Author: Meltha

Rating: PG

Feedback: Yes, thank you.

Spoilers: Through "Tabula Rasa"

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

Summary: Kate experiences the guilt and grief of the death of her dreams.

Author's Note: The twenty-fifth 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 Kate, jewelry, and haunted.

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.

Jailed Inside

Kate had been drinking her way through a bottle of whiskey for the better part of two hours now, and her apartment getting blurry. She supposed that wasn't surprising. She hadn't turned on a light when she'd come home, and the room was lit only by the grainy picture on the television screen. Still, even in the faint, grayish light, the badge sitting on the coffee table stood out like a beacon, at least to her.

It wasn't her badge. That had been taken from her. No, this one had belonged to her father. It should have been turned in, but his sudden death had brought out a sympathetic streak in one of the bureau officers, and she'd been able to secure it as a memento.

The badge glinted at her. She wasn't sure whether she wanted to will it into focus or not. But whether or not her eyes could see it, it was etched on her mind's eye. It wasn't a comforting sight. The badge was accusing her, screaming at her, telling her what a disappointment she was, that she hadn't managed to save her own father, that she'd befriended one of those things that murdered him, that she'd been kicked off the Force for her stupidity, her recklessness, her idiocy.

And it said it in her father's voice.

Deciding it was pointless to pretend she wasn't haunted by it, at least not while she was alone, and she was always alone, Kate picked it up. The weight of it was surprising for something so relatively small.

"Weighs the whole damn world, doesn't it, Dad?" she said out loud. "That's what it is, isn't it? The world sitting right here, or at least the responsibility to protect everyone in it."

She'd been a good cop, and she knew it on some level deep underneath the booze and the pain. She knew that she wasn't responsible for her father's death, and she even knew Angel wasn't. But she didn't care. She wanted, needed, had to blame someone or she would go insane, if sitting in her apartment and talking to a dead man's police badge wasn't crazy already.

"It was the world to you, anyway," she said, "so I made it mine, too. I don't even know if I ever wanted to be a cop or if I just wanted to be part of your world. But now it's gone, and you're gone, and what's that leave me with?"

The badge shone back at her, unrelenting, and she closed a fist around it, feeling the metal branding its shape on her palm. A scream built in the pit of her stomach, and she raised her arm to hurl against the far wall the symbol of everything she'd ever lost, but she stopped her arm, and the sound died before it reached her lips. With an exhausted groan, she put the badge back on the table, then collapsed against the couch cushions, sleeping in a twisted, spine-defying position.