Rating: PG-13, I think
Pairing: Buffy/Spike, sort of
Spoilers: All the way through "Chosen", but completely ignoring AtS Season 5. Which means Spike hasn't come back. Or if he did, Buffy does not know about it.
Notes: This ficlet's title comes from Jewel's song "Painters".
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters, and if I did, I don't think I'd really know what to do with them. *g*
-- Many many thanks to mistakency and hey_lena for the wonderful beta. Their help was just incredible. :-D
She explains it to Willow while they're browsing the Accessories section of some department store. Wallets are useful not only because you get to keep your money and credit cards and Blockbuster card all in the same place, but also because they are the perfect place to keep pictures of your loved ones in case all your belongings -- pictures included -- get wiped off the face of the planet along with the whole town when you close a Hellmouth.
Willow tries to smile, but shudders instead. And Buffy picks a big vinyl red wallet for herself.
On Christmas morning, after the gifts are exchanged, Buffy holds up the brand-new camera she got from Willow and starts working on filling up her wallet.
She can't remember the exact shade of her mother's eyes.
Back in Sunnydale, Joyce's presence was painfully missed, but living in the house her mother created had somehow made it bearable.
Here in this London apartment she shares with Dawn, there's only the pain of missing her mom.
One day, out of sheer despair, she calls her father and leaves a message on his voice mail asking if he, by any chance, has kept any pictures of her mother.
Surprisingly, he calls back a couple of days later saying he still has a few wedding pictures stacked somewhere.
Buffy gets them in the mail three weeks later.
A twenty-something smiling bride who bears an uncanny resemblance to Dawn now sits proudly at her bedside table.
The apartment starts feeling like home.
"Was Anya ever a redhead?"
Buffy's question startles Willow, who puts down her cappucino and frowns.
Buffy shrugs. "She changed her hair so much," she half-explains.
Willow cuts right to the chase. "Xander has a couple of pictures of her. He had a wallet, you know." She grins at Buffy. "I'm gonna borrow the pictures and scan them for you, okay?"
Buffy smiles back. She knows Willow understands. "Okay."
She carries a bag now.
A beautiful red bag that Dawn got her as a birthday present. "It goes with your wallet," her sister explained.
Inside the red bag lives her camera. Wherever Buffy goes, her camera goes too. What started as a need to catalog the life around her soon turns into habit and later, into gainful work. Taking pictures is who she is now.
She's Buffy the Photographer.
She photographs every new place she meets, every new acquaintance she makes. She gets clients, weddings and birthdays that soon are replaced by publicity shots for local magazines.
But her favorites are always the pictures of the people she loves.
Her wallet is almost bursting.
One late afternoon, she and Dawn are walking back home from the new Watcher's Council headquarters, when Buffy sees a bleached blonde, leather coat wearing, cigarette smoking punk crossing the street.
Buffy halts. Dawn gasps. They just stare, tracking the man until he disappears around a corner. Once he's gone, the sisters turn to look at each other. Before Dawn starts to cry, Buffy grabs her by the arm.
They turn back the way they came.
Once they're back at the headquarters, Buffy voraciously goes through every vampire book in the Council's small yet resourceful new library. She actually finds half a dozen pictures of him. All of them "even older than Giles," as Dawn quickly points out despite the Watcher's immediate indignation.
Except for the different hair and clothes, there he is, smirk in place, cheekbones to die for.
But that is not the Spike she's afraid she's forgetting.
For a little while, she toys with the possibility of calling Angel to ask if he has any pictures. Or maybe to ask him for a drawing. But she ends up dismissing her thoughts. Angel wouldn't want to make one. And he wouldn't draw her Spike anyway.
But an idea forms.
And so she takes drawing classes. Twice a week, from an elderly man who had once stopped her on the way out of the subway station to ask if she'd like a drawing of herself.
She finds him sitting at one side of the platform, offering drawings for money, and she asks him if he would maybe teach her. The tone of her voice is desperate, almost whiny, and she fears he will laugh at her antics.
But he only stares intently at her and asks, "Who do you want to draw?"
Mr. Lewis, as she later learns he's named, sees right through her.
"Someone I knew." The man is not convinced. She decides there's no need to be vague. "Someone who died." She cries a bit, but it feels good in a way. "And I never had any pictures."
He nods and offers her a handkerchief. "Someone you loved." It's not a question. She can't do much but nod. And then she smiles and gets herself a teacher.
Dawn is her biggest supporter, but Buffy knows everyone else finds it a bit odd. They call it "Buffy's second artsy wave", whatever that means. And they always smile indulgently when she gets her notepad and pencils out, but Buffy can see them fighting the urge to shake their heads and tsk her.
Except Willow, who was also caught wallet-less the day the last apocalypse occurred.
The first few months are frustrating and Buffy thinks she'll never get it right.
She can draw eyes, but she can't make noses work. And then she can draw seriousness, but smiling mouths won't come. And she can never draw ears, ever, not in a million years.
Mr. Lewis is very patient. "Who do you want to draw?" He asks this question again and again before the start of every lesson.
And then she practices and practices some more until her fingers are callused and her arm is numb. Until one day she draws a sleeping Dawn and it looks exactly like her sister.
Buffy becomes pretty good at it.
When she draws Anya, Xander smiles. When she draws Tara, Willow cries.
For Dawn's birthday, she draws Joyce with golden cascading hair and a flowery orange dress. Her sister frames it and puts it on the living room wall.
And she draws him. Often. A lot. At first only with his eyes closed, because she can't figure out the exact hue of blue to use. She takes forever drawing his eyelashes, her pencil a caress on the pages. Dawn buys her a ton of crayons and among them Buffy finds one that matches his eyes. He finally looks at her from her canvas.
She tries to stick to her memory, making her drawings as accurate as possible. Soon she has built a "Spike in Sunnydale" biography through drawings. Giles actually gets interested in them. Her Watcher sees her work as valuable documents. But Buffy politely refuses and keeps Spike all to herself.
Some drawings have small round blotches in them, proof of the tears she sometimes shed while working. She likes these ones the best.
On a Sunday afternoon when she's feeling adventurous, Buffy draws a Spike out of her imagination. Wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans and walking in the sun. These become her guilty pleasure drawings, but there aren't many of them. They happen sometimes, when she feels the urge to fill in the blanks of the "what ifs" her brain produces. Spike in a suit. Spike wearing glasses. Spike naked. So that one is a memory. But he's naked in her bed, sleeping peacefully, and that comes only from her wishing mind.
One day, she draws herself in his embrace. Arms around each other, they're looking at an imaginary camera. A happy couple. Head tilted, teeth showing and eyes shining with joy, Spike is smiling. Not smirking.
That one, she's keeping in her wallet.