Title: Empty (1/1)
Author: Celyia (ladycelyia@aol.com)
Disclaimer: It's all Joss's.
Spoilers: Right after "After Life".
Genre: Angst
Rating: PG
Note: This is a short little piece I wrote. People have been politely avoiding any comment on this one so I don't know if it sucks. Please let me know what you think! Anyway, enjoy and here's to hoping that the only suckage going on is vampiric!:-)

Thanks!

-Celyia

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She stood there quietly, her blonde hair glowing in the soft hints of moonlight even as the fingers of the wind brushed and tousled the long strands with an insatiable malice. Hazel eyes, reddened but dry, stared impassively at the grassy dirt packed over the coffin where she had lain up until the day before yesterday. Traces of thunder called throughout the night, masking the gentle pitter-patter of the rain that started to fall softly about. Still, Buffy didn't move.

Silently, she closed her eyes as she felt the jarring chill of the Santa Ana winds as they impacted into her now soaked clothing. Her full lips, painted heavily in a deep red that only seemed to contrast with the shocking pallidity of her elfin face, curved into a heartbreaking frown as she dropped to her knees.

Freshly trimmed and painted nails broke one by one as she patted the clumps of dirt back neatly into place. Viscous mud saturated each pore as she rushed to cover the gaping hole before the water could invade the place which should have served as her eternal sanctuary.

She shook her head quietly, oblivious to the pain as the wounds on her hands tore open, the fresh blood that should have been long dried taunting her as it dripped slowly upon the grave, defiling it with this impromptu christening.

Buffy kneeled there, the straggles of matted hair hanging in her face as she continued tending to the grave. With almost a snarl, she nudged the last divot of grass back into place, only to pound her first against the dying, yellowing blades until all that was left in her dirty hands was the thick, blackened mud.

She fell back to her haunches as she glanced over the lonely grave, her eyes darting wildly from the haste repairs to the large slab of granite that stood silently at the head of the site. Her breathing came harder and faster as her eyes focused on the writing carved so innocuously into the hard stone, unwilling and unable to turn away from the morbid words.

Buffy Anne Summers

1981-2001

Beloved Sister

Devoted Friend

She saved the world.

A lot.

The emotional dam finally broke, and the young woman was left there, seemingly surprised by the torrent of tears that rushed down her cheeks. Her damaged hands, trembling even as she laboured to exhale each shaky breath, slowly cupped her face until she hid her eyes from the painful light of the world she wanted more than anything to escape. Quietly, she reclined back over the grave, closing her eyes even as the hot tears leaked out.

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The moon, seemingly impatient with the thick mass of clouds that danced in front of it, peeked its silver head out of the darkness, only to cast its subtle light down on the small girl curled up in the mud that rested above her coffin.

He stood there, frozen as he saw the small body curled into a tight ball in the mud. He took a hesitant step forward, his heart falling to his feet as his eyes traced over her gentle curves in a panic. An involuntary breath of relief escaped his lips as he noticed the slight trembling of her silent body.

The vampire closed his eyes briefly as he offered a quick prayer of gratitude to a god long forgotten only to stop abruptly as he remembered that he was technically supposed to be playing for the other team.

Spike shook his head slowly as he took another step towards the muddied girl, his slender white hand reaching hesitantly out even as another wave of helplessness washed over him.

The Slayer glanced up, a haunted look clouding her hazel eyes, as she seemed to instinctively feel his presence. Shaking her head, she pulled herself away until her thin back pressed against the cold granite of the headstone.

"Slayer," he whispered, only to wince as the tone he meant to be comforting and gentle croaked out into the savage night. "Buffy," he repeated, watching as the girl continued to shake her head wildly.

Wild.

She looked so feral... untameable ... as she leaned against the headstone, he thought as his worried eyes flickered over the earth-covered lines of her sweet face. Knotted hair swung from side to side as she continued shaking her head, oblivious to the dirt and mud flinging mercilessly from the drenched lengths. She looked like an animal, a scared animal, and that realisation nearly caused him to fall to his feet in tears.

"Buffy," Spike whispered once again as he forced himself to walk slowly and unthreatening towards her, even as he wished more than anything to rush to her and scoop his former enemy up in his arms to comfort her.

The girl continued shaking her head even as her body pulled back from his.

