White Picket Fence

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Title: White Picket Fence
Author: Puddinhead
Setting: Unnamed bit of California in 2071
Word Count: 3972
Rating: PG. But I also feel this needs a sadness warning.
Summary: Spike visits Buffy who has been stricken with Alzheimers.
Notes: This was personal and difficult to write so I only just finished it this morning and did not have time for a beta. Sorry about that.

Spike ambled along the white picket fence, his hand outstretched, his palm bouncing  against the pointed, wooden tips hard enough to collect splinters. Their painful pinpricks felt oddly comforting, grounding him.

God, how he needed a tether right now. The scent of her had filled his head for the last hour, getting stronger with each step. Now that he was so close, he was drowning in her.

He stopped just before the front gate. Big tree in the front yard, wide porch with pillars flanking the front door, dormer windows on the second floor. Buffy’s home wasn’t an exact copy of 1630 Revello, but it was as close as humanly possible. Or inhumanly, since he’d been the one to find it.

He’d failed Buffy. God, how many times, in how many different ways had he failed her? But this time, he wasn’t going to let her down. He’d keep his bloody word if it dusted him. He coughed out a laugh. Rich, that. Being dusted was just part of the plan. The epilogue to this epic tale.

He pushed forward, forcing his feet up the front walk. Two rocking chairs sat to one side, a little table perched between them. He couldn’t quite picture Buffy sitting in a chair like that. He wondered if she ever had. Or if she even knew they were there.

When he reached the front door, he wasn’t quite sure what to do.  It had been exactly one year to the day since he’d left.  Since technically he owned the place, it seemed oddly formal not to simply let himself in, and yet he couldn’t bring himself to take that step.

He knocked twice.

A voice called down from the second floor.  “Hold on. I’m coming.”

Spike shuffled his feet, his Doc Marten’s leaving small scuff marks on the otherwise pristine porch.  After a few moments, he heard footsteps padding down the stairs and the door swung open.

He rubbed the back of his neck and lifted his gaze to see Violet standing there. Another year older and plumper.  Grey hair and perpetually smudged bi-focals. She smiled widely, then wrapped him in a tight hug.

He patted her on the back several times before she released her grip and stepped back to allow him entrance.

“You’re right on time,” she said.

Spike jerked his head in a nod and turned toward the stairs. “Buffy’s in her room?”

Violet nodded and shuffled her feet. “But I’d like a word first. How about a cuppa?”

He hesitated, keeping his eyes on the stair rail. He’d been waiting to see Buffy for a whole bloody year.  Even a few minutes having tea sounded like torture, but he owed Violet. He carefully applied a smile before turning to face her. “Sounds fine.”

Violet blinked. “Well, that went much better than I thought it would. Are you feeling all right?”

“Just bein’ agreeable.”  He followed her into the bright kitchen. Powder-blue walls, wooden cabinets, the checkered valances.  For an instant he couldn’t breathe. Even after all these years, it looked so similar to her old Sunnydale home that it was a shock to his system. Then he sprawled into a chair, trying his damnedest to affect a casual air while Violet fussed about with the tea.

Violet set two teacups on the table before settling a teapot between them. She sat down across from him and watched him carefully.

“How are you, William?” Concern softened the creases around her eyes.

“Good,” he said. “Keepin’ my nose clean enough.” Though normally he hated to be called by his human name, he didn’t mind so much when Violet did it.  Which was a good thing, since in their ten years of acquaintance, it was all she’d ever called him.

“How about you, Vi? Ready to get a little break from this place?”

She smiled and began to pour out. “I’m well enough. This has been the perfect place for me to heal. Thank you again for giving me this second chance.”

He waved off her compliments. “It was a good fit. Buffy needed someone and you needed a peaceful place.”

“It was so kind of you to arrange this little reunion with the members of my old coven this afternoon. But should you change your mind, I am more than happy to change my plans.” Violet slid the teacup across the table toward him.

