Two weeks later
Buffy slowly trudged up the walk of her house, feeling tired and drained. It had been a harrowing two weeks. She had arranged and attended the funerals of both her parents and Giles. She had also attended the funerals of Xander, Willow, Cordelia, and Oz. At least she had not had to arrange the funerals of her friends as well as her parents. They had better luck in persuading their parents to stay home or at least Willow and Oz had. Xander and Cordy's parents had not even planned to come, one set too busy drinking, the other too busy dealing with the IRS.
It had taken Buffy three days to get out of bed after she had gone to sleep following the events of graduation. Overcome with grief, she had spent most of the days and nights in a kind of waking sleep, completely numb. Finally hunger had driven her from her cocoon and made her head downstairs to the kitchen. Her Slayer metabolism had punished her body severely, causing her to lose pounds she could ill afford, giving her an almost honed appearance. Buffy had stuffed herself, then gone back to bed. Thus had the next two days gone. Finally on Wednesday, the ringing of the telephone had roused her and she had gone to answer it.
“This is Sergeant Mathers with the Sunnydale Police Department. I am part of the task force assigned to investigate the gas explosion of Sunnydale High School. Is this Mrs. Summers?” The masculine voice was somewhat tentative. Too much dealing with the grief-stricken made it difficult.
Closing her eyes against fresh tears, Buffy replied, “No, I'm Buffy Summers. My mom died at the graduation...”
“Buffy Summers? You surv... er were at the graduation, Miss Summers?” The excitement in his voice was palpable.
“Yes, I was there,” Buffy softly replied.
“I need to speak to you immediately, Miss Summers. Can you come down the the station as soon as possible please? We could really use your help.”
The insistence in his voice grated on Buffy's sensitive nerves. She had to choke back an urge to scream into the telephone receiver and forced herself to reply calmly, “I'll be down as soon as I can.”
Putting the receiver down, Buffy had gone back upstairs, and resisting the urge to crawl back into bed, had gone into the bathroom to take a quick shower. Clucking at the mess in her hair, she had spent more time getting clean than she had planned. Getting dressed, she had walked down to the police station, both for the exercise and to delay her dealings with the police as long as possible. After speaking to Sgt. Mathers, she learned that the police believed it was a faulty gas main that had caused the blast. Apparently there was one located right below the school. Their theory had been that gas had leaked out, completely filling the school, until finally sparking, setting off an enormous explosion. Buffy neither confirmed nor denied smelling gas the day of the graduation, leaving their story in place as an explanation. She was surprised that the plunger-thingy had not been found, or any other evidence of the true nature of the explosion. Then again, the Sunnydale Police were known for creating their own versions of “the truth” on a regular basis.
Her own survival was more problematic. Apparently she was the only
survivor among the attendees. The police were amazed that she survived, but surprisingly did not closely question her vague answer that she did not really remember how she had survived. While the police were not a problem, the press were. The national press had descended upon Sunnydale seeking a STORY. Fortunately, the police officers Buffy spoke with promised to keep a lid on her identify, knowing that if the press found out they would torment her. The police were enormously sympathetic to the young girl who had lost her parents, friends, and classmates to disaster. After taking her statement, they smuggled her out of the station and back home.
Buffy had been unable to go back into her self-imposed coma again. Still hurting deeply from the loss of so many who were close to her, she nevertheless had decided to deal with the details of arranging her parents' funerals. She had officially “claimed” their bodies when at the police station, unfortunately only receiving two death certificates; nothing of their mortal remains existed. Buffy had contacted a funeral home to take care of the arrangements, which had been surprisingly easy. They had understood the situation and made the sensible suggestion of receiving urns for her parents rather than caskets as there were no remains to inter. This did double duty by keeping the costs down as well. Later Buffy added an urn for Giles as well, not sure he had anyone willing to do this for him.
Buffy contacted what relatives she knew of, mostly from her mom's side of the family. Her dad was an only child with only one uncle as far as she knew. She couldn't reach the uncle. She had better luck with her mom's sister, Aunt Barbara, her dead cousin Cecilia's mother. When Buffy reached her, Aunt Barbara took over calling the rest of their relatives. The turn out for the funeral had still been somewhat sparse, primarily because there just weren't that many relatives left.
After the funeral, Aunt Barbara had tried to get Buffy to come stay with her. Buffy had been tempted, but couldn't see herself living in Sacramento. It was just too far north and too far from the Hellmouth. In the end she had declined Aunt Barbara's invitation, telling her she needed some time alone to come to grips with her grief. Her aunt had looked at her with a shadow behind her eyes, and merely commented, “One thing I know is that being alone isn't the best way to deal with grief when someone you love dies.”
