Good-by At the Edge of the Dark
(c)2001 by Constance Eilonwy

Buffy and all related characters are the property of Mutant Enemy/20th Century Fox. I'm borrowing them without permission because I just can't help myself. Sorry.

This one is (yet again) Batya's fault. And Meredith because she knows how to write Spike. Title is from a Robert Frost poem.

Set right after the episode...well, you'll figure it out. Big old spoiler warning if you live in the UK and haven't seen the end of season 5 yet.

The graveyards of Sunnydale were never lonely places even under the best of conditions. Someone--or much more likely, something--was always stirring at the unholy hours of the night. Hours when the ordinary mortals of Sunnydale slept, not utterly all unknowing because most, in the back of their minds, knew what wasn't quite right about Sunnydale.

Not quite right.

Maybe not ever right. No hope of even being right. Not ever again.

The wind tossed the low-hanging branches of the willow, with a soft sigh like the passing of a spirit. Clouds limped across the night sky half-heartedly, as if the sport of trying to cover the stars was no longer worth the effort. In the graveyard near the willow, a dot of red appeared, flared, and dulled. A wisp of smoke carried on the wind.

There was a figure standing before the large gray stone that rested below the willow. Broad-shouldered, graceful, dressed in a leather jacket. The figure knelt and rested his fingers on the closely-cropped, cool grass.

His head went up and he inhaled the night.

"All right, I know you're there," he said suddenly, voice cold. "Come out where I can see you," he added, rising and turning in one fluid motion.

The red dot flared--a cigarette, sucked in hard.

"'lo Angel," said Spike, emerging from the shadows. He held a silver flask in one hand, the cigarette stuck between his lips. His blond hair, close cropped as the grass, was in ratty disarray.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Angel placed his bulk between the slender figure walking towards him and the gravestone, feet slightly apart, shoulders tensed, immovable.

"It's a graveyard, see," Spike said with a slightly drawl. He took a swallow from the flask. "I'm a vampire. So're you. This surprises you, that I might hang out in a graveyard?"

"No," Angel said, very low, stepping closer. "I meant, what are you doing HERE." His eyes locked with Spike's. There was no need to gesture at the stone behind him.

Spike shrugged. "You know how it is. Feel a bit restless, try to have a lie-down, can't, so you take a walk, see what's what's in the wee sma's."

"Go away."

A half smile, another swig of the flask. "Oh, you'd like that wouldn't you. Fact is, I don't feel like it." Spike gave Angel a sharp glance. "You don't look good. You could use a shave."

The wind grew colder, encircling them.

"You come to celebrate?"

Spike blinked. "Celebrate?"

"Gloat." Angel smiled. It was not a nice smile, tight and holding centuries of bitterness. "Couldn't kill her, could you Spike? She was too good for you, too fast, too clever. You couldn't kill her. But someone else did it for you. You must be pleased."

"No," Spike said, voice dead. "No, I wasn't the one that offed her. But I might as well have been the one that did it." He tore the cigarette from his mouth and dropped it to the grass, then ground the heel of his combat boot upon it. He turned away, pulled out another cigarette, and a lighter. It took his three tries before he finally got it to light; his fingers were trembling.

Angel fisted a hand and brought it up, then released it, opening his fingers as if he wasn't sure what to do next. "If you had anything to do with..."

"You sod! You stupid sod. I was trying to help her. I tried. I did. It wasn't enough."

"You tried to help her?"

"I tried. And I might have helped kill her. It was me what told her about the slayer death wish. Every slayer has a death wish. Every slayer dances with death. I told her it was in her, always there. Maybe if I hadn't told her that...maybe...if I hadn't...oh, god..."

It was dark, too dark to see clearly, but the voice broke like glass, brittle, unused to breaking.

Angel took a step back, as if he had suddenly lost his balance. Spike took another swig from the silver flask.

Angel said, "You're not celebrating.'re miserable."

