Chapter 4: Grieving
Buffy had been gone for 78 days.
Spike still couldn't bring up the courage to go in her bedroom. Except, today, the Nibblet had asked him to take down some of the photos. They were planning to make a big mural full of pictures of the late, great slayer. When he had volunteered to help, he hadn't realised how hard it was going to be.
The door was shut, a layer of dust on the door handle which had remained undisturbed for so long.
After the funeral, Willow and Tara had suggested that Dawn clear out the room, hoping that it may help her grieving process.
Nibblet refused. She couldn't bear the thought of making it so final.
They all knew that Buffy wasn't coming back, but they couldn't let it go.
Even Willow had dropped the idea pretty quickly.
Taking a deep breath, Spike lifted his hand to the doorknob, unsettling the dust, and cautiously opened it, flicking on the light.
It had been preserved like a museum. The pile of washing which had been slung carelessly on the floor and the jumper left on her chair made it look like Buffy might be coming back to wear it at any moment. Everything was in exactly the same place as it had been the day they had fought Glory.
Except nothing was the same.
Buffy wasn't coming back.
Before he could lose the nerve, Spike stepped over the threshold and strode over to the wall where all her pictures were pinned up, just as she had left them.
Buffy's face filled the wall. There were photos of her as a child in LA, of her Prom at Hemery. Newer pictures were slotted around the old ones: Willow, Xander and Buffy celebrating something at the Bronze; out shopping with Dawn; Buffy and Giles in the library; her Senior Prom with Angel. There was even a huge group picture of Willow, Oz, Xander, Anya, Buffy and Riley at the college campus.
Surprisingly, Spike caught sight of a pretty girl with short brown hair, a revealing outfit, and a stern look on her face, hidden behind a smile. He guessed that was the famous Faith.
The vampire did a double take.
Next to Faith, his own picture stared back at him. He wasn't facing the camera, instead looking over at something behind the photographer, in the middle of the Bronze. It must have been one night when he was annoying the Scoobies and someone accidentally got a shot of him.
And Buffy had put it on her wall.
Before he had the chance to dwell on it, Spike snatched a few of the photos from the wall, not even glancing at which ones he was picking. As he turned around, he noticed Buffy's favourite: a picture of Buffy, Xander and Willow when they first met, on her bedside table.
Without thinking, and desperate to escape his own photograph and the haunting atmosphere of the room, Spike tore around to the other side of the bed, and seized the frame. In his haste, he knocked the small jewellery box from the table, spilling its contents across the carpet. They scattered, rolling away and disappearing under the bed.
Huffing, Spike dumped the photos in a messy heap on the duvet and crouched down to pick them up.
He swept up the necklaces and bracelets and trinkets in his hand and fitted them carefully into the chest, placing each into its own compartment.
At last, he thought he had tidied it all up and started to push himself to his feet.
That's when he saw a silver glint from under the window.
He stepped towards it and bent down to pick it up.
The shape of the ring felt familiar in his hand.
As he lifted it into the light, Spike recognised it.
It was his ring.
He gasped. Then a smile formed on his face. Technically, it was Buffy's engagement ring.
She had kept it.
Why the bloody hell would she do that?
Shocked, Spike sat on the bed, staring at the ring in his hand.
The skull still sparkled, having obviously been well cared for. As his keen eyes examined the circle, he saw signs of apparent wear and tear, as though the metal had been handled, a lot, and slipped on and off her finger over and over and over.
Why…why would Buffy wear his ring?
Only when a spot of water splashed on the face of the skull did Spike realise he was crying.
It was slowly, calmly at first. Each silent tear creating a trail down his face, over his lip, until it at last dripped off the edge of his chin. With a small plink noise, the salty drops of water hit his leather trousers or his ever-present duster.
Then he lost control. The tears consumed him as he dropped from the bed and curled up in a ball, his sadness and grief taking over, moving his body for him. He clutched the ring tightly, Spike's fingers squeezing around it.
The rough edges of the skull grated against his fragile skin, scraping it away. Blood drowned the ring, soaking into each crevice and scratch just as the metal was marking his skin.
He was shaking now. Even though he didn't need it, Spike was gasping for oxygen, but all of it had deserted it. He had been abandoned by the air in his time of need.
Just as he had abandoned Buffy on the tower that night.
The scent of the warm red liquid trickling down his arms reached his nose. It smelt bland, and he was numb. He wouldn't drink it. Not here, not now. He wouldn't rot her memory like that.
But the odour was so fresh. After surviving on pig's blood for so long, how could he resist. Mixed with the smells of Buffy left in the room, Spike could almost believe it was her blood.
Spike's lips ran across the liquid. He shivered.
Slayer's blood was so-
He wouldn't do this. Not after so long.
Shaking, his hand released the ring.
It hit the carpet and bounced, once, twice, and then rolled away. Small red spots on the carpet were the only sign that the ring had ever been there.
Spike pulled his knees into his chest and leaned his back against the bed. His sobs still made his shoulders heave.
Smearing a red mark of his own blood across his cheek, Spike violently brushed away his tears. The smell had lost all appeal now.
There were feet pounding up the stairs. "Spike! Tara's got the glue." The Nibblet called.
Spike couldn't let her see him like this.
"Are you alright, Spike?" she asked, her voice closer and the steps louder.
Hastily, his movements twice the speed of the footsteps, the vampire jumped to his feet. He took one look at himself in the mirror and knew he couldn't go out there.
He looked like he had for the couple of days after Buffy jumped. Until he remembered his promise to care for Dawn, Spike had been a wreck.
Silently, he unlatched the window, letting it swing open. Glancing back around the room, Spike caught sight of himself, his picture one of the only remaining on the wall. Sensing that Dawn was still a few seconds away, he leapt over the bed and ripped it from the wall.
As the door handle begun to twist, Spike was back at the window. The photo in his hand was now covered in smudges of his own blood. A tear dripped onto it, wiping the red stains away. Quickly he shoved the picture into his pocket.
The door opened.
Dawn looked around the empty room.
If it weren't for the photos on the bed, she wouldn't have thought anyone had entered the room.
She walked over to the bed, looking around her as she did so. Her fingers flicked through the photos, smiling at the memories frozen on the paper.
It was only then that she noticed the breeze coming from the open window. Dawn stepped around the bed and, with a heave, yanked on the frame. She wasn't strong enough to close it and looked around for something to give her some leverage.
As she turned around, a sparkle of red caught the corner of her eye. Dawn studied it before crouching down and picking up the ring.
As she recognised it, she smiled. Out of the open window, she thought she could just glimpse a certain blond vampire disappearing into the distance.
Spike took a deep breath but slipped the ring back onto his finger, into its rightful place.
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