Title: Paper Legacy

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: K+

Category: B:tVS, Pride and Prejudice

Summary: 500 words. Dawn remembers another William and allows herself to grieve.

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.

Spoilers: Buffy post-"Chosen"; Pride and Prejudice (1813)

Feedback: It's the coin of the realm.

Notes: Tenth entry for the August Fic-A-Day challenge. I can't believe I actually managed to work this cross in! grin

Dawn had still been a little girl of not quite eight when her mother first took her aside and showed her the chest of letters. At least, that's the way she remembered it; she supposed that in the original timeline they'd either just stayed in a cupboard collecting dust, or else for lack of a more thoughtful daughter Joyce had shown them to Buffy instead.

Dawn didn't think Buffy would have appreciated them, though. At least not the way Dawn did. They were written in an archaic kind of English, for one thing, on yellowed, aging paper written in a very close hand; it took some doing to decipher them. And the subject matter! Before Angel, Buffy would have rolled her eyes at the melodramatic romance, and afterward she would have avoided it like the plague.

"Be not alarmed, madam," the one at the top of the box began, "on receiving this letter by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments, or renewal of those offers, which were last night so disgusting to you." A lot of words just to say, "Don't worry, I'm not about to hit on you again," but the style! If she closed her eyes, she could almost picture Spike as William saying the words aloud, his hair curly and brown like the roots he'd sometimes left too long between dye jobs and his face all solemn and serious the way he'd often been that summer without Buffy.

The letter continued in that vein, solemnly apologizing and explaining to the unnamed 'madam' the details of "every event in which we have been concerned together". The wounded pride of the man who'd written it fairly leapt off the page-- a trait that certainly hadn't been diluted much in the current generation of his descendants. And why should it have been? From the details of some of the later letters, it was clear that his 'madam'-- also known as Elizabeth, or Lizzy-- was just as attitudinal as he was, in her own way.

Between the pair of them and their several sisters and friends, the rest of the letters in the chest detailed a years-long soap opera worthy of anything daytime TV had ever produced and twice as entertaining. When her parents' marriage had started falling apart, when Buffy had run away, when her mother had died, when Buffy had jumped-- whenever Dawn had felt lost and alone, she had found comfort within their pages.

It was a good thing she'd remembered to pack them before their flight from the collapsing Hellmouth, because she needed the comfort of the ritual again now. She'd never quite managed to square what Spike had almost done to Buffy with his kindness to her, the help he'd given the Scoobies over the years, and the business with the soul, and now she never would.

"I miss you, Spike," she whispered, wiping a tear from her eye, then lost herself again in the adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy.