Title: Mother's day
As they drove, it felt like moving past one of those blue screens holding British country life that seemed to loop endlessly with a dreary steadiness of green and fog. The radio had gotten lost in some kind of static over an hour before and neither Buffy nor her driver felt like talking. It was almost comfortable as her senses lowered down and she fell in a dreamlike state. Xander let her, like her, he didn't feel like talking, no matter how much both of them knew that that had been the others plan when they'd been sent off together.
No more than a small trip was what Giles had told her, yeah right. As if it didn't make it even harder for the both of them that no one wanted to talk about the elephant in the room. No one wanted to mention the death, because if you did, then they had to admit that there was mourning. Buffy almost got dazed when she thought she saw Spike's silhouette in the mist. It was just a vision, a silly dream. Tears fought to be released, but she simply couldn’t. He wouldn't want that.
It had been easy with Rodrigo, all he wanted was fun and pleasure and she didn't have to think while she pretended to be happy with him. When he dropped his bomb, of using her just to mess with Angel, she'd just shrugged it off and gave him a last hug to thank him for the pleasurable distraction he'd given her. He couldn't believe that she wasn't even upset. She'd packed one suitcase, leaving most of the clothes he'd given her behind. Her time here was over.
Giles had expected her to be hurt, so had Willow… They just didn't get her. What did some ancient immortal mean to her, if he wasn't the snarky blond that she'd wanted him to be?
A loud chortle seemed to come from the car, a shriek that sounded as if something had died inside of it. Buffy hugged in her coat, protecting herself against the cold that seeped even through the car doors. She rubbed her hands together while Xander stepped out to take a look under the hood.
She barely even noticed that Xander hadn't said a word as he stepped out, the silence hadn't bothered her. He barely talked these days. Africa, losing Anya, all of it had changed him, turned him into a quiet, capable man. The kind that others knew could be dangerous and didn't bother with - the kind that had wisdom beyond his years. He thought deeper now, kept silent till he was sure what to say.
She missed the old Xander.
She watched him then and knew it the moment he gave up on trying to save anything. She saw him shrug to her, and almost felt it as he kicked the car. Flinching slightly as he slammed the hood of the rental. He sank down for a while and Buffy stayed in place. Watching the clouds. There was no heating in the car, one of the windows in the back was broken and would leave them open to the cold night air.
It might be spring, early spring, but this was still no time to stay outside.
They shared a sad smile, almost happy.
"No black pudding for us then?"
"Not even a cup of porridge."
It was the first smile either of them had had since they started driving. Buffy grabbed her backpack, and Xander picked his own sack. Looking for some place to make a call was their only chance. They hadn't passed another car in over two hours, barely seeing a couple of lights in the distance over an hour ago. Xander touched her hand for a mere second. It was uncomfortable, it wasn't the hand she'd wanted to hold her. She still didn't pull back.
Neither of them noticed the fog growing ever closer as they passed through it.
They were wet and half frozen before they finally found something, anything that looked like a house. Buffy nearly ran to the door when she saw a light burning behind the window. The building wasn’t too big, a small hunting cottage more like. Something felt odd, she hesitated long enough for Xander to take the lead. She stood back as he knocked the door.
They stood there for a while, rubbing their hands, hoping that whomever was behind it would be able to help them and nearly ready to leave when the door finally opened.
An elderly women dressed in chamber robes stood behind the door. Buffy could see that she had to support herself on her cane and she felt sorry to have forced the poor woman from her comfortable chair, especially at this hour. It was almost ten.
"We're sorry ma'am, But could you maybe help us with a phone."
The woman stared at them, not understanding.
"Our car broke down." Xander continued.
"Oh you poor people." They found themselves welcomed into the warmth of the house. Their coats accepted and offered the best seats in the living room, before they even fully realized what was happening. To Buffy it felt as if she'd returned to heaven.
Anne as the woman insisted to be called, simply refused to let them help her with anything as she set them tea and offered them biscuits. Buffy tried to tell her she didn't have to go to so much trouble, but it didn't help. Anne insisted she could do no less. English hospitality could not be forgotten by two poor foreign travelers.
It came clear pretty quickly that she wasn't used to being alone. And even the idea of having guests brought life back to her cheeks.
Xander inched on his seat and sipped his tea as if it was the best thing he'd ever had in his life. She wondered how much of that was real. Or just a pretense he'd learned during his time in Africa. He finally got up, wandering the room.. She stopped following after his third stop at one gadget or another.
"We really don't mean to be any trouble."
"Don't be silly my child. We are all children of God here, is it not our duty in the world to help our fellow man in times of need?"
Buffy wasn't sure what to say to that.
"We just need to call someone."
The woman looked sad, somewhat disappointed, but mostly sad that she can't help them.
