2. The Funeral
They had never had a real funeral, not after the initial deaths from the bombing of the Slayer headquarters. Once the survivors of the bombing had begun to grow ill, caring for them had taken up so much energy and time that there had been no time to truly mourn, no time to even give acknowledgment of one person’s death when so many others were still in the process of dying. Once it was determined that any doctor sent into the building would become infected as well, all funeral homes, morgue workers, and other people who might professionally deal with the dead had refused to perform the task of handling the bodies, and so the disposal had been left up to Giles and Faith to deal with.
Giles had been the one to insist upon ridding the building of the bodies, and Faith did not know what he did with them. She never asked, and no matter how much time passed, or how old she grew, she didn’t want to ever be told, or even to let herself consider the possibilities. She knew only that each time he returned from a disposal, his hands shook, his shoulders stooped so much he appeared to be almost hunchbacked in form, his face appeared as haggard, pale, and creased as an old man’s, and he could not meet her eyes.
It wasn’t until the day after Giles chose to stay that he suggested they hold a funeral, one which would be more symbolic than actual, as they had only a few graves which could physically be visited to go to. Faith had agreed with less than enthusiasm, more because she felt that she needed to humor some of his suggestions, in light of his sacrifice to her, rather than because she had any desire to do such a thing, or could think of a single thing she would be able to bring herself to say or do.
Their drive to the cemetery where so many young Slayers, and several of their other extended friends and coworkers were buried, was almost entirely silent; neither could think of a single word to say that would be of any help or use to the circumstances. When they pulled into the parking lot, Faith had hesitated for so long in exiting the car that Giles had looked back at her, concerned, but when she saw his mouth open, as though to begin to question her, she had quickly jumped out, almost slamming the behind her as she strode ahead of him, chin lifted high even as her stomach sloshed sickeningly.
She had not known what Giles expected from her, exactly, or what he himself wanted to do while there. She had not been able to bring herself to say anything at all, as she slowly walked through the cemetery’s middle pathway, easily finding and coming to a stop along the several rows of headstones, and the familiar names they bore. There were so many, but they both knew there should have been more. That one day, Giles had already told her in one of the few stilted conversations they had managed, he would pay for each of the others to have headstones as well, if not a final resting spot.
It was not enough. They should have more, each and every single one of them should have so much more. Medals of honor, days of memoriam, parades and speeches given in their honor, books written in their name…they were heroes, each and every single one of them, and this was their payoff, in the end? This was how they would be remembered, by a single tombstone?
They would be forgotten. They would be forgotten, by all but her and Giles…and what kind of responsibility was that, what kind of curse was that, for them to be the only ones to remember?
Faith had stood with rigid posture, her hands clinched into fists at her sides, as Giles slowly walked along the aisles, head bowed, eyes half closed, and watched as his lips moved silently on occasion, as though speaking to each person, or perhaps offering a prayer. She watched him, who seemed to have so much to say, even if he did not speak it aloud for her to hear, and still she could think of not one word that would seem worth saying then.
It wasn’t until they were back in the car, the silence stretched thin between them once again, that Faith had burst into tears so suddenly it had shocked even herself, and had continued to weep with such intensity she had difficulty drawing breath. Later that evening she had gone to the first sleazy bar she could find, then bought a large quantity of liquor afterward as well, and gotten so drunk she could barely lift her head, let alone walk. She had awakened in the morning, head throbbing severely, aching, parched, and so exhausted she didn’t want to bring herself to move, to find that she was lying in a motel’s twin bed, lightly covered with a thin blanket, a trash can close to her bedside, and that Giles was sitting up in the other bed, flipping pages of a book without really seeming to take in any of its words. Seeing that her eyes were open, though barely so, he had put down the book, scrutinized her, and asked if she could manage some water, and that had been the extent of the conversation about the previous day.