Disclaimer: Joss owns it, not I.
AN: Just a random thought I had the other day when thinking of this episode and evolved into a miniature one-shot.
Visiting the cemetery in the bright light of mid-afternoon was something unusual. Normally, the gravestones were dark, faceless shadows on a moonless night, more for decoration than any sort of tribute. There were no names and no loved ones, just potential vamps and convenient short cuts. It didn’t matter who lay buried under the earth they quickly trampled over. At night, the sorrow and loss of the place was hidden beneath the danger and fear. So, really, visiting in the daytime was a new experience but when else were you going to be able to pay your respects in Sunnydale?
Walking through the front gates was surreal, given that the normal method of entry was hopping, or being thrown, over a fence. Automatically, eyes searched left and right to take in the entire view, checking for enemies and traps. The habits of a short lifetime satisfied, he timidly walked along the edges of the graves. Despite his previous wanderings, this time he was careful to respectfully skirt around the, hopefully, occupied plots. And how sad was that, he had to hope that the coffins were filled?
He came to a stop under an old tree, some type of oak he thinks, but knowledge has never been his area of expertise. From within the shade, old eyes look out and see the sparkles of granite and shine of marble spreading for miles. So many lives, so many deaths, and no promise of peace, even after, even here, and its shame, almost, that makes him bow his head. For past thought or deeds or maybe not getting here sooner, he doesn’t know.
Or he doesn’t want to. A Sunnydale motto: forgone and forgotten, the phrase was quickly being adapted into his way of life as well. Don’t think about the pain, don’t think about those you’ve lost, don’t think about mortality, don’t think about how close the end really is. Just keep moving, keep speaking, keep laughing, pretend and pretend and it will be alright. No other choice, no other option, on and on we go. Tiny toy soldiers marching in a grown-up war. Battle lines be damned, and dance with the wiliest devil of them all.
No one ever visits. There are no fresh flowers on new made graves; funerals were short and hurried affairs, held at high noon while sad and fearful mourners clutched their crosses in bone-white hands. Yet the place was never overrun with weeds or high grasses, a conundrum he’d never noticed before. It is small and trivial in the ocean of his mind, a drop in stormy waters. This turmoil is his fault and it isn’t. He is its creator or its puppet, and does it really matter which?
In a flash, in a moment, he is back in his choosing. Scared - but that’s nothing new, angry – probably more than he should be, determined – to do something even if he doesn’t know what, resigned – no happy ending here, and guilty – because he knows, he knows that even if he hasn’t committed a crime yet he will, he will before the night is through. The only question is who he will sin against.
The bushes he has chosen to hide behind are pitiful cover and his attempts at stealth are half-hearted. He almost wishes, but he doesn’t because those are bad, to be waylaid by some random evil to avoid this burden. To bad they all know the score and nothing is going to kill him until he reaches that final showdown. Maybe. Probably.
Still, when its time, he emerges. Not the cavalry and just holding a rock, contrary to his words. He has something far more potent: a school girl’s dream and a lover’s hope. This is it: his choice. And his crime. Does he betray his friends and their beliefs or his cause and his brother? He made his decision, chose his crime. Of course he did. And he only hesitated for a moment.
That was then, and he was stuck in now. Now, in this dead cemetery in this dying town, he was here. He was searching for something. Regardless of what he had done, he wasn’t looking for absolution, not really. He was looking for something much more insubstantial, a grave that wasn’t there. He was looking for the lies.
Jesse’s parents thought - well he didn’t know what they thought. He could never bring himself to walk over to his brother’s house and stare into the father’s identical brown eyes. He hoped they believed their son had merely run away, for a girl, for some adventure, for a grand life outside a little town. He never wanted them to know the truth: that their boy had been killed and a perversion had walked around with his face and his memories, however briefly. There was no grave for his brother and no funeral. Part of him was happy that his friend wouldn’t be found among the thousands of forgotten stones that no one saw or tended to; he was just…forgotten. Except by him. No, that was something he would never do, forget his brother. No matter the hurt it caused him.
He had skipped school to be here, had left the tired and suspicious gaze of Giles, the unrelenting and concerned Willow-stare, Oz’s contemplative looks, and the ignorant teachers behind. It wasn’t a hardship. This stolen afternoon was all for himself and his memories. When, if, anyone asked him where he had been, he’d lie.
It’s what he’s good at, after all. It’s what he knows. It’s what they’ve taught him.
You need to ask weird questions of someone? Lie.
You missed out on that big exam to stop an apocalypse? Lie.
You broke into a military base and stole a weapon to kill the bad guy? Lie.
You don’t want your friend to know you think he’s useless and want to protect him? Lie.
You got home late and your dad was drunk and the next day you have new bruises? Lie.
You think its okay that your friend’s vampire gets to live because he has a soul? Lie.
You forgive the Slayer and the Watcher and yourself for killing your best friend? Lie.
Your friend asks you what Willow said about Angel and you have a choice to make. There’s no way you come out of this intact. The outcomes are all limited and unsatisfactory. Buffy kills Angelus and her shot at Angel goes with him. Angelus kills Buffy and the world ends. Willow’s spell brings Angel back, Buffy doesn’t kill him, and the world ends. Angel returns, Buffy kills him, the world doesn’t end, and she has killed her lover all on her own. Angel gets his soul, Buffy doesn’t kill him, the world doesn’t end, and the vampire never has to pay for all the things he’s done. He gets to live and Jesse is dead, dead, dead and ash, and no one remembers him or his sacrifice or says his name.
Buffy asks him, “Tell me what?”
“Kick his ass.”
Some lies are just unavoidable.