Shopping To Remember (The Coming Alive Remix)
by Hecate

Remix of Shopping To Remember by Charles.

The artificial light of the store sends you back into another reality, a reality Sunnydale and hellhounds and slayers and the evils of love made you forget. You blink, fighting back confusion. It's not like you haven't seen a Toy R Us before, it's just that this one is free from the magic and death that penetrated everybody and everything in Sunnydale. You felt this before, every time you left and every time you came back, like a wall you ran against. It hits you, suddenly, that this will never happen again.

You wander down the hallways, your eyes travelling over board games, action figures, stuffed animals. You know what you want to buy: you knew it the moment you left the remains of Sunnydale behind you, carried away by a bus as yellow as the sun. Just now you notice how fucking ironic that is. Riding on the sunset when everything you feel inside is just a dull bleakness.

Now you need a time out; you need to get away from the chattering of the potentials about battles and destiny and their future. You still call them that, despite their new strength. Compared with Buffy and Faith they're still weak. You wanted to get away from the sight of Faith's hand in Robin's: the small piece of happiness between them made the emptiness of surviving shudder and ache inside of you. Buffy's sad smile, somewhere between joy and bitterness - maybe even insanity - gnawing at the edges. Willow sleeping, leaned against her slayer's shoulder. And Xander.

After a while you stop, staring at a shelf with stuffed animals. They have many, but your choice is already limited. The bunnies sit on one shelf, shoulder to shoulder, like some kind of army. It reminds you a bit of your little group going to war against the First Evil. For a moment you're undecided, but then the one with the slightly mean look on his face wins out easily. You take it, careful not to ruin it with the rest of dirt and blood that you couldn't wash off yet. Its fur is soft against your skin. So unlike Anya.

The second choice is easy. You know all the Star Wars action figures, and the one you take looks a lot like the first Han Solo action figure you bought for yourself. You can still remember it - it's like you could still touch all the details, although you haven't touched it for a long time. It's lost now, like everything else that stayed in Sunnydale.

You pay them, counting the money, ignoring the weird looks you get from other customers and the cashier. Weird looks are nothing new to you.

You leave the store, the bag both heavy and light in your hand. It's time to go back, to face the others again; and you have to fight down the desire to run away, to run until your legs give in and your breath lets your lungs explode. And still, you're as dead inside as you were when you saw Anya die. The same empty pain you felt when you told Xander about her death. Too much for you too understand, too much to bear.

Pushing this fear, as undead as the monsters you fought, back into its corner, you knock at the door, the bag pressed against your chest to hide the shudders running through your body. Giles opens the door for you and you climb back into the bus, back to the others. It's like a little piece of Sunnydale and you feel the magic again, the magic and the death, clinging to everybody's clothes, written on all the faces, awake and sleeping.

"Did you get what you wanted?" Giles' voice rips you out of your thoughts.

"Yes. Thanks, Mr. Giles." Sunnydale's death is even in your voice, like a vibration of a last breath. You try to ignore it for now, although you know that at one point you have to get used to it. Get used to the sound of Anya dying every time you speak.

You can hear Giles mutter something when he starts the bus, but you can't bring yourself to care. Slowly you walk to the back of the bus, passing some of the others. You sit down next to Xander, his tired eyes questioning you. "I got this for you." Xander straightens up and frowns, leaning over to you to look into the bag.

For a moment you nearly panic before Sunnydale creeps back into you. Still you bite your lips, just to do something. "The bunny is for Anya. I mentioned bunnies and she looked kind of strange. And I couldn't find any pretend money, so I got this." The second is a lie, but you can't really talk about Anya, not as long as you still breathe through her blood. And this will never change, will it? Her death, your life: an equation that will never be solved.

"Han Solo is for you. Because I think you're cool, like Han Solo is." And because you survived, you think, nearly leaning in to feel Xander's life, feel the waves of pulse and blood and pain. To share it, to finally feel it.

You don't even see Xander crying, you just feel it when he pulls you in for a hug. "Thank you." His voice, the wetness of his skin against yours, the packaging of the action figure digging into your shoulder, speak to you, whisper to your heart and mind.

You're still alive.


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