“You’ll be gone for six hours. If I had my way, you’d take a six week vacation. At least.”

Violet let out a deep breath. “You need to be prepared, Spike. She’s not the same as she was last year.”

“I know. She’s worse.” He held the cup in his hands, savoring the warmth of it on his cold fingers.  “Worse is all she’s ever going to be.”

Violet poured a little sugar in her tea, then stirred thoughtfully. “She won’t know who you are. Most days she doesn’t know who she is.”

Spike’s throat suddenly felt too tight to speak. He jerked his head in a nod.

Violet twisted her hands together. “Buffy…she doesn’t really interact any longer. She doesn’t talk. She doesn’t even eat unless I feed her.”

“How long has that been going on?” Spike asked.

“She stopped feeding herself about three months ago.” She glanced down at Spike’s legs and smiled sadly. It was only just then that he noticed he’d been bouncing his knees up and down in nervous anticipation.

“I’ve prepared her lunch,” Violet said. “I was just waiting for you. Let me get it.” She scooted her chair back from the table and retrieved a tray from the refrigerator.

She paused as she reached the stairs and turned to face him, trepidation clouding her expression. “One more thing.  If she reacts as badly as she did last time, I’ll cancel my plans no matter what you-”

“I know,” Spike interrupted. “I’ll go if she’s bothered. I want her to be at peace. More than you can imagine.” He swallowed back his guilt. If only Violet knew about the pact he’d made with Buffy. And how determined he was to keep his word. This time he’d get it right. This time he’d follow through.

As Spike followed her up the stairs, he couldn’t help but remember all the nights he’d climbed these steps in his dreams. Then down the hall to Buffy’s room, the big sunny suite at the end of the hall.

Violet led the way into the room. Buffy was sitting up in bed, propped up by pillows. Her long, white hair had been braided and she wore a light pink blouse. He stopped at the foot of the bed and tilted his head toward her, trying to see the Buffy in this frail woman. It wasn’t that her face was lined and wrinkled. And it wasn’t even how pitifully thin she was, though; her cheekbones protruded and there were hollows beneath her eyes.

It was her expression. Her eyes, once such a bright green that they’d always reminded him of moss. She’d thought that a terrible insult at the time, so he said nothing, even though moss was a lovely, vibrant color just popping with life. Unlike him. Unlike her, now. Now her eyes were dull and flat without the slightest hint of a spark.  Her mouth hung slightly open. She didn’t acknowledge their entrance in the slightest.

Spike only stood there, too heartbroken to speak. Or move.

“Good morning, Buffy,” Violet said brightly. She settled the lunch tray on the table beside the bed. “This is the visitor I was telling you about.” Violet raised her brows at Spike and waited. He nodded.

He stepped forward. “Buffy.” He was disgusted with himself when he heard his voice break. Right. Now wasn’t the time for being maudlin. Now was the time to keep his word.

Buffy stared ahead blankly, teetering on the edge reality and the worlds that whirled around in her mind.

Did she recognize him at all? Did she even recognize Violet? He had no way of knowing.

What must it be like to truly lose everything? First loved ones are plucked out of your mind. Then your own identity begins to wash away. You were stripped of your memory, your family and friends, yourself. It was worse than having nothing at all.  The torments of hell didn’t compare to that.

“How about some lunch, then?” Violet scooped up a spoonful of red Jell-O and slipped it into Buffy’s slightly open mouth. When she pulled the spoon away, the Jell-O plopped out of Buffy’s mouth and dribbled down her pink blouse.

Violet gave Spike an apologetic smile. “Some days it’s difficult to interest her in food.”

Watching Buffy like this sparked something inside of him. The real woman was in there. She had to be.  And if anybody could coax her out, it would be him. “Gotta agree with your opinion on gelatin, Luv. They make that rot out of cows hooves. If ever a food was created on a Hellmouth, it was Jell-O.” He snatched a grape off the tray and slipped it between her lips.

