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No Fixed Address

by Queen Zulu


PG if that.
Time Line:
Post-Chosen, spoilers up to End Of Days.
Summary: Buffy gets mail.


The first postcard came from Cleveland.

There was no special postage, so it had traveled the roundabout way, taking over a month to reach its destination. There was no return address, and only the postmark gave any clue to where it had started out. It was scuffed, as if it had been bent or folded or kept for a few days in someone's back pocket--the back pocket of a person inclined to wear the tightest jeans you could legally get away with in a place like Ohio. The picture on the front showed a group of screaming people suspended upside down from an enormous roller coaster, and pasted over them were red letters screaming, "Top Thrill Dragster!" and "Race for the sky!" A smaller caption read, "Reaching a stratospheric 420 feet tall and topping out at an unheard of speed of 120 mph, this new steel screamer helped Cedar Point reclaim the title of owning the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the universe!"

On the back, written in a quick dark scrawl, were the words: "I've had more fun with you in a graveyard."

Buffy smiled at the picture and read the message twice. She tried to picture Faith standing over the mailbox where she'd posted this. She wondered if Faith had hesitated, or checked the metal chute more than once, just to make sure that the postcard had dropped down into the box. Then she shook her head at her imagination. Probably Faith had tossed it in without a second thought, and wouldn't know or care whether Buffy ever received it.


Buffy let the postcard fall onto her desk. "Yeah, Dawn?"

"It's time to go! Come on, you promised..."

"Okay, I'm coming." Buffy swept the remains of the mail--ads and envelopes--towards the trash. The postcard went with it.

Buffy grabbed her coat and headed for the door, then stopped. She sighed and rolled her eyes at herself, but she went back, fished the card out of the garbage, and stuck it in the frame of her mirror.

"Pathetic," she told the room, but left the postcard where it was.


The second postcard was nearly buried under all the other letters--bills, mostly, but also Giles' usual five pages of tidy script and boring updates, attached to a long list of books for Dawn to check out of the local libraries and then translate. There was a brief note from Xander about demons in the Transvaal, and a exasperated letter from Willow demanding if she *ever* checked her email. There was a newsletter from work, three magazines for Dawn, and beneath it all, the postcard.

Buffy glanced at it, then set it aside and dealt with all the other mail. She sent credit card payments (thank God for the Watcher's Council secret funds) and reassurances to Xander and Willow (first, that she'd send him a few back-up slayers, and second, that Willow was the one who insisted she retire, and she'd darn well avoid her email if she wanted to) and put the magazines and Giles' Watcher-training materials in Dawn's room.

Only then did she head to her room, the postcard in hand.

She lay on her back and stared up at it. This one showed a huge crowd dancing in the street, streamers and confetti everywhere. Though the picture had been taken from too far away to tell, Buffy suspected that most of the people were either naked or well on their way.

"The French Quarter in scenic New Orleans," the small print on the back read, just above her name and address. "Revelers with loads of Mardi Gras spirit throw necklaces and doubloons to the crowd from a balcony on St. Charles Avenue." Under the stamp and the New Orleans postmark was that same, nearly illegible scrawl: "You'd have come home with all the beads in the state."

Buffy ran her fingers over a small tear in one corner, and outlined a brown stain, finally deciding it was coffee. She wondered why Faith didn't write a return address on the card, and what had brought her to New Orleans.

Dawn slammed into the room just then and Buffy pushed the postcard beneath her pillow. She wasn't hiding it, she was just...not...sharing it...right now.

"There's another one," Dawn whined.

"Another one what?" Buffy asked, sitting up and glancing at the pile of mail.

"Another stupid Wolfram and Hart spy sitting across the street in his huge black van, as if we wouldn't notice. Buffy, can't you call Angel and make him *do* something about this?"

