Title: Can We Rest Now?
Summary: When the gravity of Spike’s death hits Buffy a few hours after “Chosen,” she goes to Willow for comfort and ponders exactly what she meant when she said those three little words. One-shot, 5300 words.
Rated: R for a bit of bad language.
Warnings: Mentions of canon W/K, W/T, and X/A.
Author’s Note: I’ve written a heck of a lot of Buffy fanfic, but I’ve never posted anything online before. When I found this community a few months ago, I fell in love with the concept and knew I had to be a part of it, and I was inspired to write a new one-shot (in going with the theme, I prefer to think of it as Buffy finally uses her head to explain what’s in her heart). Thank you enigmaticblues for creating such a great venue for Spuffy shippers!
Disclaimer: BtVS and all its characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc.
The grief hit Buffy all at once, the second she closed the door to her room in the Hyperion and turned to face the dusty, empty bed.
Spike wouldn’t be holding her tonight. He never would again.
Without having made a conscious decision, she had flung the door back open and rushed down the hall, half-blinded by long-overdue tears. She needed- she needed- Spike, but she couldn’t have Spike– she needed to not be alone-
Willow would do. Willow would understand.
There was nobody else in the hallway to hinder her- as their general, even now that they were all slayers, Buffy had stayed up until everyone else was settled. She hesitated in front of the door at the end of the hall, fruitlessly swiping her tear-marked cheeks and wondering if she should try to compose herself more, and then rapped on the door anyway.
It opened a moment later, revealing Kennedy. The other slayer’s smile died on her lips as she stared at Buffy.
“Buffy?” Willow scrambled off the king-sized bed. Her frown was much softer and more worried than her girlfriend’s as she hurried to the door.
“Can I-” Buffy croaked, not sure what she wanted to say in front of Kennedy.
“Sweetie, do you think-” Willow looked at Kennedy appealingly. Kennedy looked between them, her reluctance apparent.
Willow bit back a sigh. “Buffy, let’s go to your room-”
“No, I’ll leave,” huffed Kennedy. “Not like there was much to unpack.” She stalked over to the backpack of belongings she’d stashed on the school bus and grabbed it. Her face’s hardness eased a bit as she passed Buffy on the way out of the room. She hesitated, and a murmur that sounded like “Feel better” escaped her lips.
Buffy looked back at Willow, her own lips trembling from the effort of holding back her tears. The next second she was in Willow’s arms, and she didn’t know if she had flung herself or if Willow had pulled her close, but it didn’t matter because either way she had her face buried in Willow’s shoulder and she was finally, finally sobbing.
“Buffy, sweetie, it’s all right, it’s going to be all right.” Willow murmured incessantly as the pair stumbled toward and collapsed upon the bed. Buffy keeled over into Willow’s lap. Willow stroked Buffy’s hair with one hand and rubbed her back with the other, trying to repress her own stirrings of anxiety at her best friend’s state. It wasn’t like Buffy to break down.
“We’re safe, Buffy, we won, we’re going-”
And then she realized that amidst the soggy, snotty sobs, Buffy was choking out words.
“He’s dead, he’s dead, and he didn’t believe me, and he’s so stupid, and he’s dead-”
Willow’s heart lurched. She had a split second to wonder whom Buffy was talking about- she had just seen Angel in the hotel lobby ten minutes ago and he had seemed perfectly fine, if un-winsomely broody as ever- and then it hit her. Spike. Buffy was talking about Spike.
Willow felt a hot burst of shame at the thought of the vampire- the vampire who had sacrificed himself for people who had never treated him like anything but dirt- and then a second, unrelated burst of shame that it hadn’t occurred to her how hard his death must have hit Buffy.
She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t understand Buffy and Spike’s relationship half well enough to offer words of solace- or indeed, if this was the kind of pain for which any words could suffice. A niggling voice in the back of her mind said it wasn’t.
She didn’t have to worry long about what to say, though. Tears were still leaking down Buffy’s face, but her sobs had subsided enough that she could speak in a calmer, though still tremulous voice.
“I told him I loved him.”
Willow froze. After a long moment she realized her fingertips were digging into Buffy’s scalp. She forced her fingers to unclench and began stroking again. Distantly, she wondered why she didn’t feel more surprised. Something inside her felt like it was breaking, though she didn’t know what and for whom.
