In the end, it is Spike who takes him to her grave. The sun is gone and the air is cool, cooler than one might expect given that this is Rome in July.
Spike leans down to move a twig, to brush his knuckles along the carefully groomed grass.
“Yeah,” he says to no one in particular.
Angel squats so that he’s eye level with her name: Buffy Anne Summers. Beloved.
Spike lights a cigarette.
“When did you see her last?”
Angel closes his eyes as if it might help him to remember. “Fall, maybe. I’m not sure.”
Spike smiles. “Not like you to be so forgetful. Not when it comes to her.” He cocks his head in the direction of the tombstone.
“I’m not forgetful,” Angel says. He stands up and regards his companion carefully. “I’m…”
Spike nods. “Yeah. Me too.”
Dawn is not home so they go to the little trattoria across the street. Spike orders a beer; Angel asks for a whiskey, neat.
“Is Dawn okay?” Angel asks.
Spike purses his lips thoughtfully. “Depends on your definition.”
A muscle jumps in Angel’s jaw and Spike looks down at his glass.
“She’s okay, I guess,” Spike concedes.
“Nothing’s easy with you, is it, Spike?”
“Thought that’s what you liked about me,” Spike replies.
“What makes you think I like anything about you?”
Dawn isn’t surprised to see them. She opens the door wide and ushers them in, her face a heartbreaking combination of relief and sadness. She has dark circles under her eyes and she’s thin.
“Do you want some--” She hesitates, unsure of what to offer them. “Coffee?”
Spike and Angel exchange a glance and say “Sure,” one after the other.
Dawn steps into the kitchen and they hear water running and then “damn” and then “I never make coffee.” She steps back into the main room. “It wouldn’t be drinkable anyway,” she says with a small smile.
“It’s okay, Bit,” Spike says. “It makes Peaches jittery anyway.”
Angel lets Spike’s half-hearted jab go.
Dawn moves to the couch and sits, pulling her bare feet underneath her.
Angel moves to sit beside her, close but not touching. Spike moves across the room to the window seat.
“Can you talk about it?” Angel asks. “I mean, would you?”
“I don’t know what to tell you.”
Dawn bites her lip and looks across the room at Spike.
“Didn’t you…tell him?” She whispers theatrically.
“No,” Spike says. “I thought it would be better if you did. Well, if anyone but me told him, actually.”
“Coward,” Dawn says turning back to Angel.
“We haven’t spoken…” Angel says.
“I know,” Dawn replies and she puts her hand on top of Angel’s. “It’s okay. I can tell you.”
Angel crosses his arms and leans against the railing of the Ponte Milvio, staring down at the Tevere.
“You could have saved me the trip,” he says to Spike.
“Sure, mate. And that would have ended well.”
“We made our peace,” Angel says. “It was all…”
“Over?” Spike snorts. “God, you’re stu--.”
Angel is still quick and he has his hand around Spike’s throat before Spike can finish his insult.
“You don’t know anything about it,” he says before letting Spike go.
“Right,” Spike says, rubbing his fingers against his windpipe- more affectation than necessity, “because I never shagged the girl. She was unsullied by me.”
Angel hits Spike, a big-fisted crack that slides off Spike’s jaw and snaps his head back.
“What the fuck!”
“You and me- we don’t talk about her,” Angel says, his mouth narrow and dangerous. “Not like this. Do you understand?”
“I think you broke my jaw,” Spike says.
“Do you understand?”
“Yeah. I get it,” Spike says and then because he can’t help himself he adds: “But I don’t think you do.”
Angel shakes his head and walks past Spike, turning right at the end of the bridge onto the Lungotevere.
Buffy kissed Dawn goodbye, checked her e-mail, went to the market for things to make supper, stopped at the dry-cleaners and collapsed on the front step of their apartment, her keys still clenched in her hand. She died on a Tuesday.
“You’re so bloody selfish,” Spike says to Angel.
“I mean, it’s like only you knew her, only you loved her,” Spike says.
“I know,” Angel says more emphatically.
“Oh,” Spike says.
“I’ve been sitting here trying to figure it out,” Angel says. “I can’t.”
Spike sits across from him and waits. They hardly talk anymore and Spike is anxious for the words, craves them as he had once craved her.
“I can’t believe she’s gone, Spike.”
“I thought she’d live forever and I don’t know why I thought that; it hardly makes sense. I just thought she’d be here as long as I was.”
“She lived a good long time,” Spike says.
Spike shrugs. “Maybe not the best choice of words.”
“I just never thought…”
“Jesus,” Spike says. “We need to get drunk before this gets any worse.”
For once, they agree.
Everyone in Italy wears black: black silk pants and black sunglasses and black shirts cut low in the front or unbuttoned to show miles of skin. Spike only stands out because his hair is still unnaturally blonde. Angel blends into the shadows.
They sit at the back and order a bottle of Ouzo because it reminds of them of the days when they sipped absinthe from the curve of Drusilla’s back.
“Tell me,” Angel says finally.
Spike picks at his lip and nods.
“She drifted in and out mostly,” he says quietly. “But every so often she’d squeeze my hand, like she knew I was there.”
“I should have been,” Angel says.
“Too late for that,” Spike says. “Once, she opened her eyes and she said: ‘Don’t let them bring me back, Spike.’ And I said, ‘Over my dead body.’ And she said: ‘You are dead, you idiot.’” Spike laughs at the memory.
“Was she in pain?”
“I don’t think so,” Spike says. “But you know what she was like.”
“I just thought I’d know. I thought I’d feel it.”
Spike pours more ouzo into the glasses and sighs.
“This isn’t helping.”
“I know,” Spike agrees. “What would she do?”
It has been a long time since they’ve fought side by side and it feels good. Angel has lost none of his strength and Spike is as fearless and agile as ever.
By the time the sun is leaking over the horizon, they have dusted a dozen vampires. Spike is sitting, rolling his stake between his fingers, smoking a cigarette. Angel is leaning against a headstone, eyes closed.
“Feels good,” Spike says. “To fight.”
“Yeah, it does,” Angel agrees.
“We should do it more often.”
Angel opens his eyes and finds Spike staring at him.
“I’m goin’ back, Spike.”
“I know,” Spike says quietly. “Still worth saying though.”
Angel stands up. It will be fully day in a few minutes and they need to seek shelter.
“We could stay here,” Spike says grinding his cigarette out on the gound. “Wait for the sun.”
Angel smiles and holds out his hand to help Spike up.
“We could,” he says. “But then who would remember her?”
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