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“The story’s not that long, you know.” She sniffs.
“I guess, I only said that ‘cause that’s what
You’re meant to say when it’s like this: too much
To tell. And complicated. You have got
To know it’s not that I don’t want to tell
You it, it’s just I don’t know how. The words
Won’t come – I’m trying even now, you know,
But all I'm getting is this crap.” She sniffs
Again, and then he cannot help but move
In closer, hoping that she’ll warm his flesh
Enough that he’ll give back that heat in turn.
She gave him strength before, and he to her –
It feels as though the sum of all he has
Has come from things she’s done or said to him.
“Kay, so, I didn’t go to Rome – I heard
From Andrew you and Angel found him there.
But that’s still skipping on, ‘cause till
Two days ago, or three, or maybe four?
Till then I didn’t have a clue that you
Were back. It’s still a little new. I mean,
I never let myself believe... Although
I couldn’t help believing for a while
When you’d first gone. You’ve gotta know the way
That is.” He does, and yet he never thought
She would, for him at least. “You weren’t in Rome?”
He says, not trusting any other words.
      She takes a breath, a sigh, and says, “We weren’t.
Not Dawn and I, I mean – I don’t know why.
We had to think of somewhere we would love
To live, but then that meant we couldn’t go.
It all seems kinda dumb that way, but still
There wasn’t much that made much sense back then,
‘Cause with the Hellmouth everything had changed –
The dust cloud you’d made hadn’t settled yet –
And Willow took a break. I guess she thought
That was the option we’d all bought ourselves,
But then she didn’t say – we needed her
And she just packed. I thought we’d talk, but she
Was standing , bag in hand, all ready in
The doorway, saying, ‘Sorry, gotta go.
That spell was pretty whoa, huh? Ken and I
Were thinking we could get away, and do
The dating scene instead of fighting vamps.’
It might have been a week, I guess, but she
Was smiling, like it all was in the past.
We’d said we’d talk, take time for best friend stuff,
‘Cause I’d been stuck in Slay-mode, her in Witch-.
I mean, I know that she and Kennedy
Had never had much time to be alone,
But neither had the rest of us. The group
Had grown, and I thought maybe now, with all
The Slayers, that I wouldn’t have to lead
While they trooped silently behind. There’s no
Point sharing power if not one of them
Will take it up, I thought, accept the weight
It brings. I thought we’d share, but Willow left,
With Kennedy, who’d said she wanted this.
The Slayers quickly took their cues, and chose
To stay or go, Giles waving as they went,
Their brightly coloured cars and taxis quick
To vanish from the motel forecourt, grey
As we were; it was like the flood was gone
And all the animals were free to leave
As Noah stood and watched them go, his feet
Still wet and rank with sand. I guess I’d meant
To give them choice, but I had thought I’d got
Myself some too. The price that we – that you
Had paid; I thought it was enough for Fate
To cut us all some... Every time a year
Goes by I feel a little more naïve.
      “’Cause Willow, then, was gone, and, even though
She begged for updates, Xander hasn’t had
An email back in all the months he’s tried,
Not even one short note before we held
Memorial that leafy day in cold
November. That was when I sent my last.
She broke his heart completely when she did
That; it was like she hadn't even cared
A little bit, like Anya had been too
Annoying even for the courtesy.
We were in Scotland then – the Watchers had
A castle; Giles owned the deed, ‘cause all
The other Watchers got blown up or stabbed.
I guess it’s good that he avoided that.
And yeah, I know, a project built on death
Is doomed to fail. But what else can you do?
It stood, or stands, I guess, ‘cause it’s not gone,
In mountains where it’s sheltered from plain sight.
It’s shot with all these secret passages
That come out on the hillside – one of them
Will lead you from my room, past slimy walls,
And take you to this rocky bluff, that’s rough
With heather – coarse, but softly purple, like
A sunset’s purple, even when it rains.