Buffy winced. She thought it was pretty obvious that Angel *was* the one doing this, and it was getting old really fast. "I'll go try to 'convince' him to leave," she said. She'd been beating up the spies at a rate of about two a week. So far, they'd all been human, and she hadn't killed one yet, but if this kept up she was thinking of lowering her standards.

"Thanks," Dawn said. "Give him something extra nasty from me."

When Buffy came back to her room that night and slipped beneath the sheets, she found the postcard again. Mardi Gras with Faith would have been so much fun. She stared at the picture until she fell asleep.

The next morning, it joined the first one in her mirror frame.


The third postcard arrived along with a love-letter from the Immortal.

The love-letter was long and flowery, sent on special thick stationary that smelled of roses and vanilla ("Just like your gorgeous hair, my darling, I never know if my fingers are running through corn silk or spun gold") and written in flowing calligraphy ("Because even in my writing I aspire to be as beautiful as you are; mere words are not enough to capture your spirit, nor tame your soul; only through my art can I ever hope to win the flame of your love"). The envelope also held extremely rare and expensive concert tickets ("if my lady will consent to join me for an evening's entertainment") and, on a separate sheet, a sonnet ("only through poetry can I express the depth of my feelings for you, my love").

Buffy sighed, set the postcard aside, and read the letter. She was just considering looking up some of the longer words in her English-Italian dictionary when Dawn came home from school.

Dawn sniffed the air and wrinkled her nose. "Doesn't he have anything better to do than find stinky perfumes he can compare to you?"

"I think it's sweet," Buffy said. And sneezed.

"Oh, sure, because you're once again the object of some supernatural dude's creepy stalkeresque affections." Dawn picked up the envelope, which played an original love-ballad whenever its flap was opened. "Boy, if I ever started getting mail like this, you'd send me to a convent."

"It's not like that. The Immortal and I--" Buffy shook her head. "It's indescribable."

"Ugh." Dawn tried to wipe the gold glitter off her fingers. "The Immortal. God. Do you call him that in bed?" She put on a fake falsetto. "Ooh, Immortal! Ooh, like that! Ooh, you're so unkillable!"

"Dawn!" Buffy blushed and tried to sound shocked. While she was trying to come up with a witty retort, Dawn found the postcard and turned it over in her hands.

"Who's this from?"

Buffy shrugged and looked away. "I don't know. What does it say?"

"Algonquin Provincial Park," Dawn read. "A major center of wolf research since the 1960s, our wolves are relatively accessible to the public. For most of human history, wolves have been unrelentingly persecuted. Only in the twentieth century did that begin to change, and we are proud that Algonquin Park continues to make a significant contribution towards wolf conservation."

"Not that part!" Buffy grabbed the postcard away from Dawn. Underneath the park's logo was the note.

It said, "Almost feels like she's hunting you."

Buffy turned the card over. The picture was of a black wolf, vivid against the snowy background, slowly stalking towards the camera. The wolf's eyes were bright, and Buffy could see the hunger in them. She shivered.

"So, do I get the place to myself tonight or what?" Dawn asked.

"Hmm?" Buffy asked, still trying to make the wolf blink first.

"I said, are you going to that concert or not?"

Buffy looked up. "Oh...yeah, I guess so."

She put the postcard with the others and went out with the Immortal, thinking she'd forget all about it. But when she came home, she could still feel the wolf's stare, even in the dark.


Andrew was dancing with his mop and singing along with Gloria Gaynor when Buffy walked in. She turned off the music and waited for him to notice.

"Oh! Hey, Buffy," he said, offering her an uneasy grin. "Wondering why I'm in your apartment, I bet. Well, uh, you see, I had a date last night...um...wait, before I tell you this story, did you happen to run into any, uh, old friends at the club?

"If you're talking about Angel and Spike, then no," Buffy said. "Thank God."

"Ooh, I sense that there is trouble brewing for our lovely Slayer," Andrew said, clucking sympathetically. "I swear I didn't tell them anything."

