Title: Regarding Grief
Author: Sandy S.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Joss.
Summary: Dawn is grieving. . . first Buffy and then Spike, and they are grieving for each other. Dawn POV.
Word Count: 7710 total for part 1 and 2, not counting quotes or notes.
Author’s Note: Written for the LJ community, Seasonal Spuffy, for the As Time Goes By theme. Beautiful banner by eyesthatslay... This story is tied to our collaboration, which I will post this evening, but it is by no means necessary to read both fics. This is unbetaed, so apologies for typos; I did read it over numerous times.
Dedication: For Mahwish, who was beautiful inside and out, and won’t ever be forgotten. For Father Patillo, who was the kindest, funniest, and most down to earth priest and person.
Come on, man, don’t keep your grief hidden. Put your sorrow into words. The grief you keep inside you will whisper in your heart until it breaks.
--from Macbeth by William Shakespeare
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in my stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.
--from A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.
After Buffy’s Death
Grief is a funny thing.
Everyone around me. . . Giles, Anya, Xander, Willow, and Tara. . . they all want me to be okay.
They smile and talk about superficial topics that I don’t care about like summer vacation plans and what I ate for lunch at school. One of them is always with me. . . except when I go to the bathroom or shower. Even then, as soon as I’m done, they’re by my side again.
And the funnier thing is, I know that underneath all that, they’re as sad as me, but they don’t show it. It’s weird because they were so real about their feelings about Mom dying. . . but not about Buffy.
I don’t know why Buffy dying is different.
And I’ve never felt more alone.
Speaking of aloneness, they’ve left me with the. . . fake Buffy tonight. Apparently, there’s something evil happening out there in the night. . . the place I’m not supposed to go. I can’t believe they hound me all day and night and then when evil is afoot, they leave me with the robot. What they don’t realize is that they’re not protecting me from anything because they don’t let me go on patrol or participate in the research.
I know it’s contradictory. . . me wanting to be away from them but also wanting to be included. I haven’t figured it out myself.
One thing I’m certain of is that the not real Buffy creeps me out most of the time. It’s creepier than the robot guy Mom dated or the zombie form of Mom that Buffy and I almost conjured. . . well, maybe not creepier but definitely along those lines.
Fake Buffy looks so much like my Buffy that for a moment, I almost believe it’s her. Then, she opens her mouth and says something about how Willow is a lesbian or Xander is the best friend and then some random factoid about who they used to date or their clothing choices. It totally freaks me out. And then, if Spike is around. . . actually, I don’t even want to think about what the robot says to him.
Willow fixed her. . . did some sort of tinkering, and now the robot Buffy is set up to babysit me. The only glitch is that if I’m out of the room, the. . . thing forgets her directions to watch me, and tonight, I snuck around her when she was distracted by the television.
Now I’m upstairs.
The bad thing is now I’m stuck upstairs.
I should have grabbed snacks.
I take a shower and really relish having all the hot water to myself. I put music on, so I won’t think about Buffy. Dancing in the shower is a good distraction as long as I avoid looking at Buffy’s shampoo and conditioner in the shower caddy and ignore her toothbrush in the holder by the sink.
Then, I realize I’m being like them, so I make myself face it.
I scrub my scalp with Buffy’s vanilla-scented shampoo and rub her fancy conditioner through my long strands. When I finish brushing my teeth, I tuck my toothbrush next to hers.
It’s too early for pajamas, so I dress in my yoga pants and a t-shirt and make myself go into her room. I hug her stuffed pig, Mr. Gordo, and just sit there, surrounded by her things. . . the comforter she picked out last spring, the old posters and photos hung and tucked in various places, her closet door swung half open so that I can see all her clothes hanging inside, and her jewelry dangling on the metal holder by her mirror. I keep expecting her to come around the corner and tell me to put down her pig and stop borrowing her clothes, but she doesn’t appear . . . and she never will. . . neither will Mom.
My heart literally feels like someone stabbed it or ripped it out of my chest and stomped on it.
Tears well in my eyes, and I let them spill over. My grief takes over then, and I sob in a way that I can’t in front of the others because they’ll bug me forever if they truly know how sad I am. They still remember the time I cut myself, and I don’t want them worrying about that. So I guess I’m pretending with them like they do with me.
Huh. I didn’t realize that until now.
A tap on the window pane startles me. Wiping my eyes, I go to the glass without thinking and push back the curtain to see Spike perched on the tree branch, his bleached hair glowing a bit in the moonlight.
