Summary: At Buffy's memorial, someone struggles to describe what made her special.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for themes.

Time Frame: Five days after the next to last scene of "The Gift." (spoiler warning).

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me ( to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.

Author's Comment: I felt like I was cheating a little by referring to Spike's eulogy for Buffy in "Scorn," without actually writing it, so I'm going to give it a shot. . .this isn't a follow-up to "Scorn," as I wanted the ending here to be a bit more upbeat.

Dedication: To Perkazy, on the occasion of her birthday, and because of my sheer joy that she is in good health. : - )


They had gathered at the Summers residence, five nights after Buffy had died, and two nights after Angel, Cordelia, and their companions had returned from Pylea to find the forlorn figure of Willow, waiting to give them the terrible news. She had been buried the day before, with the aid of a sympathetic undertaker who knew that secrecy was of the utmost importance, and therefore agreed without hesitation to the only evidence of Buffy ever having been connected with the mortuary would be the simply inscribed tombstone under the shadow of the willow trees. They had stood by the grave that day, and said their good-byes to her. On this night, they would remember her.

They mingled for some time in the living room, speaking to each other with uneasy familiarity. Tara kept stealing glances at the dark-clad figure of Angel, who had been so prominent in the stories that Willow had told her over the months. Cordelia stayed close to Dawn, worried beyond words about what all of this had done to the younger woman. Xander nervously flitted from conversation to conversation, wanting to be supportive, not wanting to be clingy. Only two figures shied away from the interaction: Fred, who had quickly found a seat where she could lock her eyes on Angel with the intensity of someone grabbing for a life preserver, and Spike, who stood quietly in a corner, watching everyone but not moving to seek any of them out. Once, Willow had frowned in concern and started over to him, only to pause as the vampire shook his head at her: it was a polite rejection, but a clear one, and Willow reluctantly retreated.

One of the most significant factors contributing to the unease in the room was the icy glare that Angel was directing at Spike whenever his eyes happened to fall upon the younger vampire. Wesley and Gunn kept an eye on him, knowing that a scene would not be welcomed by anyone, but Angel remained silent, and Spike seemed oblivious to the hostility being directed his way.

The clock chimed nine times, and the conversations stopped as everyone found seats except for Giles, who quietly stepped to the front of the room and smiled supportively at the audience for a moment before beginning, "Thank you all for coming tonight. Yesterday, we laid a dear friend to rest. Tonight, we will remember her: anyone here who wishes to speak about Buffy should feel free to do so, for as long as they feel the need to. The life of Buffy Summers is as impossible to sum up in fifty thousand words as it is in fifty, but in trying, we do honor to that life." Giles blinked, then added, "If no one has any objections, I'll begin."

One by one, they walked up to the front of the room and spoke, pausing occasionally when the emotions threatened to make continuing impossible. Tara spoke for longer than any of them could ever remember her doing as she acknowledged Buffy's compassion in formally accepting her into the fold after her botched spell nearly got them killed when Tara's family was in town. Anya seemed composed at first, but she made the mistake of looking at Xander as she began to speak, and the sadness on his face caused her to break down: she looked up once with an apologetic expression as Xander led her to the couch and held her gently, rocking her and whispering into her ear. Cordelia spoke of her own doubts about how to act when entrusted with great power, and mentioned that Buffy's example was very important to her in dealing with those doubts. Wesley spoke of Buffy's role in his overcoming his misperceptions about the fight against evil, and of her willingness to accept his help even after she had rejected the Council of Watchers. Giles, Angel, Willow, and Xander-the four who had known her the best-stayed mostly with the personal, remembering moments that had made them laugh, made them cry, made them grit their teeth in frustration. . .Buffy was all of these things to them, and they spoke at length about the most important moments they had shared with her.

When Xander fell silent and walked back to where Anya was still crying quietly, all eyes fell on the slender figure sitting on the kitchen chair next to where Angel was standing. Dawn looked up with red-rimmed eyes and shook her head slowly: she would not speak. Giles was preparing to walk back to the front of the room when he caught movement out of the corner of his eye: he turned and saw Spike striding purposefully toward the front of the room. Giles felt a pang of genuine ambivalence, then one of concern as he realized what Spike's action might provoke. He looked over to Angel and held his breath.

