By D. M. Evans

"Who is doing this?" Buffy asked, staring down at her mother's grave. It was in pristine condition with fresh flowers in the brass vase, weeds pulled from the new grass that pushed up from the mud and the mud that had splash onto the stone from the rain the night before had been wiped clean.
Willow, unused paper towels and orange cleaner in hand, shrugged. "I don't know. Someone did our work for us."
"Again. Will, it's getting a little creepy. I mean, if it's Giles or Xander and Anya keeping up Mom's grave for me, I just wish they'd tell me. I appreciate the effort, that someone cares enough to leave fresh flowers for Mom almost every day. It's...sweet, I guess, but this anonymous grave tending is starting to spook me." Buffy wrapped her arms around herself. Somehow the cemetery seemed more eerie in the sunlight than during a patrol.
"It's not me and Tara. We'd tell you if it was," Willow said, then frowned. "I mean, we have brought flowers and all. It's just...well, we don't...I mean, we should bring them more."
"Relax, Will, I know what you mean. There's school and the thing with Glory. I know you can't think about flowers. Mom would understand."
Willow let out a breath, bobbing a bit. "Thanks. Well, we don't have anything to do here. What should we do now?"
"Class will start soon, at least for you. I don't have another until two. We can snag some lunch."
Willow nodded. They both cast a glance back at the flowers in the vase. They were simple flowers, no fancy store bought arrangement, mostly daisies and wild flowers. Some old-fashioned roses that looked plucked from someone's garden were mixed in. Buffy stooped to straighten them, feeling her eyes flooding with tears. She squeezed them shut tight and patted the stone.
"I'll be by later to talk, Mom," she whispered, even though she knew it wasn't exactly true. It was too hard coming here. It made her mother's death more real and the new adult burdens of running a house and raising a younger sister seem too hard, too much to handle. She felt like she had been kicked through the doorway between youth and full-fledged adulthood without the gentle transition most were afforded. One moment she was still a kid, granted a kid with the awesome responsibility of being the Slayer and the next she was head of the house with a thirteen year old looking to her for answers she didn't have. Buffy felt cheated somehow, a pearl of resentment against Joyce forming in her. She squelched it, cupping the roses to take in a deep calming breath. They pricked her with their tiny, numerous thorns. She yelped, putting her fingers to her lips. Buffy got up and tried not to run off. Willow put an arm around her without saying a word.
* * *
In the deluge of cold rain, Buffy vaulted over a headstone. This felt right. It was nearly routine and between the death of her mother and the constant threat of Glory, routine was a comfort. And three vampires scurrying through a cemetery to avoid her didn't even feel like a real threat.
She cornered the female vampire against the fence. With her gold hair extensions the vampire looked like a missing member of Destiny's Child. The vampire considered the Slayer, looking ready to attack. She thought better of it and tried to pull herself over the fence. Buffy grabbed her gold, ropy hair, dragging her back and shoved a stake home almost numbly.
As the vampire dusted, Buffy scanned for the other two. Only then did it sink in they were in her mother's resting place. Her lips pulled in to a rictus, feeling desecrated. "I'm so tired of your kind messing everything up," she growled, charging after the other two.
They didn't waste time engaging the Slayer in banter that would just slow them down. One of them slipped in the mud, knocking a brass vase off its moorings. Buffy leapt onto his back. She had a sarcastic comment at the ready but it died when she saw the fresh mud the vampire slipped in covered Joyce's grave. Buffy hesitated with her stake. It seemed wrong to have vampire dust mixing with the dirt under which her mother rested. The vampire took advantage of that hesitation and flipped her over backwards. He scrambled up and stumbled off. Buffy rolled to her feet.
"Oh no you don't." Her strong legs pumped and the tiny blonde caught up and staked him.
"Wally!" the remaining vampire cried, his face morphing in his anger.
The head ridges, the ragged fangs, the yellow eyes didn't even phase Buffy. She was inured to it. "Bring it on!" she taunted just wanting to get it over with so she could set her mother's grave back to rights.
"I told them not to do it. I told them not to get the attention of the Slayer but oh no, they wouldn't listen," the vampire whined, grabbing Buffy's arms, flinging her over a lamb statue of a child's grave. Her sneakered foot hit the lamb and she felt her ankle twist.
Buffy held back the cry of pain as she got to her feet favoring the fresh injury. She missed with the stake but caught his jaw with her elbow. He growled and slammed her back against a crypt door. Buffy cried out as her head cracked against the gate and her arm went through the stained glass. Buffy kicked him away and dragged her arm out of the glass with a whimper. The vampire licked his lips at the blood smell. She curled a lip at him, shifted the stake to her uninjured hand. She lunged forward and drove the stake in until her hand thumped against his breast bone. She held her breath when she pulled it out so not to breathe in the dust.
