A/N: Takes place sometime post ATS: NFA. It's angsty…you know, like everything else I've ever written for Buffy.
Frank Sinatra croons from the little transistor radio somewhere to Buffy Summers' left, though she barely registers his voice on the air. Her mind certainly doesn't grasp and understand the words being sung--he's just background noise, present but ignorable, like watching television static.
She stands on a street corner in front of a newsstand, unattractively lit by the harsh, bluish florescent street lights that are to be found in the general direction specified as 'up', staring. Just staring.
And she's not entirely sure why.
Part of her vaguely remembers recalls needing to pick up something for dinner, but that doesn't explain why she stands here, parallel to the magazine rack, staring at Technicolor slips of cardboard that have caught her attention for no apparent reason.
Dozens of them. The images of roses and hearts stare up at her, swirly, pretentious script that spells out equally swirly, pretentious poetry scrawled across their fronts…
They demand her attention and she can't possibly comprehend why.
Maybe she's so enraptured because she'd forgotten what day it was…
Yes. That must be it.
Maybe she's reaching for the vintage Victorian card because she…
There's really no reason for it, is there? She can't even conjure a good excuse inside her head. She doesn't bother trying. Trying to come up with an excuse would mean having to think about why she wants an excuse in the first place.
Her hand closes around the heavy cardstock, fingertips kissing the odd rough-yet-soft parchment-like texture, and she draws the card close enough to inspect it.
This one isn't gauche like the others…at least, not as gauche. The flowing scribble across the front of the card is still somewhat tacky, but there isn't a cutesy teddy bear or licensed character to be seen.
Instead, a delicately drawn rosebud is centered on the card--not a dozen roses, not an overblown bouquet--just a single bud, looking as though it wants nothing more than to burst from the paper and bloom in her hand…
A split second decision sees Buffy opening the card to read the inscription. Her mind logs it as another action that she can't find a reason for, but she doesn't have the energy to fight the urge. After all, what could reading a card hurt?
It takes but an instant for her eyes to flick over the lettering.
Not surprisingly, it's poetry. Short, brief, rather pretty; Dickinson, if she's not terribly mistaken…
She should put it back.
She should put it back…
Buffy continues to stare at the card, silently protesting the thought that floats to the surface of her consciousness unbidden.
He would have liked it.
There's no point in thinking further on the 'him' in question…she's lost enough friends and lovers over the course of her 'career' to have the acceptance stage of grief down to a science.
She runs her finger over the edges of the card, considering.
She doesn't really need a Valentine…especially not one for a long dead lost love…even though she'd never admit that's the reason she's so drawn to this card and not the others…
Someone bumps into her, the jarring movement breaking the spell of the card suddenly and without finesse.
Replacing the valentine in its rightful place, Buffy looks away from the rack to see an elderly man muttering an apology and going on his way.
Her eyes, however, skip over the old man completely, focusing and zeroing in on a white blonde something on the opposite street corner, turning 'round the edge of a building.
All thought of the Valentine--no, all thought--flees and her body reacts without her permission. Her heart and legs leap into action at the precise same moment, causing her to sprint forward, heedless of the evening traffic and the honking horns that accompany her desperate dash across the street.
It can't be him. It can't be him.
Then again…stranger things have happened…
Her heels click on the pavement, crunching over the salt spread on the icy sidewalk and she narrowly misses running into a woman with a stroller.
She rounds the corner, scanning for the blonde and skids to a stop, her heart dropping from her throat to her socks instantly.
The man walking away, unaware of her, is too tall by three inches and his hair is more sand colored than white blonde…
Her eyes were playing tricks on her. It's not him.
She silently chides herself for her stupidity.
Of course it's not him. Why on earth would it be? She knew it wasn't him. Of course she did.
Still…her shoulders slump as she shoves her hands in her coat pockets and starts walking.
Her disappointment is almost tangible, and she shoves it down, swallowing the lump in her throat that had been hope mere moments earlier with singular purpose, pretending it was never there in the first place.
She sniffs and scolds herself, the cold February air stinging her face as she scrubs at her eyes with one gloved hand.
Stupid, hopeful, optimistic, delusional Buffy…
New York isn't Spike's favorite locale by a long shot, especially in winter, but it has one thing that no other city has…
Or, to be more specific, his slayer…
His slayer that obviously caught sight of him spying if her mad dash around the corner was any indication.
Dreadfully lucky that other blonde bloke was handy, or else she might have looked around a bit harder and seen him lurking in the shadows…
That was far too close. He shouldn't keep doing this to himself. He's destined to be found out if he keeps following her…and she's not going to be happy when she does see him…she'd probably stake him just for not coming to her sooner…
But he can't bring himself to walk up to her, hold out his arms and say "Remember that grand gesture of mine? Self sacrifice and suchlike? 'Fraid it didn't work out as anticipated."
Of course, he can't stay away, either.
So he resigns himself to skulking around in the dark, watching her as best he can without actually alerting her to his presence, wishing he still possessed a fraction of the courage it took him to die so that he could approach her…
Spike watches her stalking down the sidewalk, her hands thrust deep in her pockets and tries to ignore the fact that his feet really want to follow.
He needs to stop doing this…she deserves better and he knows it, even if she doesn't.
It's best for everyone involved if he just…stops.
His face settles into a scowl, decision made.
Even as he turns, unseen by her, sinking back into the shadows, allowing them to swallow him up, he can smell her tears.