The Things They Left Behind
A/N: Begins some time before “Power Play” in AtS, Season Five, and after “The Girl In Question.” Absolutely nothing taken from the comics. Next parts should go up throughout the day. (Thank you to all who have read, and all who have commented! Every once in a while, I do finish a chaptered fic!)
A few days later…
The dinging of a doorbell roused Buffy from her sleep. She blinked awake, hearing her sister speak in bright, happy Italian to a deliveryman.
Every once in a while, she’d blink awake and have to reorient herself with the thought – I’m in Italy now. Golden sunlight poured through the cracks of her window curtains, and the sound of residents and tourists chattering out on the street registered as a sound that never got less strange the more she heard it. Raised in the suburbs, she’d learned that too much noise after dark was likely the result of someone’s overly exuberant deck party – or trouble.
“Buffy! You got a package!” A significant pause. “I mean, we got a package!”
“I’m up!” she groaned, feeling her muscles protest. After sidling up to the Immortal had done her little good in taking out his armies, she’d had to resort to a more direct route by fighting and killing him.
Determinedly, she wobbled to her feet, pulling a robe over her pajamas and kicking aside last night’s bloodstained clothing. She spared a moment to mourn for the beautiful silky white blouse, ruined beyond repair by the Immortal’s acidic blood.
By the time Buffy had managed to make it into their living room, Dawn had already torn through the cardboard box and was tossing crumpled-up newspaper behind her.
“Who’s it from?” she asked blearily.
“No idea.” Dawn was dressed for a day of classes, knee-length “romping skirt” swishing about her long legs. Though Buffy was usually too busy to tell if the move from California was a good or bad thing, all she had to do was look at Dawn to see that her sister had bloomed in different soil. Where Buffy struggled with linguistics, focused on her mission, Dawn happily chattered in broken Italian to others, ordering for her sister in restaurants. She’d finally managed to show her sister the world – should she be surprised that Dawn was better attuned to it than herself?
“I think you’ve been too long off the Hellmouth,” she said grumpily, reaching for a mug and the carafe of coffee. “Don’t you know better than to open strange boxes?”
Dawn paused to check the box. “It’s from California. No name.” She reached in and plucked out a wrapped package from inside the box.
As the paper unfurled, a photo album fell out. Buffy didn’t recognize it, but Dawn certainly did, inhaling on a gasp as the pages spilled open to images of Dawn and her friends, Dawn and the Scoobies. Buffy’s eye caught on a photo of Tara and Willow, cuddled together on a bench while doing research.
“That’s-that’s my photo album! From Sunnydale!”
Buffy frowned. “Did you leave it on the bus?”
“Buffy.” Dawn turned to look at her sister, eyes shining and wide. “I left it in our house.”
Dawn frantically tossed newspaper aside, pulling out wrapped packages like a long-overdue Christmas morning. She tore one open.
“Mom’s wedding pictures,” Buffy said in wonderment. They‘d had no pictures of her since Sunnydale collapsed, could only recall her face in memories. Seeing her stare out at them hit her in the chest. “Our baby pictures,” she exhaled on a sob. The photos even retained that baby powder smell that everything in that memory box had.
“Estrella!” Buffy looked up from the album to see her mature teenage sister cuddle her childhood stuffed animal to her chest. “Okay, she stinks a little.”
Disbelieving, Buffy began to open other packages from the box. Her Class Protector umbrella. The claddagh ring from Angel. Earrings, her old pair of ice skates – Mr. Gordo! It was a spread of treasure better than any birthday, these bits and pieces of their past. Ice skates that still smelled faintly of her sweat. Crucifixes that she’d worn throughout the years, charting her changes in fashion and style. The photo albums capturing smiles and cheery times, reminding her that the Hellmouth wasn’t always a grim place to live.
“Buffy, look at this,” Dawn pointed to a looping script, written in pen on the paper-wrapped cover of what looked like a book.
I swear I didn’t read them.
Across the top of several wrapped photo albums, the photographic chronicle of her life, Buffy saw another inscription in pen.
Not everything left behind is lost for good.
“It’s Spike.” Dawn said in wonderment. “I know his handwriting. Spike sent this!”
Hearing the name after so long wrenched something inside Buffy, already emotionally scrambled at the sight of her old things.
“Dawn, Spike died,” she said gently. “I saw him begin to dust. A year ago.”
“Yeah? That didn’t stop you.” Buffy recoiled, and Dawn opted for a gentler tone. “Buffy, I know his handwriting. He helped me with my homework, the languages and English. I know it – see that “D”? That’s the exact loop that he used to make.
“And besides all that,” she continued, on a roll, “who else would know exactly where to find us?”
“Angel might,” Buffy said, taking a steadying sip of coffee, refusing to entertain the possibility that Spike lived somewhere else – somewhere away and hidden from her. “He lives in California.”
Dawn rolled her eyes. “Yeah, because digging through miles of rubble to find our things is the kind of gesture that Angel would make. Because Angel would actually know something about me, would bother reassuring me that he hadn’t read my diaries. And of course, it was Angel who taught me how to play cards and use a Slinky to kill vampires.” She held up a pack of battered playing cards and a twisted and bent Slinky.
Buffy dug the heels of her palms into her eyes, attempting to think on her feet with so little rest. All the signs were pointing, however obliquely, to only one of the vampires. But he was dead – wasn’t he? Her memory called up the way she’d last seen him and couldn’t bear to linger on – drenched and radiant in killing sunlight, exultant in his love and his soul, and in the fact that he was doing something right.
When she opened her eyes, she saw Dawn watching her with an expression somewhere between tenderness and impatience.
“Buffy, who else would write that about being left behind – about not being lost for good?”
In one quick movement, Buffy tore off the flap of cardboard box with the return address.
“I don’t know,” she said, reaching for her phone, her passport, her clothes, all at once, irritated when they didn’t leap to her hands all at once. “But I’m going to find out.”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/420540.html