The Funeral and After
It was cloudy. Oppressive. Any moment, it was going to rain.
Perfect weather for saying goodbye.
No one was certain if that was intentional or accidental on Ororo’s part.
They stood, all of them, in a semi-circle around the foot of the open grave, staring at the casket waiting to be lowered, none of them speaking.
As soon as someone spoke, there would be no turning back. It would be real.
Buffy Summers would be dead.
Dawn stood between Scott and Spike, the latter being able to stand in the open due to the overcast sky. Tears had been running down her cheeks all morning, but she had not actually cried since her breakdown in the basement. She had, however, insisted on a closed casket funeral. Vehemently. She wanted to remember a living Buffy, not the leftover shell they were going to lower into the ground. Someone, she couldn’t remember who, put a wooden box on the living room table, inviting everyone to put a memento, or a letter, or anything they wanted it. It would be tucked into the casket before the funeral. It was gone when she got ready this morning.
The funeral director had been fully understanding of the need for privacy in this situation, so he had shown Giles and Nicholas how to run the machinery needed, and then simply set everything up without a fuss. He was now having coffee with the caretaker in the small work shed at the front of the cemetery, waiting for the party to finish.
And still, no one said anything.
Giles was preparing for the inevitable, and had just started getting ready to say something
, when Xander tugged at his sleeve, and pointed to the east.
“What’s going on there?” the younger man asked.
Giles followed Xander’s arm and saw a group of eight policemen coming over the hill towards them. Seven of them were carrying rifles on their shoulders. The eighth, leading the group, carried a small box in his hands.
“Some kind of trouble?” Xander asked.
“I don’t think so,” the Watcher replied, “Those are dress uniforms.”
At this point, the others had noticed the procession. They watched as the one in front of the group of officers, who had more stars on his collar than the others, approached Dawn. The remaining seven formed a rough semi-circle at the top of the grave. They stood there at parade rest, one arm behind their backs, the other holding onto the barrel of the rifle they carried, resting the stock of the weapon on the ground.
“Ms. Summers,” the ranking officer said, “I’m Police Commissioner John McCrate. On behalf of the Sunnydale Police Department, I wish to present this to you in honor of your sister, Buffy, to acknowledge the work she did.” He flipped the top of the box open, and then held it out to her.
Dawn’s hands shook slightly as she took the box and looked into it. Inside, sitting on a velvet cushion, was a medal, hanging from a ribbon of blue. The medallion itself was round, with laurel leaves on the sides, with the words “For Valor” and “Police Department: City of Sunnydale” engraved around the image of the city seal. At the very bottom was “Buffy Summers: 2001”
She looked up at the commissioner with fresh tears in her eyes.
“You knew?” she asked.
“Some of us,” he answered, “Some of us.”
“Thank you,” she whispered.
McCrate took a step backwards and raised his right hand to the brim of his hat in salute. Dawn stood straight, and returned the gesture. McCrate then spun around and took his place with the remaining officers.
Dawn looked at the medal for a moment longer before closing the box. She then looked over at Giles.
“I’m ready now,” she said softly, and walked over to the casket.
She ran her hand over the polished wood, thinking, not thinking.
“I’ll remember what you told me,” she said, “I’ll remember what you’ve done. I’ll remember every…” her voice broke, and then she collected herself. “I’ll remember everything. I miss you already. I love you.” As she walked back to her spot, Xander and Anya came forward.
“Hey, Buff,” Xander whispered, “Just wanted you to be the first to know, me and Anya, we’re getting married.”
Anya sobbed quietly, then added “I wish you could be here for it.” Her contribution to the box had been a hastily scribbled invitation.
“Goodbye,” they both said. “We’ll keep up the fight,” Xander added. Then they turned and walked back to the group.
Willow and Tara came next. Willow was shaking so badly that Tara had to half carry her to the side of the casket. It was too much for the red headed witch, and she broke into hysterical sobs with Tara holding her tightly.
Tara herself glanced briefly at the casket and mouthed, “Blessed be, travel well, Goddess guide you,” before escorting her love back over to the group.
Giles then walked up. He couldn’t think of anything to say. Nothing at all. This isn’t the way things were supposed to work. Daughters bury their father, not the other way around. She was supposed to be teasing him about his stuffiness when he was old and gray and sharing tea with him and…and…and…
Steady on, old man, he told himself. The others need you to be strong yet. Once things are going, then you can break down.
But you really should have told her…
“I love you,” he whispered. “And I am so very, very proud of the woman you grew into. Rest in peace, my brave, wonderful girl.”
As he left the graveside, Angel took his place, Cordelia and Wesley right behind him. The vampire said nothing, just ran his hand over the top of the casket, before returning to the crowd.
“Goodbye,” said Cordelia, “And, thank you.” her eyes showing tears, as she walked past.
