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. This is the first part, the next parts should go up throughout the day.
In the cupcake tin that was now Sunnydale, Spike picked his way through the debris, turning his flashlight this way and that, trying in vain to orient himself.
When Buffy had smiled at him… and he told her to go… and their fire extinguished… and then he died…what happened to Sunnydale was far beyond his mind. He’d had the vague idea that the Hellmouth would collapse in on top of him, but had no idea that the entire town would turn into a sinkhole.
It was a shock to crest the ridges above Sunnydale, and stare down into a deep pit, thronged with fencing and the National Guard, attempting to prevent death-defying looters from plying a trade. Slipping past the guards around the crater’s rim was no problem at all. For Spike, who’d crossed the Berlin Wall several times in one night for the sheer joy of it, it wasn’t one of the hardest maneuvers he’d had to pull.
These days, though, he was less about snapping guards’ necks and more with slipping through shadows.
Finding anything at all in this heap of tumbled rubble, however, was going to be a problem. Houses had been turned end over end, pulverized into splinters and bits of sheetrock. There was little left of any sort of structure, to say nothing of any recognizable
Slumping his shoulders, Spike kicked at a bit of bathroom tiling, shattering it to echo tinnily in the silence. This was a mistake.
“Big mistake,” he murmured to himself out loud, still flicking the flashlight to and fro, throwing jagged shadows across his surroundings. Had he expected to find Buffy and Dawn here? They were half a world away.
Nothing was left here for him.
In disgust with himself and his unending sentimentality, he turned, and began the walk back. If he started now, he’d be able to get back to LA and return the stolen Viper before Angel noticed it was missing. Or he’d hock it and pay his rent – all a matter of what time he got back.
He was nearly back to the slope of the crater’s side when it hit him. Faint, very faint, but it called to him like a persistent homing beacon.
The Espresso Pump lay in ruins, stainless steel counters and espresso machines twisted and broken, weepy folk-rock ballads on the speakers mercifully stilled. The scent of thousands of coffee beans, dry and crushed to powder under its weight, was still as strong as anything. Like a hound on the scent (though his mind discarded the imagery), he circled the coffeehouse, trying to reorient himself. There’d been little rain since the town’s collapse, and thus little rot to mask other odors.
Once, when he’d been squiring Dawn about town during that awful summer, they’d decided to be stoic about it, have a mug of hot cocoa. Sitting outside so that he could smoke, he’d been struck by the image of her woebegone face against the dim outline of the mountains in twilight, as she dutifully picked the marshmallows out of her mug and tossed them into his.
The direction of the Summers house had been behind her… but how far… oh, the hell with it. He set off in that general direction.
In his less finer moments, Spike had hiked across acres of landfill. It wasn’t too different from this experience, except the terrain was much rougher and less certain. Jagged pieces of metal tore at the soles of his boots, and his hands became thick with dust and blood. The smell of rot and stagnant water from burst pipes layered the air in a thick fug.
The deeper he went into the sinkhole, however, the more he was rewarded. There was the Conoco gas station sign, there was the library (he’d spent too much time there not to recognize the scent of old books and Pine Sol cleaning solution). Doublemeat Palace, disturbingly, seemed to have escaped damage, beyond being tipped on its side. Spike didn’t have the heart or the time to see if the patties were still edible.
From what he could tell, the town had collapsed down like a deflating accordion. While buildings slid together into huge piles of rubble, they stayed more or less in the same area of town they’d been in.
The green street sign for Revello Drive lay half-buried under a pile of cracked asphalt. He was very close now, his flashlight picking out the collapsed rooflines of the little suburb, the trees that clung to life and defiantly leafed out amid the desolation.
He’d walked this path too many times in the past few years to lose it now. The houses might have moved, shifted into the ones beside it and splintered beyond recognition, but he knew this walk by more than his five senses.
The condition of some buildings he’d passed led Spike to hope that 5300 Revello Drive, by some miracle, would be partially intact. He hoped in vain.
It was difficult to distinguish the rubble of the Summers home from the rubble of those it mixed with, but it was there. No structure remained, no doorway frame or bedroom wall. Plywood lay in splinters, densely covered by a layer of dust and gritty shingles.
“Fixer-upper, this one,” Spike mumbled to himself, noting how the silence rushed up to muffle his voice. Shrugging his shoulders, he walked forward, wading into the rubble.
As much as it took a brave person to wade through a piranha-filled river, so much did it take Spike to take the next step forward, once he scented her.
There was rot, after the pipes had burst, a stale odor that reached out as he tore away several planks, looking for a way in where he might have some clearance. There was a mixture of that odd smell from the pink fiberglass, the powdery smell of drywall, the airy smell of splintered wood. Underneath it all, though, he still caught Buffy’s scent. It was a little faded, a little obscured, like that of his mother’s neroli perfume in her handkerchief, his sister’s lavender oil in her hair ribbon – but just like them, able to conjure up a thousand vivid memories.
And no wonder. Spike had ended up in her room – or, rather, what remained of it. Many of the frames in the house had buckled in Sunnydale’s collapse, but by pushing aside some rafters and sifting through piles of shingles, a hollow area remained where Buffy had once spent much of her time.
