She's dying. That's all I can say, she's dying.
I'm not exactly sure why, all I know is that it has to do with her heart.
I offered her mine. She laughed, but I was serious. I'd give anything for her to go on living. I want to reach deep into my chest and pull my healthy heart out and hand it to her, saying, "Live long, you're worth more than I ever was, than I'll ever be."
But I know that she wouldn't take it. She would just look at it, remark on its purpose then tell me to stick it back in my chest were it belongs.
She wants to die and that's the hardest thing to understand. I can't understand it and I won't ever understand it. Out of all of us, she has the most to give. I don't know what'll happen when she's gone.
Everyone is gone now. They left. Didn't want to see her like this. At first they told me to go. They didn't think I was strong enough to handle this. But I outlasted them. They left because I said I'd stay until she departed as well.
Truth is, I like that I'm the last person she'll see before she sees God. I couldn't imagine not being here when her breathing stops.
It won't be long now, the doctors have told me.
She sleeps most of the time, so I just sit here next to her, holding her little hand. It looks so delicate in my big, clumsy hand. It may sound weird, but I've thought about her hands so many times. They are the measure of a person, I think. And her hands speak of her strength.
The nurses bring my meals up as they do for the rest of the patients. I don't ever have to leave her room. In fact, I haven't. Not for at least a week. This chair has grown to be very comfortable and my neck and back don't even register the pain when I sleep in it anymore. They had offered me a bed, but I declined. There was no way I going be genuinely comfortable when she's not.
I sit here in this chair for hours thinking about my time spent in her company. I only realize now what she meant to me and more importantly, what I meant to her. She never said it much; she never let it be known, but I know. I'm pretty sure that deep down, I've always known.
I know for sure now because when she wakes up, she tells me. There's no time for coyness or embarrassment. There's only time for realization.
I see the tears in her eyes just as she sees the tears in mine.
She wants to die, but she doesn't want to let go. She's coaching me about how to survive without her. She's telling me how to care for the others. She can see it. She knows it. She knows I'm the strongest of them all now.
What she doesn't know is that I'm strong because of her. I draw it from her. Which means when she dies, it'll all be gone. I've asked the nurses to keep a bed in the psychiatric ward open for me, because when she dies, I'm planning on going insane.
I'm planning to bang my head again concrete walls until I pass out. I'm planning to run naked through Main Street, shouting at the top of my voice about the most amazing being that I've had the extreme pleasure of knowing. I plan to die when she dies.
Getting up, I sit down on the edge of her bed as her eyes flutter open and she gives me that beautiful smile that I've cherished for so long. I push back the dirty hair that's matted to her face and ask her if she wants me to wash it for her. She gives a slight nod and I move to get the water basin and shampoo. Her hand snakes out and holds me back.
Looking into her eyes, I see the fear. She's afraid of what comes next. She wants to die but she's scared. I try to comfort her, the only way I know how. I look into those big eyes that seem dulled by fatigue and I smile. One thing she's told me in the past week was how much hope she's always drawn from my smile.
I wish I could do more.
As I gently massage the shampoo into her hair, I talk to her. I talk about anything and everything. She mainly wants me to talk about the past. She wants to remember as I do.
After I rinse her hair, she interrupts me and I quiet. I listen to her voice, hoping to commit it to memory. The world will be a sadder place without that voice. She's telling me about what she wants for her funeral. She says she wants Cat Steven's "Morning Has Broken" and "Oh Very Young" playing at her viewing. I mention to her that "Oh Very Young" is too happy for the occasion.
She smiles and tells me to listen to it again.
She wants to be buried in the little blue dress I bought her for her last birthday.
She tells me about what should be done with all her belongings. Tears seep from my eyes as she talks with certainty and finality. She says I'm to have her stuffed animal collection. I don't quite understand why and that makes me cry harder.
I ask her why and she tells me that she'll know I'll love them. Even though I've never owned a stuffed animal in my life.
Her eyes slip closed and a smile plays on her lips as she says my name.
For a moment, I'm afraid that this is it. That she's leaving me in this cold world alone for good. But she's not. As I lean down close, I can hear her ragged breathing. She's just sleeping.
As she sleeps, I take the time to again reflect on the fact that she's all I've ever wanted.
The thought floats to the back of my mind as the doctor enters. He checks everything he needs to and then heads back to the door. I stop him, asking him about how she is. He smiles. It's one of those 'I'm just smiling to futilely try to ease your pain' smiles. He shakes his head.
She's dying. It's only a matter of time. But in truth, he thought she would've gone by now. She's hanging on to the thin thread of life.
Hours pass and my dinner arrives. I look at it as if it was alien in origin. It's not that the food is bad. As institutional food goes, it's pretty damn good. It's just that, I cannot think about eating when she's dying. When the doctor has told me that she should be dead. That's she's living on borrowed time.
