Heaven Can Wait

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It had become commonplace to see her sitting there, perched on the ratty chair that he had rescued from sure death at the junkyard. Spike would usually approah her slowly, usually rambling about something, anything to keep from talking about the truth, and she would offer a few sighs as a means of replying. Tonight though, when he saw her huddled there, legs pulled up, arms hugging those very legs, her chin resting lightly on her knees, he knew that the conversation would be different. Deeper. He walked toward her, stopping to lean against the sarcophagus in a deceptively careless pose. He knew he looked casual enough, completely put together, impassive, but he felt anything but those emotions. She didn't meet his eyes, keeping her gaze on a crack in the floor that seemed to mesmerize her every single time she visited. "They're having pizza again," Buffy told him in a quiet voice. "It feels wrong." "Why? Because you know Xander used to work at the pizza place so they have no standards?" Spike chuckled at his own joke, forcing the fake sounding laughter to come, even if it wasn't easy. She regarded him then, slowly looking him over, almost like she was shocked he was there. He didn't know whether or not he should feel insulted at the way she openly appraised him or relieved that she kept coming. He decided that thinking about it too much would drive him insane, so he moved a little closer, pulling a tattered ottoman from the corner so he could sit directly in front of her - touch her if she needed to be touched. Buffy bit her bottom lip, trying to understand the things that were happening inside her head. She had never been one to wallow in self pity. Sure, she splashed around in her own pity pool on occasion, but she had never dreamed, wished, that she could drown in it. But then again, she had never been forcefully ripped from the bosom of peace and put back into the Hell she had willingly escaped. Spike shifted in his seat and she looked at him again. Why did she enjoy being with him so much? Why was it so much easier to be here than at home with her friends? The answer wasn't found in the jumble she called a brain so she took a deep breath and said, "It feels wrong to watch movies and eat pizza and popcorn and listen to them laugh and play when --" she paused. "I like the quiet. I like the dark and none of them seem to understand that." "Maybe they're just trying to pull you back into their world." Spike shrugged, supressing the urge to brush an errant strand of hair off her cheek. "I think they covered the pulling me back into their world part." Buffy picked up a cement vase and turned to look at him. "Did you swipe this off a grave?" Spike shrugged. "Yeah. And quit changing the subject, Slayer." She put the vase back in place and moved to the other side of the room, absently running her fingers over the various knickknacks that he had accumulated. "Why do you need so much stuff?" "Makes me feel like I'm a part of the world." Spike stood up and grabbed a beat up football that was on the floor. "I'll never play football, so I wanted it." "You want things you'll never use?" Buffy caught the ball as he tossed it her way. "I don't get it." "I want it to remind me that, while I'll never play it, I *am* still here and *can* have it. Get it?" Spike held his hands up and caught it when she threw it back. Buffy nodded, but said nothing for several seconds. Finally, she put her hands in her pocket and said, "Eating pizza won't make me a part of this world because I don't really want to be a part of it. I wish I could go back." Spike's undead heart would have stopped if it had been beating at all. "But what about -" "What about Dawn? The others? You guys were doing just fine without me, Spike. You had it under control and everything was okay." "We weren't doing just fine!" Spike half shouted. "We were barely getting by! I never saw Niblet smile, not once, Buffy! The light was just gone from her, and the others were zombies! They functioned, but they didn't live. They all, *we* all died right alone beside you!" Shaking her head, Buffy turned from him. "I felt it! I felt that you were all okay. I just -- I knew that things were fine. And I was happy." Spike turned her to face him. "You were happy when you were alive!" "Was I?" Buffy cried. "Was I happy when Angel was leaving me? When Riley was leaving me? When I put my mom in the ground? Was I? Because for the life of me, I don't remember it! I remember hurting and crying and fighting and being miserable! What do you remember?" Spike tightened the grip he had on her arms and shook her a little. "I remember a sassy little Slayer, all full of puns and quips, whipping my bloody ass inside the high school. I remember the fire in your eyes when you thought I was getting the upper hand. I remember your strength and the passion you have for the fight. And I remember how uncanny it was that that same powerful Slayer could melt when her little sister needed a shoulder to cry on. You're-" "I hated every second of it." Buffy shook his hands off of her. "I hate fighting for my life." "Bullshit!" Spike growled. "You're forgetting that I was right there, right in your face, and you never surrendered." "I had more to live for then," she replied weakly. "What? Angel? He was worth living for? You've got friends and family here, girl, and they love you more than he ever could! They loved you enough to *stay*. Willow could have gone anywhere to school. Xander could have gone anyplace, too, and they *stayed*. The least you can do is return the favor. We all *stayed*." Buffy swallowed back the lump in her throat and looked up at him. "You could have gone away. Why didn't you?" "I made a promise to a girl. I told her I'd protect her sister 'til the end of the world. I don't make promises I can't keep." Spike moved closer, giving in to the temptation to brush her hair away from her face. She didn't lash out at him, didn't slam her fist into his gut, just stood there, letting him twine his fingers through the satiny halo that fanned against her cheek. "And I promise you that you will be happy again. I promise that this will get easier, that life isn't going to be the hell you think it is, and that I'm always going to be here for you. I promise you." Buffy nodded slightly, turning her cheek into his palm. He ran his thumb over her tear that had broken free and she stepped forward, letting him envelop her into a hug. With her head against his chest, she whispered, "It's just so hard. I miss my mom." Spike held her close as she sobbed, rubbing small circles on her back. If she left him, this time he was pretty sure he'd follow, just say fuck it and forget his promise, because what else was there for him, really? He clung to her, trying not to show the desperation that far surpassed her own need for momentary comfort. Heaven would have to wait. Nothing up there could possibly need her as much as he did. As much as *they* all did. When she finally quieted, he loosened his grip, and she took a few steps away, patting her face with the sleeves of her coat. He watched as she made her way around the room again, gingerly lifting his belongings and looking at them. Finally, she kicked the football on the floor, causing it to hit the wall and bounce back. She caught it and gave him a small grin. It was small. It was watery. But it was there. He returned the smile and caught the ball as she tossed it. "There's a lot of open space in the back field," she told him, nodding toward the door. "They haven't put any new graves in. Want to play football?" Spike laughed out loud that time. A genuine laugh that wasn't forced. "I wouldn't know where to begin." "I'll teach you," she replied, heading toward the door. She stopped, hand on the doorknob and looked up at him. "You *are* a part of this world, you know. You belong here." "So do you," he told her, still smiling. He was beginning to think that he'd be smiling a lot more now that she was back, smiling so much it would be nauseating. Buffy just nodded, opening the door and stepping into the brisk night air. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and as she looked up, she saw a star shoot across the sky, leaving a trail of stardust in its wake. She closed her eyes, making a silent wish, then she set about explaining the basics of football to Spike. And when her laughter rang out several times, echoing, cutting the dark of night with a living blade, it sounded right. It felt right. And it felt like her wish - for the world to feel like home again - was slowly coming true. - Finish

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