|All the Things That Are Lost
Author: Lady Kate PM
Post-NFA. When Buffy discovers that Spike survived the destruction of Sunnydale, she heads to L.A. looking for answers, but her search will take her to a strange place that is more than a world away.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Buffy S. & Spike - Chapters: 11 - Words: 52,861 - Reviews: 75 - Favs: 26 - Follows: 58 - Updated: 04-10-08 - Published: 12-17-06 - id: 3293847
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: The characters of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The original characters are my fault. :-) No copyright infringement intended, and as this is posted for free, and read for free, nobody is losing any money. Suing me won't make you any money either (haha! see my puny bank account!), so let's just not.
All the Things That Are Lost
Death was the gate
And the long way was sorrow
Love is the end.
- from "Resurgam" by Marjorie L. C. Pickthall
Chapter 1 : Reveille
Morning. Sunlight. Just her and the mirror, trying to sort out her hair before she went out to face the day. Shouldn't be this difficult, should it?
Mimicking an upsweep as she twisted her hair back behind her, Buffy paused to consider the style. Not so bad, she thought. But, eyeing the stray bits of hair she'd missed, and the increasing number of strands that were already working their way loose, she realized it might require more hand-eye coordination than she felt like mustering. It was too bad that her slayerly talents didn't automatically extend into other areas – like hair-styling. Would have come in handy.
Oh well, a ponytail would do. Wasn't like she had anywhere she had to be today.
The summer sun and heat had given her a strong case of not-going-to-work-itis. Normal people got to take vacations – so why not her? Of course, when she'd expressed that opinion, Dawn had pointed out that she didn't exactly work 40 hours a week, and that's why not her, but Buffy had decided to ignore that argument. After all, it wasn't like there was a shortage of slayers anymore. So she'd cancelled her few slayer-training sessions for the week, and had spent all of yesterday lounging about doing nothing, and passed the evening in dining and dancing. The agenda for today: sleep in late to recuperate (check!), get prettied up (in progress), and then maybe take Dawn and do some shopping? New shoes would be nice.
Buffy peered critically at her face. Lip gloss, she decided, rummaging through her cosmetics. Could definitely use some lip gloss.
For a moment, though, in the mirror, she caught her own eyes and paused. Sometimes… sometimes her eyes looked so old. Today, she decided, maybe they weren't so bad. The dark circles that she'd almost become accustomed to had faded over the last few months. And she'd actually gained back a little weight since settling in Rome – it was all the pasta, Dawn insisted, and was probably right – but it looked better on her than she would have expected. The hard edges of her face had eased, the sharp angles of her figure had softened ever so slightly.
People told her she'd never looked better. That she looked healthy now, that she looked happy now. They told her that they were happy for her.
She wished that she could be happy for herself.
She tried. She made a good imitation of it. Italy was beautiful, and Rome was wondrous. Light and sunshine and fountains and history and life. The city had captivated her on the first day she'd set foot within it, and the decision to stay had been an especially easy one. Once she'd found an apartment, she'd sent for Dawn, who had seemed to appreciate the change of scenery as much as Buffy had. She'd met the Immortal, who'd charmed her, chased her, made her feel young and attractive and special.
So she'd kissed him, and laughed, and worn the pretty clothing he bought for her. Suddenly kicking her heels up in stylish and not-at-all-affordable boots. It was a pleasant change. Did that make her shallow? Maybe it did. The kisses were given easily – the weight of his arm on her shoulders or about her waist was not burdensome. After all, there was no feeling beneath it. She smiled the flirtatious, charming smile of her youth, but her heart was empty. She wondered if he knew it – but then, she half-suspected he himself was empty on the inside. Maybe that was the attraction.
Or maybe she'd just been trying to prove something to herself. That life went on. She went on. And it hadn't been as difficult as she thought it would be.
Once upon a time, it would have been. Her heart had been broken before – it had fallen to pieces in a messy, tragic, melodramatic breakdown that no one could mistake. Now, though, the process was quieter, more subtle, veiled behind a stone facade. Everyone told her lies, they said she wasn't growing harder and colder, that she hadn't changed, but she knew the truth, even if no one would speak it to her – now, she knew that she was broken, but it wasn't the same kind of pain. Like spiderweb cracks reaching out all over a marble statue, but still it stood upright, held in place by its own weightiness. Broken in too many places to count, broken in too many places to hurt.