“The amulet was burning him up, and he was glowing like…like the sun or a star or…that all sounds stupid. I can’t describe what he looked like but it was- he was- beautiful. You had to be there,” she said softly, with none of the humor that usually accompanied such a statement.
“He said he could feel his soul,” she continued after a moment. “And I think- I think I could see it. That’s what it was- the glowing. And I told him I loved him.”
Tears pricked Willow’s eyes, but she refused to let them slip out. She had to be strong for Buffy, even though Buffy’s gaze was lost in the distance and nowhere near hers. Her voice was dull and flat when next she spoke.
“And he said, ‘No you don’t, but thanks for saying it.’”
For a second Willow thought she hadn’t heard right. Buffy had told Spike she loved him and he had denied it… and then thanked her?
Before Willow could marshal her thoughts, Buffy convulsed on her lap. She didn’t make a sound, though Willow could feel new wetness leaking onto her knee. Willow held her shaking shoulder with one hand and realized with a jolt how thin it was, how delicate. How fragile. How had Buffy become so thin and fragile without them noticing? How had Buffy fallen in love with Spike without them noticing?
Oh sure, Willow and the other Scoobies had been well aware that she felt something for the vampire, maybe even something bordering on love. She couldn’t count how many consternated, confused, or commiserating glances she had shared with Xander, Dawn, even Anya- oh god, Anya- in the last year. Buffy’s preoccupation with Spike had always been strange, but they hadn’t wanted to admit that it could possibly be love. Not true, heartbreaking, everlasting love, because if Buffy could feel that for Spike, what did that say about all the other Scoobies’ unfixable human relationships? And it meant the Scoobies should have treated him better, no matter their personal feelings.
But you already knew that, whispered a voice in her mind.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, stroking Buffy’s hair. She didn’t know for what, exactly, she was apologizing- for Spike’s death, for not being able to stop Buffy’s pain, or for never having acknowledged the vampire as someone who mattered.
“He didn’t mean it, Buffy, I’m sure he didn’t mean it. He just said it because he wanted you to leave the cave. He wanted you to survive. It was a bit- a bit thoughtless of him to phrase it like that, but he knew you meant it.”
This was a lie. Or at least, Willow wasn’t sure it was the truth. She would never say this to Buffy, especially not given her current condition, but telling someone you loved him for (presumably) the first time as he was about to die was kind of harsh. It seemed like a gesture of pity.
And it totally made sense that Spike wouldn’t believe her.
But of course, she didn’t say that.
“He loved you, Buffy, with all his heart, and he knew that you loved him-”
“No,” said Buffy, in the calmest tone she’d yet employed. “He was right.
* * *
Buffy felt Willow freeze again. Her hands on Buffy’s hair and shoulders gave away all her emotions. She could tell that Willow was struggling to think of what to say, could picture the crinkle between her brows and the way her mouth twitched in its search for words as if she were actually looking at her. Buffy sat up slowly, shifting her weight on the bed so that she faced Willow. The witch looked years younger, as bewildered and lost as she had in high school.
“What do you mean, Buffy?”
“When I told him I loved him, I wanted him to think that I was in love with him,” said Buffy. She spoke abruptly, dispassionately; that was the best way to keep away the tears. “Like Angel love. Like Xander and- and Anya-” her voice trembled- “Like you and Tara.”
Willow flinched. Buffy tried to offer a contrite smile, but it came out more as a grimace. At least Tara had died knowing she was loved.
“But I’m not in love with him,” said Buffy.
“I see,” said Willow softly.
“But I do love him!” It was imperative that she get this part out quickly. As important as it was to admit that she wasn’t in love with Spike, it was just as important to admit that she did love him. It was such a fine balance between giving his memory a false affection- a crumb- and giving it the truth.
“I love him.” As she repeated it, a thread of warmth curled in her stomach, the first warmth she had felt since she’d held his burning hand. She had to blink rapidly several times, but she also smiled a little. She had seen his soul. She knew it. And yes, she wasn’t stupid, she also knew that part of the glowing came from the sunlight and the flames, but the strength of it, the intensity…that was all Spike.