More hours pass until its time for all the normal visitors to leave.
I am not a normal visitor. They tried to say that I was, but I convinced them otherwise. How could they do anything but give in? She was dying and I was staying. There wasn't a being, supernatural or not, that could make me leave this room and her side.
Her eyes open again and she says my name softly. She struggles to sit up and I move quickly to help her. I ask if everything is all right and she smiles her answer. Sweeping back her now dried hair with my hand, I press a gentle kiss to her forehead. She exhales and I feel it against my neck.
She tells me she wants to dance and at first I don't get it. She tells me again that she wants to dance with me. I just give her a look. Again she smiles and it makes me wonder where she gets the strength. She comforts me about her dying when it is I who should be comforting her. She amazes me. Always.
She tells me to turn on some music, so I do. I move to the small stereo that someone had brought for her before she was told that she would die. I turn it to the first station I can find. I don't even know what song is playing, but I return to her.
I help her out of bed. Her small frame seems like it only weighs fifty pounds. I hope she weighs more than that.
I take her small hand in mine and slide an arm around her back, my free hand pressing at the small of her back. Her hand rests on my arm. It's so light that I almost don't feel it.
We move slowly, just swaying as we lean on each other. She reminds me of a time when I told her that I wanted to dance with her. She smiles up at me as she tells me about it.
I recall it. I smile. I can't help it. It was so long ago and that school dance was so trivial. But it had meant a lot then.
It crushed me when she told me that her feelings did not match my own. But now, now that she's in my arms and pressing her face into my chest, I know that they now do. She loves me the way I've always loved her. She whispers her apologies and I deny them.
She doesn't need to apologize. I understand and there is nothing to forgive.
The song ends and she tires. I pick her up the way a newly wed husband would carry his bride over the threshold. I'm careful of the tubing that is sticking into her arms as I place her back into her bed.
She makes me sit down on the edge again and tears swell up in my eyes as she looks up at me. She looks so tired, so weak, so not her. I realize that what the doctor said was true. She was hanging on. And now it was clear why.
She was fighting to hang on because of me. She didn't want to leave me alone.
Caressing her face, I smile down at her. She's dying and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.
She doesn't even flinch when my tears splash onto her face. Her hand just comes up to wipe away the new tears that are sliding out of my eyes. Her hand is petting my face and I close my eyes, relishing the feel of her touch on my skin.
I open my eyes and lock them with hers. "You can go, you know," I tell her. "You don't have to stay for me. I'll miss you more than anything and I'll always want to follow you, but I know you have to go."
"Xander," she whispers.
I smile. I love how she says my name. "I'll be okay. I promise."
"I love you. You know that. I'm sorry that it took lying here to finally realize it."
"No. Stop apologizing. I love you. I always have."
"Promise me." Her hand presses against my face a little harder. "Promise me you'll let the others help you when I'm gone."
I simply nod. I can no longer control the river of tears and my voice will not work.
We just sit there for a few minutes, studying each other. Her eyes falter and I see her chest slow its movements. "You can go," I whisper. "I'll be alright."
She smiles and my heart breaks. Her eyes slip completely closed and I watch as a lone tear winds its way down her cheek. Reaching out, I catch it with my finger and bring it to my mouth. I just wanted that little bit of her in me. I need it to be in me.
Her hand falls away from my face and I place one of my hands on her chest. I'm watching her face intently as I feel her chest stop moving.
I want to scream. I want to run out into the hallway and yell for the nurses and doctors to help her. To save her.
But I don't. I just sit there, looking down at my dead love. Leaning down, I give her a final kiss. It lasts for minutes as I don't want it to ever end. When it ends, she's gone and a large chunk of me is as well.
I pull back and push the hair from her face. I just sit there for what seems like eternity just looking at her. God she's beautiful. I don't know how I shall live without seeing her smile everyday.
Finally, I move from the bed and stand on shaky legs. I remind myself that I only need to be strong for a few more moments. I just need strength enough to make one phone call.
Picking up the phone, I dial and sink down to the phone by her bed. "Yeah, it's me," I said, my voice dead and lifeless. "She's gone. Buffy just died."
I hang up the phone, not caring if Giles needed me to say more. I know that Ms. Summers is over with him and that they'll cry together then inform the rest of the group.
Letting my head slump down, I let myself finally be weak. I wail for her. I curl up into a little ball and am only vaguely aware when a nurse comes in. I don't look at her. I just continue to cry for the woman lying dead on the bed.
I love her.
A thought echoes through my mind and I don't know what to think of it; I don't know what to make of it.
I finally got my dance.
~Xander to Buffy~ "Buffy, I like you. A lot. And I know we're friends, and we've had experiences... We've fought some blood-sucking fiends, and that's all been a good time. But I want more. I want to dance with you." ~Prophecy Girl~