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How Do They Rise (All The Little Angels Mix)

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They don't talk about it, not really. There's not much to say.

Giles wakes to unseasonably cloudy weather and takes the time to stand in the window with a cup of tea and watch while the sky clears in time with Willow's waking. It will cloud over again whenever she gets distracted but he won't remind her or rebuke her. She still has such power; he should fear it, but he's always known Willow's power had its root in love.

Normally he has almost endless patience with the younger, newer Slayers. Giles can spend hours explaining the details of lore and the facts and figures that they struggle with. He never did suffer fools gladly, but his time as Buffy and Faith's Watcher taught him the knack of telling when someone is genuinely confused or struggling to understand and when they're playing dumb for their own amusement. He's good at spotting when he's being wound up about something. But this? This is different. He never has words for this and his much vaunted patience vanishes at the mention of it. It's not their fault, they weren't there, they don't know. He'd feel worse if the others who were there didn't respond in exactly the same way. So he keeps their company on that day and remembers what he will not forget.

He's never written it down in his diary, never committed to the official records for those Watchers who come after him. The memory will die with them, but that's alright. That's how it should be. There'll just be a gravestone and an echo. But at this time and in this place, he remembers.

~

The rain catches Faith off guard. Too long in Southern California, she thinks with a wry smile. It's not like rain in May was a sign of the apocalypse in Boston and her current sojourn in Oxford and its environs has been pretty mild so far. She's been almost spoilt by the weather so far on her trip, but even now rain in May makes her think of Willow. Makes her think of a time and a place and the thought derails with all the sudden brutality of an actual train crash. Damn. She'd forgotten the date. In Sunnydale, there were always little things in the days leading up to it, after ten years she knows every little tick in each of the others. They ease her into remembering. Not here, in this time and in this place; she is alone with her part in the remembrance.

The shattered remnants of the Watcher's Council are a demanding lot. Most days she just bites her tongue and remembers that Giles is trusting her to do this, that there is information here that they need. She thinks instead of all the little anecdotes he supplied her with to keep her smiling sweetly through the pomposity and arrogance of his former colleagues. Not today though, today every patronising smile and condescending turn of phrase curdles in her stomach and digs under her nails, makes her want to fight something. As of five minutes past eleven this particular morning, Faith is officially done.

“I'm going out,” she says shortly to the current stuffed shirt. Faith likes to think she's learned a little tact in the past decade or so and doesn't tell him to stuff his precious documents up his ass. She regrets her restraint when he starts officiously harping on about the importance of his work and demanding to know where she's going. There's a lot of things she could say to him right now, and her younger self provides a helpful selection of witty put downs, but that's the main thing she and Buffy have in common these days. They're slayers who've survived long enough that they've grown out of the witty quips and into the intensely intimidating stares.

“Do you know who I am?” she asks instead, going very still. The watcher begins to respond but she cuts him off. “I'm Faith. Back when there were only two of us, I was the 'bad slayer'. Last time I dealt with you people you put me in chains and I still kicked your collective asses. You know what that means?” He shakes his head. “When I say I'm going out, anyone who's important enough to ask, already knows where I've gone.”

Giles will understand; he knows what day it is.

~

Dawn wakes from a dream clutching at something that isn't hanging around her neck. It's the same dream she's woken from every time this date comes around. She feels the absence like a weight but the sound of Buffy clattering about in the kitchen making breakfast calls her back into the present. Dawn really enjoys communal living and most of the time she treasures the Slayers, helping them learn about their powers and researching new demons and threats – there's always a new threat, even with so many of them. However, come the twentieth of May she always seems to end up round at Buffy's – though a few times during college when she couldn't afford to come home she ended up with Buffy on her sofa instead – there's something about the date that seems to draw them all together, the two of them most of all.

Buffy's doing the washing up while Dawn tucks into the crepes, she's humming a song under her breath – too slow, Dawn wants to speed it up, punk it up, replace the words she can't remember with obscenities – but that's not what holds Dawn's attention. On the table beside Dawn is a cheap and battered skull ring. It's not remotely Buffy's style, yet this is the first time Dawn's seen it off her finger in ten years. Since a dead man slid into into Dawn's pocket before going to face his doom, leaving her to carry it around carefully – on a chain, over her heart – until she'd found her big sister and could fold it into Buffy's hand and let it say the words that she couldn't force past her own lips. They'd all lost people that day, some they missed more than others, and sometimes over the years different people's absences hurt more or less, but she still misses him most. They've all moved on with their lives, they put their memories away and only take them out on this day each year. They don't forget but sometimes it feels like they do and that's when Buffy's ring is comforting. A physical reminder that they all carry with them little unseen bits of those they lost that day, draw strength from the memories, even forget for a little while how it ended. Buffy slips onto the stool across from her and the ring slides back onto her finger before she digs into her half of the stack of crepes. Dawn's reminded suddenly of their mom taking off her wedding ring to wash the dishes, of her following the habit long after the divorce with whatever ring she was wearing, whether an elegant gold band or a cheap ring out of a Christmas cracker. Dawn launches into an anecdote about their mom she remembers from childhood and doesn't think about whether it's a fake memory or just one stolen from Buffy, instead she thinks about another grief and love they share and works on making her sister smile, amused when she catches Buffy attempting to return the favour.

We are here and it is now, that's the best thing he taught her. Dawn slips on the leather jacket she nicked off the first vampire she staked in college and heads out at her sister's side. The sky is heavy but she knows it won't rain until they're safely at their destination.

~

They chose to stand there that day, at that time, in that place. They could have run but they didn't, they stayed and fought. They did the job that was in front of them and some of them walked away afterwards and some of them didn't. Those that walked away owe it to those who didn't to remember.

It's the Twentieth of May. Nothing glorious about it.