She'd changed. Not the kind of change that spurred growth, but a withering. In her inner self, she knew it.
But the past couldn't be changed, and the present was just the way things were. And her unquestioning acceptance of it was a resignation borne of too much bitterness and too few tears.
"Buffy?" A rapping on the door, and Dawn's voice calling out broke her introspection. "Are you still in there, or did you crawl out the window?"
"Out the window, of course," Buffy replied, a half-smile quirking at her lips in response, and she swiftly began to tidy up her cosmetics. "Only way to sneak past my nosy kid sister."
A snort. "I'm so not a 'kid sister' anymore," Dawn retorted. "I'm now officially 'a beautiful woman'."
"How do you figure?"
"Marco told me so yesterday."
"Hmph." Buffy really didn't understand the fuss Dawn made over Marco – the boy was dark-eyed and dreamy, absolutely; but on the downside, if he were any more 'personality-challenged', he'd be entitled to a handicapped parking spot. However, Buffy suspected the less said on the topic, the better. Last thing she needed was to unintentionally encourage Dawn to throw herself into a 'no one understands my misunderstood love' phase.
All the same, would it be so wrong to call up Willow and see if she had any objections to zapping him with some instant-acne spell? Just an eensy little true-love test – what could possibly be unethical about that? Then again – Willow and any kind of skin-spells – given her history, probably not a good mix.
"Buffy? Are you still alive in there?"
"Far as I can tell," Buffy replied. "I can still see my reflection, anyway."
"Always a good sign," Dawn laughed. "So, anyhow, not to interrupt your little 'Vanity Fair' routine, but we're out of bread, and… well, pretty much anything we'd need to make a sandwich or a salad. I'm just heading out to the market – do you want me to get anything special while I'm there?"
"No, that sounds fine. My purse is on the counter if you need some money—"
"Yep, figured that out already. I won't be gone long. But I'm warning you now – I want to be able to use the bathroom when I get back. Deal?"
"Okay, then. Ciao for now!"
Buffy opened the door to find Andrew standing there with an overstuffed overnight bag in hand, hastily plastering an expectant smile on his face. "Buffy!" he greeted enthusiastically, reaching out toward her.
Buffy put out a hand, effectively warding off the imminent hug and pushed the door all the way open at the same time. "Yes, Andrew, you can stay for a few days."
"Oh. Oh! Buffy, you're a lifesaver," Andrew effused. "A real peach – an Italian peach! Would that be a pomegranate? I'm not sure; I'll find out. Anyway, I really really appreciate this. I know I said I wouldn't be back so soon, and I didn't mean to, but, as it happens, there was this situation that came up, and… well, you know how it is—"
"Yes, absolutely I do."
With Andrew, there was often a "situation" or a "crisis" or an "unavoidable incident". Idly, she had wondered if it were bill collectors, or simply problems with his social life, but it didn't matter. If he didn't stay overlong, she did not mind the imposition.
"So…" Dawn wouldn't be back for a while yet; that left Buffy with the task of coming up with a shared topic of conversation. A sudden inspiration struck. "How's the Watcher's Council these days, Andrew?"
"Busy," he huffed dramatically, plopping down on the couch in an exaggerated swoon. "So very, very busy. I have to admit, I never realized that being a 'Watcher' would mean so much activity. Somehow, I thought there would be more… you know, sitting and 'watching'. Not that I'm complaining. Not at all. I've learned a lot. And I'm living my dream – that is to say, the non-evil version of my dream," he clarified hastily, as if there were some doubt. "But the last few months, it's just been nonstop, back and forth, here and there; and I'm sure I don't have to tell you how that whole business with WRH was keeping us busy…"
He blathered on, but Buffy was still stuck on the W-R-H. What the heck was WRH? Her mind blanked. Western Retail Holdings? Wiccan Research Handbook? We're Really Hungry? "Back up for a minute," she interrupted, "to the part where you remind me what 'WRH' is?"
"Wolfram and Hart," he said, raising his voice and drawing the words out slowly as if she were simply hard of hearing. "You know, the evil lawyer firm in LA."
Buffy winced. "Oh yes." The evil lawyer firm that Angel headed up.