"I bloody well ought to be. I loved 'er too, you know."

A jet plane, travelling through the night skies, roared distantly overhead. Angel stood so still that he might have been a decoration among the tombstones. "You...loved..."

"Oh yeah. Surprised red didn't tell you. Everyone knew. Sodding big joke. I knew I never had a chance. I knew that. I'm no fool. And you think I wanted to feel that way?" He let out a sigh, half-laugh, and sniffed hard. "Bloody hell."

"You loved her." Angel stared at Spike as if not seeing him. He looked still unsteady on his feet.

"Yeah," Spike said, and sniffed again, blinking back tears.

The night was very still, very quiet, listening.

Angel sprang, releasing the coiled stillness within him, grabbing Spike by the front of his dirty white t-shirt, turning him, slamming him against the wall of the mausoleum nearby. "You bastard! You loved her? You don't have the RIGHT!"

Spike hung there, boots dangling inches from the grass, unresisting. "Yeah, probably. But," he shrugged under Angel's grasp. "What can you do? Can't 'elp it, man. Couldn't 'elp it. I tried to keep hating her. It's this chip in me head. Makes me do things that aren't me."

"You don't have the right..." the force of Angel's anger gave out, collapsing into a gasping sob. His fingers opened. Spike slid down the side of the mausoleum to sit limply on the grass. Angel bent at the waist, then went into a crouch, shoulders shaking. His entire body shuddered with it

After a moment, Spike crawled over to where his flask had fallen and picked it up. He got to his feet and very gingerly tapped Angel on the shoulder. "Here. Might help," he said, holding out the flask.

Angel took a deep swallow, then sighed, calming. He handed the flask back to Spike.

"I know just how you feel, mate," Spike said, bleakness in his voice.

"No, you don't," Angel said, but there was no bitterness this time, just a deep truth. "You can't possibly know how I feel."

"I know you probably feel a bit of the old guilt. You should have been in Sunnydale. You should have been fighting at her side. You could have saved her, you're thinking."

Angel tilted his head back to look up at the stars. "I was thinking that. But that's not what I meant."

A bit of puzzlement crossed Spike's features as he began to fumble through his pockets for another cigarette. "What did you mean, then? You talkin' about that gaping big-assed hole somewhere in here," Spike gestured at his stomach, "something that's missing that can't never be replaced, and despite bein' a vampire for so long an all, you realize now you never had the slightest effing idea of what loneliness really was until now? Got a cancer stick on you, mate?"

Angel shook his head mutely.

"Well, I'd love to stay and play Laertes to your Hamlet, and bellow about crocodiles, but I'm not done me rounds yet and it's gettin' on. Least I can do is leave you alone with her, right?"

"Rounds?" Angel said expressionlessly.

Spike shrugged. "Got to swing by the Summers' place, peek in at the l'il bit. Willow and Tara are staying there with her, but you know how Sunny-D is, Angel. All kinds of strange characters wandering the streets at night. And I promised 'er. Promised to look after the l'il bit." He gave a wry, self-deprecatinng half-grin, then began to leave.

Angel turned back to the gravestone. Then, suddenly: "Spike!"

The other vampire stopped and turned.

"Those things you said..." Angel swallowed. "You have a chip in your head, and that's why you can't harm anything good. But those things you don' could you, you don't..."

"Have a soul?" Spike cocked an eyebrow. "Not last time I checked. I don't understand it either." He started to walk away again, stopped. "Oh, and Angel...You were right. I think I don't understand how you really feel. Because, see, me and least, if she'd given me a chance, I would have settled for it...we could have been... friends."

The last word seemed to linger in the air like a scent, spoken with quiet sadness.

"I'm so sorry, Angel," he added. "So very sorry."

Then, Spike was gone, blending with the mausoleums and the statues.

Angel watched him go, then turned and stood, looking at the gravestone.

He stayed very still without moving for a long time, while the boughs of the willow sighed occasionally, and the wind grew colder.