Beauty Effulgent

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Sunday Morning Coming Down

'Cause there's something in a Sunday that makes a body feel alone.

And there's nothing short of dying, half as lonesome as the sound

Of the sleeping city sidewalks - Sunday morning coming down.


Xander concentrated on the rumble of the lawn mower beneath his hands, using the vague grey outline of the headstone to guide him in the near darkness. Mowing after dark was not on the list of safer things he’d done, but safety seemed to be a concept that had little meaning anymore.

He edged as close as he could to the hard grey stone, not concerned about doing too neat a job, since pulling the few weeds that grew at the base would give Willow and the girls something mindless and comforting to do when they came here tomorrow.

He shut the mower off and listened as its soothing, mind filling noise died away, bringing back all of the thoughts it had muffled. He leaned down and picked up the t-shirt he had tossed aside, using it to brush off most of the grass and dirt that clung to his chest and arms. He flexed his shoulders, feeling the sticky itchiness of grass and sweat on his back and half-heartedly swiped the shirt between his shoulder blades, knowing he was stuck with the discomfort until he went home and showered.

Still, he lingered for a minute, looking at the area around the grave with a detached appraisal. He poked at a pile of grass with his sneaker and then made a decision, dropping the shirt and walking back over to the car to pop open the trunk and pull out a rake. Job worth doing’s worth doing well, he reasoned.

He had just started to rake the grass into a neat pile when he heard it. He stopped, easing up to lean his weight against the rake as he spoke into the darkness behind him. “Might as well come on out, Spike.”

He heard a quiet cough and then the rustle of leather as he turned to face the vampire that strolled out of the darkness.

Xander smiled humorlessly at the look of irritated confusion on Spike’s face. “Yeah, I knew you were there,” he said, watching as Spike smoked and affected a bored stance. “My super-human skills alerted me to the flicking of the biggest lighter known to man and then my spider-sense really started tingling as the cloud of smoke drifted over my head.”

Spike shrugged, not meeting his gaze, so Xander turned back to his task, neatly arranging the rest of the pile and then using the rake and the edge of his shoe to push it toward the base of the tree.

“Looks good,” Spike said abruptly.

Xander nodded briefly, his hands clenching on the wooden handle. “I guess.”

“Why’re you doin’ this at night? Seems it’d be easier when you can see. Get the witches and demon girl to help out.”

Xander shook his head, keeping his back to Spike. “It’s easier for me to come after I get off work.” He stopped, still toeing the grass at his feet, crushing it into the earth. “Anyway, I like to do it before the girls come out here. It’s just something I need to do…by myself.”

He cast a glance back at Spike and saw the other man nodding slowly, his gaze still on the ground, the cigarette poised at his lips. “Come here a lot?” Xander asked quietly.

Spike grew even more still, staring at the cigarette in his hand. “A bit.”

Xander cleared his throat. “But never with us.”

Spike chuckled darkly. “Well, sunny Sunday mornings aren’t good for me.” He met Xander’s surprised look and shrugged again. “That night…flowers are always fresh,” he finished simply.

Xander looked back down, seeing the faded lilies from last week and knowing that Dawn would replace them tomorrow, that tight little line of concentration on her forehead, as if arranging them right was the most important thing she’d ever do.

His fingers tightened on the rake handle, feeling the harshness of the wood digging into calluses and fresh blisters, and taking comfort from the pain. He knew what he was going to ask, felt the words rising in his throat even, but saying them would mean hearing them. Hearing them would make them real and real required an answer, and that answer could destroy all that was left of the black and white of good and evil.

“Did you really love her?” And that was his voice, dark and sort of trembling, but the words were out.

“Did you?”

And somewhere in his mind, Angel was laughing at him, Xander thought. He knew what Spike meant. Not ‘she was my best friend, loved the hell out of her,’ but loving her. The love that had been tangled up in five years of trying to fight at her side, walking in her shadow, intertwining in wistful glances and taking all he could get out of lingering hugs. The love that even he dared not name and never examined; lost in Patsy Cline songs he didn’t play anymore and giving the dreams he’d had of it to another blonde.

