Spike fiddled with the tie, cursing as he clumsily tried to tie a knot. It was one of those things that he never been able to do well. Buffy had always joked he did it on purpose, so she would have to do it for him. His mind kept flickering to her today. It was to be expected, seeing as Tommy was graduating high school and Spike was as proud as punch. He really wished Buffy were here to see it.
There had been times when he had thought he wouldn't get through from one day to another. The pain hadn't dulled over time; it did get easier to cope with. He could remember her fondly now. He looked at his reflection and mused at his appearance. He had to give up the peroxide eventually. He could see the grey streaks at his temple and the bags under the eyes. He wasn't exactly growing old gracefully.
There was a knock on the bedroom door, and Spike went over to answer it. Emily stood there, looking very pretty in a knee length red dress. She looked every inch of a teenage girl, blossoming into a young woman. He was going to have a hard time keeping the boys away. She would be starting high school in the Fall and he dreaded the moment.
"Hurry up, Dad," she chided. "We're going to be late."
Bossy bint. She was just like her mother.
"I hate wearing bleedin' ties," he groused.
Emily laughed. "Don't be moaning. We both know you're chuffed to bits today."
"Two straight A students," He shook his head. "Where did you two get the brains from? I must thank whoever left you under a head of cabbage."
Emily rolled her eyes at his joke and grabbed him by the arm. "C'mon. Tommy will be waiting for us."
The two headed out to car.
A crowd had already gathered by the time Emily and Spike got to the school. Spike craned his neck trying to find his son in the throng of students. He spied him eventually, chatting with his best friend Brad. Spike managed to catch Tommy's eye and gave him a wave. The only seats they could get were further from the front than Spike would have liked. Emily gave him an told you so look. She was a saucy little thing and reminded him more and more of Buffy with each passing day. Spike was counting on Dawn to help keep her in line. Emily really looked up to her aunt, who was closest thing she had to a mother. Tommy was a less of handful and Spike didn't worry about him as much. He had an eye for the ladies and despite the occasional mishap rarely got himself in trouble. Emily, on the other hand, was in trouble every other week. She was apt to speak her mind and sometimes this habit resulted in detention from teachers. Despite this, she had a sharp mind and had a great academic record. Spike's thoughts were interrupted by an elbow in the ribs.
"Ouch." He glared at Emily.
She pointed at the podium, "Look, it's Tommy's turn."
Sure enough, Tommy was making his way up to receive his diploma. Spike clapped loudly. Emily started taking photographs. Spike's heart swelled in pride.
After the graduation ceremony was finished, Spike and Emily waiting for the man of the hour to turn up. When Tommy escaped his classmates. Spike clapped him hard on the back and Emily threw her arms around him.
"How does it feel to be leaving the place behind?" Emily asked.
Tommy shrugged. "It's exciting but scary at the same time."
"Well, we better be off," Spike said. "The Bit is making us dinner."
The two teenager exchanged dark looks, no doubt fearing Dawn's penchant for making family occasions memorable for the wrong reason.
Spike chuckled. "I don't think she will be doing much experimenting. Red is supposed to be helping and she'll make sure none of us come down with food poisoning."
"Dad?" Tommy asked.
Spike raised a querying brow.
"I'd like to go and see Mom's grave," Tommy announced. "Would you mind if we went there first?"
Spike shook his head. "It's natural you'd want to."
The three went to the graveyard. They picked up some flowers on the way and Spike laid them on the grave. Spike looked at Buffy's grave stone. It had taken a while to come up with an inscription that truly captured her.
Buffy Summers Pratt
Selfless, brave and kind
Mother, Wife, Sister, Friend and Hero
Spike had been through a lot the last few years. He had learned to cope with being human again, learned the joy of parenthood and the despair of losing the woman he loved for the final time. He would hardly consider himself an ideal father figure. He lost his temper from time to time. Sometimes, he didn't discipline enough or other times he disciplined too much. Still, he liked to think he didn't do too bad of a job. The kids had turned out well enough after all. He hoped Buffy would think so too.
End note: I'm sorry for putting you all through the wringer, but this story was planned from the start with the heartbreaking ending. I begun with the idea of Buffy and Spike reversing roles. Once I thought about it, I couldn't see it ending any other way. I suppose one good thing is that the whole story was done before I ever starting posting. I couldn't be tempted to divert from my plan then. I'd like to thank a few people for their help. Ginar 369 for the beta, Peaceheather for giving it a quick read through and Bonedry13 for her advice and help with chapter one. Most of all I would like to thank Ladyofthelog for the beautiful banner and the fanmix. Lastly, thank you to those of you who reviewed for the feedback.