On this page
I write my last confession
Read it well
When I, at last, am sleeping.
~Jean Valjean, "Les Miserables"
I never thought about how it would end.
Neither did anyone else, for that matter. Now or even twenty years later, but there we were, at the end that we never thought would come.
Buffy left the Bronze at around nine, turning down Xander's last request for a dance. She waved when she left, calling lightly that she would see us in class tomorrow. I was so busy watching Oz play that I barely waved back. We hung around until about eleven, then Cordelia drove Xander home while I asked Oz for a lift in his van. None of us had bad feelings, worries, or even gave Buffy a second thought. She would be in the library tomorrow morning, like she always was, smiling as she asked us about last night's homework.
None of us had even said good-bye when she left. We just waved absently and moved on to other topics of conversation.
And none of us ever saw her again. The police thought that she ran away, and so did her mom. And that was it. No announcement over the school loudspeaker, no mourning, no grave.
When we went into the library that morning, we found Giles packing. He didn't even acknowledge our presence, just kept on packing up his books on the occult and putting them into FedEx shipping boxes.
We were scared, and babbled questions, but he wouldn't answer. Cordelia was the one who noticed the dried blood on the library table. Looking at it, none of us could bear to ask the question that sprang to the front of our minds. Finally, it came down to me, just as Giles was walking out the door.
"Giles," I asked hesitantly, "where's Buffy?"
It was as if he hadn't heard us before this. He turned around, and I remember thinking how old and tired he looked at that moment.
"She's dead." he said, his voice flat, emotionless and his eyes empty. Then he turned around and walked out the door. We never saw him again.
For a long moment we stood there in complete, shocked silence. We had always known that Buffy faced death every night, but none of us had ever accepted the fact that she would probably never graduate from high school. And we tried to deny it, say that Giles must be wrong, that we would never believe that she was dead until we saw her body. Then Xander knelt and picked something up off the floor. Opening his hand, he showed us what it was.
It was the cross that Buffy had been wearing last night when she left the Bronze. Small and gold, she once told me that she wore it more for comfort than for what little protection it offered. Now, it was covered with dried blood.
Cordelia started to sob. I had never known that she cared so much, but in that moment her stiff front collapsed. Xander just stood there, clutching the small cross in his hand, fighting tears. I slumped down and sat on the floor. I don't know whether I wept or not. It was over. That's all I knew and somehow, after that moment, it was harder to remember.
Cordie, Xander, and I had known Buffy less than three years. We had lived in comfortable darkness until she came, safe and happy in our ignorance. She had been like a bright light, showing us the harsh realities of our life on the Hellmouth, but also offering her love and friendship. Now that she was gone we were left in aching darkness once more.
Eventually, the pain lessened a bit. Life went on, though never as before. Cordelia, Xander, Oz, and I all drifted apart. It had really been one sunny-haired girl from L.A. who had held us together. We finished high school and headed off to our seperate colleges.
Oz, my old werewolf boyfriend, lives in Ohio where he runs a chain of supermarkets. Xander lives in Boston with his wife and adopted son, working as a school guidance counselor. Cordelia became the youngest woman to ever be elected to the United States Senate. I live with my husband Jonathan and our three children in Seattle, and work in the local high school as the computer science teacher.
We don't see each other nowadays. A birthday or Christmas card is the extent of our communication. But we all remember our Sophomore and Junior years, when we knew a Slayer and a Watcher who changed our lives.
That was almost twenty years ago now. Last week I received a letter in the mail. It was from Giles.
On her patrol, Buffy was ambushed by Angelus and five vampires. She managed to slay the lackey vampires, but was severely wounded. It was then Angelus attacked. Only Buffy knows what happened next, but when the fight was over Angelus was dust and Buffy was lying on the ground, barely hanging on to consciousness and unable to move her legs.
Somehow, she managed to drag herself to the library. I found her at the door and placed her on the library table. She was delirious by then, and from her ravings I gathered the general idea of the battle that I have just told you. When she slipped down into unconciousness I was able to examine her, and bandage her wounds. It was then that I discovered what Angelus had done just as she was driving a stake through his heart.
He had broken her back.
Movement and feeling from the waist down were completely lost to her. With her Slayer healing metabolism, I was quite sure that she would survive, but nothing could heal such an injury as her back. Even if she lived, she would never walk again.
The oath a Watcher takes to bind himself to his Slayer is long and manifold. We are to guard them, train them, care for them, and for many of us, love them. Buffy knew these oaths, but there was one oath that she didn't know.
If there ever comes a time when the Slayer cannot perform her duties, her Watcher is sworn to kill her, thus activating a new Slayer.
Confined to a wheelchair, Buffy would be killed by the first vampire that she met. Her only option would be to avoid them at all costs. This was in direct conflict to her sacred duty.
My own duty was clear. Going to my office, I retrieved a pillow that I kept for the occasions that I researched all night, and caught an hour of sleep on a cot in the corner.
Returning to my charge's side, I gazed down at her. She was weak from bloodloss and the agony from her back, but she still woke up. Looking into her wide green eyes, I saw them clouded with fear and pain. Seeing me, her mouth opened to ask me something, I'll never know what. Smoothing her hair with my hand, I told her softly, "Go to sleep, Buffy, you're safe now." Trusting me completely, she closed her eyes and didn't fight to stay awake. It was then that I brought the pillow down onto her face. It only took a few minutes.