She hadn't wanted to believe it, at first, when Giles came with the news that Angel had switched sides. It had been only a few days after Sunnydale… surely, if something had been wrong with Angel, she would have sensed it when he came with the amulet. She would have known… wouldn't she? But Giles must have known she wouldn't take him at his word, and he'd come armed with more than enough evidence to back up his claims. For a while, she'd still persisted in thinking that it could be some kind of misunderstanding, or mistake, or even that Angel might have – once again – lost his grip on his wobbly soul.
Not the case. Eventually, even she had to admit it.
And that had set her to wondering about other things. The amulet that Angel had so conveniently provided at the eleventh hour. The amulet that had seized and burned, and set off the cataclysmic reaction that sealed the hellmouth and destroyed… everything…
But he couldn't have known… He wouldn't have… would he…?
The terrible thing was, she didn't know. Not for sure. And it had all been too much for her, too soon, and she couldn't bear to think about it. Some part of her had snapped: no more slayage, no more vampires, no more demons. 'Just deal with it, Giles, because I'm done with it. I don't know anything anymore. I don't want to know. Do what you want, but I'm done. I'm done.'
And it had all been so much easier once she'd pushed it out of her mind as a painful non-issue. Giles had agreed to handle it; she'd turned her attention to other matters; and neither one of them had brought it up again.
"How could I forget that?" she murmured distantly in response to Andrew's reply. "What about them?"
"I acronymed them…" Andrew explained proudly.
"And I'll bet they're still reeling from that," Buffy said under her breath.
Andrew continued, either not having heard her, or exercising his selective hearing once again: "…and the company has been officially indexed in the New Watcher's Guide as WRH. I might add that Giles admired it as a very efficient abbreviation. And, from a security standpoint, it also adds a level of complexity to our communications – you know, in case of any undercover double-oh-seven's trying to decode us – and when you think about the…"
Buffy considered pointing out that this was a very long-winded speech on brevity, but it was easier just to let him go on – eventually he'd wind down on his own. Adding an absent-minded "uh-hmm," and "oh really" at the appropriate intervals, Buffy wandered around the kitchen, wondering if she had enough fruit on hand to make a proper smoothie.
"…and after all that – I mean, it seems anti-climactic to me, in a way. Coming back like that, like literally from ashes, you know, and then dying again – I don't know, it doesn't really make sense…"
It sure didn't. "Uh-hmm," Buffy responded inattentively, selecting an assortment of fruit to put into the blender. A bit of lunch, and then out for a jog – sounded like a plan. She wasn't going to spend her day off with Andrew.
"But you know," Andrew continued speculatively, "I think there's more to it. I mean, we're talking about some pretty heavy-duty magical forces. Not that I'm saying it's a conspiracy or anything, but maybe it was like he sort of had to… become one with the Force, as it were. Like Obi-Wan."
Oh no – not Star Wars again. With a pained smile, Buffy gave Andrew another non-committal "uh-hmm," just because he was looking at her in anticipation, as if eager to see her response. Trying hard to look busy, she turned away to start stuffing the blender with fruit and fervently hoped that Dawn would return soon so that Andrew would have another target for his prattling.
"You see, I knew you'd understand!" Andrew exclaimed, obviously mistaking her disinterest for agreement. "You've already worked all the angles, haven't you, figured it all out, and that's why you've got that – that zen-Slayer-calm thing going on, isn't it?" He let out a happy sigh. "I knew it. Wow. Buffy, you're just… inspirational."
"Umm… thanks," she decided, hoping that would bring an end to the conversation.
No such luck.
"They should make posters with your face on it. 'I Want YOU to Fight Evil'," he uttered, his hands framing the words around an imaginary advertisement. "Or maybe something a little more subtle… like 'What Would Buffy Do?'."
Bop Andrew on the head? The thought brought a smile to her face, which she quickly squelched. No. Buffy would never, ever do that. Bad Buffy.
"Oh yeah. That'd be great," he muttered to himself, his momentum starting to fizzle without any other input. However, after an all-too-brief lull in conversation, Andrew began to fidget expectantly. "The thing is," he ventured, "well… I was kind of hoping that you could, you know, share a few of the details with me. Of what happened. It would be…" His voice dropped drastically as he mouthed, " 'our little secret' ," before resuming with his normal speaking voice. "Whatever you feel comfortable sharing, of course. Completely clandestine. Watcher-Slayer confidentiality. I'd never, ever let on that I knew."
Buffy wasn't certain it was safe to let on that she didn't know what he was talking about.
