Notes: Post-Chosen.  Inspired by the cathartic potential of Andrew’s video camera—if it ever made it out of Sunnydale.  And so—angst.

Disclaimer: Not mine, all Joss.

Nothing Left Behind

I wish I could say I knew how it got into my backpack, but I can’t.  The only thing I can think of is that my bag must have been sitting next to his, and someone put it in the wrong one by mistake.

Easy enough to do—if there was one of us who wasn’t about ready to snap with nerves that morning, I’d like to know.

I know—who brings their bag to an apocalypse, especially one that might just be the Apocalypse? All I can say is that it was habit: lock the house, put the keys in the purse, head off to the waiting doom.  Can’t do that if there isn’t a purse to put them into.  Or, well, a backpack, in this case.

Of course, I never thought that there wouldn’t be a house to come home to.

I didn’t think to look into my bag for nearly two days afterwards.  At first I couldn’t even remember if I actually had it with me.  But then one of the girls handed it to me as she trooped off the bus in LA, so I shoved it into a corner of the hotel room and there it sat.

What finally made me think of it again was Dawn.  The fact that Sunnydale was gone had caught up with her at last, and she wanted to know if I had a picture of Mom.  Everything we ever owned was crumbled into that crater—every picture, every knick knack, every memento of our lives.  Just… gone

I told her I didn’t think so, and then held her while she cried a little.  Another piece of her childhood slipped away, and when she sat up again, her eyes were puffy, but her face was hard.

Lying awake that night, I suddenly remembered that I had a small picture of the three of us in my wallet.  When I reached into my bag, though, the first thing I touched was not the soft leather of my wallet, but something hard and plastic.  I pulled it out, turned it over in my hands for a moment in the darkness, then recognized it.

Andrew’s video camera.

I had been downright angered over his story-telling, but that was nothing compared to what I felt when I found the stupid thing in my backpack.  Everything that we had lost, everything… and this somehow survived?  I almost crushed it right there.

My fingers had started to crack the casing, and the snapping of plastic made me wonder for a second what I was doing.  It was a stupid thing, but it wasn’t mine.  I had made threats to smash it more than once, but I never had.  So little had made it with us out of Sunnydale, and if Andrew had wanted this stupid thing even above some of the things I knew he’d left behind, was it really my right to break it now?

Then I wondered what was on it, why he’d thought it important enough to save… even if he packed it in the wrong bag.

So I played it.

My throat closed up when I saw Xander and Anya on the couch.  They had no idea that Andrew was taping them, but their honest conversation touched a chord, and I almost forgave Andrew for being such a twit, because this was something that maybe would ease Xander’s pain…

The rest of the recording was hurried, unsteady footage of our trek to the high school for the Seal of Danthalzar, so I rewound it and let it play from the beginning.

Lots of the first part of it was just Andrew babbling on about vam-pyres and a whole lot of stuff that he didn’t understand.  I took a breath and fast-forwarded through that.  He couldn’t be keeping this stupid thing for that, could he?

Then.  Oh, God, then.

Him.  Down in the basement, bad as you please, mouthing off and flicking his cigarette at the camera.  I had to catch my breath.  Spike.

Andrew’s voice grated against my ear, and then he did the same speech again, without the cigarette flick this time.

Mugging.  He was mugging for the camera.  I laughed, a tiny little giggle at the absurdity of it, and thought, Oh, Spike, wait ‘till I tell you…

And the empty place inside of me, the hole that I had been ignoring for nearly two days, surged up, swallowing me, consuming me in grief.

Because Spike was gone.  Not gone for the day, not gone for a few months to find Drusilla or win his soul… he was gone.  Like Sunnydale, lost in a giant crater in the ground.  Never coming back again.

Gone.  And there wasn’t anything to show that he’d ever been. 

My fingers trembled as I tried to work the buttons, but I managed to rewind it a little bit, and then pause it, just before he flung the cigarette.  There.  That was him, wearing that look of menace, as much a part of the Big Bad persona as the leather coat.  Full of fire, full of life, full of everything that he wasn’t supposed to have because he was a vampire.

My finger stuttered on the buttons, and the scene started to play again, and I couldn’t press the pause again until I heard Andrew’s voice.   His open expression, that little hint of uncertainty, the willingness to do this silly little scenelet over… Oh, Spike…

God, how I cried.

***

It was very late when Dawn crept into my room.  She found me huddled in the corner, still crying, and immediately she rushed to my side, wanting to know if I was all right.

After a moment, she caught sight of the video camera, and she just gave me one of her looks, the one that asked are you out of your mind? Then I pushed the play button.  Her eyes filled with tears when she heard his voice.  I let it play—it was hardly a minute long—and paused it before Xander and Anya’s conversation could start.

Dawn buried her face against my shoulder, and I hugged her with one arm because I couldn’t bear to put the camera down.  It was a long while before either of us could speak.  We just held each other, trying to find some comfort.

“That’s… that’s all that’s left of him, isn’t it?” Her voice was thick from crying.

I ran my fingers through her hair, as I always did, and nodded.  “Unless some of Giles’ books survived, or files from the Council.”  For the first time, I thought I might look forward to some research.

She shook her head at that, but stayed curled up next to me.  “No.  Even if… even if there were some books… that wouldn’t be him.  It wouldn’t be our Spike.”

And she was right.  Those would be pictures of William the Bloody, of Spike, sure… but none of them would capture him as we knew him.

My heart ached to think of how much he’d changed.

“How’d you get to be so smart?” I asked, and I tried to smile even though my voice broke.

She didn’t answer me, just sniffled into my shoulder.  I closed my eyes and buried my face in her hair, and we sat like that for what seemed a long time.

“I had a picture of him.”

Even though she whispered, it still startled me, because I thought she’d fallen asleep.  “You… you do?”