Buffy had also contacted the various parents of her friends to find out dates and times of their funerals. She had arranged to attend each of their funerals as well as the ceremony that was held to mourn all of the dead of Sunnydale. Of the funerals of her friends that she had attended, Willow's had been the hardest. As she had watched the casket being lowered into the ground, Buffy had wondered if any part of Willow was in there, flashing back to the piece she had found after the blast. She had not made it halfway through the service when she broke down and started sobbing. Buffy had been surprised when Willow's father had walked around the grave site to pull her into his arms, holding her as she grieved. Neither he nor Mrs. Rosenberg had cried, at least not where Buffy had seen. She took what comfort she could from the soft pats on her back and the gentle reassuring murmurs of the large man holding her. Afterwards, he had told her that if she ever needed anything to call him.
Buffy had held Giles's service privately, with only the earth and sky for witnesses. She had not even hired a pastor, preferring to spend the time alone with Giles in her thoughts. She regretted the distance that had come between them after the Cruciamentum. She had ultimately come to trust Giles again, but couldn't remember if she had ever told him. That bothered her a great deal. She hoped he knew how much she had come to love him.
Finishing all of the funerals for her own parents and Giles had left her drained, cried out. Buffy had never felt so much grief or felt the depths of misery to which a person can descend before. Not even when sending Angel to Hell and getting kicked out of her home, chased by the police, had things felt so difficult. That those events had made her stronger were a given, but even with the additional strength, she felt brittle, like the next stray word or kind gesture would shatter her into a million pieces.
Going to see Faith had been devastating. Today was the first time she had gone to see the other Slayer since putting her into a coma, and she was hesitant. She had finally gone despite her misgivings. When Buffy had arrived at the Richard Wilkins III Long Term Care Facility, she had seen someone unexpected. She spotted Quentin Travers going in ahead of her. She had followed him, staying just out of sight. He had stopped just outside an open door, speaking to a shadowy form within. Buffy had strained her senses to the utmost to hear the low murmur of conversation.
“So it's finished?”
“Yes, she's gone. The next Slayer will have been called.”
“Well enough then”
“I didn't like doing this, to someone helpless like her. It's one thing to kill a vampire or demon, and another to kill a 17-year-old girl in her sleep.” The unknown man's voice revealed stress and uncertainty.
“It had to be done, Smithers. With Buffy Summers dead, we don't have the luxury of being able to wait until Faith wakes, assuming she ever would. Even if she had woken in a timely manner, there is little likelihood she would be rational and willing to return to active Slaying.” Quentin Travers spoke calmly, but with an undertone of sadness.
“Well... it's over and done with now. Will you be sending the new Slayer and her Watcher here then?”
“Yes. Once we know which of the potentials has been Chosen. If nothing else, the situation of the Mayor's ascension has shown there to be the need for an active Slayer here on the Hellmouth for the foreseeable future. We've already acquired Rupert's apartment and most of his books with it. We've moved his personal possessions out. We'll send those to his family.”
“Do you think she'll do better than the last two?”
“Better than Faith? With no doubt. Better than Buffy Summers? She accomplished quite a lot in her time. Not the least of which was changing my mind about the usefulness of family and friends in helping a Slayer stay alive. I rather doubted their usefulness at first and fired Rupert for it. A father's love... humpf. After the events of the last few months, I've had a change of heart. I had planned on reinstating Rupert Giles as her Watcher after the balls up that Wesley Wyndam-Pryce made of things. Buffy convinced me that the closeness she shared with her Watcher was not necessarily a bad thing. God knows, he would have died for her and she for him. I don't know if the next slayer will be the kind of person who can continue this... tradition, but then only time will tell.”
“Let's get out of here. The nurses will be by soon and find her body...” Their voices faded in the distance as the two men walked down the corridor, leaving by another exit.
Buffy had gone down the hallway and entered the room. She had noticed the still form on the bed and crossing the room, had stood over her. Faith was dead. The vitality that she had possessed in such abundance was absent, nothing left but an empty shell. Buffy took Faith's hand, squeezing it firmly as she stared at the young face. Of all the ways to die, this would have been the last she would have chosen for Faith. Killed by vampires or demons would have been a more fitting end. Buffy thought of chasing down the hallway after Quentin and killing both the murderer and the commissioner of that murder, but could not summon the will. There had been too much death already. After a few minutes, she laid the hand back onto the sheets, placed a kiss upon the cooling brow of the body, and turned and left.
As Buffy trudged up the walkway to her home, she pondered Faith's fate. In some ways she almost envied the girl; at least her fight was over. No more vampires; no more death; no more losing the ones she loved. She finally had peace. Buffy's musings were interrupted as a figure stirred in the shadows of her front porch.
“Slayer, we need to talk.”
Buffy looked with intense dislike upon the revealed figure. “Whistler...”