“He was my best-” She caught herself but not in time, and she saw Willow’s gaze flick briefly away. “-One of my best friends. I love him like I love you and Xander and…” She was really putting her foot in her mouth with this, wasn’t she, because she had been trying to list a bunch of names so as not to offend Willow with Spike’s importance in the hierarchy, but there wasn’t anyone else she loved like she loved Willow and Xander.
Except for Spike.
She didn’t know how Willow and Xander would feel about being equated with the vampire.
She glanced at her hand, which was somehow still pale and burn-free. It tingled a bit. She could almost feel Spike’s hand in hers.
On second thought, she really didn’t care how Willow and Xander felt about that.
“I love him like I love you guys,” she said. “I love him like I can’t imagine my life without him, and I don’t want to have to try. But I wanted him to think that I was in love with him. And he-” Despite her best efforts, her voice finally began to shake again.
“And he saw right through it, and he knew I was just saying it because he was dying, and that’s why he said thank you and ‘no you don’t.’” And now I don’t know if he even understood the way I did- do, the way I do love him. He probably didn’t, because he knew I was lying to him, at least partially, and that means he d-died thinking he was completely unloved and that I d-didn’t c-care-”
And she was crying again, and there was nothing she could do to stop it. She hadn’t even finished her confession yet, and now she wasn’t sure if she physically could.
Willow looked unsure, probably wondering if she should pull Buffy back into her lap. Buffy hunched her shoulders and bit her lip, trying to calm herself. She shouldn’t be comforted like that. Not when Spike had died thinking-
She let out a strangled noise.
That seemed to jolt Willow into action.
“Buffy.” She took Buffy’s hands. Willow’s fingers felt very cold and thin, not at all like Spike’s. Buffy tried to focus on her friend and not on her hand.
“Buffy, you can’t beat yourself up about this. What you said to him, the way you wanted him to interpret it, maybe it seems a little… condescending in retrospect…”
Condescending. Trust it to Willow to come up with a big four-syllable word that Buffy hadn’t thought of and that made her behavior sound even worse.
“But Spike knew you cared about him. He knew, Buffy. You sheltered him for months, even after everything he’d done to you, even after the trigger made him kill people; you helped him stop being crazy, you got rid of the chip, you rescued him from the First; you protected him and stood up for him even when certain other people who shall not be named thought he should be… you know. Not taken care of.” Willow’s bewildered expression had gone away, and a flush colored her cheeks. She was warming to the subject in true I-am-going-to-make-my-best-friend-feel-better-I-am-Willow-hear-me-roar fashion.
“Why would you have done all that for him if you didn’t care for him? I mean, we were able to figure out that you cared about him, so Spike certainly should have been able to!”
“Yeah,” murmured Buffy. “But I don’t think Spike let himself assume anything about my feelings. He didn’t take anything for granted. Not after… not after last year. So even if he did suspect I cared about him, he probably didn’t…” She sighed. “Probably didn’t have much faith in his convictions.”
Willow bit her lip, frowning, as though Buffy were purposefully trying to wreck her hear-me-roar plan.
“It’s not like I gave him much to go on,” continued Buffy bitterly, replaying her final days with Spike. “For god’s sake, he saw me kiss Angel two days before he died.”
“You kissed Angel? Right, not important,” said Willow, when Buffy gave her a look that was no less discouraging for the red puffiness around her eyes.
“Okay, so you kissed Angel,” said Willow bracingly. “I’m sure it was just instinct. And you didn’t kiss him today when you saw him. Unless- you didn’t kiss him, right?”
“No!” Buffy thought back to when she’d knocked on the door to the Hyperion and Angel had opened it. He’d pulled her in for a bone-crushing hug (ordinary human bones, that is, not Slayer bones) and moved his lips toward hers, but she’d tilted her head so they brushed her cheek instead. Now she couldn’t remember if the move had been conscious or instinctive.
“Well, that’s that!” said Willow triumphantly. “You may have kissed Angel a few days ago, but you didn’t kiss him now. And now would be the more opportune time since Spike’s-” She coughed, reddening. “You know what I mean. It would be more convenient to kiss Angel now. And you didn’t. That counts for something.”
“Yeah, but Spike doesn’t know about it,” muttered Buffy. She rubbed her eyes, suddenly weary. She had a headache from all the crying, and she knew it wouldn’t be going away anytime soon. The crying certainly wouldn’t.