But did he want to share any of that with Spike? Getting at best a knowing smirk or at worst a pitying glance and the offer to cry over it into a beer. “I loved the idea of loving her,” he suddenly heard himself say. “She was…” he smiled at the grass stained toe of his shoe. “Just this amazing girl. This brave, pretty, and funny girl who wanted to hang out with me - with us. She was there in between me and Willow, you know? Not keeping us apart, but,” he sighed, “keeping us focused on something besides the way Will felt for me that I couldn’t feel back.”

He shrugged. “She was a distraction and a purpose and to us, a kind of savior, I guess,” he glanced over at Spike to see if he was laughing, but the vampire was just a dark outline and a glowing ember. “But to her we were just…her friends. And that’s all she ever needed us to be. But she was more. More than I could be for her, so I just…gave in. Wrapped it all up in the memory of a first day smile, a flash of blonde hair and a tight little ass.” He smiled as he heard Spike chuckle softly. “So yeah, I loved her. In the only way I ever could.”

They stood there silent for a moment, and then Spike fumbled inside his jacket pocket and pulled out a flask, tipping it to his lips and then cocking his head and offering it to Xander.

Xander started to wave it off, and then reconsidered, feeling the coolness of Spike’s fingers brush against his as he took it from him. He sipped carefully, the burning liquid filling his throat and doing nothing to cool him off or ease his thirst, but nodded his thanks to Spike as he handed it back.

“I get that, Harris,” Spike said, walking over to lean against the hood of Xander’s car as he steadied his flask and lit another cigarette. “But what I can’t suss out is why you can’t bloody see…” he sighed, dragging deeply on the cigarette and then waving the flask out with a short laugh. “Why you, white knight, Slayer’s stalwart, stupidly brave champion could follow blindly behind her and not feel good enough for her while I…” he paused, looking back up at a silent Xander and then glancing away.

“Why none of you could see it was real. Not you, not her, not the bleeding lot of you. Oh, that’s right,” he said, reaching up to tap against his temple. “Evil here, must have some nefarious plan for the Chosen One. Not just seeing something in her, feeling something from her, or wanting to see.”

He smoked quietly for a moment, wondering why, even after Xander had answered the question he’d offered as a distraction, he was telling him, of all people. Maybe because the Watcher saw him only as the means to an end, the witches would just squirm uncomfortably and maybe pat his hand before easing quietly away, and Dawn, well, the less said to her about the Slayer, the better.

“I offered to stake Dru for her, you know.”

Xander felt his throat tighten, not wanting to care about that. Not wanting to believe that vampires could love, because that made them more than monsters, and they had to be…

Xander fiddled with the handle, thoughts occurring that shouldn’t be considered. Could he have killed Willow for Buffy? Even an evil, soulless Willow? That time, that one time he’d believed Buffy had put Angel before them, before Willow, he’d said, God, he’d told Buffy he’d kill her… “Would you have?” he asked quietly.

Spike shrugged, dropping the cigarette and grinding it beneath his boot. “Dunno. Thought I could, but seeing Dru, looking between them…Buffy brought things out in me I didn’t want to see, and don’t want to be there. And then there was Dru, giving me release from all the…fucking light and,” he sighed. “Yeah, for her, I could have.”

He looked back at Xander, knowing the boy was hearing him, seeing him for maybe the first time. “Doesn’t matter now, Harris. Doesn’t fucking matter. Not to you, not to me. And not to her. And I don’t care if you want to wrap her up and tuck her away in some special place inside where you think I can’t touch and won’t ever sully. Because I did, you know. Doubt the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move, doubt truth to be a liar,” Spike looked into Xander’s eyes, seeing the confusion at the unfamiliar words as well as the grudging realization in them, “but never doubt I love.”

Doubt the stars are fire…but never doubt I love is from
Hamlet, Act II Scene II

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