On a sunny Maine day some time later, a brisk wind was blowing hard at the Slayer's back. It pressed Buffy's black dress against her body while also plucking at the stray strands of blonde hair escaping from her tight bun. This strong breeze brought to the young woman's nose all the aromas of forest and field making the most of the last weeks of spring. These various smells of growing things had been carried from the interior to where Buffy was standing on top of the hill overlooking a snug beach cottage and the ocean beyond.
Disregarding the view which had become truly familiar over the past several weeks, Buffy instead watched how Ed Adamson was being helped to his feet by this man's daughters. Both Helen and Hannah stood on opposite sides of their father after all of them had carefully placed in the awaiting cavity excavated from the ground a stone plaque at its proper position, set centered below the two older inscribed stone tablets. Now, the trio consisting of an elderly farmer and his children moved back to stand off close by on the side of the lookout clearing.
From Buffy's left, a throat was softly cleared. She glanced over at where Doctor Coffin was patiently waiting, cradling in her arms a small wooden urn. Knowing this was her cue, Buffy reached out to take the proffered urn from Karen's hands, sharing a melancholy look with the hospice therapist. Turning, Buffy then strode forward, until she was in front of the stone plaque set in the ground just a minute ago. Sorrowfully looking down at this, the California girl read:
FATHER, MOTHER, CHILD
The four Maine natives sympathetically watching the former wife of a young man they'd all known and loved now saw her head abruptly lift. Buffy then stared out at the wide Atlantic, her face showing fleeting astonishment. Next, the woman's lips then curved into an entirely unexpected sweet, sad smile. Neither the Adamson family nor the doctor could resist following Buffy's gaze, but they saw nothing out beyond the hilltop which might possibly explain her sudden odd behavior.
The Slayer herself hadn't been expecting that soft mental voice which had just spoken inside her head. *Buffy, we're all here now. Let me show you.*
Right after this, over eight hundred miles away in Cleveland, Willow cast the remainder of her spell. It caused Buffy, and no one else, to see how hundreds of people now instantly materialized in a great semi-circle in front of the short blonde, with a gap empty of anyone directly in front of Buffy. All of these unanticipated onlookers were translucent, indicating they were here in spirit form only. Their images had been sent from all over the world at this exact moment by the Red Witch's magic.
Despite the somber occasion, Buffy inwardly felt the merest glimmer of amusement over being glad that nobody had actually teleported here. Considering all of the intangible spectators were from twenty to sixty feet ahead of where Buffy was at the hilltop, those people joining the funeral ceremony off the Maine coast now appeared as if they were standing on thin air about fifty yards above the breaking ocean waves below them.
Buffy's passing delight over the minor absurdity promptly turned into thankful wonder, as she then realized all of these unforeseen visitors had appeared here simply to be with her at the memorial service for Brandon Martin. A man they'd in the main had never known, but who'd been for a short time the husband of Buffy Summers. A man who'd loved her and been loved by her, with this Slayer also regarded with as much devotion and esteem by numerous others now here. They'd willingly come together today to offer Buffy their support and consolation in her time of loss.
Her eyes filling with grateful tears, Buffy slowly examined all there dressed in their most formal clothing, as fitting to pay their respects on this day of mourning. Many of them she knew, and while meeting the gazes of these Watchers and Slayers and other Council personnel, they nodded back, or bowed, or curtseyed, or otherwise indicated their genuine deference in the normal manner of their societies.
An overcome Buffy managed to merely lower her eyes in response, not wanting to do anything which might cause her fellow mourners on the hilltop to start uneasily speculating if this widow was about to start breaking down in her misery. Accepting expressions now appeared upon the features (both human and inhuman) of the majority of the crowd, indicating they understood this. This same audience also weren't offended by Buffy then directing her attention to those there which she most wanted to see.
Giles and Dawn were the first, on the far right of the forefront of the small contingent. The grey-haired Englishman in his black suit was standing behind the younger Summers sister, his arms comfortingly wrapped in paternal care around Dawn. They both directed compassionate glances at the Slayer. Buffy sent back an appreciative quirk of her lips, to then shift her gaze at the other people waiting next to her Watcher and the Key.
Willow was dabbing at her eyes with a damp handkerchief. The witch lowered this soaked cloth to mournfully nod at Buffy. At her side, a man tenderly placed his hand upon her shoulder, squeezing this gently in the same empathy the Scooby Gang had learned to expect from Daniel Osbourne. A calm Oz also fractionally tilted his head forward in stoic commiseration towards Buffy. This got the laid-back werewolf another indebted look from the Slayer, along with a last lingering glance from that woman at Oz's unaltered coiffure. For the first time she could ever recall, her friend from high school was willingly showing to everyone that he had natural light brown hair.
