Lost and Found
In the far future. I haven’t been following the comics, so I am going to pretend that stuff never happened. Except for the part where Buffy ended up in Scotland. Hey – creative license. I am rusty and I apologize.
Dedicated to those of you who continue to fan the B/A flame. It was our shared love of Buffy and Angel that brought you into my life and I have such lovely memories of fandom because of you. Special thanks to Dark Star for carrying the IWRY Ficathon torch.
You will recognize some of the dialogue from “Surprise”. After all these many years, it still belongs to Joss. Or I suppose, Marti Noxon in this instance.
Buffy scanned the room one more time. Dust motes floated in the air – that was about it. She pushed at the small of her back with her thumbs and sighed. She was glad that this was the last time she’d be moving. Downsizing my ass, she thought; there were still dozens of boxes piled near the front door waiting for the movers to arrive tomorrow.
Buffy turned to face her daughter.
“Look what I found.”
Hanging from her daughter’s slender fingers was a silver chain and dangling from the chain a simple cross and a claddagh ring.
Buffy reached out a hand and Joycie dropped the jewelry into her waiting palm. It was cool.
“Where in the world did you find this?” Buffy asked.
“In the grate in the floor in my bedroom.”
“I thought it was lost,” Buffy said.
Joycie smiled self-consciously. “So did I.”
Buffy traced her finger along the edge of the cross. “You told me you never touched it.”
“I lied,” Joycie said. “I was eight,” she added by way of explanation or apology; Buffy couldn’t tell which.
At eighteen there was barely a trace of that eight-year-old girl in Buffy’s daughter. The soft curls were gone; the chubby cheeks. All that remained now was the iron will and a fierceness in her hazel eyes.
“I do remember how upset you were, though,” Joycie said. “I’m sorry I took the necklace.”
“I never thought I’d see it again,” Buffy said, quietly. “Or the ring.”
“Mom,” Joyce said.
“Are you ever going to tell me about him?”
Buffy slipped the necklace around her neck.
One girl in all the world – that’s what she’d been until she wasn’t anymore. And that should have been a relief but, strangely, it wasn’t. Once there were more Slayers, Buffy had felt the added pressure of being not only their elder, but their Yoda. She should have been able to retire, finish college, have a life. Instead, she’d ended up in a drafty Scottish castle training little girls to be warriors.
“You needn’t work so hard,” Giles had said.
“I can’t ask them to do something I’m not willing to do myself, Giles,” Buffy had replied.
“No. No I suppose not,” he’d said thoughtfully. “But perhaps a holiday now and then would be in order. Go to Cornwall; it’s lovely at this time of year.”
Buffy could remember staring out across the craggy moor, the purpled tops of the highlands just beyond the mist. It was always so damned cold in Scotland. Even in July.
“Maybe,” she’d said.
And the days drifted away, one much the same as another, until she couldn’t keep up with the younger girls and she found she wasn’t so much the Slayer anymore as she was a revered great aunt. On a good day, she ran the path by the lake; on a bad day she helped Giles in the office. He was older, too; it was easier for them both to pretend they were helping each other out.
Then, one day, she’d met Henry. Local man. Solid as a tree; quiet as the lake. Drinks at the pub, followed by dinner, long walks in all weather and then somehow Buffy found herself in love. He was a good man. He took her as she was and didn’t make her pretend to be something she wasn’t. Buffy appreciated that. She was 34. He was 40. There was no point in pretending that Henry was more than what he was. Buffy knew exactly who he wasn’t, but she was at peace with that. Finally.
Joycie was born when Buffy was 36. Henry died ten years later. An aneurysm– completely unexpected and unpreventable. And still, life went on.
Now Joycie was off to school in America and Buffy was ready to leave the cottage she and Henry had called home. If she had a plan, she wasn’t exactly sure what it was. She just knew she was done with Scotland.
“Sorry, honey. I was just thinking about your dad and how much he loved it here.”
“Did he know?” Joyce asked.
“Did he know what?”
“About him. The other guy.”