Buffy took a few steps toward her Mom's grave but her ankle felt as if it were filled with sand. She looked at her arm, blood still trickled down it and a pieced of stained glass was protruding from her shoulder where she couldn't get a hold of it. Her mother's grave would have to wait. Buffy hobbled off to report to Giles.
* * *
Night again, a full moon glimmering down from the dark silk of the heavens. Buffy tried not to let guilt nag at her. She hadn't gotten out to her mother's grave to fix the broken vase. It was still pouring when she woke in the morning and she felt sore still from patrol despite her Slayer's healing ability. Then came a test in Victorian Literature then the blow up with Dawn over undone homework. Before she knew it, it was night again and time for patrol.
Xander and Willow had wanted to go with her but she refused. She felt she needed to do it alone. Also she wanted to apologize to her mother for allowing her grave to get ruined. That was top priority. She jogged to the cemetery and stopped dead, her ankle twinging. The mud had been wiped clean from the stone again and the vase was fixed. Hearing someone coming, Buffy ducked behind a statue of a mourning woman draped over a cross. Someone in black knelt at her mother's grave and put a handful of flowers into the vase. She didn't have to wait for the person to light up a cigarette to know it was Spike. His hair practically glowed in the moonlight.
"Spike! What are you doing?"
Spike spun on his haunches and nearly fell on his backside. "Cutie, you nearly gave me...."
"What? A heart attack? Newsflash, not possible. I'll ask again, what are you doing here?" She stalked across the distance separating them.
Spike stood up looking acutely embarrassed. "I...well, I brought your mum some flowers."
"You fixed the grave," Buffy said as if she didn't believe it even though she saw it herself.
Spike dropped his chin, looking away. If vampires could blush, Buffy was sure he would. "It needed doing."
"You're the one who's been putting fresh flowers on the grave."
Spike developed an intense interest in his black nail polish. Buffy tapped her foot and his eyes shifted to finally look at her. His arms dropped. "Yeah."
Buffy gave him a curious look. "Why?"
Spike took a deep drag and sent the cigarette away in a red sparkly arc. "Look, I liked your mum."
Buffy snorted, crossing her arms over her barely existent chest. "Try again."
"What?" His gaze hardened. "Why does no one believe me?"
"Because you're the evil undead?"
Spike made a face, making the scar over his eye twist. "Believe or don't, I guess it really doesn't matter. I liked your mother."
"Spike, if this is some sick way of impressing me, I swear I'll drag you kicking and screaming out into the sunlight."
He set his jaw. His face almost shifted but didn't. "I tried to tell you the night before the service how sorry I was to hear Joyce...passed away. The geek wouldn't let me. Fine. Nothing to be done for it unless I wanted a big scene and you and the niblet didn't need that. I couldn't come the day they buried her not with him here," Spike growled out the words. "These flowers were all I could do so...I knew if I told you, you wouldn't believe me."
"You honestly want me to believe that you care this much about my mother's death?" Buffy tossed her head, defiantly.
"Yes." Spike slammed his fists against his thighs. "I liked Joyce. Like I told the Scoobies, your mother treated me with kindness, like I wasn't a freak."
"Her mistake."
"That's what they said." Spike broke off looking away. He moved off to a grassy patch of earth and flung himself down. Buffy stood over him, still on the defensive. "When you changed the locks on me...that hurt not just because it showed me how you feel but because I couldn't visit with Joyce any more. I don't know if she ever told you that sometimes we would talk...not just when you'd dump her and Dawn off on me to guard while you did Slayer things. She actually listened to me, had a cuppa ready and didn't act like I was going to eat her at any moment," he said softly, looking up at Buffy.
"If it wasn't for that chip in your head, you would have," she replied.
He shrugged. "Maybe. Why am I the only one who doesn't have the right to miss Joyce?"
Buffy blinked a few times processing the question. "What makes you think you deserve one? You bring some flowers here like you care. You're a vampire, Spike. You don't have feelings. You don't care."
Spike snorted, and flopped back on the wet grass, cushioning his head with his arms. Buffy was almost shocked. He was completely open to an attack if she felt like finishing him off. "You're wrong. I do feel. I wish you were right, you know. It would be easier that way."
"What would be easier?" She took a few steps closer, curious now.
"Immortality. If I didn't care, this would be so much easier."
"It seems like you're having a grand old time to me."
"Sometimes. Other times it's just smoke and mirrors, cutie, something to pretend it's not so bad. Ask Angel sometime how easy this is."
Buffy shook her head. "That's different. Angel has a soul."
Spike gave a bitter laugh. "Now, yes. Did you ever think that he was so bloody nasty as Angelus just to drive away the boredom? To try and fake not feeling things? Do you think for one minute I wanted to hang around with that bint, Darla? Do you think I wanted to share Dru with Angel?"