"I'm sorry. God, I'm so sorry," he sighed, ignoring the burn of the tears as he kneeled upon the muddy grave. "I failed you, Buffy. I didn't mean to. But I failed you..."

He chuckled roughly as he dashed a hand to wipe away his tears, oblivious to the way his prized duster settled into the bloodied dirt.

"And still, you haven't uttered a word. You could tear me apart for failing you. But you haven't said a word. You shouldn't be here. You don't need to be. I mean, I know I should be so grateful for this small time we have... that I have to listen to your voice... to see your beautiful eyes. But ... As much as I've been wishing and dreaming to see you, I never thought... no. Not like this."

The vampire looked down, unable to bear the weight of the hazel eyes that seemed to bore straight through his body and all the way to his long-dead heart. "Never like this. Yet... you were stolen away, Buffy. Robbed away in the night before I had a clue what was missing. Gone, even before I could say goodbye...."

He lowered his head into his hands as the tears escaped him. "I'm doing all this wrong. I'm sorry. Mucked up. Again. But I can't seem to stop. I should be trying to tell you things are going to be all right. I should be comforting you. But I can't..."

"That would be a lie," the girl whispered, her voice hoarse with hostility. "At least you are honest with me. You aren't telling me things will be all right. Things aren't going to be all right. Things will never be."

Spike nodded slowly, his eyes falling upon his trembling hands.

"I wish..."

"Wish in one hand, spit i-..." the girl interrupted abruptly, only to stop just as quickly as her eyes met his. She straightened her back, almost as if she were steeling herself against the anger so evident in her eyes. "I don't want to be here."

Spike forced himself to look at her, his lips curved into a frown as his eyes traced over the savage mask of mud that covered the pretty face. "I can't imagine you would."

"I tried, Spike. I really did," the Slayer whispered as she leaned her head back against the headstone. She closed her eyes as the gentle rain kissed her face, causing the mask of mud and dirt to slowly streak back down to the earth from whence it came. "Nothing's as it was. Everything has changed..."

She barked a quick laugh as she raised her muddy hands to eye-level as she noticed the bleeding fingers. "Except for the things that needed to be changed. I didn't realise how tired I was until I came back. I don't want to fight any more. I don't want to learn. I don't want to breathe. I just want... I just want to be."

"You know how hard it is to fight now? To actually make sure I'm giving it my all so I can come home to my sister and friends? I want to go back so badly. God, you have no clue. But now that I'm here, I can't let them down. I can't let me down. And yet, I can't see how I can possibly not. It's so screwed up."

"Buffy..."

"Don't 'Buffy' me," she bit out as she glared at the vampire. "I'm here. I'm stuck. I'm not going anywhere. I know it. I have to deal. And I'm trying. I want to be happy. I want to enjoy being with my friends. I want to be grateful that I can be here to watch Dawn grow up. But I can't. How can I knowing that I shouldn't be here? How can I, knowing that I've paid my dues and I have earned the right to the rest and peace that has been stolen from me? I was wrong before, you know. A Slayer's short life isn't a curse... it's a gift. And yet, that gift seems to inch further away with each day. Dammit, Spike. I know I should be grateful for the opportunity to be here. But I can't. I just can't. So what the hell happens now? How the hell will I ever get through this?"

He felt his eyes burn with the tears as the words he wanted so desperately to say wouldn't come. Awkwardly, he extended his arms towards his former enemy, only to jump in surprise as the girl accepted the silent invitation and fell unreservedly into his arms. He tightened his grip, holding her comfortingly as she cried helplessly upon his shoulder. His hand gently stroked her matted hair as he whispered words, unimportant but soft ones, into her ear.

Vampire and Slayer clung tightly to one another as they knelt upon the empty grave, the embrace strong and unyielding even as the heavens seemed to drown them in its own tears. With a swallowed sob, the young woman lifted her eyes until she met the concerned ones of her companion.

Spike smiled softly, a tender light in his blue eyes as he gently pushed a stray lock of dirty blonde hair behind her ear. Impulsively, he leaned towards her and brushed a chaste kiss upon her mud-streaked forehead.

"You'll be okay, Summers. I have faith in you. You'll be okay."

And at that one beautiful moment, Buffy Anne Summers knew he was telling the truth.

~Finis~