Author:  Meltha

Rating:  PG

Feedback:  Yes, thank you.

Spoilers:  Through season 6's "Entropy"

Distribution:, the Bunny Warren, the 500 Club.  If you're interested, please let me know.

Summary:  When Xander is least expecting it, he is reminded of what was and what might have been. 

Author's Note:  Response to a challenge in a can:  Xander, bittersweet, jewelry  From the title to the end, the fic is exactly 500 words long.

Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy.  Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you.  Thank you.

Sudden Reminder

It wasn't a poetic moment.  There was no melodramatically swelling music, no subtle yet meaningful shift in lighting.  Instead, it happened so mundanely that he could have missed it entirely.

Garbage day was tomorrow.  Come six in the morning, the Sunnydale Sanitation Department would clatter down the street, waking everyone from a sleep of blissful ignorance, and come hell or high-water, quite literally, if the bags weren't at the curb on time, Xander Harris's kitchen would smell nauseatingly like leftover Chinese food for another week.

That was why he was fishing through the junk drawer near midnight, searching vainly for the garbage bag ties.  Instead of the white, plastic-coated wires, his fingers closed on something metallic and undeniably real simply because of the randomness of his accidental contact.

For a long moment, he left his hand in the drawer, his gaze straight ahead.  Unbidden, the tips of his fingers traced the circular shape, felt its smooth, perfect finish, sought out the sharpness of the small bump it bore.  He knew it by memory.  He'd played with it long enough the night he'd given it to her, jangling the box in his pocket until the top had popped open and what it contained fell out to be surreptitiously burnished between his thumb and index finger, weighing possible futures with the touch, wondering if he dared…

If things had gone according to plan, they would have been approaching the half-year mark of their wedded lives.  What that would have been like he didn't know.  He knew he probably wouldn't be ordering from Ming's Pagoda five times a week.  He knew he wouldn't be having breakfast in silence every morning, drowning out the uncomfortable quiet with a radio station always tuned to country music.  He knew the bed wouldn't be a place he avoided until he was so tired he hoped his eyes would close in sleep once his head touched the pillowcase. Not that they did.  But would he have been happier?  Would she?

He would never know.  He was left with moments that haunted him:  her eyes when she'd said yes, the way she stretched her neck in the morning like a contented cat, how she would clap her hands and smile sun-bright when he did something that made her feel loved.  Moments… and the thing in his hand.

He returned to himself abruptly.  The world had in spite of the odds, gone marching on since the day he'd thrown the object into the drawer with, as he'd put it, "the rest of the junk" after that night at the Magic Box.  Anger flared in him as he remembered what he had seen, and for an instant, he nearly pitched it into the bag with the rest of the scraps of his life.  But the pain around his heart wasn't only rage.  Never taking it out of the drawer, he released it, found the ties, and slid the collection of bits and pieces closed with a strangely reverent hand.