Author:  Meltha

Rating:  PG

Feedback:  Yes, thank you. Melpomenethalia@aol.com

Spoilers:  Through the entire Buffy series.

Summary:  Buffy reflects on the many different ways her life has been pierced.

Author's Note:  Twenty-second in the Jewel Box series, a collection of 500 word fics (in response to The 500 Club) and an idea taken from Challenge in a Can.  In this case, it's Buffy, resigned, jewelry. 

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.

Unmatched

Her ears are pierced five times.  Buffy remembers her mother rolling her eyes when she came back from the mall on her sixteenth birthday.

"But you're always going to have one left-over earring!"

Now she sits before a mirror far from where she spent her childhood, and she rummages through a drawer, trying to find something to fill the empty places.

She remembers Angel, her first love.  She adored him with a fervor that held life and death in the balance, maybe because she believed she'd never live to graduate high school.  When he left, with him went her fantasy world: the two of them married, a pair of strange creatures who would no longer be alone, and living happily ever after. 

Parker was next.  She had wanted the pain in her heart to stop, and she had thought if she jumped into a new love affair, that's what it would turn out to be:  love.  She made the mistake of assuming they were both making love when he was only having sex.  She was nothing but a notch, and she thought no one human would ever see anything in her.

Then came Riley.  He was the boy-next-door, all picket fences and homespun earnestness.  She'd never really dated Riley.  Instead, she threw herself into a relationship with normalcy.  He wanted everything from her when the truth was she loved only the shadow of him.  He betrayed her, and, when she'd run after him, he'd flown away and married in less than a year.  He was her last chance at a regular life, and she saw it blow away in the wind from the helicopter's blades.

Her fourth was Spike.  Her insides twist when she thinks of him, mostly because she doesn't know what to think.  Her only goal then had been self-destruction, and she'd used him instead of a gun to her head.  She knew he wouldn't leave, that he'd put up with anything, even if she chose to kill him.  Finally she was the one with the power to hurt, and she'd hurt him in every way she could devise.  She'll never know what would have happened if she hadn't used him as a vessel for her self-loathing.  Now he's dead, and she doesn't know exactly what it is she's lost.

Xander turned out to be number five. He's a good man, but she doesn't love him, not the way he says he loves her.  He's fond of tapping her nose while saying she could have saved herself and the world a lot of trouble if they had starting dating when they were sophomores.  Buffy knows they'll eventually marry.  The thought doesn't fill her with joy, only a strange, leaden feeling. 

Buffy's ears display two gold hoops, two crosses, and one tiny diamond.  She puts the remaining gem back in her vanity drawer.  She stares at it for a moment, sparkling pointlessly in its solitude, and she understands Joyce was right.  There will always be one left alone.