It fell out onto the covers and bounced onto the floor.

Violet pressed her lips together and picked up the tray. “Perhaps we could try later. Sometimes that works.”

Spike nodded before settling into the comfy chair beside the bed. He reached out and gingerly held Buffy’s hand. Her skin was as fragile and thin as onion skin. And her fingers were cool to the touch. Nearly as cold as his own. He closed his eyes and gathered his strength.

“We’ll be fine here, Vi. You go on now.”  When he didn’t hear her footsteps leaving he room, he opened his eyes. Violet stood in the doorway looking uncertain.

“Come on, now,” Spike said. “That was the deal. You know it was. I get an afternoon with her while you go to your broomstick festival.”

“I’m not quite certain that-”

“Do you trust me with her, Vi?” he interrupted.

“Of course I do. You above anyone.” She blinked and fidgeted with the grapes on the tray. “It’s just that caring for Buffy can be overwhelming at times and I-”

“Bollocks,” Spike burst. He hated to be so brusk with this kind woman, but his plans didn’t give him much leeway for any other response. “There’s nothing here I can’t handle. You can trust me for six sodding hours, Vi.” He leveled his best threatening look at Violet, which didn’t seem to be terribly effective since she only responded by giving him a sad smile.

“I just meant, if you’ve changed your mind…”

“No mind-changing here. Now go on.” He made shooing motions with his free hand. “Go play with your Witchepoo pals. Buffy and I will be just fine,” he lied.

Violet nodded. “Be gentle.”

“I’m always gentle when it comes to her.” He felt a little shocked that she needed to warn him.

“I meant be gentle with yourself, Spike,” she said. “There’s only so much you can do.”

“I know.”  He nodded and forced his lips into a smile.

“And the offer stands. You can extend your stay for as long as you want. There’s an empty bedroom just next door to her. I’ve even installed blackout curtains, just in case.”

“Have a nice time and thank you for the offer.” As Violet left the room, Spike slipped a hand into his pocket to check the items he’d place there. An envelope addressed to Violet and a knife. If things went according to plan, Vi wouldn’t have to worry about either of them in a few hours.

He turned his concentration back to Buffy. She continued to stare ahead in a glazed way. The Buffybot had more signs of life than this husk of his slayer.

Very carefully, he lifted her hand, then pressed his lips against the back of her hand. “Missed you, Buffy,” he murmured. “So damn much. Miss you every day.”

He closed his eyes for another moment, as a wave of grief crashed over his head, swamping him.

“You didn’t deserve this kind of end, luv.  You above all should have gone out swinging – a stake in one hand, a severed demon head in the other.” When he opened his eyes, tears spilled down his cheeks.  “But then, if we got what we deserved in life, I’d have been dusted long ago. Something you know all too well.”

Downstairs, the door clicked shut. After a moment, he heard a car engine fire to life and then fade away.

He dashed his tears away. Then leaned down and pressed his lips to her wrinkled forehead, lingering for a long moment.

“You didn’t pull away that time.” He shook his head and managed to smile. A genuine grin this time. “You always used to be so sensitive about your forehead wrinkles. Strange to find that I even miss when you got shirty with me.”

Buffy had aged while Spike had remained the same, and it had been their greatest source of conflict over the past decades. Him trying to ‘protect’ her as her bones grew more fragile. Getting caught slipping vitamins into her meals. Worst of all were the times when they’d be out in public and someone would compliment him for being a good son or – even more horrifying – grandson.  That one had just about crushed her. That was when she’d kicked him out ‘for good.’  Except, she hadn’t. They’d never be through. Not really.

“I dunno if you can hear me, luv, and god knows I’m a fool for it, but I’m going to think that you can. That somewhere down deep, there’s a part of you that knows who I am. That knows who you are. And I need to tell you that I’m sorry. I let you down again.”