Buffy reached up to touch the cross. She wasn’t sure how to answer her daughter’s question. It was sort of as if her life had been split into parts: Before Angel and After Angel; before world-save-age and after. It wasn’t as though Henry hadn’t wondered why Buffy, trim and still-lovely, hadn’t ever been married, but he wasn’t the sort of man to pry.
“Love,” he’d whispered one night as they’d lain curled together in front of the big window in their bedroom. “Ye’ve had a life. So have I. We can swap stories if ye’d like or…”
“Or?” she’d replied.
“Or we can make a new story together.”
Buffy remembered that night most specifically.
There was no earthly reason why Buffy should tell Joycie about Angel, but it wasn’t because the story was impossibly complicated or because Buffy had always been rather vague about her life as the Slayer. By the time Joycie had been born, that part of her life was mostly over. Giles became the stand-in grandfather figure who lived in a big castle with a lot of much younger women…and see…complicated.
Mostly Buffy didn’t want to tell Joycie because saying his name, recalling his face, hearing his voice in her head still had the potential to catapult her back to her sixteen-year-old self. And that was a place that she no longer had the desire to visit.
“Come on,” Buffy said. “Let’s get the last of this stuff packed.
It wasn’t until later, after Joycie had left for a final night down at the pub with her friends, that Buffy poured herself a glass of wine and settled next to the fireplace with the cross and the ring and her memories.
She remembered how frantic she’d been when she’d discovered the jewelry was missing.
“Was it valuable, love?” Henry had asked.
“No. Yes.” Buffy wasn’t sure how to answer the question to make Henry understand that while the jewelry didn’t necessarily have a significant monetary value, it was priceless to her.
“I’ll help ye look then, eh,” he’d said and he’d stroked her face in that way that totally undid her every time.
She’d taken his hand then and shook her head. “No, Henry. It’s okay. It’ll turn up, I expect. And if it doesn’t…” It was time, past time really, to put all that to rest.
“Bloody poltergeists in these cottages,” Henry had said, his eyes slanting over to to Joycie who had been curled up in this very chair, devouring Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Buffy sipped her wine, the tang of the tannin welcome on her tongue. It wouldn’t hurt, would it, after all this time, to slip the ring on her finger? Henry was gone. She’d loved him as well as she knew how, but he was gone.
Buffy unclasped the necklace and the ring slipped off the chain into her waiting palm. She wondered if it would still fit.
It did: perfectly.
My people - before I was changed - they exchanged this as a sign of devotion. It's a Claddagh ring. The hands represent friendship; the crown represents loyalty... and the heart... Well, you know... Wear it with the heart pointing towards you. It means you belong to somebody.
And there he was – rising up out of the mists, as beautiful as he’d always been; untouched by time, tall and perfect and looking down at the younger version of her with such love.
It was, of course, a cruel trick of the mind, but Buffy savoured it. After all – she’d earned this moment. She’d fought the battle and survived and it only seemed fair that here at this new fork in the road, she should have the pleasure of a backwards glance.
First stop after Joycie had flown off to the U.S. was a trip down to London to visit Willow. Despite their proximity (in relative terms) they’d barely seen each other in the years since Henry had died. They were long overdue.
Hugs all around. Wine opened. The rain gushing against the windowpanes of Willow’s Victorian rowhouse.
“I can’t believe she’s old enough to fly across the ocean and start her life,” Willow said.
“Seriously, Will, she was ready for that when she was twelve,” Buffy laughed. “She would have gone too, if Henry hadn’t died.”
Willow nodded. “You’re probably right. I just keep forgetting she’s practically grown up.”
“Maybe you just don’t want to think about the fact that her being old enough to go it alone means that we’re ol-.”
Willow held up a hand. “Stop! Don’t even say it.”
Buffy shook her head. “I know. So much of everything is behind us now.”
“Well, we don’t look a day over twenty-five.”
Buffy took another sip of wine. “You won’t believe this, but look.” She reached into her blouse and pulled out the necklace bearing the cross and claddagh.
Willow leaned closer. “Is that what I think it is?”
“Oh my God.”