"I know." Buffy slumped down on the couch. "But seeing them--from a distance--with the fighting and the snarking and, I'm not sure about this, but more unresolved sexual tension than was really good for them--ugh..."

Andrew leaned on his mop and nodded along. "Mmm-hmm. The Vampyres are an unpredictable lot, their dark danger a warning to all who dare approach their mystery...and, also, I think you were their beard."

Buffy grimaced at Andrew. "I don't even want to know." She put her feet up on the table. "It just made me rethink this whole thing with Marvin."

Andrew's eyes widened. "The Immortal no longer holds you in his sway?"

"What sway? There was no sway. It's just, you know, one too many times down the same path. What was I thinking? That I couldn't go two months without a man at my side?"

Andrew smiled widely. "Then I think this is the perfect time to tell you I got your mail this morning."

Buffy frowned. "What does the mail have to do with anything?"

"Ah, my dear Slayer." Andrew shook his head patronizingly and gave a long-suffering sigh. "Don't be deceived by my innocent exterior. I, along with every Scooby who has the eyes to see, am aware of the dark desires of your soul. Why, even in the deepest night of our despair, you wore your heart on your sleeve. With morning came a New Hope, just like Luke Skywalker. You were like Han Solo and Leia, you bickered, you fought, but it was always there."

"What was always there?" Buffy asked. "Andrew, I thought we agreed that if you were ever here, you wouldn't use Star Trek metaphors."

Andrew gave a wounded sniff. "That was Star Wars."

"Look, maybe you could just give me the mail and leave the mopping for later?"

"Fine." Andrew went to the table to grab it. "Here."

Buffy waited until Andrew was out the door to examine it. This postcard showed what at first seemed to be only an abstract painting of smooth curves in shades of gray. Buffy flipped the card over and read the postmark for Algiers.

"She's in Tunisia?" she mumbled to herself. The last time she'd spoken to Wood, he'd said only that Faith was a big girl and if she wanted to travel it was hardly his business. Buffy couldn't help but mutter that he'd been the one to be surprised by Faith, not vice versa.

They hadn't spoken much since then.

The writing on the postcard said, "Saw this and thought of you." Buffy frowned, confused, and turned the card over again.

This time she got it right-side up. It was a black and white photo of two women, naked, wrapped around each other, their faces hidden in the dark fall of hair.


This made Faith think of her?


The fourth postcard didn't join the others in the mirror frame. It stayed in the drawer in Buffy's bedside table.


Buffy came straight home from the airport after the transcontinental flight. Retirement was really not all it was cracked up to be, since less than a year later she found herself at the head of an army of Slayers, slaying dragons, of all things.

Well, the important thing was that the world was safe again. The important thing was that Angel's so-called "plan" had been saved at the last minute, and Wolfram and Hart had been dealt a powerful blow to their support base.

Wait, no. The important thing was that she was going to shower and then sleep for thirty hours.

She flipped through the mail as she waited for the elevator. She was hoping--well, no, not hoping--it hadn't been that long, anyway--the others had come with intervals of months between them, so it was stupid to expect--still, Faith hadn't been in L.A.--

There it was. Buffy was certain that if her hands were trembling as she held it, it was because she was exhausted. No other reason. She got into the elevator and punched the button, staring at the picture.

The fifth postcard showed Rome as seen from the hills behind it, all glowing marble and narrow streets. Buffy turned it over as she walked down the hall. There was no postmark, no stamp even. She entered the apartment, still staring at the card. There was only one word written on it in the now-familiar scrawl:"Surprise."

"Hey, B."

Buffy looked up. Faith stood in front of her, grinning. "Faith! How did you get in? Not that it matters..."

Faith shrugged. "I have my ways." She fidgeted, her eyes dropping to the postcard. "You got it."

"Yeah." Buffy held up the card. Suddenly she wasn't tired at all. She reached out and took Faith by the hand. "Want to see where I put the others?"



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