An Observation Late
by Jessie

Summary: "Some part of her still doesn't believe in things like hell gods and vampires. Some part of her wonders if he couldn't just be an average man out for a smoke." B/S

Setting: Some time after "Normal Again"

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: BtVS, its characters and situations belong to Mutant Enemy, UPN, et al. No infringement is intended. No profit is being made.

Author's Note: Feedback would mean the world to me. Please let me know what you think.


There's his hunched shoulders. The slight slope of them from those months in a wheelchair. His eager hands. First going to his coat pockets, then the lighter, then lips, then pockets again. She only notices these things when she's not supposed to. When it's all already over and she had her chance to notice them but didn't take it and so, now, has to pretend that she's watching the headstones and not his hands.

Out of the coat pockets again. To the lips. The cigarette. Breathe. He makes fists for no reason.

It's ridiculous, she thinks. Unnatural, and wrong, and maybe she could just stay here a little while longer before heading home.

He arches his back just slightly and leans against the mausoleum. Other things she notices: the bulge at his hip in the shape of a stake, the way the hair gel starts to wear off in the back first and lets the ends curl up, the confidant way his legs attack the ground.

She's nearly certain that she's gone some kind of crazy - and won't dinner be cold if she stays any longer? - but his shoulders hunch a little more just then. Her eyes are obsessed with the curve of his spine and the slope of his neck. He has one of those strong backs that must have spent so many years sitting up straight and tall - perfect posture in every Victorian era sense of the word - but now slouches as best it can, and somehow he still looks comfortable despite the instinct that goes against it. Such contradiction in the way he holds himself.

His hands move again. Fists. Cigarette. Breathe. Back to the pockets. She can see the outline of his fingers through the leather, playing with the lighter.

It's late, but she figures she owes him this. Figures that after everything - the end of the world and every other impossible gamble - the least she can do is this. The least she can do is know him as well as he knows her. As well as she should have known him when she'd had the chance, but didn't because it was too close. Too much. Too painful.

She thinks about what time it must be and reasons why the cemetery is so quiet tonight. Evil must be on holiday. Must have given up when faced with her return. Too much to handle, really: a slayer who doesn't die. Can't ever die. So it must have taken an extended vacation, and now things are all too peaceful and silent six out of the seven days in the week.

She should be leaving now, she knows - should have left a while ago - but can't tear her eyes away from him. From that responsibility that is his cool form. Smoke in the air. Leather jacket. Restless hands. Because he is her responsibility. And she does owe him.

There's his drawn lips. The subtle way that they settle against each other and around the cigarette, too pink for their own good. The shadow of his nose over them. It's not a bad nose. Not really very evil or wicked. His eyes are the same way. And his forehead and his cheeks and that place at his throat where she'd once rested her chin when tired. None of it is seems at all very immoral or wrong.

She has trouble finding the part of him that is evil. And she thinks she truly has gone insane now, and should be getting home soon. Just a short walk past the cemetery gates. Down the street, a left, a right and there she'd be, if she could only stop staring at his hands.

This was supposed to be a quick night out.

But there's his chest. And it's subtly finding new ways to use the oxygen that it doesn't need. It's moving down. Up. Down again. Breathing in and out like it always does when he thinks no one is paying attention. She noticed that much, she remembers. On late nights, surrounded by so many of her friends and trying, for all the world, to just sit and help, he'd always waited until the last minute, when others were wrapped up in their reading or their training or their shop keeping, before letting muscles expand and contract. Letting instincts that weren't quite instincts anymore take control for a few moments of pretending not to be so different from every one else.

Hard to imagine, she thinks, that he isn't all he appears to be. Some part of her still doesn't believe in things like hell gods and vampires. Some part of her wonders if he couldn't just be an average man out for a smoke. What would be the harm in it? What would be the consequence of letting him just stand there and have his cigarette and not need anything else from the world except her noticing his posture?

She really should leave now. His shoulders aren't so sloped as she thought. That wheelchair must be all but gone from his memory. She notices a few more of the subtleties that she forgot to pay attention to when she was still allowed to watch him. A poorly sewn tear in his jacket. The way his mouth is forever about to smirk. The shape of tightly woven arm muscles, visible even through the vast amounts of black leather.

Her legs move swiftly, and her eyes follow with some reluctance. She thinks, as she leaves, that at least she's noticing these things now. At least she knows, now, all of those little things about him that she could have loved if only she'd taken the time to. Even if it is too late. Even if her timing is off. And that wonderful curve of his back when he leans, ever so casually, against a stone surface, isn't really hers anymore to notice.