Many days after getting home from school or from one of her sessions with the Monsignor, when she was alone in the apartment while Buffy was out slaying or reconnoitering for potentials or was unconsciously trolling for the next in the string of doomed-before-they-even-began relationships, she would lock herself in the utility room and go through the contents of the trunks, always careful to bring the acid-free gloves snatched from the restoration rooms of the Vatican
galleries, so as not to add any further deterioration to their contents, some dated to antiquity, though most of the contents were relatively modern.
It was only the small foot locker that she was intent on today and its contents, while not the newest of the collection, were the most interesting to her.
Dawn was stressed out, first day of classes was on Monday, and she had only gotten her registration confirmation today in the mail, …snail-mail, with a 3:40 pm delivery …what…Stanford’s never heard of e-mail?... That meant not much time for planning. She would even have to stop at the book store between classes, assuming that she could find it, and her classes and assuming the BART and bus schedules were half-way right and she even made it there for class.
She needed some relaxation, some light reading…besides, need to make sure
nothing got broken in shipment, right…
She remembered when Buffy had found them, it was shortly after Andrew had let slip that Spike was alive and well and living in L.A. or at least had been - after his un-ghosting and before the firestorm, the fall of the L.A. branch of Wolfram and Hart. It had been the only time Buffy had ever laid hands on Andrew in anger, not even anger really, more like pure rage.
I don’t believe I jumped in between them that day, dumb me… she mused, giving the hairpin a final twist and popping the latch open. It was scary to see her like that. It was even scarier to see Buffy the way she was for weeks, even
Dawn understood it though. Buffy really did love him and though she still couldn’t admit it to anyone, at the time, especially to herself. She had seen him burn, disintegrate into a pile of sparkly ashes in the bowels of the Hellmouth, cleansing it with the white light of his… soul. Dawn let out a louder chuckle than she had intended and had to look around to make sure there was no one to hear.
Buffy had refused to talk about it, but Dawn knew. When the pillowcase was still drenched from tears when she made her sister’s bed for her in the morning, she knew. She knew who the tears were for, especially when that stupid Zippo would fall out and she’d have to crawl under Buffy’s bed to get it and put it back. God! Don’t eve rtouch the Zippo!
Dawn had ached for her sister then; she had watched him die for Good, only to be told, accidentally and years later, that he didn’t, but then that he did, again, most likely. They hadn’t heard anything from Angel for over a year after Giles told had gone to L.A. to identify Wesley’s body and then that was only him calling Giles and Willow for information about some ancient Hawaiian lava demon who had resurfaced and was frightening the tourists with bad ‘Tiny Bubbles’ karaoke; he never said anything about Spike.
Buffy had been pretty upset with everybody when she found the trunks.
It had been during one of the seismic upheavals that periodically rocked the Apennine peninsula from time to time, this one had collapsed one of the subterranean TrenItalia tunnels into some hitherto undiscovered catacombs and there had been sightings of unusual beasts, so Buffy went to check it out.
She looked like hell when she’d gotten back to the apartment that day, dirty, bruised, her shirt ripped, cursing at Step-Bitc…Teresa… It was obvious that she and Hank’s latest wife had had it out over Buffy’s wanting to borrow the car again. Plus she had fallen through a catacomb floor into another concealed
chamber. She had told Dawn that she had found some stuff down there, not icky stuff, just some trunks and that they needed to get them before anyone else found them.
Dawn had borrowed their neighbor Giovanni’s old delivery truck, he had a crush on her so it wasn’t difficult to get the keys and she could drive a standard. Buffy had been surprised her little sister could flirt so well in Italian, when she could barely get by even with a phrase book.
The trunks had been with them ever since. Like part of the family… Buffy never allowed her to get in them… as if … allow me… Dawn scoffed to herself. She always said the contents were just research-y stuff for Giles and Willow, but never sent them to them. After Dawn figured out how to work the old tape machine…BetaMax…who knew… Buffy had bought at Giovanni’s pawn shop and stashed in one on the mid-sized steamers, she knew why.
No videos today…she thought as she lifted the lid and began to feel her way through the packing peanuts. Pictures, maybe later…and…she pulled out a bubble wrapped parcel then reached in deeper...there it is! It was old and tattered but still kept its contents safe and secure.
The portfolio still held the receipt from the little shop in Coventry where Lydia
had purchased it over a decade ago. Dawn unzipped it but only pulled its
contents out far enough to carefully leaf through the pages, each one separated by its own protective acid-free cover.
Ahh…the camel, one on my favorites…she pulled it all the way out and began to read.
13 March, 1857
My Dearest Anne,
My deepest apologies if this post reaches you later than expected, horrid weather has forced a diversion of our journey. Our plans to travel by ship from Istanbul have been replaced with an overland sojourn through Turkistan. I admit some disappointment on my part as I had hoped to see the Black Sea again as lovely as when we last saw it together. The delay will still allow us the reach Chowringhee by 1st May barring further delays.
Young William did have opportunity for his promised camel ride earlier than expected. I believe he is presently recounting the event to you in his letter, needless, it will not soon become his favorite transport, his camel spat and was
unruly and I believe he was queasy the entire ride, though he soldiered on right
honorably. We will be traveling by coach through to Lucknow and I am told that the rail is now part done from there.
William’s lessons are proceeding quite well and I must confess that I am not minding the endless hours of recitation of Childe Harold though be assured that I am taking care with my replies to his many requests for clarification of the meanings of the stanzas. Since his father was never one to pay much heed to poetry it is best that we finish all the cantos before we arrive.
His penmanship is much improved, as you have noted, the techniques from the New Orleans charter are indeed far better than trying to force the use of his right hand. We are presently working on reducing it to a more normal size, but I fear he will never have a neat hand.
His French, however, is horrid and I strongly recommend to you to consider King’s on Strand again as the languages are better learned there than at Harrow upon his return. As you have the next two years to decide, please pay company one day to one Maximillian Le Fountaine at King’s, he is head of lingua franca studies there and one conversation will attest that this is so.
In response to the concerns of your last letter, my contacts among my former regiment fellows have wired me that there is some slight trouble among the Sepoys, merely some confusion as to the new munitions. It is nothing to concern yourself with, be assured that I will keep your son safe until he is delivered to his father, indeed until I have delivered him back to you in good stead as well.
With my Love always,
Reginald W. Hartleigh
Capt. 19th Bengal Ret.
This one never failed to make her smile. She was tempted to unwrap the pictures that, more or less, went with the contents of the portfolio…same era anyway. Buffy had wrapped them herself over two months ago for shipment and Dawn didn’t think she could get the tape off the bubble wrap without it ripping it…mangled bubble wrap always a dead give-away. But that dress is to die for...Hell! I have bubble wrap and tape in my room!
She tore into it.
It felt so right to write Dawn this way, still up to some of her old hijinx and I am going to try really hard to keep her both her old self and more grown-up.
As a product of the American education system, it sometimes amazes me how little we are taught about events that are important in countries other than our own, this section alludes to one that was important to an entire empire and there will be more as I delve deeper into the background I am giving Spike, (and again I am not strictly following the history that fandom has created for him - though I admit to using some of the names.)
We all wondered what William the Bloody's last name was, and I think Joss Whedon has officially came out and said that it was Pratt, fandom has used others, Hartley was among them, and honestly I don't know who first used that one, I would give them a credit if I did, hence I am using Pratt and Hartleigh both as surnames associated with the character. More will develop on this later in the series.