It’s quiet. Xander’s got it humming with
A generator, but that only feels
Like life – a heartbeat, kinda, and you can’t
Begrudge it that. The walls are all so thick,
You’d think you were alone, if not for all
The girls you meet in every corridor.
But then the ceilings make their voices sound
Like birdsong, pealing high around the hall –
At breakfast there’s this chorus, happiness
In twenty different languages, no snark
About the lack of Raisin Bran, or milk
That’s one day past its expiration date.
      “I miss it. And I say I miss it ‘cause
It hasn’t been like that in months. I’ve got
The tense all wrong. It’s sort of still the same,
But not – the problem was the girls began
To finish training, had no more to learn.
Till then it had been good that we weren’t close
To civilisation; now we had a group
Of Slayers, fully trained, who didn’t have
A mission, nothing regular for them
To Slay, so couldn’t help the world the way
I’d hoped. There were emergencies that we
Found out about from Giles’ friends, and they
Weren’t bring-a-spoon-it’s-cherry easy, but
As Winter carried on we knew we had
To find someplace to send the girls who passed
The tests. So Faith and Robin, they both went
(And still are travelling, from what I know)
To find the cities where we’re needed most
And set up bases where the girls could live.
We sent a lot away and brought in more
That Giles had found. But somewhere down the line
It started being just like Sunnydale
And I forgot their faces – every week
There’d be some new girls, so the breakfast song
Would change, and sound like cliques. It wasn’t fair
On Dawn, ‘cause she lost all her friends to Spain
Or Canada, and after everything
I wasn’t gonna be much help. I tried,
But even with the whole weird sister/mom
Dichotomy she never trusted me.
I kept too much from her, held on too long
Till we were past the line where she was old
Enough to know, and I was... blind and did
Not see it coming. God, I screwed that up
So bad. She told me once, you know, confessed
That 'Buffy, you’re not Mom, and I won’t see
You ever like her; I can’t turn to you
Like that. You’re Buffy and you’re never here.'
I didn’t know what I was meant to say.
I stared, and then she walked away, back deep
Into the castle, left me shivering –
The draught was horrible; that winter harsh.
      “I prayed, you know, one night that winter, called
Upon Osiris, took a candle from
The magic store back to my room and prayed.
I felt a little dumb, but still, I kneeled
And was all like, 'Osiris, Keeper of
The Gate, and Master of All Fate, I hope
That you will hear my words. I come to you
In supplication for your guidance and
Your wisdom.' And the candle light was bright,
You know, all gold and round – until I shut
My eyes. The voice then sounded in my mind,
And that was full and liquid too. It said,
'I hear you, child.' And I was blown away,
Not literally, but it made me jump
To hear him talking in my head. I’m not
Sure what I wanted, even now; I guess
I didn’t want to spend another night
All by my lonesome, staring at the wall
Remembering the friends I used to have
Before they left to ‘take some time’. Or died.
I wanted some companionship and, hey,
Osiris had to know me, right? I’d been
With him that whole time I was dead. Although,
I’m not sure I expected he’d pick up.
I stuttered out, 'Oh, hi, your holiness.
Your godliness, I mean. I mean, uh, what
Am I supposed to call you? Never met
A god who didn’t want me dead before.'
It felt as though he laughed, the liquid rich
And deep inside me, molten gold that whipped
Down to my toes. Then , 'I would say that our
Acquaintance means that such formality
Is never necessary.' 'Wow,' I said.
'I’m honoured, sir. Confused, though, kinda, ‘cause,
Well, Willow’s magic stole me back to life.’
And I remember now that I was scared,
But then he laughed again and gave me what
Felt like a hug: warmth wrapped around me, chill
Of winter in my fingers gone. He said,
'Dear child, my son informs me you possess
One of the lightest hearts that he has had
The opportunity to weigh.' 'That’s good?'
I asked, not really prepped on all the myths.
I should have read more books, or thought at least
A little longer when I dreamt this up.
I can think after all, and yet I don’t.