Lifting her up, I wrapped her in my jacket and carried her to my car. At that point it was about 2 in the morning. I drove to the abandoned factory that had been the lair of Spike, Angelus, and Drusilla. It had been severely damaged by the fire set the night of Jenny Calendar's death, and now I planned to finish the job. I built a small pyre of boards for her. Then I lit it.
The fire brought the whole building down, and the police put it off as simple arson. No one ever suspected that she had been inside.
Returning to my house, I packed a few clothes, books, and necessities. I put them into my car, and called ahead to the airport to purchase a one-way ticket to England. Going to the library, I collected all of my important books and mailed them to a friend who would keep them for me. I submitted my resignation and left.
I loved Buffy like a daughter, and even through twenty years I have never forgotten her, nor forgiven myself for performing my final duty. In the twenty years since her death, there have been eighteen seperate Slayers. I have never Watched even one of them. No one could ever replace or rival Buffy.
And that is the truth of the death of Buffy Summers, the Slayer who defeated the Master, loved a vampire, slew for almost three years, and died at the hand of her Watcher.
I wanted to know the truth of how my dearest friend died, and now I did. I truly wish that I didn't. Buffy killed the person she loved most, and then was killed in turn by someone whom she loved and trusted.
I didn't tell Xander or Cordelia about the letter, which I burnt. I long for their blissful ignorance, which can never be appreciated until it is lost.
How I will ever sleep again at night, I don't know. As I stare at the ceiling in the early hours, the only sound is Jonathan's strong breathing next to me. But sleep doesn't come.
For now there are ghosts, two I haven't seen in twenty years. My heart aches when I see those faces in the dark of the night, one forever young with carelessly tossed blond hair, the other, old and care worn.
I have to go back. Maybe I'll call Xander in the morning, too. I don't know. But there is one last thing. Buffy . . . Giles . . . dear spirits . . . be patient tonight . . . I swear to you . . . I will not let it end this way.
The next morning I knew what I had to do. I gave Xander a ring at his office, and it was funny because he said he had a premonition that I was going to call. When I told him about Giles' letter, the phone was silent for the longest time. I thought we had been disconnected, but then I heard him fumbling with something on the other end and then sniffling, so I just waited patiently.
"Xander? You still there?"
"Yeah, Will." There was another pause.
"Xander, are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm okay." Then a mournful tone came to his voice. The only time I had ever heard him sound like that was when I last saw him, the day after graduation. He told me he had broken off his engagement to Cordelia and was leaving for Boston in the morning.
"I was just looking at something . . . and thinking."
"Xander, we have to go back," I said, trying to draw his attention to the conversation. "We have to do something for Buffy and Giles. I don't really know what yet. But there's something unfinished."
"I know, Will. I've been feeling it for years, now." His remark sent a sudden pang through me. It almost felt like the sensation you get when you open a newspaper and see on the obituary page a tiny write up for an old friend you lost touch with a long time ago.
"If you were feeling like that why didn't you call me?"
"I thought it was just me being weird. And, truthfully, I really wasn't ready to look back. No offence."
Strange, too, he wasn't mad that I had burned Giles' letter. I thought he would have been angry with me for witholding the final fate of our two friends. I had to bite my lip when I heard his explanation.
"Willow," he said, "I always felt Giles died that morning when he told us Buffy was gone. After that, the Giles we knew didn't exist anymore. From what you tell me, I guess he felt the same way."
We didn't say anything for a moment. Then Xander broke the silence, his voice now the old flippant Xander once again.
"So, you're proposing a mini-class Slayerette reunion? One thing just occured to me. You think the old dump is still there? They might have torn it down by now."
I half snickered at the irony of the thought. "Geez, I never really considered that! Oh, Xander, could you do me a favor and call Oz. I feel a little funny about it."
"No sweat," was his light response. "And I'll give old Cordie a buzz, too. She'd have a fit if she learned we left her out." I was a little surprised by that remark.
"You sure you want to talk to her? Last I heard, you guys weren't exactly on speaking terms after you walked out on her. And she is a big muckity-muck politician now."
"Since when did a high class babe ever phase me, huh?" I had to smile remembering Xander and Cordelia's fiery relationship.
"Okay, it's up to you if you want to get your head bit off."
"No, Will," Xander said, "That was the praying mantis biology teacher. I'm *not* calling her!" For the first time in weeks, I laughed out loud.
Time, often mercifully, has a tendancy to race by before you even notice the eternal changes his subtle hand has worked upon your life. Suddenly two decades have passed, new faces surround you, and treasured photos and memories you once gazed at on a daily basis are now relegated to an old worn suitcase in the back of the crawl space in the attic.
The next two weeks went by like that. I spent a lot of time rooting in old trunks and footlockers, trying to refresh my memories and searching for clues for what I had to do. I stumbled over a box of my high school diaries. Those were bittersweet and reading them difficult. The entries quickly became fewer and fewer in the weeks following Buffy's death and then ended all together.
Jonathan was his usual understanding self. He knew of my past and those eventful two and a half years.
"If it's what you need to do," he said quietly, "then go for it." Then he gave me a hug and whispered in my ear. "I understand. I feel like I knew them, too."
"But Jonathan," I said, trying not to become emotional, "I don't know what I'm supposed to do." His voice was calm and reassuring as he gently brushed the hair off my forehead with his hand.
"Just follow where your heart leads you, Will. It's never failed you yet." He kissed me and held me in his arms. Only then did time, in his infinite wisdom, grant me his most precious gift and slow down.