The vampire's dark eyes narrowed in anger, and he bristled and prepared to move forward to prevent what he saw as desecration. . .then was stopped in his tracks by a slender arm, when the strength of Buffy herself would not have sufficed to stop him. He looked down and saw Dawn looking at him pleadingly as she whispered, "Angel, please. . .let him speak. He's earned that much, at least."

Angel repressed an urge to snarl, then stepped away and sank into a nearby easy chair, staring daggers at the younger vampire, who was wearing an uncharacteristically serene expression. He looked at Dawn and smiled ever so slightly, then began: "It was nearly four years ago when I first met Buffy Summers. I had heard that there was a Slayer in town that had kicked the hell out of every Big Bad that came into this town, so I had to see for myself. Our first meeting pretty much established the tone between us: I threatened to kill her-she wasn't impressed."

Spike noticed a few slight smiles in the audience from that comment, but Angel's expression remained carved in stone. Spike sighed and continued, "I would have been well advised to take that as a warning and leave without delay, but I'd seen bravado in Slayers before. . .I figured Buffy was just another opponent for me. I found out differently when I had her in a bad spot, then found myself at the wrong end of a fire axe. . .which is when I met Joyce." He smiled wistfully, then added, "A Slayer with a family. . .that was a new concept for me. As I came to know later, that family went far beyond a mother who knew how to use a fire axe." He glanced over at Giles and commented, "She had a Watcher who had the wit to ignore tired dogma when he realized that he had someone special as a Slayer, someone who broke all of the rules and had damned good reasons for doing so."

Giles blinked, then looked down, reaching for his glasses. Spike turned to Willow and continued, "She had a young woman who, on the surface, didn't appear to be up to facing a stiff breeze, much less the Hellmouth. A bit unfair to hide such a dangerous individual under such an innocuous exterior. . .though with time the exterior has come to match the interior, with a vengeance."

Willow colored slightly, then turned to Tara, who nodded gently with a small smile on her face. Spike turned next to Xander and continued, "She had a rather annoying boy who had no clue just how close he came to death many times over the years, who threw himself without hesitation into situations that would have frozen the soul of anyone with an ounce of sense. Someone who would walk into the most dangerous place on Earth to save a Slayer, and who would dare to call a former vengeance demon 'my love.'"

Xander looked away from Spike and turned back to Anya as she squeezed his arm. Spike looked at them for a moment, then continued, "And for the last year, she has had a remarkable young woman, who had to deal with a revelation about her life that would have crushed most people: she dealt with it as best she could, and continued to help Buffy fight the good fight even after losing Joyce, and after finding out that a terribly powerful being sought her utter destruction. When faced with the moment of truth, she offered to lay down her own life to save us all." He locked eyes with Dawn and whispered, "Buffy could have had no truer sister, Dawn."

Dawn's eyes began to brim, and Spike continued, "Buffy drew others to her over the years. . .some started out as less than friendly to her, while others appreciated her from the moment they met her." He paused, then paced for a moment as everyone watched him, transfixed. He stopped, then turned back to the audience and began again, "I hear things in this town. There are those who believe that Buffy was the beneficiary of more than her share of luck. . .that she wouldn't have been anything special without the help of her friends." He shook his head self-deprecatingly and added, "Hell, I've said it to her myself, though less straightforwardly than that." He looked back at Dawn, then continued, "But it isn't that simple. . .I've been trying to figure out what really makes Buffy Summers tick since I first came here, and I think I've finally figured it out: just my luck that it came one week too late to do her any good."

Spike's face contorted, and Willow started to move toward him, only to be stopped again by that slight shake of his head. Willow sat down, visibly concerned, and Spike continued, "The Watchers got a pretty good routine going for them over the years: find the Slayer candidates when they're young, indoctrinate the hell out of them until-when the big moment comes-they don't even have a notion that there might be a life outside of fighting and dying for the cause. Not much of a life, really." Spike looked up at Giles, and saw that the Watcher's eyes signaled reluctant agreement rather than anger. The vampire turned back to the others and stated bluntly: "Buffy managed to escape that fate by chance, and by the time she came here she had decided that this was not the life for her: she wanted to have a normal life, and by God she was going to have it."