'You are a treasure, child,' he carried on,
And I could feel the warmth inside me spin
Together into bands of gold, that seemed
To twine around my heart. 'A jewel that should
Be cherished, loved.' The binds became supports;
My heart felt like it didn’t have to beat;
My breathing slowed, not needed anymore.
He whispered on, 'A stolen favourite, lost
But ready for the day I’ll take you back.'
The bonds grew tighter for a second; then
They loosed again. I realised that I’d stopped.
I gasped. My blood began to rush, my breath
Was heavy as it tried to catch up, fill
The seconds it had stopped in, meet
The pace my heart was setting. 'But,' I breathed
'That day – it’s not today, right?' 'No,' he sighed.
The warmth went cold; the gold went... Crystally.
I shivered once, but still it felt like glass
Was shattering; I missed his nicer words.
'Now tell me, child,' he asked me coldly, 'what
Was it you wished to know?' I wasn’t sure;
The time before the spell was long ago,
And so I simply asked, 'Is everyone...'
I’m sorry, I was weak; I never said
Your name. I meant it – know I meant it – but
I just said ‘everyone’. 'Is everyone
At peace?' And he replied, 'Those gone will reach
Their destination; nothing more might I
Reveal to mortal ears.' I tried to ply
The charms I had and make the warmth come back,
But all I got was laughter, slightly warm,
But nothing like before. 'You may,' he said,
'Receive the knowledge that I need no rites
To take the souls that pass my way and place
Them in the realm where they belong. That much
I will impart.' I felt relieved, though now
I’m not so sure I wasn’t forced to feel
That way. The sense of him was vanished – poof –
A second later when I let my eyes
Fall open. It was late, it had to be,
The candle that I’d lit was almost gone,
And maybe it was magic, but the thing
Was chunky, churchy beeswax kinda style.
It freaked me out a little bit, you know?
Especially the part where yet again
I’d almost died. I guess I’ll never meet
A god who won’t prefer me dead. The odds
Are stacking after all. Oh well.
                                                “So that
Was February. Though I sometimes thought
I should, I didn’t want to pray again.
I thought he’d gone, and left me maybe with
A kind of blessing, like it was okay
To live my life. I tried to make some time
For all the Slayers, even though they left
The moment that you got to know them well.
And in the next few months I thought that things
Were getting better; Xander seemed to find
Himself again and let go of the dark
And heavy bitterness he felt for how
He’d been to Anya. Obviously he had
Some bad days, so did I, but then there were
These times when we would sit together, laugh
About the things you guys had done, about
The thought that we’d come down so hard on you,
And on each other’s choices, ‘cause we’d felt
So guilty when we’d thought about our own.
I’m not sure if we got it right, but still
We tried to put the things we’d done behind
Us, make some peace with your guys’ memories,
And we were better than we’d been in months.
      “You get, then, how it was when it went down?
I’m trying to think what else you need to know –
I guess I should just carry on the tale.
We have these Slayer-witches, three of them,
Who even though they aren’t as good as Will
Still try to keep the castle out of harm.
They do it pretty well, and have this room
On the second floor they decorated like
The way that Tara had her dorm room: stars
And velvet, dark but all the same still full
Of light, and crystals. It is always warm
In there, but never more than you can take,
Just always cosy when you come in from
The snow. But they don't always let you in –
Like when they do a spell, or something that
Requires concentration, no one else
Is welcome. Giles would talk to them about
Defences and the magic stuff – what god
Was most appropriate for girls who killed,
Things to invoke and everything like that.
However long ago it was – the days,
They’ve blurred together. Now I’m here I can’t
Believe that it’s been days, it must be more –
But anyway I went to see them all,
I think to ask their choice of pizza, ‘cause
The anniversary was coming and
We thought we all deserved a treat. I knocked,
But no one answered, so I tried the door.
They kept it locked if they were in a trance,
Which made it worth a try; Gurpreet, I knew,
If Sadie and Eliza not so much,
She’d kill me if I let her miss the food
‘Cause she was meditating. And the door
Was open, so I went inside.