“Joyce found it. Well, first she lost it when she was eight and then she found it again the day before we left the cottage. It had fallen down into one of the floor grates. I never thought I’d see them again.”
Willow smiled. “There’s an ‘and’ there. I can spot a conjunction at ten paces.”
“And I don’t know what to do.”
“See,” Willow said smugly.
“Talking to you is like being sixteen all over again,” Buffy sighed.
Willow tucked an errant strand of faded red hair behind her ear and then refilled their wine glasses. “What are your options?”
“Now that I have thought about. One. I do nothing. Too much time has passed and I don’t even know where he is and even if I did know where he is, so what? Too much time has passed.”
“You said that.”
Buffy quirked an eyebrow. “Two. I find him and maybe we have coffee and conversation and I discover that my memories of him don’t live up to the reality.”
“Buffy, you’re talking about Angel. Do you really think-”
“There’s not really a third option, is there?” Willow said. “Seriously? Is there even a second option?”
Buffy slumped back in her chair. “Why does any talk of him make me feel like a schoolgirl?”
“Ain’t love grand.”
I love you. I try not to, but I can't stop.
He’d never really left L.A. Of all the places for a vampire to live, he had picked the sunniest place of all.
Buffy stood on the sidewalk staring up at the plain, modern building and wondered - as she had for the last thirty years – what this moment would actually be like.
Because that’s how long it had been. The last time she had seen Angel she’d made some lame cookie-dough speech and then had watched that damned coat disappear between the headstones. She’d stood there, her lips still tingling from his kiss, wondering if she wasn’t the biggest fool on earth. But then, world save-age always seemed to take precedence over her personal life.
That was another lifetime ago.
Buffy had never really considered what it might be like to get old because the odds hadn’t really been in her favour. Now here she stood, the L.A. sunshine warming her scalp, the traffic on Ventura Boulevard a dull roar behind her.
She hadn’t been to L.A. in years. Her father had moved up to San Francisco and on the rare occasions she’d come to the States, L.A. hadn’t been part of her itinerary. Cleveland to see Faith; New York City to see Dawn. L.A. was a no-fly zone although she might have changed her mind if she’d known Angel was here. Probably not, though.
He didn’t know she was coming. Buffy wasn’t sure if the element of surprise was a good idea, but she hadn’t wanted to dilute their first encounter with a warning phone call or email or Facebook message. Buffy seriously doubted Angel had Facebook anyway.
Buffy pulled the glass door open and stepped into the air conditioned foyer. The doorman looked up from his marble desk and squinted at her.
“I’m here to see Angel,” Buffy said.
“Is he expecting you?”
“No. And if there was any way to keep this as a little surprise, I’d really be grateful,” Buffy said. “We’re old friends.”
The doorman cocked his head and Buffy watched as he eyed the sunny street. She understood immediately. It was just easier to let him mull it over.
“Yeah. Sure. Okay. Penthouse.”
She stood outside his door for a long time.
And all the memories she’d saved tumbled over and over in her heart: first kisses and hands held and one perfect night of naked skin and a sword slicing through his flesh and his return from Hell and the night he drank deeply from her neck and the night he left.
Buffy felt like a fool standing there. She pulled the necklace over her head and examined the relics of her childhood: a cross, a ring. So few tangible reminders of such an important time. Everything else had been swallowed by the Hellmouth.
She should go.
She took a step forward and hung the necklace on the doorknob. She hadn’t taken even once step towards the elevator when his condo door opened.
“Weren’t you even going to say hello?”
His voice was exactly the same and it sent a shudder of memory up her spine.
She couldn’t turn around. She couldn’t.
It wasn’t being unfaithful to have these feelings, was it? Just the sound of his voice and her insides felt like liquid; her knees felt like they couldn’t support her body.
“Look at me.”
Henry’s face appeared before her – his kind blue eyes, the mop of brown curls shot with grey, his straight white smile. He’d brought so much simple joy to her life; had given her what she thought she’d never have – a normal life, a daughter.
It should have been enough.
“Hello, Angel,” she said.