The Things They Left Behind – Part III

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“The Things They Left Behind” – PG-13ish
A/N: Love to all the people who have read (and especially to those who comment!). Last part should be coming up this evening.

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The taxi pulled up at the return address quite suddenly, pitching Buffy forward into the dirty fabric of the seat in front of her. The driver turned his head around to her, giving her a wary glance.

“You sure this is the place, miss?” he asked doubtfully. “It’s the address, but this area…” He trailed off and Buffy knew why. From her car window she could see the neighborhood wasn’t exactly Sesame Street. Probably where Spike felt the most comfortable.

“No, I think it’s probably the place,” she said, gathering up her satchel and pulling out her wallet.

“I can circle the block if you like, if it’s not the right place,” the cabbie continued. As well-intentioned as he might be, the chivalry act was beginning to grate on Buffy’s nerves.

“No, I’ll be fine,” she said, coaxing out a little smile for his benefit, and counting out a tip. “Thanks.”

Buffy stepped out of the cab, clutching the address ripped from the cardboard box in one hand. This had to be the place. Drab building, windows boarded up, a little grocery to one side with lace worked metal grates protecting its windows.

She hunted around, looking for an entrance, before realizing that the apartment was actually in the basement of the building. Which – duh. She clattered down the staircase, knocking aside beer bottles left on the side with satisfying crashes, warning him of her presence.

Apartment 05. Well, it matched up with the address. There were windows on either side of the door, but blinds kept her from peering in. Shrugging, Buffy knocked.

Nothing. She knocked again. Still nothing.

Sighing, Buffy kicked the door in without ceremony and walked in, flipping a light switch.

The first thought that crossed her mind was Oh, crap. I’m in the wrong apartment.

This couldn’t belong to Spike. It simply didn’t fit. Back in Sunnydale, he’d done his utmost to make the crypt into something more habitable, lush with luxurious fabrics and flickering candles… cozy.

In this cramped little apartment, a row of white cabinets lined one wall, looking mostly unused, but highly abused, housing a few cracked dishes and a microwave. There were no stacks of books in the living room – just a pawn store television (smashed) a television stand and video game equipment (also smashed). A ratty red futon looked as if it had been prized from the sidewalk before the garbage truck could collect it.

“Hello?” Buffy called, not expecting an answer, and not getting one. Aside from the unusual damage in the living room, this couldn’t be Spike’s apartment. Probably he just used this as a return address – maybe had some communication with whoever lived here?

She looked around for any piles of mail, any clues to indicate the identity of whoever lived here. Opened drawers in the tiny kitchen revealed nothing more than a few odds and ends – a chipped coffee mug, a plate, a few bags of wasabi-covered pistachios, a bag of very stale Keebler‘s Chips Deluxe Rainbow Cookies. Before she could stop and think about what she was doing, her hand reached out and opened the next possible door – the freezer.

In a breath of frozen air, she peered in disbelief at its contents – row upon row of neat plastic bags of blood, shining darkly maroon from where they’d been stuffed haphazardly inside. Beside it, a box of frozen hot wings – extra spicy. Unbidden, the image of him taking a bite of wings at the Bronze rose up, his eyes taunting her over the wing.

She stared at the blood for so long, the freezer began to whir, complaining at her for letting all the cold air out. Reflexively, she shut it, then opened up the refrigerator.

A small arsenal of beers, marked with some foreign language (Chinese? Japanese? She wasn’t sure), gleamed in the light. Nothing else – no old take-out, no usual staples to make her believe that anyone lived here who ate normally.

Buffy closed the refrigerator door, then did a slow turn, looking at the apartment with new eyes.

So this was where Spike had lived. Apart from her – no, hidden from her. Did she even know what to look for now?

Buffy prowled around the apartment with new intent. The bathroom revealed little enough, but she found something more promising in the living room – books stacked beside the couch with authors whose names she didn’t recognize, titles that belonged in another century, but ones that she recognized from his crypt in Sunnydale.

She paused and steeled herself before exploring the bedroom. A small chest on the ground opened to reveal several changes of black jeans, inky shirts – and, oddly enough, white socks. All in his size, she realized, shaking out a pair of jeans. Beside the clothes lay an assortment of weaponry – swords, stakes, hatchets, two little devices that, she supposed ejected stakes from one’s wrists. All in all, the most personal and telling items that she’d found in the entire apartment.

The twin-size bed was almost enough to convince Buffy that this wasn’t his apartment. Spike had always loved to spread out, starfished on a bed, on the ground, his bier – and she would know, wouldn’t she?

Except now that she thought about it, she could recall him reclining on that little camp cot in her basement. No possessions, except a few weapons and a change of clothes. Having a soul in his possession seemed to blot out all desire for objects.

Buffy sat heavily on the mattress, hearing the springs sing in protest, feeling the lumps rise uncomfortably as she lay back against his pillow. She spotted a bottle of what looked like wine tucked beside the bed (though it could be cooking sherry, as much as she was willing to investigate).