"After all," he continued, his voice taking on a faintly wheedling tone, "he was my friend and compatriot, too. We had a connection, you know; a special kinship; a mano-et-vampiro kind of thing. And I think… we were starting to develop this real rapport with each other – sometimes," he sighed wistfully, "I almost wonder where it might have led—"
"Andrew," she said, interrupting as it became plain that his freeform flow of speech was just not going to taper off without some kind of intervention on her part, "you're not making sense."
Andrew fell briefly silent. He was looking at her with that puzzled puppy dog look he had. "Um, well, what's not to understand?"
"Be blunt with me, Andrew," she said. "Who are you talking about?"
"Well, Spike, of course."
The word was like a blow to her stomach. She drew in her breath, held it for a moment. Spike. Sunnydale. Hellmouth. The life she'd left behind, and her last sight of him, glowing with a doomed blaze of life and sunlight. His touch had scalded her, scarred her. Glancing down at her fingertips, she unclenched her fist, and once again turned her attention back to the mixer. It whirred noisily for a few moments, and she poured the smoothie into a glass, then turned back towards Andrew.
"What about Spike?" Her voice was close to normal – no one would notice the tiny cracks. No one ever did.
"But… haven't you been listening to a word I've said?"
"Yes, actually, I have," she replied patiently, pausing to take a quick gulp of her smoothie. Pleasantly fruity. And chock full of energy to boot. And people said she couldn't cook. Hmph. "But I'm obviously missing something in the translation, because it's not making a lot of sense to me, and I don't think I once heard you say the word 'Spike'. Until now."
He looked mildly perturbed. "Well, of course I didn't blurt it out, Buffy. As a junior watcher, Giles has impressed upon me the utmost importance of discretion, and in delicate matters such as these… Well, I'm sure I don't have to tell you that a single misspoken word can mean the difference between life and death. But there was subtext there – you got that there was subtext, didn't you?"
"Oh yes. Subtext galore. Yep, I knew that." Sometimes, there was no point in arguing with Andrew. It could be a long and circuitous process, and she wasn't in the mood for it today. She tossed down the last of her smoothie, and glanced at the expensive watch on her wrist. "But you know, I'm running a bit late, here – I have a meeting with a…" she cast about in her mind for a suitably urgent sounding appointment, but could only come up with "…um, hairdresser… so if you could just give me the short version—"
"Oh, all right, then." A heavy, put-upon sigh, but he complied happily enough. "It's just that we've been trying to work out all the details of what happened after that…" Unable to completely resist theatrics, he paused, his eyes flickering to the left and the right as if he expected that the walls literally had ears, and lowering his voice, concluded, "after that thing that went down in LA."
Though it was hardly what she'd term 'blunt', Buffy knew what he was referring to. It had made the international news: images of destruction, looting and chaos, and people babbling about apocalyptic visions of monsters and dragons, of a new war being waged between the angels and the devils.
The official explanation had been that it was some kind of explosion. Wolfram and Hart's LA offices were all but destroyed – no great loss there – and the ensuing gas leak had caused mass hallucinations and destruction. Later reports had blamed it on a lethal combination of office renovations and shoddy contractors. And everyone was comforted to think so, and they went about the business of cleaning up the damage, sweeping it back underneath the metaphorical carpet. She'd seen that kind of denial hundreds of times while living on the hellmouth – it no longer surprised her any more.
"Yeah, I saw the reports, and Giles filled me in on the rest," she replied brusquely. "What's any of that got to do with Spike?"
The look he gave her was exceptionally peculiar. "Buffy… I thought… I mean, don't you know?"
"Andrew," she replied, the veneer of patience wearing quite thin, "if I knew, would I be asking? What – are – you – talking – about?"
"Spike was there."
Succinct, and yet still it made no sense. "Where?"
"In LA. With Angel. When it all went down, he was there… with Angel."
An iron-cold chill wrenched through her, straightening her spine, and hardening her voice. "Spike is dead."
"We don't know that for sure," Andrew countered hurriedly, a worried look in his eye. "That's what I was trying to explain. Giles now thinks there may have been some sort of portal – after all, a battle like that, they couldn't all have disappeared overnight. Okay, yes, it could have been the mystical equivalent of a hydrogen bomb like we first thought – and everyone could have just been vaporized – but then we started thinking… probably the only ones with enough juice to pull that off would be the senior partners at WRH – Wolfram and Hart," he translated helpfully. "And that would be serious overkill. I mean, they'd end up wiping out their own forces as well, so it does make more sense that they'd just take the battle elsewhere. And Giles said that Willow felt some mystical energy still hanging over the city—"
LA. He was still talking about LA.