Willow watched her for a moment and then squeezed her hand.
“He knew, Buffy,” she whispered, because she didn’t know what else to say. “Spike knew you loved him.”
Buffy’s head snapped up. “Did you know?”
Willow hesitated. “Know what?”
“You and Xander… the Scoobies. You said you were able to figure out I cared; did you know I loved him?”
Willow’s flush darkened, and Buffy’s heart sank like a lead weight.
“Well, you know us Scoobies, not the most open-minded people on the planet,” said Willow, her tone approaching her babble-tone. “I mean, we knew you cared, but we might have been a bit too prejudiced to admit that it was love…”
“That’s a no,” said Buffy flatly. Once upon a time, she could have counted on Spike to read her as well as, if not better than, Willow and Xander. He had always had a knack for discerning people’s secrets and emotions. It was part of what had made him capable of being both exceptionally cruel and exceptionally loving. But now…she hadn’t exaggerated to Willow. She really didn’t think Spike could read her all that well in the last few months; he wouldn’t assume anything, and he wouldn’t trust his instincts, not when they had proved so horribly wrong in her bathroom.
Buffy felt like chuckling bitterly. She wanted to ask Willow when she and Xander had grown so far apart that they couldn’t even recognize each other’s feelings- or worse, wouldn’t recognize them because they didn’t want to. But she knew the answer to that- when I wasn’t dead anymore– and she didn’t want to say something so harsh when Willow was doing her best to comfort her. This was the closest she and Willow had been in months.
And besides, she was so, so tired. She really just needed her best friend right now. One of them, at least.
Buffy didn’t realize she had closed her eyes until Willow’s almost-frantic voice forced them open again.
“What?” she murmured.
“Do you want me to get Dawn?” Willow repeated.
Unconsciously, Buffy squeezed Willow’s hands. “No. I don’t want…” She didn’t need to finish the awkward sentence for Willow to understand. She didn’t want Dawn. She really didn’t want Dawn. She would always love her sister, nothing would ever change that, and she would still give her life for Dawn- but she didn’t like her sister very much right now. She was the one Scooby, besides Giles, whom Buffy couldn’t easily forgive for her betrayal. Xander with his eye and Willow with her magic and pain for Xander… she could understand why they had kicked her out, even if she didn’t like it. But Dawn… Dawn was her sister. Buffy had died for her. Not for the world, not for the Scoobies.
For her. And Dawn had evicted her.
Not to mention I’m the one who slaved all last year to pay the goddamn mortgage, thought Buffy absent-mindedly.
Aloud, she added, “She wouldn’t understand like you would.”
Because of Tara was the unspoken addendum. Willow bit her lip and nodded.
And Dawn had never made up with Spike, Buffy thought, the weight of her weariness seeming to grow. She didn’t know whether Dawn would react to the vampire’s death with coldness and indifference or with feigned sympathy- or which would be worse.
“Can we rest now, Willow?” Buffy whispered, fully aware of the last time she’d heard those words spoken.
Feeling strangely light-headed and heavy-bodied at the same time, as though she were in a trance, Buffy stretched herself out on the bed.
Images played across her mind.
Spike on a cross, beautiful and broken and smoldering, all for her, his soul for her…
Spike straining against his chains and ordering her to kill him, the look in his eyes when she said she believed in him…
The anger and fear and determination that melted into awe and love when she came for him in the First’s cave and he realized she was there…
More awe and disbelief and wonder – and oh it was such a pattern, Spike looking at her like she meant more than the whole world and had he ever been able to see anything like that in her eyes? – when she told him she’d had the chip removed…
Him lying beneath her as she checked his ribs and felt a flutter of panic in her own chest at the thought that he was hurt, his hand curling around hers…
Moonlight gleaming off his eyes and hair as he looked up at her and told her in words everything his gaze had expressed for the last year and made her feel, for the first time since she couldn’t even remember, maybe since her seventeenth birthday, like she was completely, irrevocably, unconditionally loved…
Flames licking their hands and his far-off gaze as he was finally awed by something other than her, awed by his soul and his death and his salvation.
She had never been his salvation after all. And now she jealous of a goddamn piece of magical jewelry.
