department stores in Heaven. Or wherever. She put her hand on his shoulder.
Spike jerked up, staring around wildly. Then he looked at her. And he saw her.
His face, tracked with dust and tears, lit up in a way that made her feel tingly and warm inside. Funny that she could feel that way, when her physical form was still and cold. But he just beamed at her. There was blood on his temple, trickling down the side of his chiseled jaw. His face, instead of getting red and swollen from crying, as a human's would, was ash grey and sunken. But his ocean-blue eyes shone like moon-lit crystal, and god, yes, he was pretty.
"Buffy! You're...." Then he glanced over to where her body lay. "Dead?"
"Yeah. She said I could talk to you for a minute, because you're dead, too. But I have to go soon."
"She?" Buffy nodded towards Death, standing patiently at the foot of the tower. Spike saw her and raised a hand in greeting. "Oh, yeah. Her. Nice bird."
"You know her?"
" 'Course I do. She came for me when I died."
"But... you're still here. Still in the world, I mean. How does that work?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. Her lot isn't really big on explanations. Expect they get tired of it, so many thousands asking the same thing over the centuries. Or maybe they don't know either."
"Oh." You kind of thought that when you died, you'd get all the answers. All the mysteries of life revealed. It was something to look forward to. Buffy found it a bit disconcerting to find that some mysteries just went right on being mysteries. "Well, I just wanted you to know...." And what did she want him to know? What could she say to him in a few minutes that would make any difference? "I'm sorry I'm dead. I mean, I'm not sorry I did what I did -- I still think it was right. I'm just sorry everyone's so sad." She touched his face, cupping his wonderfully hollow cheek in her hand. Strangely, he didn't feel cold to her. Or maybe it wasn't so strange, since she was dead too.
Then she felt him tremble, and his eyes welled up, and once again he seemed about to crumble. "I'm sorry, Buffy. I tried to keep Doc away from her. Wouldn't have let anything hurt her, if I could. I promised you I'd protect her.... I'm sorry."
"It's okay, Spike." She stroked his temple. "You did your best. I know you would have stopped him if you could."
He reached up and took her hand in his, and kissed her palm softly. The corners of his mouth were wet with tears. "Still love you, you know. Being dead's no bother to me."
And, well, it wasn't like the vampire-Slayer thing made much difference now. She leaned in and closed her eyes and kissed him. His lips were warm and velvety-soft. Would they have felt this way if she'd kissed him when she was still alive? It made her sad that she would never know. But they were oh-so-sweet now. She wrapped her arms around him, worn leather and hard muscle and the faint scent of blood and dust and pain, and opened her mouth onto his. She could taste the ashes of his grief, and the old darkness of his death, and it was all good to her. He clung to her and shook, and kissed her back with such fierceness her heart cried out to stay.
Finally, she pulled away from him. He reluctantly let her go.
"You were a good friend, Spike. Take care of yourself."
He managed to smile, while tears still dripped down his cheeks. "If you happen to run into a wretched little soul with fuzzy hair and glasses name of William, say 'hello' for me."
Buffy got up and went back to Death. "I guess I'm ready now."
Death nodded. "Okay. Hope it all worked out with your pretty blond."
"Oh. Yeah." She didn't know if dead people could blush, but it sure felt like she was blushing.
They began to walk away. Death nudged her with an elbow. "Looked like he's a good kisser."
Buffy giggled. "Oh, yeah." She put her arm through Death's as they walked on. "Say, do you know how I'd go about finding a guy named William... ?"
They walked into the realm of Death.