Graveyard Shift


A big hug to Jo. What would I do without her?

Summary: A vampire in a cemetery.

**


He had spent a lot of time in cemeteries over the years. Hell, he had been born in one, or should he say, reborn into the dead creature that he was. You would think he would be used to gravestones with their mounds of earth covering the dearly departed. He stared at this particular mound, body-shaped, declaring that here below lies the corpse of the one he loved more than life itself. He was alone, the other mourners long gone taking their grief with them. His knuckles, white with the strain, balled into fists.

The first time he truly cared, he had stood beside a freshly dug grave and held the hand of his one true love. She mourned her mother. He, a dead man, could offer no words. He did his best and tried, eventually his tongue cleaving to the roof of his mouth, and he fell silent. He remembered he held her in his arms and let her pour out her grief in tears and salty kisses. He could only look on, feeling her grief but apart from it.

The second time he was away, and when he got back she was buried already, a red-haired witch waiting to bring his world down around his ears. Then, and only then, could he comprehend the deep hole despair and grief wrought. He thought he would die, should die. Instead, he ran away to a far corner of the world to come to grips. He lied to himself, and to his friends. He returned a hollow man, acting a part, pretending he had moved on. He hadn’t. He fooled himself in the end, came to care for another. Was it all lies? Was any of it real, or was it all part of some Higher Being’s Plan?

The people he cared about fell away: dust to dust. For many, there were no tombs he could visit and beat his breast. His heart, though dead, died a little at each loss. It hadn’t been enough to destroy him, not like this. He was a Champion and Champions never gave up, never walked away, they took it on the chin and carried on. What a load of crock! They had only five years once they had rediscovered each other. It wasn’t enough.

He imagined the grains of earth shifting, and stared hard at the dirt beneath its temporary cross. Was it wrong of him to wish for movement: fingers, a hand, the rest of the body emerging from the ground, just to catch a glimpse of hair and his loved one’s face? The earth was still, and yet it wheeled beneath the cold stare of stars. He was unbalanced, in mind and in body. No vampire would rise from this grave. He knew that there was no answer here but cold death, decomposing flesh, and worms to eat away what was once his. Not even Willow could resurrect what lay beneath – if she wanted to, and she didn’t – there wasn’t enough of the body to make whole.

Keeping his knees from buckling, holding back from flinging himself upon the clay, his sight shattered into a thousand pieces. He blinked, and wiped away the wetness upon his cheek. What was he going to do now? What was left for him?

+++

She watched him from her place in the shadows. Wished that she could take hold of his hand, comfort him the way he did her all those years ago. When he swayed, she wanted to rush to him, prop him up, support him, and let him know that she was here. She couldn’t. His grief was a palpable thing, she could taste it, and the weight of it hovered about him, a barrier to anything living. Once upon a time – when she was oh so young and didn’t know any better – she accused him of living forever and wouldn’t know anything about dying. She had been wrong on both counts. Dying he had experienced more than once, hadn’t everyone these days? Living forever wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Here was the proof of it. Living, forever young, and getting to watch the ones you love pass from this mortal coil and leave you behind. It was easy being dead and buried. You didn’t suffer like those above you standing on your earth-covered coffin. Did he mourn her like this, the second time she had perished? Dead fingers wiped at his cheek, and she stifled a sob.

Forcing her feet to move, and wondering if he had been aware she was there, she padded to his side. She couldn’t reach out a hand, her arms were full. Instead, she laid her head against his side, offering her life and her love to him. He needed her, and she wasn’t going to let him go this time. She was here to stay.

She felt the tension in his body ease a little, and his chest moved drawing in unneeded air. It left his lungs in a sigh. She stepped away, looking up at him.
Holding out her arms, she presented him his future. Angel stared at her and what she held in her hands.

“I’m here, Angel,” she said. “I love you. You need me, and he needs you. Together, the three of us can start a new life. You can regain that which was taken from you.”

Angel put out his hands, and gently, ever so gently, accepted his future. Closing his eyes, he buried his nose in talcum powder, felt the pitter patter of a tiny heart against his face, and inhaled the sweet smell of baby breath. With mother and father both dead, he was the baby’s only family. He trembled, and felt Buffy’s warmth wrap round him. She had done this thing. She had saved him by bringing him the one thing that gave him back his reason. Once again, he owed her his life.

He let her guide him away from Connor’s last resting place and into the dawn of a new beginning. Connor’s son in his arms, a legacy handed to him by his beloved boy, and Buffy, the girl of his dreams, beside him.

The End


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