E-MAIL: PrincessSlayer@hotmail.com and email@example.com. Please send any feedback to both, or one of us feels neglected.
TIMELINE: Somewhere between Lover’s Walk and Helpless. Yeah, we know it’s really old, just deal with it.
FEEDBACK: It would give our insignificant lives meaning to know that someone out there is reading and enjoying this. No flames though, we're insecure enough as it is.
DISTRIBUTION: Gabi, if she wants it. Anyone else, just ask and it’s yours.
DISCLAIMER: Calliope: Ooh, I know this one. Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Enterprises, Twentieth Century Fox Television and the WB Network. I do not intend to infringe on any copyrights
Princess Slayer: Blah, blah, bliddy blah, I'm so stuffy, give me a scone.
Calliope: Smart arse.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine;
et lux perpetua luceat eis
Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord;
and let eternal light shine upon them.
* * * * *
"...Ashes to ashes, dust to dust..."
The minister's voice floated numbly into Buffy's ears, as she stood, shivering in the rain. She barely noticed the other people who had turned up to the funeral. The students, the teachers, even her friends, disappeared into the background.
The rain beat down on her waif-like body, the drops that fell on her face indistinguishable from her tears. Her black shoes were getting splashed with mud; mud from the ground that had parted to make way for the coffin, which was being lowered into eternal darkness.
"As we say goodbye to our friend, Rupert Giles, let us comfort ourselves in the memory of his kindness, his courage, and his intelligence..."
Buffy screwed up her face at his words. <Shut up!> she told him. <You didn't know him. You didn't care about him. How can you say these things?>
She heard the awful thud as the coffin hit the ground. <NO! This isn't real,> she told herself. <That isn't Giles in that coffin. It's too small - Giles is too strong to fit inside something that small. He isn't dead. He can't be.>
"Giles..." A small sob escaped her throat, and she immediately felt an arm around her shoulder. She looked up into her mother's sympathetic face, her comforting hand stroking away the stray strands of hair that were stuck to her face.
But she didn't need her mother. She needed Giles.
* * * * *
Even much later, when she looked back on it, Buffy couldn't remember much about the first week after the funeral. Just a haze of rage and pain and disbelief and guilt. That was the only thought in her mind for long hours at a time. <You weren't there. You failed. You weren't there, and he died...>
The minutes dragged into hours and hours into days, and still she stayed in her room, a grey mist seeming to come between her and reality. Days when she only got up to go to the bathroom. Days when she sobbed herself into exhausted sleep. Days when her mother brought her drinks she didn't want and food she couldn't taste. No colour, no texture, no taste, no memory of sun or rain, just the stark reality of the four walls that mocked her with their cheerful colour and flocks of delicate butterflies. Once she had flown into a rage at their uncaring, paper wings, pulling them from the walls with ferocious energy, ripping the paper bodies to try to make the pain go away.
<For every time I failed him,> she thought, as she shredded painted swirls of beautiful colour that could no longer reach her. <For every time I lied.> Rip. <For every time I betrayed his trust.> Rip. <For not caring as much about him as he deserved.> Rip. <For not being there...> She collapsed into a sobbing heap on the floor, surrounded by paper confetti, as her mother came upstairs and put her back to bed.
Once she had woken up, and not remembered. Spent a few seconds of blissful innocence, enjoying the morning sun on her face, looking forward to the day ahead. Then the memories flooded back, and she curled into a ball of pain and anger, and squeezed her eyes closed against the pictures that assaulted her mind.
She received countless words of ‘comfort’ from her mother. Platitudes about him having a ‘Special place in her heart’ and how he would be ‘Watching over her from heaven.’ It just made things worse. She didn’t want him to do that! She wanted him here.
Eventually she lost sense of time. Days had faded seamlessly into weeks - how many she had no idea. It didn’t matter how much time passed - the guilt still followed her around. Every time she closed her eyes, or let her mind wander in blackness, she was met by his face. But not the kind, living face that she was used to. His face as it was the last time she had seen it…
He was already gone by the time she found him. She didn't realise who it was at first. That figure lying slumped on the cold, hard ground, having been killed without dignity. His eyes staring up at her, unseeing. His hands reaching out to her, unfeeling. He couldn't feel anything anymore. Not the pain from where the vampire had sunk his teeth into his neck, nor Buffy's soft tears which fell on his face as she held his cold, dead body, screaming at him to wake up, knowing that he never would.
All around her voices started to yell her name, mockingly,
"Buffy! Buffy! Buffy..."
"...Buffy! Buffy, honey, wake up."
Buffy's eyes shot open as she was jerked from her sleep to find herself looking into her mother's eyes.
