A/N: Set it during the summer between seasons five and six.

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The house is still and silent, standing quietly, overlooking the rest of the street and the man beneath one of the trees near the sidewalk remains unnoticed by it, almost as though it's sleeping.

(Dead.)

Spike stands there, knowing that the house is empty (dead). Knowing that the woman who made it live for him is---

(Dead.)

Gone.

But still he stands here whenever he gets the opportunity...because if he shuts his eyes and concentrates hard enough, he can pretend she's still there, just slumbering away in her bed and not---

(Dead.)

In the cold ground in the cemetery.

Spike spends a lot of time pretending, these days. He's gotten quite good at it...

It's the only thing that keeps him sane. Or as close to it as he ever was.

He goes through smokes the way a child blasts through a package of M one right after the other without a single pause between, not even bothering to smash them beneath his boot when they drop to the ground, nothing more than thin little columns of ash on the dewy, far-too-green-and-cheerful-for-the-occasion summer grass.

He tells himself it helps him think.

All it really does is help him pretend.

After all, he spent a long time chain smoking beneath this tree...back when she was still---

(Alive.)

Around.

He sinks lower into melancholy as he recalls all the nights he spent haunting this very spot, hoping for a glimpse of the woman who went from despised to obsession to love-of-his-life seemingly overnight.

It doesn't take the pain away...the dreaming, the wishing, the pretending...the way a child's games don't make the real world or the harshness therein disappear, Spike's closing his eyes and remembering does nothing more than pass the time.

He's been comparing himself to a child a lot lately...

He wonders why, but gives it no more thought than a split second's worth. There are cigarettes to smoke and fantasies of how things might have been to be had...there's no time for self examination.

Even though an immortal has all the time in the world...there's never time for that.

Not when she's---

(Dead.)

She's...

(Dead!)

Stop it.

(Dead. Dead! Deaddeaddead!)

Stop it!

(Dead and buried and in the ground! Cold and molding and fit only for worms to feast on!)

STOP IT!

Pain explodes in his hand when his fist makes contact with the tree trunk and he knows he's broken something.

Not that it matters...he'll heal. He always does.

(She won't. She never will again.)

But she'll never hurt, either...not from a broken heart and not from a broken hand...because she's--

He swallows, Adam's apple bobbing as the last visages of his fantasy fall away and reality forces him to look it in the face. Cold, brutal and uncaring, like every self respecting monster should be...

That's what reality is now, a monster.

But this is one that can't be slain, or banished, or ignored...

Mummy can't come in and peep under your bed to tell you it's alright and it's only your imagination...that the shadows will be chased away by the morning light and everything will be just fine...

There is no morning light to seek the dark and fight it back. There is no light at all. The sun has burnt itself out and the stars have winked back into the nothingness from which they sprang.

All because she's dead.