Her fingers twitched a little in his grasp. His whole body jerked in response. He had no idea if her hand had moved due to an involuntary response or if it was something more. He was desperate enough to hope it was that last thing.

“I know your memory’s been a right bitch lately, so I’m not sure how much you remember. I need to explain what I’m about to do so that you understand. Ten years back, when you got this bloody diagnosis, you were knocked down for a while. It was bad. But when you recovered, you asked me for a favor.”

He shook his head at the memory. Since Buffy had only ever asked him for two favors in their entire existence and since he’d failed her both times, the moments stood out.  “You asked me to end your life before you came to this.”

He felt his cheeks getting wet again, but he pushed through. “I failed. I let you down.” He brushed his free hand over the top of her head. Her grey hair felt as soft as goose down.  “Not going to let you down any more, Buffy. I’ll keep my word. Hardest bloody thing I’ll ever do in my life, but I’ll do it.”

She only stared ahead at some fixed spot on the wall. Her hand lay in his, still cool and unresponsive.

What if she didn’t want her life to end now? What if she’d changed her mind?

No, that was the coward’s way out. That had been his excuse last year and the year before that. Not this time.

He squeezed her hand again, hoping in vain to find a little strength there. “Don’t suppose waiting is going to make this any easier on either of us, will it?”

He slid Violet’s envelope from his pocket, her name writ large. Inside was a letter and a check.  The check was enormous. Everything Spike had accumulated over nearly two centuries. It would be enough to keep Violet in excessive comfort well until her final days.  The letter was only a few lines long. It explained that he’d killed Buffy to fulfill his promise to her. Then he’d ended his unlife by walking out into the sun. He hadn’t asked for Violet’s forgiveness. He couldn’t see the point in that since he’d no longer be around to forgive. Besides, this was between he and Buffy.

He leaned down and cupped her crepelike cheeks in her hands. “I hope you can understand this on some level. I’m doing this because I need to keep my promise. I’m doing this because I love you, Buffy.”

She blinked. And in that split-second there was something in her eyes. A small and subtle shifting. A hint of a spark, maybe.  For an instant her gaze had pulled away from her inner world and she’d shifted her focus to him, to reality.

He seized on it, a drowning man grasping at a straw. “Are you in there, Buffy?”

She gave no response.

“That’s my girl, come on!”  He gripped her shoulders, then eased off, remembering how fragile she was now. “I saw you in there, luv. I know I did.”

She only stared ahead, like one of Dru’s glass-eyed dollies.

Damn if he would take that lying down. She had responded to him.  He was sure of it. A man didn’t spend decades with a woman and not know her inside and out. She knew him and he knew it.

Spike leaned down, just inches from her face. “Come on, Slayer. Come out of there. Don’t you wanna give me a piece of your mind? Better still, don’t you wanna kick my ass?”  In a flash of inspiration, he morphed into vampface.

Buffy’s response was immediate and fierce. She punched him, hard. He landed on the floor with a thud.

He sprang to his feet instantly. Buffy had already pulled herself out of bed. She stood, one hand on the wall for balance. Her gaze was focused and her green eyes clear.

“Vampire,” her voice cracked.

“Too bloody right I’m a vampire!”  Spike grinned and raised one fist in the air.

She took a wobbly step toward him. If any other ninety-year-old woman had hit someone with that force, they’d have shattered the bones in their hand. Thanks to Buffy’s slayerness, her hand appeared swollen, but not broken. She instantly proved that point by taking another wild swing at his head.

Instinctively, he dodged the blow. Her reaction times might have been phenomenal for a woman her age, but she was nowhere near her peak. He was still at his.

“That’s the spirit!” He bounced on his feet. “Come at me then, Slayer!”

She took another step toward him, leading with her right. At the last second, she jabbed him in the jaw with her left, knocking his head back.

“Got me good!” He shook his head. Why hadn’t he thought of this before? A fight was just what she needed. Above everything Buffy had ever been, she was a slayer. It was the very core of her. When everything else had been stripped away, this remained.