                                                “But that –
I should have never done that. Clearly they
Had meant to lock the door, but hadn’t got
The latch or something, ‘cause the moment that
I entered I could feel the crackle of
The magic as it flowed between them, sat
At points of a triangle, with purple sand
Between them cutting curves. I tried to leave,
I’ve been near magic long enough to know
That that was what I should have done, and yet
I slipped – I hope that I was pushed, that there
Was crappy destiny in all of this,
Something, I don’t mind, anything, so it
Was not just accident that made me fall.
I stumbled forward, hit the sand; a shriek
Grew in my ears, and I could feel my life
As it was ripping through me. Golden strands,
Osiris’ remnants, laced into my bones,
Were loosened, pulled away. The force of it
Pushed darkness on me and the only thing
That I could think was that I hadn’t known.
      “I woke a little later, with Gurpreet’s
Hands at my temples. 'Come on, mate,' she said.
Her face was drawn. 'Eliza’s out, too deep
For me to wake her right this second, and –'
Her hands were shaking. '– Sadie’s... Sadie’s on
The warpath, innit, buzzed by all the juice
You gave her.' 'Warpath?' I replied. 'But why?'
'Osiris,' she said back, a little awed.
'It doesn’t matter, but you never said...
You should have, maybe; we’d have warned you more.'
She shook her head. 'It’s recently, you see,
Our spells have been ‘bout seeking gods for us
As patrons; Sadie’s not had any luck,
So she’s been pushing harder, reaching out
Across the panthea, all perfectly
Set up for ‘ssumption as an avatar.
Takes risks, that girl. And this... Her eyes, my god,
I’ve never seen her eyes like that.' 'They’re black,'
I said. Gurpreet just nodded, so I stood.
'Come on,' I carried on and took her hand;
She tried to pull herself up by the wall,
But couldn’t stand. 'I’m sorry, Buffy, but
My legs are knackered; go and find her, that’s
What’s most important.' Wincing then she fell
Back down, and with a nod I left her there.
The first thing that I noticed was the dark,
The lights were off; they’d shorted maybe, with
The spell. I headed to the hall, but there
It wasn’t any better: everyone
Looked freaked, a crowd was huddled round the hearth –
They called my name as I came closer, moved
Apart so I could see between them. There
Was Xander, Dawn, a couple others round
A body, breathing but not moving, still.
'She said,' a whisper came, 'said Ingrid lived,
Was living far too long, that Sadie said,
And snapped her fingers, knocked her out and walked
Away.' I looked around and tried to count.
Thank God for pizza; nearly everyone
Was there. 'Where’s Giles?' I said at last, and Dawn
Looked up. 'Not here,' she said, her worry deep
As mine. I knew that Sadie would not leave
The castle; there was nowhere else to go.
She’d left Eliza and Gurpreet, so now
The question was where else was left.
                                                “I ran
To Giles’ office, knew there was no point
In wasting time, but still it seemed that I
Had wasted far too much, 'cause she was there.
The door was open, but I had no way
Of getting in; she’d left a barrier
Way stronger than a door. I tried to break
The forcefield, but there wasn’t anything
That I could do. I had to stand outside
And listen as she spoke to Giles, harsh.
'I see the lives that you have taken, Child
Of Eyghon, lives that you have altered far
From what I wanted them to be.' Her voice
Was not what Sadie’s voice is like, but mixed
Instead with bitterness and righteous rage.
Osiris’ voice had sounded different, but
I guess it was his rage that she could feel.
The things she said were terrible. 'You blunt
Atropos’ shears, have long denied the death
That rightfully belongs to you. Your time
Is come.' I couldn’t say a word, stood lost
In doorway, staring hard at Sadie’s back.
She’s quiet usually, keeps to herself;
I’ve never seen her stand that tall. And Giles,
Oh God, poor Giles, he seemed to cower as
He stood before her, even though he held
His head up like he always did. ‘The things
I’ve done,' he said, 'The things that I regret –
They weigh on me, have always weighed on me.