Another surprise was awaiting Buffy when her gaze continued to sweep the crowd, to suddenly stop as her eyes widened in actual astonishment. Faith was there, clad in a perfectly appropriate black dress and hands decorously clasped in front of herself. Once the other Slayer was sure she had the blonde's full attention, Faith let her arms fall open to hang at her sides. The Boston-born female then bowed deeply to Buffy Summers.
There was a profound sadness upon Faith's features as she straightened up. The brunette clearly knew just how her once-enemy felt at this very moment, since after the Sunnydale collapse it'd turned out they'd now both lost people close to them.
Clutching the carved urn in her hands against her chest, Buffy bowed equally deeply back to Faith. She didn't care at all what the others around at the hilltop might think. Though, the rest of the Maine mourners probably believed she was merely expressing her silent goodbyes. They seemed to be willing enough to accept this, as shown by their forbearance as they patiently waited for Buffy to perform one last task. Which the Slayer would indeed carry out, but not until she found one last pair in the crowd of ethereal witnesses.
They were easy enough to find. Of all the restrained onlookers, only one delighted person there was frantically waving both arms in his infant frenzy to catch her attention. Regardless of the solemnity of the occasion, Buffy couldn't help but to smile a bit at seeing how Harry was struggling in his foster-father's firm cuddle. The little boy's mouth was wide open, with him evidently yelling at the top of his healthy lungs. Buffy took a hasty moment to be glad for Willow's prudence in preventing anyone but the Slayer to see or hear anything through the witch's spell. Otherwise, Buffy's companions would've been downright thunderstruck at listening to a child's noisy demand for "MOMMA!" mysteriously coming from out of nowhere.
Buffy continued to watch in tender affection while Xander expertly calmed Harry down, whispering reassuringly into his son's ear. Eventually, the youngster stopped squirming in a vain attempt to escape from a one-eyed man's arms and then toddle as fast as possible to where his mommy was standing there. Instead, a rather uncertain wave was again sent by Harry towards Buffy, his other arm wrapped around his daddy's neck. The little boy then quickly looked into the proud face of his father to see if he'd done the right thing. Xander planted a pleased kiss on Harry's chubby cheek, making the child happily giggle. Then, Harry sloppily kissed Xander back under this man's eyepatch.
Buffy's heart melted. In that instant, she fully understood if there was life, there was death, and where there was death, there was also life. But above all, there was family.
Brandon had been part of her family, and he always would be in her mind. Just as she would always be family to Harry and Xander, to Dawn and Giles, to Faith and Willow and Oz, and so many more in the past, in the present, and in the future.
On the Maine hilltop, four people watching a young woman saw her stare ahead, out towards the Atlantic. A look of pure joy and acceptance was now upon her face. Buffy Summers-Martin-Harris lifted high the wooden urn in her hands.
This was one of three identical urns. The two other diminutive chests were in Buffy's luggage recently placed in the trunk of Karen's car waiting to go to the airport. Soon, those urns and their divided contents would accompany Buffy home to Cleveland, though there'd be a side trip first for the Slayer. Buffy had already made the arrangements for placing one of the urns at the gravesites of James and Elizabeth Martin. And the very last urn, it would be lovingly buried in the private memorial grove of the Janna Kalderash School for Exceptional Young Women, next to the plot where Buffy and Xander had previously picked out for themselves their own resting places. There was room for all, and the dearly-mourned occupant already there would of course welcome her father.
At the hilltop, Buffy carefully pulled back on its brass hinges the urn's lid. The Slayer then tipped over the small vessel, allowing its contents to pour out.
The soft grey ashes floated in the air. Shielded by Buffy's body, part of this powder fell to the ground by her feet, coating all of the memorial plaques. More ashes then drifted off the hilltop, to descend upon the environs below and cover what was there, including a beach cottage where a family had once been truly happy together.
However, the greater part of the ashes were seized by the blustery wind. These remains were swept up and borne off towards the broad ocean, where there seemed to be no limit to how far they would go. Along with the intangible crowd, Buffy watched with her keen Slayer sight until not even she could see any more signs of what had once been someone she'd been married to, 'til death did them part.
Then and there, Buffy Summers made her final farewell to Brandon Martin, by reciting a poem Karen had earlier given to the younger woman. From her own past experiences, Buffy knew it was totally appropriate, this short elegy written by a nearly unknown Mary Elizabeth Frye.
"Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.