I unlatch and shove open the window with a grunt. “What’re you doing out there?” My words come out more petulant than I intend because I wonder where he’s been all this time. He hasn’t really come around since my sister died. I shift my tone, “So how come you didn’t come to the door like you usually do?” Hovering around windows is an Angel thing, not a Spike thing.
He looks sadder than I’ve ever seen, even more than when he was crying to Mom about Dru. His tone is earnest, which is something I always appreciate. It’s how he is with me. “Well, Bit, I could hear you crying up here.”
He doesn’t answer my question. “You sounded like your heart was shattered, which I can imagine is most likely the case.”
I stare at him and wait because I can tell he wants to say more.
“And also, I can’t go through the front door right now. Well, technically, I can since your big sis invited me back in before. . .” He trails off, and I swear I see a sheen of tears in his eyes.
At first, I’m confused by what he means, and then, it hits me. “You don’t want to be around the Buffy thing.”
“For lots of reasons,” he confirms.
“Totally get that. Like you don’t know how much I get that.” For some reason, I feel relieved to say that out loud. I wipe the still damp streaks of tears on my cheeks.
“So, ah, can I come in?”
I realize he’s asking my permission the way a friend would because he technically has the invite vampires need. I back away from the window. “Come on in and join the party.”
He slides in with the grace of a dancer and then he awkwardly stands there, glancing around at where he is. “Haven’t been in here except. . .”
“When you broke in to steal her stuff?” I can’t bring myself to say “underwear” or “lingerie.” I have trouble reconciling the person who was all stalker-y and weird with the guy who tried to save my life on Glory’s tower, the guy who helped me figure out who. . . what I really am.
He flinches a little as if he didn’t realize I know about his theft, and I immediately feel guilty. Spike has never been anything but nice to me. He’s only ever protected and helped me. “I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. . .”
“It’s okay, Bit. No need to apologize. You were only saying the truth.” He pushes his hands in the pockets of his leather duster.
“No one else is here,” I inform him. “They’re out solving a mystery or fighting the bad guys or whatever.”
“I know. Watched them all leave. Not very smart of them to leave you here alone.” He watches me resume my position on the edge of Buffy’s bed.
“That’s what I was thinking. I mean, who knows who knows what about what I am?” Even though Glory is dead, I don’t necessarily feel like all is solved. I mean, who knows what other bad guys out there might want access to a mystical key to a hell dimension that’s made out of Slayer blood? Then, I remember that not too long ago I wanted to be alone. “But luckily, I mean, I’m partly glad they’re gone.”
Spike joins me on the bed, sitting more toward the end of the mattress like a guest. He regards me thoughtfully. “Let me guess. They don’t know what to do with you now.”
“Well, sorta. I mean, I know they love me, but it’s hard to tell them. . . .”
“They want you to be okay that big sis is passed on.” Spike is observant. He always reads everyone so well, but of course, he’d never admit that. He’d say that anyone could see it if they were properly looking.
I confirm his thought, “Yeah. They told me it was okay to have my feelings, only to do it around them, but I couldn’t do it. I don’t know why. That seems so messed up.” Somehow, here I am opening up to Spike, and I don’t feel weird sharing whatever floats through my mind.
“That’s because they don’t know how to express their own feelings about losing her. Nothing to do with you.”
“Oh,” I say in a small voice. Hearing Spike confirm my earlier thoughts surprises me.
He continues, “Just means you’re picking up on a signal of some sort, something that tells you it’s not okay to have your feelings around them.”
I pick up where he leaves off, “And now, they just keep going on like nothing has happened. They don’t even talk about her much. . . not since her funeral.”
Spike stiffens, and his expression is sad again. “There was a funeral?”
“Yeah. During the day. A few weeks ago.” I don’t remember much from that time. It was all a blur, and I can’t remember if anyone mentioned anything about telling Spike. “Sorry you didn’t get to come.”
“It’s okay. I imagine everyone was busy dealing with their own feelings and the logistics. I was probably the last thing on anyone’s mind.” I notice he uses the word “thing” to describe himself, and I reach out and touch his shoulder. He smiles at me, and I see that he’s got tears in his eyes again. “If you don’t mind my asking, where is she. . . where is Buffy buried?”
An idea suddenly comes into my mind. “I can show you. Do you, I mean, would you want to visit?”
“I dunno, Nibblet. If the rest of the Scoobies come home and find you gone. . .”
Annoyance flashes through me, heating my cheeks. “You didn’t feel this way when we broke into the Magic Box! And they can’t get mad because I have you to protect me. You’d be way more help than a stupid robot.”
He looks like he’s going to protest again, but then, when he takes in my expression and the firm lift of my chin, he says, “Little sis is more like big sis than the others give her credit for.”