Buffy lay uncomprehending for a moment, trying to drag her mind back from the death dive it had again plunged into. Willow... Her friend. She had almost forgotten she had friends at all. There are no friends when you lose someone you all love, just a group of individuals, each lost in their own personal hell. She had thought she had faced hell before. She now knew what she had faced before was nothing. Even losing Angel hadn't been like this. At least then, there had been no choice. Lose Angel, or lose the world. No choice. And she had made it right before. She had said the words. 'I love you'. Three small words, but they could make so much difference. Three words she had not said. Too late. The kindest, most selfless life she knew cut off senselessly. And it was her fault.
Buffy roughly pulled her mind back to the present, and sat up, not meeting her mother's anxious gaze.
"Hey," said Buffy, looking at the ground.
"How are you coping?" asked
"Badly," said Buffy bluntly, and a sob caught in her throat. She couldn't do this, couldn't see this person who reminded her so forcefully of her past life, of what she had lost.
"I thought I hadn't seen you for ages, so I...came over."
"Yeah. I...I needed some space. Time to...to adjust." Buffy was astounded at just how articulate she sounded. <Time to adjust. Adjust to losing the most precious person in her world... How long would that take? Would even a lifetime be enough?> "I...I still need time Will. I'm...I'm just not ready to see anyone yet."
"Buffy, you haven't left the house in almost two weeks..."
"I can't!" said Buffy, helplessly. "I'm... I'm not ready..."
"You have to come out sometime."
"I can't," she said, hiding her tears. "I just..I...if I go outside then it means I have to face the world. I have to face my life. And I have to face the world and my life without him. I can't do that. I can't live without him." Her face creased up again as the tears welled up in her eyes.
"Why did this have to happen, Will? Why Giles?"
"I don’t know,"
"You’re back at school?" Buffy asked.
"Yeah, she told me," Buffy nodded. "I just didn’t…I mean, I couldn’t.."
"It’s okay. I understand. You need time."
"Yeah," was Buffy’s barely audible, non-committal reply.
"Um, I bought you this,"
Buffy looked at the crumpled bit of paper.
‘If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of
Washed by rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.’
"It’s good," Buffy agreed. Then she laughed softly, but there was no amusement in it. "How many memorial services do we have at school? It’s ridiculous!"
"And you know what?" Buffy continued. "All those times I had to go to those services, I always used to sit and think about what I would do if the next one was for you, or Xander, or even Oz or Cordy…But I never thought about Giles." She turned to lock eyes with
"Buffy, it’s not your fault,"
"No? I took him for granted Will," she said. "Guess I learnt my lesson, huh?"
"Shhh. It's okay," she said. "You're gonna get through this."
"But I don't know if I will," Buffy said, looking up at her friend, her eyes starry with tears and smudged with mascara stains. "I feel like my whole world has ended. There's this big hole inside of me and it hurts. It hurts so bad!" She let her head fall onto
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata munda,
dona eis requiem.
O Lamb of God, Who takest away the
sins of the world, grant them rest.
* * * * *
Buffy smiled at her reflection in the full length mirror, the very picture of a carefree Californian teenager, with no more worries than whether her hair had gone flat. That is, until the hypothetical observer looked into her eyes, into the depths of green. It wasn't that they were full of tears any more, or that they ached with unexpressed pain. It was more that some light had gone out behind them, that a shutter had gone down behind them, stopping either the world from getting in or her feelings from getting out. Buffy sighed, and let her resolutely cheerful expression fade, until it was replaced by the mask she had grown used to adopting. It helped her mother and her friends to believe what they all wanted to - that she was coping, that she was getting over it. They didn't need to know the truth - they didn't want to.
Buffy shook her head angrily. <Don't think about it,> she commanded herself. She had been practicing the facade of equilibrium for some time now, learning to hide her feelings until she had almost managed to convince herself they were gone. Almost, but not quite. Whenever she stopped concentrating on keeping her mind free, the hollow, empty feeling returned, no longer the searing grief of the previous weeks, but just an absence of feeling, as though something had died inside her.
There was a faint sound from downstairs - a knock at the door. Buffy half listened without interest, vaguely surprised when she heard the door open but no voices from downstairs, but not intrigued enough to investigate. She walked over to her closet and started sorting through her clothes for the day, her first back at school since Giles’ death three weeks ago, and was still debating between something subdued in grey or something sombre in black when she heard footsteps on the stairs, and the door opened.
"Look at this honey," said Joyce from behind Buffy's back.
"What?" asked Buffy, not very interestedly and not turning round.
"It seems you've got a secret admirer," said Joyce, and Buffy could hear the smile in her voice. She frowned, and turned towards her mother.
"What do you -?" Buffy broke off as she saw what her mother was holding. A single, beautiful red rose, its velvety petals deep ruby, like fresh blood.
"I just found it outside the door," said Joyce as Buffy walked towards her, her eyes fixed on the flower with a hypnotised dullness in them.
"Who left it?" She could hear her voice speaking, but it didn't seem like hers, it was so level. Inside, she was in turmoil. Angel had never sent her flowers, not since he had been Angelus. And the red rose reminded her of another night, almost a year ago, when red rose petals had stood out against dark wood floor and black and yellow police tape in Giles' apartment. She had never been able to look at red roses in the same way since.