"I'm afraid that I don't have a telephone." She sits down for a moment, clearly too weak to keep standing for any longer. She looks so fragile at that point that Buffy can't help wanting to rush over to her to help her down.
"Don't worry." Anne smiled. "My son will be here soon. He'll be able to help you." The woman coughed and Buffy was a bit shocked as she noticed that there was blood staining Anne's handkerchief as she did so.
Xander was staring at something on the fire mantle. Buffy tried not to be overcome by her own curiosity for all the keepsakes in the room. Anne was still talking about her son, a gentle and kind man who'd been hurt so much by life. She mentioned how much she wished her son could have found someone as sweet as Buffy. Buffy didn't dare steal away the woman's illusions. She'd been neither kind nor sweet, but illusions were too precious to shatter.
She almost didn't notice when Xander practically choked. She ran up to him, tapping him on the back, trying to help him. Then she noticed what he'd been looking at. A small painting of a young man with soft blond curls. Old fashioned glasses perched on his nose.
He was holding a notebook, smiling gently to the painter who'd managed to get him down with an exact stroke of a brush to catch his bright blue eyes shining behind the glasses;
"That's my William, my sweet sweet boy."
Buffy stares at Anne and for a moment it's as if the woman herself, the whole house really, faded away, leaving behind nothing but an abandoned old building that looked as if it hadn't had visitors in decades. It only lasted for a second before they were back in the nice warm room, with a fire burning in the fireplace.
Flames shown off the small painting and it was then, only then that she realized who she was looking at. She was staring at the picture as if she were looking over a century back in the past and could barely keep from screaming.
"Spike," she whispered.
It touched the air like a cold gasp of wind, almost once again removing the warmth from the room and leaving them stare at what Buffy now came to realize was a woman who'd died over a century ago.
The woman offered them a chance to lay down their weary heads and sleep. But Buffy couldn't, knowing that this wasn't natural, fearing they'd have to get out of here as fast as they could.
"My son will be home soon. He promised he would. And William always keeps his promises. He's such a good boy." It was sad really, seeing the ghost cling on to hope, knowing her son was long death. Both as a human and as a vampire. He'd never come home again. Making her want to take Anne's hand and comfort her, to be comforted by someone who felt the same as she did. But it wasn't enough. Her kindness overcame her fear and she held her ground, keeping silent of her fears.
Xander screamed when a ghost cat ran through his legs. It was nice that even the wise sophisticated world traveler that her friend had become was still the same old Xander that she loved as much as if he were her own brother.
"I know." A simple word and he was watching her back again.
She kneels down at Anne's feet, wanting to hold her
"I'm so sorry Anne. But I'm afraid your son is gone."
The house shakes and the illusion almost fades once again.
"He died a hero."
Four words, ignoring the century before that, but did it really matter after all he'd achieved, after all he'd fought for? She didn't know, she wasn't sure if she wanted to know, she just knew that she couldn't deal with a universe that couldn't forgive him after all he'd done.
"He died and he came home. He'll come home again. You'll see."
And she was full off life again, picking up her cat and placing it on her lap. Not even noticing that the animal was nothing but a ghostlike skeleton of a once beloved housepet.
Buffy wants to believe the woman's right. She wishes that she could see Spike again, even if only his ghost and so she turns to the door, waiting for someone, anyone, or anything to come through.
But even then she startles as the door slams open.
A cold draft came from the door; it almost didn't surprise her when she saw him, dressed in a short brown coat over a pair of dark blue jeans. Neither of them spoke, they both just stood there… So scared of touching him and finding nothing but mist.
"I missed you", she wanted to say, but he refused to meet her eyes.
How, why how again, all questions they both wanted to ask. But neither of them willing to open their mouth. Not until Xander grabbed Spike in a hug and welcomed him. It almost stunned her to find him corporeal. Spike seemed even more bedazzled by that reception. Not that Xander was pushed away, just that Spike couldn't believe that anyone would be happy to see him. It broke her heart that he was made to think that.
All her feelings of him not telling her, all her pain of being forgotten for so long, all her rage, all of that was gone when he looked at their host with wonder, shock and what seemed to come close to horror.
"This isn't real, can't be."
She touched his hand and he almost pulled back, but she wouldn't let him and he cried in her arms like a child returned home after being lost for far too long.
"I'm so sorry." Begging for forgiveness and Buffy understood as she finally saw the bite marks in the woman's neck that looked as if she'd only just been bitten. Still bleeding, without even touching the collar of her robe.
"I forgave you from the first second."
And Buffy couldn't witness anymore, knowing inside and out that they were intruding in something far too private for their eyes.. Xander grabbed his tea and went outside, she joined him. And as Spike, William came out after them Buffy could swear that she saw two women inside, drinking tea together. All Buffy could do was smile to her mother and send a brief prayer of thanks from her lips before she fell into her vampire's arms.
Happy Mothers day…