So he was here, content with this Spartan existence, content to let her live in ignorance. What was he like now? There was little here to indicate a vampire who’d loved his enemy passionately, who enjoyed the luxuries he could take, who liked punk rock and poetry. But then, Buffy remembered that many of those items had probably been destroyed when she’d dropped a bomb in his home. After that, he’d not collected many memories, the baggage in his head taking up most available space.

Suddenly, she felt guilty at barging into his home and rummaging through his things. Spike had taken pains to keep himself hidden from her, and looked to be working on the right side of things. The fact that he went looking for her old treasures and sent them back was likely not a cryptic way of trying to get her to come see her. Why do that after staying quiet for so long?

Buffy sat up in preparation to go, but the glint of something metal in a bedside table drawer drew her back. She reached out, hesitated, but then went forward – in for a penny, in for a pound.

The glint of something was that boxy metal lighter that he’d always carried about, the one he’d let her play with sometimes, flipping and clicking the little instrument to make the flame come up. It lay next to an empty pack of cigarettes, and a pack with a few more inside.

A scrap of leather made her cry out despite herself – she knew that leather, knew it intimately. Butter-soft, scorched along the edges, this was a piece of his duster (the collar, she guessed), his second skin, as much a part of him as his neon hair, his wolfish walk. What terrible thing had happened to destroy something he treasured so much?

Below that lay something she would never have guessed to find in there – Love Sonnets of the Portuguese – that was her copy! She flipped open the cover to find Angel’s writing to confirm it, but instead saw an image of herself and Dawn smiling back up at her.

The photo, likely prized from an album at some point, showed the two sisters smiling for the camera, identical Cheshire grins in the California sunshine. Buffy couldn’t quite place it, but guessed that it was from some point during the summer Spike had been out looking for his soul. The edges were battered, the photo bent from long being carried in a pocket – this photo was obviously not prized from the remains of the Hellmouth. He’d managed to keep a bit of her among his things.

Her reverie was broken by the sound of soft, shuffling footsteps approaching, before pausing at the threshold of the apartment. Buffy jumped up, embarrassed to be caught red-handed while pawing through his things.

Instead, she found herself face-to-face with a demon with emerald green skin and violently red eyes, watching her with an expression of terrible grief.

“I would guess that you’d be Buffy?” The demon‘s voice was musical, friendly, if downcast, and he inclined his head politely at her nod. “My name’s Lorne.” He made no threatening moves, so she relaxed as he stepped inside.

“Hi.” She didn’t know what to say, and Lorne apparently didn’t, either, looking down at his feet. “This is Spike’s apartment, right?”

“From its stylish green-painted bricks to its creaky old shower pipes. Your boy wasn’t much for creature comforts.” The demon attempted a smile, as if one had been quite natural to him for a long time.

Buffy tucked the lighter, the leather, and the book into her purse. “Do you know where I could find him?” she asked. “He sent something to me, and I didn’t even know he was alive until…” At the slow shaking of Lorne’s head, Buffy felt a cold twist in her stomach. Her heart lurched, then resumed with heavy, painful beats that quickened as Lorne’s expression refused to lighten.

“This was the last place I thought to look,” Lorne said, pulling up a chair from the card table, sitting to face her. “Wolfram and Hart – where your vampires worked – they destroyed it. Destroyed everything – it’s only a hollow shell of a building, now. Everything’s been removed, replaced.” He scrubbed his face with his hands, looking distraught.

“Slow down,” she commanded. “What’s happened? Where did you last see them?”

“They were going to take on Wolfram and Hart,” Lorne said. “Angel. Spike. Gunn. That little blue cuckoo in the nest. They knew they didn’t have a chance in hell of doing more than delaying some badness. They were going to do it anyway.” He sighed deeply. “The agency caught up with them – some kind of showdown in an alley behind the old Hyperion.”

Buffy held her breath, trying to let these new developments seep into her brain, trying to ignore the buzzing in her ears. Could she have finally clued in, only for him to…?

“Did they-” She broke off at his shrug.

“I couldn’t find any traces of them in the alley. Actually, I couldn’t find traces of anything in the alley – demons, vampires, humans. Empty as a showhall on Christmas Day. I thought maybe they might have gone back here…” Lorne blinked. “I need a drink.”

It couldn’t be. Their combined timing was still not that bad. No, no, and no.

“They-they probably wouldn’t have come back here, you know. Not if they’re being chased.” Buffy said, trying to inject some zip in her voice, the same way she did with despondent young Slayers in battle. “So we should probably wait. They’ll let us know when they’re ready to find us.”

“Oh, pecan pie.” Buffy’s head lifted at this non-sequitur, but he seemed to mean it in the same way Spike had called her Slayer. “You are optimism defined.”

“Can you show me this alley?” Buffy asked. “No harm in a second look.”

“I can do that.”

Buffy paused as she followed him out, taking a last look around the apartment. She removed a little bracelet from her wrist, draping it on the card table where it could be seen clearly. It wasn’t terribly expensive (bought in a little marketplace, where the glacial blue stones had caught her eye) but her scent was on it. If he returned, he’d know.

And he’d follow.

She closed the door and followed Lorne up the stairs, hand closing around the smooth, cool metal of the lighter, leather scrap brushing against her knuckles in a lingering caress.

 

Next Part

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/420703.html

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