"I don't know," Joyce replied. "They just knocked on the door and went off before I could answer it. Why don't you look at the card?"
Buffy reached for the slip of thick, stiff cream paper. She looked blankly at the neatly printed capitals in flowing black ink.
Joyce stood in patient silence as her daughter read and reread the scrap of paper. Then, feeling uncomfortable in the deepening silence, she walked over to the door.
"I...I'll just go and put this in water," she muttered, and walked out of the door, closing it quietly behind her, before leaning against the wall, her eyes closed. She didn't know her daughter any more, didn't know what went on in her head. Ever since Rupert Giles had died, it was like she was a different person. Joyce didn't know what she could do to get through to her, or if she ever would. She shook her head, and walked downstairs.
Buffy stood in the middle of her room, and read the dark lines again.
WHEN I DIED LAST, AND, DEAR, I DIE
AS OFTEN AS FROM THEE I GO,
THOUGH IT BE BUT AN HOUR AGO,
AND LOVERS' HOURS BE FULL ETERNITY.
Buffy shivered, and pushed the card under a heap of papers on her desk.
* * * * *
Buffy wrapped her arms tightly around her chest as she walked resolutely through the crowded school corridor. She knew quite well that almost everyone was watching her like she was some sort of fish in an aquarium, some looking at her furtively over books and files, some openly staring. She kept her eyes carefully trained on the floor, trying to block out the thoughts that were telling her she should never have come back. It was harder than she would ever have thought possible. Everywhere she looked she could see places that reminded her of him.
She took a deep breath, pushing those thoughts to the back of her mind, and opened her locker. Then she stopped.
Inside was a single red rose, and a card. She hesitated for a second, then picked it up, found herself looking at the same black capitals.
DEATH BE NOT PROUD, THOUGH SOME HAVE CALLED THEE
MIGHTY AND DREADFUL, FOR THOU ART NOT SO,
FOR, THOSE, WHOM THOU THINK’ST, THOU DOST OVERTHROW,
DIE NOT, POOR DEATH, NOR YET CANST THOU KILL ME.
Buffy angrily crushed the card in her hand. This was some sort of sick joke. Probably Kyle, or Tor, or any of the other low-lifes who populated the senior year. That's all it could be. A joke.
<Then how did they get into your locker?>
Buffy swore under her breath. She shut her locker with such force that the boy standing next to her jumped about six inches in the air at the noise, then stalked off to find one of her friends. Then she stopped. Where would they be? It's not likely they'd be in the library, not any more. That would just be too painful for all of them. She turned, and walked towards the student lounge.
The group was there, or at least as many of them as were left, and as much of a group as there can be when each of the members were absorbed in their own thought. Oz,
Buffy hesitated before she approached them. It didn't hurt like she had thought it would, seeing the faces that brought back so many memories, but she felt so unsure of herself, even with these, her best friends in the world. Everything was different now.
Xander noticed the wraith-like figure hovering nervously at the bottom of the steps to the lounge, and stood up.
"Hey Buff," he said, with false cheerfulness, walking over to where she stood, walking over to her and trying to ignore the changes that had come over his friend.
"Hi Buffy," she said, looking searchingly into the other girl's face. "How are you feeling?"
Buffy smiled, unconvincingly. "I've felt better."
They sat down, in awkward silence.
"This came for you a while ago," she said, reaching down by her bag, incongruously cheery with its bright rainbow. "I saw the delivery guy wandering about, and since you weren't here I said I'd take it..."
She produced another of the blood red roses. Buffy went pale, and reached for it with trembling hands. She took the proffered slip of paper, and read the all-too familiar spidery, black writing.
TWICE OR THRICE HAD I LOVED THEE,
BEFORE I KNEW THY FACE OR NAME;
SO IN A VOICE, SO IN A SHAPELESS FLAME,
ANGELS AFFECT US OFT AND WORSHIPPED BE
"That's kind of romantic -" she began, before Buffy turned to her, her expression stony.
"No, it's not," she said flatly. "It's creepy."
"But Buffy -"
"Look," said Buffy, pulling the other two cards from her pocket. "Look at these."
"That's Donne, isn't it?" he asked, looking through them again.
"Done what?" asked Xander, looking over Oz's shoulder.
"I think so," she said contemplatively. "He's a seventeenth century English poet," she elaborated at Buffy's look.
"How do you know?" she asked.
"He...he was one of Giles' favourite poets," replied
"How do you know that?" asked Buffy, her voice very small.
"I asked," she replied. Buffy closed her eyes for a second. <She asked,> she repeated to herself. <That simple. But I never thought to ask.>
"Do you have any poems by this Donne guy?" she asked after a few moments.
It was Xander, unusually quiet and sombre sounding, who replied. "You could try the library."