And yet I cannot think that such events
Have caused my death to be determined, since
This world has no inherent justice, since
No single crime has ever fully been
Repaid. Our actions may cause us to face
Outcomes and consequences we did not
Foresee, but death will always be without
Apparent reason, always strike at will
With indiscriminate immediacy
On those who least suspect its coming. I
Refuse to see our fates as set, to see
The future as immutable. And if
You kill me now I will not change my view.'
But Sadie still continued, darkness in
Her voice, 'You speak as though it matters what
You think, as though your fate might be denied
And be avoided by your insolence.
I see the world around us, see the worlds
Above and those below, I see your touch
Affect the champion who unredeemed
Has now been banished far from hope of that
Redemption, and the other left behind
Who faces death without a guide as he
Commits to tasks which aren’t his own to do.
I see these things all through Osiris’ eyes
And you would weep to know this clarity.'
And Giles, he finished by replying, 'I
Have nothing more to say.' He raised his head
And Sadie raised her arm. I cried out, 'No!'
But nothing changed. No line of Sadie’s back
Was broken, Giles refused to look at me
And stared instead into the face of Death.
It struck and it was then he fell, life gone
He slumped and I too late could feel my feet
Both running forward – then I crouched beside
Him, turned him over, but... He was too cold,
It felt like he had long been gone. I looked
To Sadie, but she’d left, and as I cried
The only voice that still remained was one
That came from shadows in the corner, thick,
As mine was, with still-gushing tears. 'It’s like
He said. All death is indiscriminate,
It’s like he said. There’s no way he deserved...
He’s Giles, Professor X...' I never thought
That I’d be sharing grief with Andrew, but
I was, and there was nothing that could make
Me mind. 'There hadn’t been a way that he
Could know what Angel meant to do; he’d had
To guess – we always have to guess – he tried
To probe but every question seemed to make
The story Angel span seem more obscure.
He wouldn’t tell us what was going on
And he would never mention Spike –' And that
Was when I interrupted, ‘cause, in case
You didn’t know, I didn’t know and I
Was quickly getting overwhelmed by all
This information that you’d think that I,
The leader who, you know, was actually
Executive, would be aware of, so
I said, 'You’re saying what?' And it was not
The best way I’ve expressed my disbelief,
I know that, but I’ve never had to kneel
With Giles so heavy as I tried to hold
Him up. He could have been unconscious – that
Was what I tried to tell myself – but he
Was cold, way colder than he should have been,
Like Sadie stole the warmth he had from him
The moment that she took his life. It felt
Surreal, so surreal and hollow and
On top of that now Andrew, who I had
Not known was there, was telling me these things
That there was no way I’d believe. He said,
'We wanted both of us to tell you, but
It wasn’t clear, it really wasn’t clear,
‘Cause Angel had that law firm, and then Spike,
He chose to stay. We knew that it would break
Your heart if he had somehow changed. They came
To Rome and seemed the same; I talked to them
And tried to piss them off – I couldn’t see
A darkness there, but then they went back home
And Angel, still we heard reports, was not
The same as he’d once been. Was it a front?
We thought it was to us, but maybe he
Was making it to them. We’ll never know.'
I felt like all my year had been a lie,
Like they had torn my choice from me and I
Had been made dumb. Of course if you had changed
It would have killed me, but I would have killed
You first if I was forced to. ‘Cause you know
That’s how I am now, don’t you? That’s one thing
That’s different between us; and it hurt
Me more to not know you were back, to not
Be told that Angel now was dead, since Giles
It seemed was dying for him too.
                                                “It was
Too much to deal with, so I didn’t; stood
Instead, told Andrew to get up. We had
A witch to deal with – then I’d try to get
Myself together, figure out the rest.
The current threat with Sadie, that was what
We had to deal with first. I wiped my tears
Away, left Giles lying on the ground,
My jacket as a pillow, stood and walked
Away, my feet both stepping slow until
At last I’d gone and could, if only for
The next few hours keep the violent cold
That filled that room locked up and shut away.”