"Spike died in Sunnydale," she interrupted loudly, trying to snap Andrew back to reality, and her voice was straining. "I saw him…" Didn't see him die. Didn't stay to watch, but turned and ran away as the cavern began to fall to pieces. "…I saw him trapped there. He was burning. And he died."
"Maybe." His voice was very tiny, and his face was pale. She hadn't seen him so frightened since that last day in Sunnydale, and he was staring at her now as if he'd only just realized something. "I mean, yes, I thought so too… at first. But – but, Buffy… I thought you knew…"
"He's alive. Undead-alive, I mean. Or, at least, he was. With Angel, in LA."
"I saw him, Buffy. I was there. When you and Giles sent me to collect Dana. Spike was there."
A sick feeling began to churn in the pit of her stomach. The mad girl's wild, violent ravings – of how she had captured a vampire, a slayer of Slayers, and how she had cut and chopped, but the Dark Angel intervened, the Dark Angel cast her away…
"That can't be."
"I… I'm really sorry. I thought you knew."
"What? That Spike was alive?! Do I look like I knew?" she replied, her voice far too close to a shriek for her own liking. She turned her back on him, turned away, because she couldn't bear to have him staring at her so, and her heart was racing, her mind was racing, both trying to find the same answer… "It must have been a trick," she said, desperate. "You went to LA, and Angel…" Her voice choked on the words, but she spit them out, because she knew they were true. "Angel can't be trusted any more. He knew what you wanted to see, and it was… some kind of trick. You know that. That law firm he works for now, Giles said they had company shamans – they could make illusions. Glamours. That kind of thing. It wasn't Spike. Couldn't have been."
"I…" Andrew closed his mouth. Swallowed hard. "I can tell the difference. And besides… he was here a few weeks ago."
And because that statement was so patently ridiculous, the wildfire panic within her diminished a little, started to calm. Obviously, Andrew was hallucinating, or confused. He'd never had the strongest personality in the first place – maybe the stress was getting to him. "Who? Spike, or Angel?"
Her stomach did another flip-flop as she unexpectedly remembered that sly comment from the bartender at one of the nightclubs: "Did your two handsome friends find you? So many men to fight over one small girl – you're quite the heartbreaker, my dear…" And then that fluttering of half-mocking laughter as she'd turned away to deal with another customer. Before she could ask for an explanation, the Immortal had appeared at her elbow, drawing her back to the whirl of dancing and laughter, and she had forgotten all about the cryptic remark.
"Spike was …here?" Her voice sounded thin and tinny to her own ears. "In Rome?"
"Yes," Andrew replied, from a thousand miles away. "That's what I've been trying to tell you. I think it might have been some kind of business trip, actually. They had a suitcase, anyway. But Spike and Angel were running back and forth all over town. Very odd behaviour… even for them. They even came here; they thought the Immortal had put a spell on you. I set them straight, and then they—"
"They knew about the Immortal? That I've been…?" Her breath caught in her throat, and she sat down heavily. Something twisted within her.
"Buffy, are you all right?"
"Get out, Andrew."
A brief hesitation, and then distantly, she could see Andrew nodding. "Um… okay, yes. I'll just step outside for a while. You need some time. I understand. We'll talk later, okay? When you're ready. Okay." And the door clicked quietly behind him, and his footsteps sounded down the hallway and faded into silence.
Her heart pounded. She felt faint… constricted. For some time, Buffy sat entirely unmoving, so many contradictory feelings blurring in such a torrent that she couldn't make sense of any of them.
And then her eyes settled on the phone.
No, not Giles. Couldn't call Giles. If any of what Andrew said was true, then Giles had known and hadn't told her. And, at the moment, she couldn't deal with the thought of having that conversation with Giles – that painfully familiar conversation – not when she knew just how that hurt and disappointment would break down into something ugly.
Willow, she realized, latching onto that thought. Willow was the one other person she knew who could tell her anything about magic, or portals, or whether or not any of what Andrew was saying was true.
Buffy picked up the phone.