"Do you think I care that your girlfriend is a big ho and you're still going on about it three years later?"
He wagged a finger at her. "Don't you say that about Dru."
"You just tried to kill her for me, or have you forgotten that already, Spike? Looks like your so-called feelings are pretty fickle to me."
"Think about it, Summers, do you think the four of us wanted to be locked together forever?" he asked, ignoring her.
"It wasn't forever."
"Because of that damn curse." He rolled up into a sitting position and fished for his cigarettes. "It should have been forever. Angel got his soul back. Dru left me. Darla is dead but who cares about that one, eh? And where does that leave Spike? Alone. Do you have any idea what immortality looks like when you're alone, Buffy?"
She almost could feel that loneliness just from the sound in his voice, the lost look on his face. He looked almost human, almost benign. "You're the one who traded up the food chain for the chance at it."
Spike shook his head. "I had no idea. Dru never mentioned what she was giving me. I did not think it was going to be this. I had...other things in mind. I didn't chose to die, Summers, and I usually don't regret it much. I never lived until I died anyhow. But now...hell, they pulled my teeth for me. I have to turn against my own kind just to let the anger out since I can't hurt humans any more. That just means I'm even more alone. Haven't you ever wondered why I'm still in Sunnydale, Buffy? You can kill me at will and there's not a bloody thing I can do to stop you. I should be as far from the hellmouth and the Slayer as possible but here I am bringing flowers to a grave and being made to feel bad about it."
"Why are you still here then, Spike? You did promise to never come back."
His lips twitched into a sour smile. "If Dru hadn't left me for that chaos demon, I wouldn't have and I wouldn't have gotten neutered. Believe me, I wish I had never heard of Sunnydale. But here I am, living only because you probably feel too sorry to put a pathetic creature out of his misery. I'm here because you and the Scoobies are the only thing I have left. That's immortality for you, that's loneliness. Joyce understood that."
"You did not talk to my mother about things like this," Buffy said, kicking his boots.
"Sometimes. Sometimes we talked about how afraid she was for you. Sometimes we just talked about her work and things that normal people do, no Slayers, no vampires, no demons, just art and every day things. I liked those talks the best, over a cup of tea. Would have preferred a cup of blood but your mother didn't need to see that." His grey eyes caught hers as if daring her to contradict him. "So if the only thing I can do for her is to bring some flowers by, why not? What else is there for me to do any more? I only have forever right?"
Buffy swallowed hard, nearly ready to believe him. "Spike...."
He cast another intense glance her way as he got to his feet, wiping the damp from his duster. "She loved to talk about her art. She must have loved pretty things a lot. Sort of reminds me of Dru in that respect." He slid another cigarette between his lips, humming softly before reciting something as if from distant memory. "...and she replied absently as she worked her loom, 'You are beautiful, and I am not. It's very flattering to be courted by the beautiful but if I was to accept you, the stares of others would follow us both for the rest of our lives. And inside they would be all saying, 'She must be a witch. He must be her familiar." He looked over at Buffy who just stared back. "I think that's a poem, maybe an old folk song. Joyce and I tried to figure out which once. It was something Dru told me. She said it was for us. I didn't see it. Dru was the beautiful one," Spike mumbled.
"Dru's insane." Buffy jammed her hands into her hips, glaring. "You had my mother trying to figure out her babble?"
This time Spike's features did morph into their demonic form. "At least your mother had the decency not to call it babble. If Dru is crazy, you have Angel to thank for it. Think about that, Summers." He took another drag on his cigarette, grinding into the butt with his jagged teeth, trying to rein in his temper. "Your mother thought it was a wonderful statement about doomed love. Little did she know, eh? Who else do I have to tell things like that to now? I know it doesn't matter much in your world Summers, and that's all right, too. She was your mother, after all. You had the most to lose but you aren't the only one who feels loss." His face smoothed back into human form.
Buffy felt tears stinging her eyes, feeling that loss. She turned her back on him. "Spike, it's okay...if you want to bring flowers, I mean," Buffy said softly, heading back to her mother's grave. He crushed out the cigarette and followed her. "I think she'd like them."
"I'd like to think so."
"And, Spike, thanks. I am grateful there's someone who cares enough to take care of her grave for her when I can't," Buffy said, not looking him in the face.
He gave her back a tentative pat as if he wasn't sure if it would be taken in the spirit it was meant. "You're welcome, Buffy. And I am sorry."
They both looked at each other for a moment then down at the grave before parting ways. Spike looked back as he headed off to find substandard nourishment. Buffy had stake in hand as she went back on patrol. He shut his eyes, knowing that if she was like the rest of the Slayers it wouldn't be long before she was resting alongside her mother. And he knew he'd feel the weight of immortality that much more when it happened.