“Darn tootin’!” I cross my arms. “We’ll be back before they get back. They’re always out late.”
“And the ‘bot?”
“Forgets that I’m here when it can’t see me. It’s a loophole.” I draw an imaginary loop in the air, not that it makes any sense.
He chuckles. “Interesting. Good catch.”
“So we have to go out the window.”
“All right then.”
After I pull on my sneakers and a light jacket, I duck under the lifted glass and balance carefully on the branch. Spike follows as I drop down to the ground below, hiding my anxiety by taking the leap.
As I’m dusting my hands off, Spike comments, “You been eating anything, little Bit?”
I shiver and hold my arms across my chest, and I’m surprised to feel my ribs more prominent beneath my skin. It’s also colder than I thought it would be. Before I can protest that I have been eating, I decide to tell the truth, “My appetite’s been. . . well, eating’s been a no go.” It’s true; my stomach aches so much that the very thought of putting food in it makes me feel sick.
We start to walk down the street, and he admits, “Has been for me, too.”
* * *
Although Buffy’s resting place is hidden, my heart knows exactly where to go even in the black of night. I confidently lead Spike through the forest trees near our house, partly because I know the way but partly because I know my vampire has my back.
Even though I know what to expect, my heart skips a beat when I reach the small clearing and see her tombstone prominent above the earth. My eyes also detect the silhouette of flowers, no doubt Tara or Willow’s doing, maybe even Xander’s.
I hear Spike’s footsteps stop behind me, and I turn back to view his face in the dim light.
“She’s here?” Spike asks softly. I can’t read his emotions, but I can tell he’s feeling a lot of them. There’s something about his eyes even in the darkness. They’re like bright beacons; sometimes I don’t understand how Buffy doesn’t. . . didn’t see how much he feels.
I go back to him and take his cool hand. “Yeah. Come on.” Then, I hesitate and let my hand go slack. “Do you want a moment alone with her?”
He’s quiet for a heartbeat and then, “No.”
So we sit on either side of her headstone, our legs crisscrossed on the edge of the dirt that’s still not overgrown with grass, the fragrance of trees and flowers surrounding us like a blanket. Across from one another, we’re silent for a few seconds. I watch him study the writing on the marble, and he splays his hand open against the stone.
When his hand falls away, I hear him start to cry. I’ve heard and seen him cry before, but this is different. I’ve never heard a guy really sob from grief. Somehow, with Spike, it’s not weird or uncomfortable. My heart aches for him, and then, I can’t hide my feelings because he’s being so real. Tears fill my eyes again, spilling in hot rivers down my cheeks and neck.
“Come here, Bit,” he commands when he can find his voice.
I need no further invitation, and I scramble around the damp ground to sit next to him. He puts his arm around my shoulders, the leather smooth against my neck, and I can smell the faint scent of the cigarettes he smokes as he holds me close.
When our tears finally subside, I hiccup and ask, “Where do you think Buffy went?”
Spike freezes a little, and I realize he’s surprised by my question. “What do you mean?”
“After she died, where do you think Buffy went?” I play with a blade of grass next to my shoe, running my skin over the even texture. “Heaven or hell?”
“Do I even need to answer that? I think the answer is obvious, pigeon.”
“Well. . .” I don’t know how to say the next part. “Willow and Xander think she’s trapped in a hell dimension like Angel was.”
I feel Spike’s energy as his muscles tense around me. “They told you that?!” He’s angry, and though I’ve never been quite this close to an angry vampire, I’m not afraid.
“No, but I overheard them talking when they thought I was sleeping.” Lately, I don’t sleep at all for what seems like days, and then, I crash hard and sleep for hours. Thank goodness school is almost done.
“Sleep is sometimes elusive when you’re grieving. Know it is for me.” I realize that’s another thing that’s different. He has dark circles under his eyes; do vampires get dark circles? Spike continues, “And they’re wrong. Buffy wouldn’t have a choice to go anywhere but some form of heaven.”
“You think so? I haven’t asked Giles what he thinks. I’ve been kind of scared to.”
Spike’s shoulder shifts as he relaxes. Then, he admits, “I’ll be honest. I don’t know for certain. All I know is that I’m going to have to believe it.”
“Because to think otherwise would. . . I don’t think I could ever move on. It’s what you have to do as part of the grieving process. You have to figure out how to live your life again without that person in it, and sometimes believing they’re at peace allows you to do that. You have to figure out what you need to believe to allow you to do that, too. . . whatever that is.”