She didn’t know when she had started crying again or when Willow had lain down beside her, but the pillow was wet beneath her cheek, and Willow was spooning her, her arms clutching Buffy as tightly as though she thought she had to physically hold her together or the slayer would break apart.
“The thing is,” said Buffy in a small, trembling voice, and more tears dripped. “I w-wasn’t in l-love with him. But I think…” She convulsed and repressed the urge to stuff a fist in her mouth, to stop the sobs and stop the words that would make this all so much more difficult to bear.
“I think I could’ve been, if there hadn’t been an apocalypse and if we’d had more t-time…” That was what she’d told herself over and over in the past few weeks, that there wasn’t time for love and dating, especially not with a newly ensouled ex-vampire boyfriend, and she’d skittered away from any conversation about her actual feelings.
“Does it have to mean anything?”
Yes, yes it did, and she couldn’t believe she’d said that after he’d told her it was the best night of his life. She’d cut herself off yet again, from the one person who had always left himself open to her, too scared to face her feelings and assuming she could deal with them later and now she was finally dealing with them, only it was too late and it was with Willow instead of Spike and god she had been so stupid because if the possible-end-of-the-world wasn’t the right time to seize the day- and just when had she forgotten the carpe diem philosophy she herself had told Willow in the Bronze all those years ago?- then when the fuck was?
“If I could have just been Buffy and he could have just been Spike, instead of Buffy the Slayer and Spike the- the-” Warrior, Ensouled Vampire, Champion- “Champion. If…”
Too many ifs, too many ifs, not enough when’s. A sob tore from Buffy’s throat.
“I don’t think Angel’s the only vampire who could have made me happy!”
There. She’d said it. The confession, the pure encapsulation of her feelings that had been pressing at the back of her mind since the cave, the one thought that she felt guilty for admitting and guilty for not admitting.
Willow squeezed her even tighter and seemed to shake a little, as though she too were crying. That made Buffy cry harder, even as a weight seemed to lift off her chest. She couldn’t make peace with how she had squandered her opportunities with Spike, but she could alleviate her guilt a little by making sure that someone knew she had squandered them. She hadn’t been transparent about her feelings when he alive, but she would be now. Someone would know what he had meant to her.
The witch cradled the slayer like a child, and Buffy cried quietly and if she tried really hard, she could imagine that the arms encircling her, holding her together, were someone else’s.
* * *
The knock on the door an interminable amount of time later drew Willow and Buffy from their fogs. Willow sat up automatically, her arms leaving Buffy and making her midriff feel rather cold. Moving creakily and completely oblivious to her matted hair and red eyes, Willow stumbled to the door and opened it.
Xander stood there. His eye was red, too, so puffy and swollen that Willow felt a gut-wrenching stab of pity because it was the only one he had and he really couldn’t afford for it to be swollen. His hair looked like it had been rubbed against a balloon and his clothes were rumpled as though he’d slept in them; he also needed to shave. The trembling of his chin and the way his eye darted around the room, shying away from Willow’s gaze, made him look like an animal caught in a trap, waiting to die even as it searched frantically for an escape that it knew didn’t exist.
“Can I come in?”
His voice sounded more foreign than she had ever heard it, like an old man’s voice that hadn’t been used in years. Willow’s heart broke a little more. In taking care of Buffy, she had completely neglected to find her other best friend.
“Oh Xander…” She was sure that her repetition of her friends’ names was starting to wear thin, but it seemed to be all that Xander needed. He stumbled into her arms, and she almost fell.
Xander was already sobbing into her shoulder as she righted her balance and guided him to the bed. She felt rather than saw Buffy sit up and move to her other side, felt Buffy’s arm reaching around her back to touch Xander’s shoulder. Willow waited, but Xander didn’t speak as Buffy had. He keened and whimpered, and she let him, and she wondered why she couldn’t have expressed her grief so helplessly last year. And she thought that even if she hadn’t been willing to take care of Buffy and Xander during this time, she would have anyway because this was a form of penance; this heartache and remembering was what she should have done when Tara died and what she had never done properly since.
When several terrible minutes had passed, Xander lifted his head and mumbled, “I’m sorry. You two were busy. I didn’t know where else to go.”
Willow looked at him, startled that he would think his grief was a presumption, and her chest ached even more. “Xander, you can always come here.”
