It was while biting into your tenth raspberry crème covered with bittersweet chocolate from the big box of French choccies you'd nicked from Peaches' desk that you remembered the time someone wouldn't stop knocking on your lair's door back in SunnyD; when was it?

Five years ago?


Anyway, it was after you moved out of Xander's disgustin' basement flat because you couldn't stand Xander, Xander's soddin' family, and well, Xander, any more.

Thouroughly brassed-off, you'd pulled the coffin liner that you'd been using as a duvet up over your head to drown out the freeform drum solo being played on your front door; figuring that whoever it was, if they hadn't broken the door down by now they'd soon get bored and bloody well go away.

They didn't.

Your teeth slice unheeded through the next five candies in neat, practiced motions as in your memory you rolled off of the sarcophagus and made your way to the door of your crypt, nearly wiping out on an empty beer bottle before flinging open the door to the late-afternoon sun.

There was nobody there.

"Bloody hell!" You'd snarled and got ready to slam the door shut.

"Down here, doo-doo head." A little voice said flatly. Half-blinded by the sun that was making you smell like frying bacon, you'd looked down and glared at the Slayer's snotty kid sister, Dawnie, who glared back up at you while clutching a squashed heart-shaped box of chocolates. She was wearing eyeliner, which had smudged, making her look like a raccoon.

You pause - more chocolates follow the last five: tropical spice and white chocolate; the taste filling your death-numbed mouth with a wave of pleasure usually reserved for a Bloomin' Onion. Distracted from Dawn and her battered heart, you pause and look at the box that sits beside you on the couch, really looking at it this time as something besides an easy way to annoy Peaches.

"Bugger me sideways –Neanderthal brow's still got some style left, even if his new bird shaves more than he does!"

With a little more enthusiasm, you begin rooting around the big mahogany box with a lithograph of Paris, France on the lid and a written apology to Nina from Peaches for missing Valentine's Day inside it in search of another thrill, this time a Grand Marnier truffle with hazelnuts. You hold it up, admiring it greedily in the dim grey light of the flickering telly before tossing it into the air and catching it in your teeth with an audible "click" as your mind wanders back towards long-gone Sunnydale and a little girl wearing what was obviously her big sister's makeup.

"Great," You remember thinking as you squinted against the brilliant late-afternoon sunlight that Dawn was bathed in, "Slayer's snot-nosed sis bangs on me door and calls me, William the Bloody, a doo-doo head. Who's next? Anya with a soddin' cyanide bundt cake? 'Welcome to the neighborhood!' Buffy's mum, wantin' to borrow a cuppa? Xander, with a stake? Buffy… hang on, nobody's looking …erk!"

The chip in your head gave you a warning jolt before you could grab Dawn and yank her inside for a quick, badly-needed meal, sending you reeling.

Dawn stared at you, eyeliner dribbling down her cheeks like black tears as you braced yourself with both hands against the warm, gritty stone of your doorway, trying not to yell, blood from where you'd just bit through your tongue filling your mouth.

You stare blindly at the flickering screen where a cartoon coyote chases a cartoon roadrunner through a cartoon desert as one hand fishes out a butter caramel dipped in milk chocolate while the memory of Dawnie and her own box of choccies continues to play…

After swallowing a mouthful of your own blood, you'd loomed over Dawnie, snarling, "Slayer know you're here?"

Dawn scowled up at you, eyes wet, face blotchy through her mismatched foundation and blush, and mumbled, "Why would she care?" while shoving the battered cardboard heart at you before kicking you in the shins with her little purple sandals and running away through the sun-dappled headstones bawling, leaving you standing in the shadows of your doorway, with smarting shins, a miserable tongue, and a box of cheap choccies in you hands.

"Bloody hell, that was weird!" You'd slammed the door shut and leaned against it, head buzzing and sunspots dancing before your eyes.

After a while, the buzz faded, taking the sunspots with it. You'd lit a fag one-handedly, still holding the cheap little Valentine's Day novelty that Buffy's brat kid sister'd shoved at you.

Valentine's day…


Remembering the last Valentine's you'd spent with Drusilla, you spit out the peanut that decorated the top of the caramel. It sails through the air, bounces off the telly screen and falls to the floor, to be lost among the empty blood bags, used surgical dressings, and the remains of the Playstation you'd destroyed earlier because that damn Bandicoot, Crash Whatshisface, wouldn't do what you wanted him to. Valentine's day had led to well… you with a plastic whatsit in your head and living off the Slayer's charity, only later on to be stuck in this cesspit of a city with nothing to do but hang around playing Crash Bandicoot and waiting for your next bloodbag on Peaches' whim while the feeling slowly crept back into your once severed hands…

You'd opened the cheap cardboard heart; hell, cheap or not, they'd take the edge off.

As you scarfed down the scanty handful of stale chocolates, even the coconut ones, you noticed that something had been written on the lid with a pink glitter pen in elaborate, swirly letters, "To: Brad Simmons, From: Dawnie Summers, luv 4-evah!"

Only "Brad Simmons" had been violently scratched out and replaced with "Xan…" which was overwritten with "Occupant" in plain black Sharpie.

Indifferent to Dawn's little schoolgirl tragedy, you'd finished off the hardened caramels and gummy cherries and tossed the empty box to one side before climbing back onto your sarcophagus and going back to sleep.

Nauseated from having eaten five pounds of expensive French chocolates in one go, you sit on your nondescript rented couch in your nondescript rented flat, head back, staring up at your nondescript rented water stained ceiling.

Dawnie was a lie.

So was was Dawnie's box of substandard chocolates with Brad Simmons' and then Xander's name scribbled out on it.

"Occupant" was also a lie, a great big fat soddin' lie.

(So why do you feel so goddamned bloody homesick right now?)