Death And The Maiden By Hexx
Death and the Maiden
For the first time in weeks there was no sun, the heat wave that had lasted well into it's sixth week had broken overnight. Now, the sky was dark, rain started around dawn and showed no signs of letting up anytime soon. The irony was not lost on those in attendance; there should be nothing good to remember this day,
There were few gathered, a small group of mourners huddled together in a small private cemetery outside of Oakland California. They had been standing in silence for a few minutes now, no-one sure if they should be the first to step up to the small podium at the head of the grave. The casket was wooden, (rarely used anymore, but this was a special case, and everyone knew it.) Its dark finish glistened from the rain, it's surface almost covered with flowers, lilies.
The impasse was broken when a slight woman whose red hair was shot with gray, took the podium. She stood a moment to collect her thoughts, looking to those gathered, pausing at each face as the memories washed over her.
To her left, Mr. and Mrs. Harris, visibly supporting each other emotionally. Xander Harris, a large gentle looking man with receding hair and dark glasses to disguise the patch her wore over one eye, had come a long way from failed pizza delivery to head of one of the largest construction companies in California. His dependability and business savvy were almost as legendary as his ethics. By his side, as always, his wife Faith, yeah, funny how things work out. Mrs. Harris was credited with much of her husband's successes as well as creating a foundation to help runaway girls. Though very wealthy, they lived a modest life, in a modest home, dedicated to raising their three beautiful children; Anya twelve; Rupert, nine; and Tara who just turned seven. At the thought of their youngest's namesake, her breath caught a moment, but just a moment, the memory was old and the pain, thankfully, faded.
Next to Faith Harris, an elegant, if elderly gentleman stood with the use of a cane. His manner was formal, his shoulders held square, but he removed his thick glasses often to wipe tears from his eyes with a proper handkerchief. Giles insisted on making this journey despite warnings from his doctors. She had to admire his fortitude, and his loyalty, not an easy journey to make for a man of his years, but he had persevered. Besides, he had stated logically, it gave him a chance to spend time with his godson.
At the foot of the grave, a distinguished woman watched over by a very serious looking man, Dr. Dawn Summers-Wynfield and her husband David Wynfield. Dawn had become a surgeon, and was now head of neurosurgery at a children's hospital in New York, her husband, a former police officer, ran an outreach program for inner-city kids. They had no children of their own but had adopted an infant girl two years ago. They named her Joyce.
Finally she turned to her right and faced the love of her life, a lovely woman in a black suit. She held an umbrella in one hand, and in the other a cherry wood box. Mrs. Kennedy Rosenberg, they had been married the very day it had become legal to do so, and had worshipped each other every day since. Kennedy was a security consultant for several high stature persons including two former presidents.
Willow Rosenberg looked at her wife with unparalleled devotion and pride, and thought for the thousandth time how wonderful it had been, loving this person.
Finally pushing memories aside for a moment, she began in a quiet and familiar voice.
"Beloved friends, we have gathered to bid farewell, one last time, to a cherished friend, a devoted sister, a gentle leader, and a steadfast guardian. She never failed to be there for her friends and family, never shirked the duties thrust upon her to lead and teach those who would follow her."
"The many years that have passed since we have last gathered together in one place have been, in large part, very kind to us. The fates, it would seem, have sought to make restitution for the years of struggle and loss we all endured, so long ago."
"While many of us have enjoyed successes, both in our professional and private lives, she was content to remain largely in the shadows, but to those of us whose hearts were touched by this women, we will remember her as the standard by which we have measured our lives."
"In the years following the destruction of Sunnydale she strove to find all those who had been chosen, the slayers, and to give them, not just the training they would need to survive, but the courage and integrity to lead real lives."
"She was so successful in this pursuit that the word Vampire may now finally be relegated to works of fiction. And we find that we are once again in her debt."
"The slayers that follow her still have a destiny to fulfill, but their lives can be lived in confidence and with the knowledge that the largest dangers that might have threatened their futures, have been cleared, because of her."
"In this life she was never to find peace, but she had peace of mind, knowing that the sacrifices that she so willingly made, would be a lasting blessing for us all."
"But we are not likely to remember her in these terms. We will remember her smile, her will, her stubbornness, her strength of character. Above all, we will remember the infinite love which she carried for each of us."
"Buffy Summers, you made our lives richer; our laughs, longer; our souls, brighter; and our hearts more full. You have finally found the peace and the reward that you so richly deserve. I...I look forward to the day when I may take your hand in mine once again, and tell you how much your life....how much you...meant to me."
Her voice faltered and tears streamed down her cheeks as she rejoined Kennedy, and her wife enfolded her in her arms, both quietly weeping.
Xander hugged Faith, who hadn't spoken one word since she had received the news of Buffy's passing.
Dawn placed her head against her husband's chest and held to him as he led her to the podium.
"I spoke to Buffy for some time just a few days ago. She wanted me to relay to you how much she loved each one of you. She wanted you to know that she didn't feel loss at never having started a family because we were her family. And finally she wanted you to know how proud and thankful she was to have each one of us in her life."
"Those who know of such things will always remember her as 'The Slayer', we will remember her as the special kind of person she was, who saved the world no matter what the cost to herself, not because she had to, but for us. I will not remember her as these things, I will...I will remember her as my sister...and my most cherished friend."
Willow came into Dawns arms and the two women wept together. Kennedy stepped to the grave and started to open the box she held to her chest, but stopped, and nodding to Faith, handed the box to her.
Faith stood a moment to steel herself. "Buffy, I gave you every reason to hate me, but you didn't. You gave me more chances than I deserved, you gave me your friendship, you gave me your support. You also gave me the courage to live the life I know you always wanted for yourself. I have tried to live up to that. I hope that I haven't disappointed you."
Not stopping to wipe away the tears she held out the box, inside was a sharpened stake. "You carried one of these for most of your life, You carried it so that we didn't have to. Now, you don't need it anymore, and because of you, neither will we."
She took the stake from the box, and between her strong slayer's hands, broke it in two, dropping the pieces into the open grave and placed the box on the casket. Kneeling down she kissed the top of the coffin and began to sob. Her strength failed her and Zander rushed to hold her up.
The mourners gathered at the foot of the grave, giving what comfort they could to each other, as they prepared to leave the attendant pressed the lever to lower the casket. It was then THEY started to arrive.
From several directions they came, more arriving every moment. Soon there were hundreds gathered around, some with flowers, some with notes or mementos, many with only tears. There were a few familiar faces, people they knew from long ago, others they had met later in life, most were strangers.
The crowd began to part as new arrivals began to file to the grave. Women, from all nations, from middle-aged to mid-teen, wordlessly filed past the grave, each dropping a single sharpened stake. The slayers, come to pay their final respect to perhaps the greatest of them, and the most beloved. The procession took nearly an hour, and it was dark when the cemetery began to empty.
When the grounds were vacant at last, a solemn young man in dark clothes made his way down to the freshly filled grave. He jerked around as someone approached but visibly relaxed as he recognized the red hair.
"It's been a long time Willow."
"It's not really her."
"I'm sorry Willow, I wish it was someone else."
"I know. ...It's good that you're here Angel, she would... she would understand . . . How long?"
She placed her hand on Angel's, giving it a gentle squeeze.
The hand that was shaking.
The one holding the stake.