Title: "A Handful of Ashes"
Author: monimala
Spoilers: Through "After Life" shooting script.
Rating/Classification: NAC, S/B, angst, sap, short fic.
Disclaimer: Grrr. Aaargh. Joss, I love you.
Summary: Short fic. Post-"After Life" Spike angst.
Dedication: To my twinkie, saff, for keeping B/S love alive...and for pointing me to the script since I'm UPN-less for the moment. Love you!

The last trail of smoke evaporates into the night as the cigarette burns down to his fingertips. All he is left with is a handful of ashes. Gray, black, and white dust scattered across his dry, cool, palm like grains of soiled sand.

Borrowed air pushes through his lips as his heart pumps borrowed blood and he blows the remnants of his vice from his skin, from his clenched fist...watches it fly away in the wind...the ground out butt landing somewhere below the tree with it's many brethren.

The house on Revello Drive has yet to receive violations for litter. He knows the Sunnyhell authorities are too busy, really, to care what private citizens do or don't do with their lawns. Not when demons are about lighting fires and smashing storefronts and making it ever so hard for them to turn a blind eye to all things occult.

But, of course, it's not his lawn.

It feels like his lawn.

He's spent so much time here, in the shadows of the tree, that there's a depression in the dirt for each foot. Perfectly coordinated to his covert slouch. Not that it's especially covert since they all know he's here.

Whether or not they choose to acknowledge that...well, in that way they're like the police. When it's convenient, they admit he exists. Mostly when they need someone to watch 'Bit.

Mostly, he doesn't care about their fair-weather attention.

Tonight, he wants to kill them for it.

Willow and Xander. Self-proclaimed Slayerettes. Bearers of the Torch. Keepers of the All Powerful Secrets.

Stupid, stupid, children.

Her lower lip trembles as she stares at him from the porch with her wild, dark eyes. Like she has on so many nights past. Begging for this silence...for this small fraction of peace. He does not speak...because a voice is the last thing she needs to hear. He just holds her gaze...drowning in the deep of them...remembering catching her, breaking her fall...running to the edge of the teetering tower and grabbing her hand, yanking her back up...taking one sip from her gorgeous mouth and then dying for her, with her Summers blood inside him.

He wonders what *she* sees. Does she see death? Does she see where she's been? Does she see the hell she's been brought back to?

He shakes his head, slowly, and gestures for her to go back in...indicating the light going on in a bedroom upstairs. A pair of worried witches or a well-meaning little sis. She nods, just slightly, moves towards the door with nary a sound...save the whisper of her flowered pajama bottoms.

It almost makes him smile--Buffy the Vampire Slayer....given away by loose-lipped flannel. But before he can smile, he stumbles back against uneven roots...knocked over by the simple beauty of her face turning back to him. By the serenity there...the unspoken "thank you."

"Buffy?" he wonders, hoping there is no telltale catch in his tone...that he doesn't sound too eager...too thankful that she's alive and back and near him.

"Spike...?" Her voice is still rough...vaguely unused. But, to him, it sounds like music. Her dark brows wing together as she pauses with her hand on the half-open front door.

He kicks the ground...moves a few butts...before he dares look up. "What do you see when you're lookin' at me like that?" he asks, choking on the damnable tears he'd thought were spent.

She tilts her head, the translucent glitter of answering pain dusting her cheeks. And, despite it, there is a smile. A thing so radiant, so pure, that he thinks he won't survive seeing it again.

Or he won't survive *not* seeing it again.

She shrugs the weight of an unforgiving world from her shoulders...and then she murmurs her reply against the swing of the shutting door.

It hangs in the darkness with him, drowning out the distant wail of sirens...for hours...for minutes...for every night he couldn't save her...for blocks...for miles...for every night he *did* save her in a wondrous dream.

When he stares down at his open hands...he finds nothing but the gentle honesty of her words.

"I guess I'm remembering Heaven."


October 16, 2001.

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