I turn my head to catch a glimpse of his face, but his expression is swathed in shadows. “I can’t imagine what that would feel like.” I’m not sure if I’m referring to moving on with my life or believing my sister is in heaven.
He squeezes my arm. “You don’t have to figure that out now. First, you have to let yourself grieve.”
I turn my attention back to the blade of grass. “It hurts so much worse than when Mom died. Is that bad to say?”
Spike is silent for several seconds before he says, “That’s not bad at all. Think about the difference between your mum dying and your big sis. When you lost your mum, you still had Buffy to grieve with. This time, you don’t really have anyone. It doesn’t exactly sound like the Scoobies have facilitated feelings show-and-tell. It’s easier to grieve when you have people around you going through the same thing, when you have people you can lean on when you’re having a hard moment and who can lean on you when they’re having a hard moment. It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong if it hurts more or less. That’s part of grieving, too. Some days, some moments feel worse than others. And two losses in a row? Well, that just compounds things. Makes the pain more. . . vibrant.”
“Oh. That makes sense.” I finally resort to plucking the piece of grass. It breaks away in a jagged tear. “Is it bad that when I notice myself smiling with my friends or if I laugh at something on TV, I feel really guilty and try to almost like squish the feeling? It’s like I want to make it go away.”
“All part of it, I think. Your sis wouldn’t want you to do that though.”
I know this part is true, but it’s nice to hear him say it. “I know.”
“And one day, before you know it, you’ll be going along and have fun doing something or genuinely find yourself caught up in a good moment, and you won’t feel like you need to get rid of the feeling. Don’t beat yourself up then either.”
I give him a little mock salute with my right hand. “Aye aye, sir.”
Comfortable silence follows and then I say, “You know a lot about this grief stuff.” My guess is that he’s learned a lot about it over the last century.
His laugh is mirthless. “Actually, Bit, you may not have guessed it, but I’m trying to convince myself, too.”
I hadn’t expected him to say that, and for some reason, it makes me feel even more like he gets what I’m going through. “Really?”
“Really.” He moves to stand then and brushes the dirt off his jeans. “We should get you home before Buffy’s pals and the Watcher find that you’re not tucked up all snug in your bed upstairs.”
I reluctantly join him, emulating his movements but keeping hold of my blade of grass for some reason unknown to me. “Okay.”
We start to head in the direction of home, and I hurry to keep up with his longer legs. Before we reach the edge of the woods, I can’t help but speak again.
“She wouldn’t. . . Buffy wouldn’t want you to beat yourself up either.”
He halts again, and I stumble a bit while putting on the brakes. My voice also trips because I feel guilty for being alive, for failing my sister. She would be alive if I had escaped Glory somehow or not been captured in the first place or closed the gate to the hell dimension instead of her. This is all stuff I’m not quite ready to say out loud. It’s easier for me to truly see and believe that the only other person of importance on that tower isn’t at fault.
So I give the vampire the compassion I don’t believe I deserve, “You did the best you could on that tower. I-I saw you. If Buffy could, I know she would thank you and tell you the same thing. I thank you. Thank you for trying.”
I swear I see his eyes soften yet again. Seems we’re both quick to tear up. He continues walking as if to brush aside the feeling, and I realize that sometimes I’ll have to put my feelings away to function, to get things done.
As we resume our journey home, he finally says, “If you’re okay with it, I’m going to check on you every now and again. Make sure you’re having the space to talk through your grief. Take you to visit big sis.”
I hug and release his arm. “I’d really like that.” After a moment, I add, “And I’m going to tell the rest of them that we need you. . . need you to help with the fighting now that Buffy’s not here.”
He smiles down at me with brotherly affection. “Alright then.”
“Promise you won’t say anything about my loophole?”
This time his laugh matches his amusement. “You got yourself a deal, lil Bit.”
Something in my stomach shifts. “You know what?”
“I’m kinda hungry.”
Upon Reflection After Buffy Returned
Spike was the first person I wanted to see after Buffy came back. Before I knew she crawled out of her own grave, I didn’t know where she’d been or how she was back. I just knew she was there, and though she seemed like she’d been through a lot, she was alive in a way the robot would never. . . could never be.
Spike’s reaction was the one I wanted to see the most because he was there for me. He let me have all my feelings by having all of his, and I knew. . . knew how much he loved her. I would never forget the light shining in his eyes when he stood at the bottom of the stairs. I could see how much hope and awe and wonder he felt at her arrival and also the deep unabashed concern for her wellbeing. I trusted him in a way I trusted none of the others, and no matter how he broke my trust later, I would always be grateful for how real he was with me that summer.