Her furniture was mostly smashed, the bed overturned, sheets piled on the floor, dresser and bureau in several pieces. Spike stooped, testing the floorboards. Ending up accidentally dusted in a place he’d heroically died in would be hideously ironic.
Around him, on the floor, the contents of Buffy’s life spilled into the dust, Spike began to search with his flashlight (contrary to popular opinion, vampires needed at least a little light to get around). A pair of earrings he’d seen her wearing often went into his knapsack, as did a pretty, glittery parasol (now slightly bent and torn) that had fallen behind the cracked credenza. A silly pink stuffed pig – Mr. Gordon? – that Dawn had taken into her own room the summer that Buffy had died.
Spike blew a cloud of drywall dust off a picture album in a pile of debris, flipped it open. The buttery gleam of the flashlight alighted on dozens of smiling teenaged faces, many of which he didn’t recognize in the beginning, but which mainly featured Willow and Xander towards its end, Giles and Dawn occasionally in the background.
A second album showed Angel, clearly uncomfortable, in a few shots, as stiffly posed as when photographs took several minutes and not a fraction of a second. Joyce hovered in the background of others like an amused guardian angel. Riley, tanned and adoring, grinned up through the plastic film, his expression in no way lessening Spike’s desire to smash his nose in. Anya beamed, cuddled against Xander across the table in a pizza parlor. Spike examined Xander’s expression for hints of doubt, but could find none.
The pictures trailed off soon after that, and Spike supposed there weren’t many memories Buffy found worth of capturing and setting down in permanent record. The final shot was of Buffy, smiling patiently at a staff lunch in her new job at Sunnydale High School. He tucked them all into his knapsack.
His gaze alighted on the gleam of a slender ring, hidden beneath a pink fluff of fiberglass, designs etched on like hands clutching a heart… Angel. Of course. Fucking Fenians and their sentimental traditions. Spike considered pitching it into the darkest corner he could find, but what was the use? He ranked below Angel and the Immortal in her affections now – best to just let the past be the past. Not as if he would likely live out the next few days.
Also, it had meant something to her, enough to keep it. He was his own man now, and enough of one to not stand in the way of the woman she wanted to be.
A slender volume, old and clearly out of place among the shiny young adult novels caught his eye – and with it, his heart. Was she the one who had lifted Love Sonnets of the Portuguese from his crypt? He’d lost it some years ago, but couldn’t remember exactly when, and his heart lifted to think that she might have wanted something of his among her own things. He flipped open the cover – only to see, in Angel’s loopy handwriting, one word – “Always.”
He smashed what remained of the credenza in his temper, before the groaning of the floorboards reminded him of his tenuous position. He settled with ripping the offending page out, crumpling, and tossing it aside. This was something he could legitimately keep, now that it had been returned to its proper owner.
Right. Now that Buffy was taken care of, he’d move on to Dawn. Careful creeping through the shattered hallway, bending under load-bearing beams and tossing aside others, he followed his nose to the scent of jonquils – the youngest Summers’ room.
Spike had expected the devastation in Buffy’s room, but the utter trashing of Dawn’s caused a pang in his heart. The young girl didn’t have much in the way of family, just this little space carved out where she’d spent most of her actual life. Something must have smashed right into Dawn’s room during the big collapse, obliterating much of the walls, which had once been covered in candy-like colors.
He picked his way into a room that he’d seldom entered before, feeling awkward and out of place, even in its current state. What was in here that Dawn would treasure? He could find few bits and pieces – a photo album in the wreckage of her bed made it out, as did a few shells that she told him she’d picked up on the beach as a child. The blue stuffed bear with yellow stars on its fur (Estrella, she’d called it) lay with one stuffed foot in a pool of water. Spike squeezed it as dry as possible, stuffed it on top.
Then, finally, he found what he knew what might mean the most to her – a few diaries – multicolored, labeled “PRIVATE! NO PEEKING! THIS MEANS YOU, BUFFY!” She’d burned all the diaries she’d kept before learning the truth about herself, and had only recently gotten back into the habit, preserving the record of her life as she now knew it to be.
The attic had broken through into her room, and as Spike sorted through the wreckage that remained, he caught another scent, familiar and heartbreaking. Joyce.
He’d been too involved in his own grief to notice at first, but the Scoobies had carted Joyce’s things to the attic that summer, stuffed them away for convenience or heartbreak’s sake. Here, at least, was something he could do for the both of them, bundling up picture albums with the Summers girls as squealing babies in the sunlight, little ink impressions of the soles of their feet, their hands, their mother radiant on her wedding day, all tulle and lace and vibrancy. Hank Summers looked pale beside her.
Finished with his scavenging, Spike took a last look around the remains of the house before turning his back on it for good, leaving through a hole in what had been Buffy’s bedroom wall. He stuffed everything he couldn’t fit in his knapsack inside an old backpack of Dawn’s, slinging it over his shoulder. The beams groaned under his weight, and he wouldn’t have given great odds to their survival for much longer. Either this place would flood in a monsoon, or everything left behind would slowly be covered in shifting sand and dust.
Emerging onto a broken Revello Drive, a quick glance at the sky told Spike that he only had a few hours left before morning arrived. He trekked quickly over the landscape, wanting nothing more than to leave and never return.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/420319.html