“Godspeed, Buffy” whispered Wesley. “Godspeed.”
Spike walked up, tears running unashamedly down his face. He kissed his fingertips and placed them once on the top of the casket, gently.
“’Till the end of the world,” he whispered.
Scott and Jean came up then.
“I just want to tell you that I love you,” Scott said. “I’ll take care of Dawn. Always.”
Professor Xavier and the remaining X-Men came up at that point, Henry pushing the Professor’s wheelchair.
“We’ll all take care of your family, Buffy,” he said softly, the others quietly speaking agreement. “All of them.” One by one, they returned to the circle, whispering condolences to Scott, or just letting him know they were there. Some paused and whispered a word or two over the coffin. Finally, Scott and Jean themselves returned to the group.
Alexis looked over at Spencer, then at Nicholas, and nodded. Together they walked up to the foot of the grave. Nicholas opened a bottle of wine he’d been carrying. Tabouli walked right next to her mistress, and sat by her feet by the grave.
“Sé nú! Ek sé thar minn fedhr,” he said raising the bottle and pouring some onto the ground.
“What was that, some kind of spell?” Xander started.
“Hush!” Anya whispered, just loud enough for the others to hear, wanting to make sure everyone understood. “It’s Old Norse. It’s a prayer.”
Meanwhile, Nicholas had taken a drink from the bottle and passed it to Alexis.
“Sé nú! Ek sé thar mína módhr, ok minna systr, ok minna broedhr,” she said, also pouring some wine onto the ground. She then handed the bottle to Spencer.
“Sé nú! Ek sé thar hringana af mínu kyni frá upphafi,” Spencer said, pouring. He then took his own drink, and held the bottle out in front of Alexis. She and Nicholas in turn reached out and placed their hands around the bottle as well.
“Sé nú! Their kalla mik,” they chanted. “Their bidjamk koma at theim í Folkvang, hvar ballridhar allan aldr búask um.”
“What does it mean?” Dawn asked as they poured the remaining wine.
“Oh,” Anya said, “They just asked Freya to take Buffy in, that’s all. Made a gift of wine so She’d take notice. Probably a better idea then Valhalla, really. I think Freya would like Buffy.”
“Huh?” Xander said.
“Freya,” Anya told him, “Goddess of love, wealth, sex and battle. Splits the battle dead with Odin, and she gets first pick.”
“So the Norse Gods,” Xander said hesitantly, “They’re real?”
Anya looked at him as though he had just asked the stupidest question she had ever heard.
“I’ll fill you in later,” she said, returning her attention to the gravesite.
Once Alexis, Spencer, and Nicholas had returned to their places, Commissioner McCrate stepped forward again.
“Ms. Summers,” he said, “With your permission?”
Dawn nodded at him. He then turned to the remaining officers.
“Company!” he barked.
Seven officers as one went from parade rest to full attention.
“Stand by Ready!” McCrate commanded.
Seven rifles were pulled up and around into firing position.
Seven safety bolts were released.
Seven shots rang out. Seven spent shells were ejected. Seven fresh shells were loaded. Each step took on a meaning of its own.
Seven shots rang out again. Seven more empty shells flew out to the right of the riflemen. Seven bolts were once more driven home.
And the final seven shots echoed into the distance.
And seven rifles returned to resting position.
McCrate turned to Dawn and once again saluted. Once she had returned the salute, the officers fell into formation and returned the same way they came.
Slowly, the remaining group started making their way out of the cemetery. Giles hesitated a moment, and looked over at Nicholas.
“I’ll get it,” Nicholas said softly, “You go with them, I’ll be there shortly.”
Giles nodded his appreciation, and walked with Dawn and Spike out of the small grove.
Once he was alone in the grove, Nicholas pulled out his cell phone and called the caretakers shed.
“We’re done,” he said, triggering the mechanism that would lower the casket into the grave. “You can come up and finish now.” He listed for a moment, then said: “Thanks,” before hanging up.
“Damn shame,” said a voice from behind him.
Nicholas recognized the voice.
“It always is when you loose the good ones, Fury,” he responded. His visitor stepped up beside him.
“I guess we all end up like this in the end, huh?” Fury asked him as he scooped up a handful of dirt and tossed it on top of the casket.
“Slayers have an even shorter life expectancy then spies,” Nicholas said. “Why are you really here?”
Fury turned and looked at him with his one good eye.
“I wanted to check up on you,” he said, “Could have called, but I wanted to pay my respects.” He gestured to the grave, “She was one of a kind.”
“That she was,” Nicholas agreed. “I’ll have some information for you when I get back to Westchester.”
“Email it to the Cayman Island server.” Fury replied, touching his belt. As he disappeared, he said, “Just in case.”
Nicholas looked one more time at the grave. He could see the caretaker and funeral director walking up in the distance.
“At least you get to rest now,” he whispered. Then he turned to follow the others.