Feedback: Yes, thank you. Melpomenethalia@aol.com
Spoilers: Hmm. I suppose, very, very vaguely for season 4.
Distribution: Fanfiction.net, the Bunny Warren, and the 500 Club. If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: Eighth in the Jewel Box series, a set of 500 word fictions that grew out of an idea from the 500 Club and Challenge in a can. This time it's Riley, jewelry, and nostalgic.
Author's Note: This isn't anti-Riley, so fair warning.
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.
Dedication: This one? Has to be dedicated to Bing.
Sunnydale was light-years away from the Iowa town where Riley had spent his life until he went to college. That tiny dot on the map, if maps bothered to record it, had been his universe. It seemed nothing there could prepare him for a place with so many unknown terrors, but it did.
His earliest memories are of watching the sunrise over the tilled earth of his grandmother's farm. The meadowlarks would sing so loudly that no one could possibly sleep, not that he wanted to. He would stand at the worn screen in the bedroom that was his for the summer and smell the lilacs growing beside the front door. As he clambered down the stairs of the century-old house, the sounds and smells of Nana making blueberry pancakes would set his stomach growling hungrily. He knows these Norman Rockwell-like scenes are idealized. They couldn't be as good as he remembers, but that doesn't matter. For him, the paradise of the farmhouse is reality.
Nana had always been his favorite girl. She was a gentle soul with a dose of sass that made him love being around her. She taught him about determination, and when, during his freshman year at UC Sunnydale, Prof. Walsh had picked him as an Initiative candidate, his grandmother was whom he most wished he could confide in. Everything he'd ever thought was true suddenly was false, and unimaginable cruelty confronted him daily. When things became too much, he'd telephone her, listening to her homey talk of crops she was planning to plant in spring or the quilt she was sewing for the State Fair. Occasionally, care packages of corn muffins would show up in his mailbox, and the knowledge that sanity still existed somewhere made him feel the fight he was in was valuable.
October of his sophomore year brought the phone call that hit him like a sledgehammer. She was gone. Her heart had stopped beating in her sleep. The funeral was more like a horrible waking dream than reality. When all the relatives had gone through her belongings to choose remembrances, he had known exactly what he wanted. He went up to her bedroom, which smelled of talcum powder and roses, opened her jewelry box, and took out the cameo she had always worn on her Sunday dress. It was a delicate violet color with a carved spray of white lilac blossoms.
Forrest, who had been his roommate, found it a few months later stashed in Riley's nightstand drawer. The jokes had flown fast and furious from Forrest and Graham both since he wouldn't say why he kept the obviously feminine pin in his drawer, and the incident led to his code name: Agent Lilac. Although it caused an endless litany of punch lines, he didn't mind. In the midst of the worst missions, when he heard that name, he was transported for a moment back to the farm, and the memory of his grandmother's smile made the monsters disappear.