She reached out to the little screen, but stopped short of touching it and shook her head.  “No.  I only had one.  I took it the summer… you know, while you were gone.  I… I ripped it up after Xander told me…”

Tears kept rolling down my face, and I felt like they would never stop.  “Oh, Dawnie…”

“I didn’t know…” Her voice was swallowed by sobs, interrupted by deep breaths so she could continue to cry.  “I didn’t know… and I was so angry and so confused… and then he was back, but with the crazy, and… and then so different from the Spike I knew… I didn’t know…”

I kissed her temple and rested my head against hers.  “You thought there would be an after, when you could make everything right.”

She nodded, still sniffling and trying to breathe.  “Yeah… ‘cause he never would go away before… even when everyone was so mean…”

I closed my eyes, thought back to the night after I found the scythe.  “I thought we’d have an after, too,” I whispered, and I couldn’t stop crying.

***

Dawn fell asleep in my lap.  I just kept letting her fine hair stream through my fingers, hoping it soothed her more than it did me, and tried to make my mind blank.  I failed miserably at it, of course.  He kept running through my mind, long after I turned off the camera.

The thoughts that kept cropping up—in between memories of him—all inevitably had to deal with what would happen now.  Where would we go? What would we do?

How could I make it without him, when I’d depended on him for so much for so long?

Enemy, reluctant ally, traitor, protector, confidant, lover, friend—he’d been all that, and probably more, because I so wasn’t any good with words.  There wasn’t one emotion Spike hadn’t made me feel, from hatred to admiration to annoyance to love, and usually following within moments of each other.

Even in his final moments, he’d done that.  Of course, I hadn’t given him the first reason to believe that what I said was anything more than a few meaningless words to ease a dying man… when they were anything but that.

My eyes ached, and it felt like they were filled with sandpaper.  I hadn’t thought I had any tears left to cry, but somehow I did.

“I meant it, Spike,” I whispered.  “I meant it when I said it, and I mean it now.  And I don’t blame you for what you said, and I’m sorry… I’m so sorry I couldn’t say it before…” And then I couldn’t talk any more for the tears.

***

The next thing I knew, it was morning.  My face felt stiff from dried tears, my head ached and my throat was sore from all the crying.  Dawn was still asleep across my lap, and I nudged her to wake up.

“What… ? Ow.”  Slowly she straightened, grimacing up at me and rubbing her neck.  “I have got such a crick…” Then she caught sight of the camera, or my face, or maybe she just remembered what had happened, and she just… went silent.  I reached out and brushed her hair back behind her ear, and she leaned into the touch, needing consolation as much as I needed to give it.

She looked as bad as I felt.

“Hey.” I gave her a lopsided smile, the most I was capable of.

“Hey.”  She turned away at that, and her eyes fell on the video camera, still by my hand.  “You want me to take that to Andrew?”

There wasn’t a part of me that didn’t want to say no, to keep that little bit of Spike with me for as long as I could.  I stared down at the camera, wrapped my hand around it as if I had the right to keep it.  Would he even really miss it?  I mean, if he hasn’t been asking about it by now…

“Buffy… how are we going to do this?”

Her quiet words brought me back, and I blinked at her, lost as to what she was talking about.  “Do what?”

Her face was as hard as it had been the day before, when she had wept for all our other losses.  “This, Buffy… I mean, are we going to go back to hiding everything?  Are we gonna go back to pretending that we don’t care about him?  Or that what he did wasn’t amazing?” Her eyes teared up as she spoke.  “’Cause I don’t think I can do that anymore…”

My little sister never did pull her punches.  And as I looked at her, I realized that she was expecting me to do what I always did when it came to Spike—to hide what I felt and make him my dirty little secret again.

And I couldn’t.  I couldn’t do that to him again.  I had done it to him so many times, and he accepted it, because he didn’t want to hurt me.  He just let me hurt him, and I couldn’t keep on doing that.

My face crumpled up and suddenly it didn’t matter how much my eyes stung because the tears were coming again.  “I don’t think I can, either…”

This time I just cried on her, and she combed her fingers through my hair and held me.

When I pulled away, I don’t think she was expecting me to put the camera in her hand.  “Could you give that to Andrew for me, please?”

She frowned at me, blinking in confusion and the stirring of anger.  “But I thought…”

“Dawnie…” The smile I gave her was so tiny it probably didn’t count.  “That’s not all that’s left of him.  It’s not even the best of what’s left of him.  That’s all right here.” I laid my free hand over her heart, then over my own.

She just stared for a moment, then sniffled and hugged me.  “You’re not supposed to make me cry more, you know…”

“Sorry.”  I embraced her back.  “But that’s what we’re gonna do.  We’re gonna remember him, and be proud of him, and… and what the others think doesn’t matter to us at all.  Because we love him.”

“Again with the crying more!”

“Well, if I’m being all weepy-girl, I figure you should join me.”

She laughed against my neck, then hiccupped.  “Meanie.”

“Yeah, that’s me.” I pushed her away gently.  “Go get dressed—we’re gonna have to face the rest of them eventually.”

“I know…” She looked at me with something in her eyes that I hadn’t seen in a long while—hope.  “But we can talk about him, sometimes?”

I nodded, and this time the smile I gave her was worthy of the name.  “Yeah.  Anytime, sweetie.”

I heaved a deep breath when the door closed behind her and rested my head against the wall.  “This isn’t gonna be easy, Spike,” I said to the empty air, imagining he could hear.  “But when did we ever take the easy road?  I just hope that you left some of your strength for me, because I’m gonna need it like never before…”

And just for a moment, my grief for him and for all I left unsaid and unfinished didn’t seem quite so endless.  He’d left something behind after all.

***
November 26, 2006
©randi (K. Shepard), 2006