There were smiles in the audience, and Spike's own expression echoed it momentarily before he sobered and continued, "Of course, it wasn't that easy: trouble has a way of finding Slayers, and Buffy cared too much about the people around her to let evil have its way without her interference. More than once, she wanted to abandon it all, but she always came back, because she was needed, and it was only when she was convinced that she had utterly failed that we almost lost her for good even before we did." He shook his head angrily, then looked directly at Angel as he elaborated, "I told Buffy last November that Slayers had a built in death wish, and that her friends and family were only a temporary fix to that problem for her. I genuinely believed that at the time: I was wrong." Angel's eyes flared angrily, but he remained silent as Spike continued, "Buffy's ties to the world helped keep her sane, yes, but they represented something far more basic, something that would have persisted even if some unthinkable tragedy had claimed all of you and left her truly alone."

The room was completely silent as Spike paused again, visibly gathering his composure before beginning again: "Buffy needed to know that, in spite of all of the things that made her different, she was fundamentally just another human being. Someone with family, and friends-" He swallowed hard, then looked again at Angel and added with visible strain in his voice, "-and someone she loved with all of her heart, as difficult as it was for her at times."

Angel reacted as if slapped, and leaned back in shock as Spike continued, "This was what she demanded from life, explicitly and implicitly, and for five years she gave it a pretty good go. When the time came, Buffy died not because she wanted to, but because she believed that it was the best way for her, not only to preserve those she loved, but to preserve what she WAS." He swallowed hard, then concluded, "As much as we will all miss her, as much as we all. . .love her, I find myself unable to question her wisdom in choosing as she did. She has left us with a great sense of loss, but with the lesson that loving life means being willing to fight for it, and-at need-die for it. As someone who actually rather likes this world, even I can appreciate that message, and I thank Buffy for teaching it to me."

Spike turned back to Dawn and looked at her for a moment before turning on his heel and sweeping out of the living room without another word. There was a moment of absolute silence until Giles recovered and walked to the front of the room, announcing in an even tone, "Thank you all for your words tonight: I wish that Buffy could have been here to hear them." He nodded to the others, then made a beeline for Willow, who was looking over at Angel slowly coming over to her. The Watcher reached her first, and murmured, "Extraordinary," as Angel reached Willow and began looking at her with a questioning expression.

Willow frowned at the vampire and asked, "What is it, Angel?"

Angel swallowed hard, then asked hesitantly, "Willow. . .I know your powers have increased greatly over the years. . .did you, I mean. . .did you curse him?"

Willow shook her head emphatically and replied, "That spell is very dangerous, Angel, and I think it would have killed me the last time I cast it if I hadn't gotten help from somewhere. If I thought Spike was a real threat, I would have killed him, but I wouldn't have cursed him." She looked up at Angel and concluded quietly, "He's changed a lot in the last year. . .but I never would have expected this from him." She turned to the door and frowned again, adding, "I should go after him. . .he shouldn't be alone right now."

Willow turned to go, only to feel a cool hand touch her shoulder. She turned to see an old friend with a deeply conflicted look on his face. Angel sighed, then elaborated, "No, Willow. . .Spike has always been my responsibility. I just never expected that the responsibility would involve this." He turned and silently glided from the room, the only sound marking his departure being the click of the front door as it closed behind him.

Angel strode purposefully down the front walk, and was in the process of deciding which way to turn when he heard the click of a lighter. He turned to see Spike leaning against a tree, lighting a cigarette and looking calmly at his grandsire. For a moment, they silently looked at each other, then Spike chuckled and called out, "Hello, Peaches. . .is this where you demand the right to beat the crap out of me for daring to look at your girl? Dru always liked that part of the movie."

Angel smiled inwardly: that sounded a lot more like the old Spike. He walked a few feet closer to the younger vampire, then replied, "The thought was crossing my mind earlier, but right now I just need to know something, Spike: what happened to you?" Spike began to reply, a sardonic glint in his eye, when Angel cut him off and added, "I know all about the chip those government fools put in your head, and I know why you've stuck close to Buffy: as much as you've always loved a good fight, you're too damned smart not to seek the best shelter around when you're in a bind. . .but why the last year, Spike? What made you fall in love with Buffy. . .and what was THAT all about?" He pointed back at the house for emphasis, then waited for Spike to respond.

