Written for the IWRY 2012 Marathon
Word count: 937
Disclaimer: Surely Joss wouldn’t mind if I borrowed his characters.
A thank you hugs for Jo for the beta. The woman is a goddess.
Summary: A bedside vigil.
The room was almost silent except for the faint, thready breath from the man in the bed. The man in the chair had been sitting awhile, watching the dying man. His eyes took in the bald head. Chemotherapy was a cruel master. It stripped one bare and laid out one’s imperfections for all to see. The man had had a noble face, once, a strong nose, and good cheekbones. The flesh was now shrunken, the head, and the hand that lay uncovered above the covers, were all but skeleton. He didn’t know how the doctors had done it, finding enough flesh to anchor the morphine drip. His eyes traced the fine web of veins that could be seen just below the skin. The blood must be diluted now, full of chemicals, and yet the man still lived. If one could call it living. He stared at the tube that ran snake-like into the arm, sending a numbing poison to the wasted body. Was the man aware? He had been told, not. Was that a mercy, with Death hovering? Shouldn’t a person be staring Death in the face and fight till the last breath? Fight for one more moment to be in this world? Looking at the man in the bed, the man in the chair knew the fight had been lost weeks ago. This was purgatory, this lingering on.
The man in the bed had been handsome, once, Buffy had said, beautiful, in her eyes. She hadn’t seen him in many a year, but he was still forever in her heart. No matter the heartache he had caused her, she still loved him. The man in the chair understood completely. Buffy had never liked hospitals and yet here she was sitting vigil by this man’s bed. A few minutes ago, she had gone for a coffee. He knew it was because she had to leave the room. Watching the man dying before her eyes was breaking her heart.
He had never met the man. He was here because Buffy needed him. Buffy was here because the man in the bed needed her.
She had received a phone call a week ago. The call had come from a private investigator firm. They had been given instructions from the man in the bed to find her. Their client’s wish was that he see her one last time. An international flight later, Buffy was at his bedside and it was too late. He was in a coma and not expected to come out of it. The man in the chair lifted his eyes from the dying man and surveyed the room. It was a room typical of hospitals. It was bare, a clinical room, not very soothing to the eye, and it would be the last thing the man saw before he died. There were two vases containing flowers, sitting on the small beside table by the bed. One was a bunch of lilies, their scent infusing the room. The man in the chair appreciated their perfume. It almost hid the stink of dying flesh. The other vase contained sunflowers. Buffy had bought those, telling him that they wore cheerful faces, like miniature suns, and they would brighten up the room. Perhaps, lift his spirits if the man in the bed did happen to rouse one more time. He hadn’t the heart to tell her that it was a futile hope.
The door opened and Buffy appeared, backing into the room, two polystyrene cups in hand.
She handed him his and asked if there had been any change.
He shook his head and drank from his cup. The hot liquid was welcome, sliding down his throat.
And then there was a change. The man in the bed let out a deep breath. It rattled in the thin throat. When he was done doing so, the room went silent. Buffy sat rigid in her chair, waiting. The man sucked in another breath, labouring against what was inevitable.
Buffy quickly handed her coffee over and came to the bedside. The man in the chair stood up, placed the cups on the floor, and laid a comforting hand on Buffy’s shoulder.
Buffy leaned forward, tears sliding down her face. Her hot tears splashed against the papery skin of the dying man. She kissed his cheek.
“I love you,” she whispered. “Goodbye.”
Whether the man in the bed heard her or not, they wouldn’t know. He let out one last rattling breath and he was gone. The life force that had been housed in the body disappeared, leaving behind a shell.
Buffy turned and found solace in the loving arms of the man beside her. They stayed that way until her tears were spent. She sniffled and wiped at her eyes.
“God. I must look a mess.”
The man who held her smiled. “You’re still beautiful.”
He handed her a handkerchief. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose. Buffy turned to take one last look at the man in the bed.
“I’m glad I was here. I know he wasn’t there for me when I needed him to be, but I wouldn’t be here if not for him.”
“Are you okay?”
She nodded and managed a small smile.
“Thank you for being here.” She squeezed his hand.
“Where else would I be?”
She nodded absently, knowing it to be true.
“Typical of him, his funeral has already been organised and paid for. He doesn’t need me. He never did. I think we can go now, Angel.”
Buffy turned to look at the man in the bed one last time.