He looked at Buffy, and Willow thought she understood. He knew he could always come to Willow, but he wasn’t sure anymore if he could come to Willow and Buffy together. He could be with just Willow and he could be with just Buffy, but did the three of them fit together anymore? Buffy finally stopped clinging to Willow’s other side and crawled across the bed behind them to lean against Xander’s other shoulder. Her face was still puffy, too.
“We all need each other,” said Buffy simply. “We learned that years ago. We just… forgot it along the way.”
“I don’t want to again,” said Xander hoarsely.
Buffy kissed his scratchy cheek, and Xander’s left hand groped for hers.
“I miss her,” he whispered. “I want her to be here. I want-” He trembled all over. “She shouldn’t b-be d-dead. She never would have been in Sunnydale if it weren’t me. She stayed – she fought – because of me.”
In ordinary circumstances, Willow would have teased, “Full of yourself much?”, but she knew such levity wasn’t appropriate now.
“She stayed because your love, your relationship, made her a better person. Human,” said Willow, fully aware of the irony that she was being kinder now toward Anya than she ever had been while the ex-demon lived. “She stayed because she wanted to fight for what was hers.
Ours. The world.”
“She shouldn’t have,” said Xander. “I wish she hadn’t. I wish she were alive.” He spoke wildly, loudly, as though he hoped there was an
unseen vengeance demon in the room who could hear.
After a moment his shoulders wilted. “I should have married her,” he muttered. “Last year. Or this year. I should have told her I still loved her. I shouldn’t have let things get so- so…” He sighed, sounding again like an old man. “I loved her.”
“I know,” said Willow. This was very déjà vu. “And she knew it too.”
They were silent for another few moments, until Buffy said, “Xander.”
He turned his head to her.
Buffy took a deep breath and looked him square in the eye. “I love Spike. I’m not in love with him like I loved Angel. Or like you love Anya. But I love him. I want you to know that because you’re my best friend. And I want you to know that Angel’s not the only vampire who could have made me happy.”
Willow thought she understood what Buffy was trying to do- trying to mend what had been broken between the trio by being honest and trying to mend her own broken heart by honoring Spike’s memory- but she wasn’t so sure that now, when Xander was a little deranged with grief, was the best time to tell him she loved the vampire he’d hated. She tensed, half-expecting to have to dive between Xander and Buffy and begin the calming-down-and-comforting process all over again.
Xander stared at Buffy. “Oh,” he said after a long moment. And then, “I think I maybe knew that. In retrospect.” He paused. “I love Anya. And I should have married her.”
“I knew that, too,” said Buffy softly.
Willow watched, breathless and awed and aching even more as Xander detached from her side and the people she loved most in the world hugged. She felt cold, a bit naked, until Buffy and Xander finally pulled apart and looked at her again.
“Are you sleeping here?” asked Xander hesitantly.
“Yes,” said Willow. “Come here.”
She scooted back to the pillows. Buffy crawled back over their legs so she could resume her place on Willow’s left. She wore a tiny, wistful smile, and Willow knew she would be all right. As Buffy lay on her side facing the wall, Willow felt a brief moment of indecision.
“I’ll be the big spoon,” said Xander, reading her thoughts.
Thankful that she hadn’t had to choose which friend needed her more, Willow lay down, snuggling once more against Buffy, and felt Xander’s warm weight settle behind her on the mattress, his body pressing lightly against her back. His arm encircled her waist, his fingers interlocking with hers and their joined hands nudging Buffy’s hips. Willow wrapped her free arm around Buffy. She thought this should feel weird, the three of them sharing a bed, but it didn’t. It felt natural. And she wasn’t going to lie to herself, she really liked being in the middle.
It was Buffy again, sounding gentler this time.
“I’m sorry about Anya.”
The arm around Willow’s waist tightened. She didn’t expect him to respond, but then he said, “I’m sorry about Spike.”
Willow felt Buffy’s fingers rub her own.
Willow tilted her head toward Xander.
“I’m sorry about Tara.”
“Me, too,” said Buffy.
Willow was suddenly very glad that they had all decided to spoon in one direction. This way they didn’t have to see each other’s faces.
“I’m sorry for all of us,” she whispered, and no one said anything after that.
If they wept, they did it silently, and when they slept, tangled together and not alone, they dreamed of dead loves and futures that might have been.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/412553.html