Spike chuckled again, then retorted, "Weren't you listening to me a couple of years back? Love isn't a choice, it simply IS. Are you telling me that you chose of your own free will to fall in love with someone whose job it would be to kill you? You're a bloody masochist, but even you wouldn't have chosen that fate for yourself. . .and neither did I. It just happened that way, and I fought it as best I could before I gave in: I even had a chance to just stand aside and let Dru finish her off. . .I couldn't do it. The die was cast, and I had to live with it." He looked up at Angel, and the old intensity returned to the blue eyes as he added, "As for tonight. . .it was simply the truth: it was what she would have said to them, if she could have been here. . .and it's what she would have wanted someone to say to them. Maybe it meant a bit more coming from me, since I haven't exactly been in their corner before now. . .who knows? It seemed right, and I did it. . .least I could do for Buffy, after failing the way I did."

Angel had heard the whole story of the events on the tower, and he looked back at Spike for several moments before deciding that there wasn't a damned thing he could say to make Spike feel better in that moment, even if he wanted to. He sighed, then asked, "What will you do now, Spike? Sunnydale is going to be more dangerous than ever, now, and once it becomes widely known that Buffy is gone. . ."

"We're going to try to keep it as quiet as we can. . .and that little package that Warren cooked up for me is going to help us pull the wool over some eyes." Spike's tone was flat, and Angel shook his head at the happenstance that caused Spike's sexbot to become the key to preserving Buffy's legacy as long as possible before Spike added, "If you're asking if I'm going to revert to my old habits. . .hell, I don't know, Angel. We both know that the old impulses will always be there. . .from what I hear, you had a run-in with Harmony a while back that drove that point home rather thoroughly." Angel nodded, and Spike continued, "The thing is, I want to keep going what Buffy had here. . .I'm not sure I really understand why, but I do." He shook his head in disgust and concluded, "This world doesn't really deserve to have people like Buffy and her friends fighting for it. . .but Buffy thought it did, and that's enough for me, I guess, at least for now."

Angel smiled and shook his head, and Spike's eyes narrowed as he snapped, "What's the joke?"

Angel looked over at Spike and grinned at him as he replied, "Spike. . .you remain as you always have been: the most stubborn bastard I have ever set eyes on. With or without a soul, I've never managed to keep you down for long. The thought of that stubbornness being harnessed to keep Buffy's legacy alive. . .it's something that I never ever conceived of as a possibility." He walked over and put his hand on the younger vampire's shoulder as he added, "It won't be easy, but I'm betting that you'll make it. Good luck." Angel turned and walked away for a moment before turning back and asking quietly, "Spike? About what you said about Buffy and-"

Spike shook his head and replied, "I don't know, Angel. . .she was so confused at the end, and the breakup with Soldier Boy took its toll on her." Angel frowned at the mention of Riley as Spike added, "I'm sure that she would have wanted to see you at her side when the time came. . .to say goodbye if nothing else." Spike looked down, then whispered, "So all I can do is tell you 'maybe'. . .I wish I could have had as much."

Angel blinked, nodded once at the younger vampire, and departed, re-entering the Summers house and closing the door quietly behind him. Spike watched him go, sighed, then dropped the cigarette, crushing it underneath his heel as he looked out into the darkness. There were things out there that Buffy would be trying to kill if she was there. . .standing in for her in that duty sounded appealing to him at the moment. He took a step, then felt a presence behind him. He turned slowly to see Dawn quietly watching him, her eyes dry and looking at him with an intensity that he found rather familiar. He raised an eyebrow and asked, "Yes?"

Dawn blinked, then quietly replied, "Come back to the house, Spike. . .I want you to be there."

Spike resisted the urge to smile, and felt somewhat ambivalent about the invitation. He inclined his head at the waiting darkness and whispered, "There are things worth killing out there, Dawn. . .I thought I would get started on it."

Dawn walked up to him and looked into his eyes as she replied bluntly: "They'll still be there when we go after them later." She extended her hand to him and added, "Let's go."

Spike looked back at her and surrendered to the inevitable: he nodded and took her hand, allowing her to lead him back into the house and abandoning the darkness, at least for that night.

As before, comments are welcome and desired.

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