And, more importantly, it was how she’d want to leave this world. In a battle. It would be his final gift to her. His most important gift.  And he’d be keeping his bloody word.

He reached into his pocket and slipped out his switchblade. It opened with a thwick.
When her eyes flashed down to his weapon, they widened a little, but she didn’t back down.  She glanced around the room, looking for something.

A stake! A sodding stake!

If he’d been bright enough to come up with this fight-to-the-death solution in the first place, he’d have brought dozens of the pointy little bastards. As it was, he’d have to improvise. He slipped around to the far side of the bed and smashed a small wooden table to the floor.  One of the legs broke in a convenient manner.

“I can’t fight an unarmed opponent.” Spike he tossed the stake toward her. She reached for it, but fumbled. The stake tumbled to the floor. He slowly walked around the bed while she reached for the weapon.

“Come on then.” He motioned for her to approach him. She raised the stake in the air and took two quick steps toward him. Just as she began arcing the weapon toward his chest, she completely lost her balance and fell against him, hard. The stake tumbled impotently from her hand.  Spike instinctively wrapped an arm around her to support her.

“I…oh,” she mumbled against his chest.

This was it. His time to strike.

He tightened his grip on the switchblade. He’d once been furious with her friends for pulling her out of heaven for their own selfish purposes.  He needed to be better than that. Stronger. To act her best interests and not out of his own weakness.  She wanted rest and had expected him to keep his promise. He could not fail in this.

She lay her head against his chest, unmoving. He pulled away slightly and clenched his jaw. He pulled his arm back, the blade pointed directly at her heart.

At the last possible second, she flickered a look up at him and her eyes widened. “Sp-Spike?”

His dead heart twisted in his chest.  “Yes, Buffy. Yes! It’s me. It’s Spike.”

“What…?” She totally ignored the knife in his hands. Her confused, green-as-moss eyes were wide and looking at him. “What are we…?”

She swayed a little and he stepped to the side to catch her, dropping his knife to the floor in the process. He took another step to help pull her upright.

Her gaze was still on him, her spark still glowing. “Dancing?” She smiled a little at that. That shy smile she used to give just before tucking her hair behind her ear. His dead heart cracked a little.

“Yes, luv. We’re dancing. Dancing is all we’ve ever done.” Supporting her with both arms now, he cautiously swept her across the floor. She leaned against him and her bones felt like twigs.

Arms wrapped tightly around one another, they swayed to no music at all.  Just the duet of his scuffling boots and the soft whish of her house slippers.

“This is…nice,” she said against his chest.

He nodded, too overcome to speak.

“You said…too old for prom, Angel.”

He stopped, just for a beat and she looked up at him.

“Did I…?  Something wrong?” Her eyes clouded over a little.

He smiled down at her. “Nothing at all, luv.” And he held onto her gently as he began to shuffle his feet again.  Who knew where she was inside her mind? So what if he and Angel melded into one another? Wherever it was, she seemed happy. She felt loved. In the end, did it really matter whose arms she thought she was in?

He pressed his lips to the top of her head. “I am a bad, foolish, weak man. No, not a man. A monster. And you deserve someone so much better. I’m sorry, luv, but this is all you’ve got.”

She looked at him, slack-jawed, and a shadows stirred in her eyes.  Just a flicker. “Spike…love…” Her eyes narrowed, a cloud crossing over the sun, then it was gone.

‘’S all right, Buffy. Doesn’t matter who you think I am. I know you love me. You don’t have to say it.” One arm still around her waist, he clasped her veiny hand in his.  “I got you to smile. I got you to talk. You even danced for me. If that’s not love, I dunno what is.”

Tomorrow he might make that decision. End her life. Dust his.  Tomorrow he might be a better man and keep his bloody word. But tonight he was his weak, foolish self. And tonight they would dance.

-The End-

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/582081.html