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Brave New World by JamesMFan
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The cemetery was dark but then it was almost midnight. Buffy wasn’t really that accustomed to entering graveyards for anything other than slaying. If she was honest with herself – and she was being that more and more lately – she’d always sort of had a phobia of them. It had to be ironic, or something; a Slayer scared of a cemetery. It wasn’t so much the places themselves that unnerved her but what they meant, what they represented. They meant death, obviously, but worse than that; they meant being left behind.

She held three white roses in her hand. Buffy threaded each of them through the cracks between the plaques that held names that she would cherish for the rest of her life.

It had left a dull ache in her to hear the way Giles was remembered in history. She would remember him differently. She wouldn’t remember him as her Watcher. She wouldn’t remember him as some Hitler-esque dictator figure. She would remember him as the man who had been a father to her for so many years. The books and the newspapers and the futuristic talking cupboard could say anything they wanted about the kind of man Rupert Giles had been. But Buffy knew better. Giles had been a good man and she would never doubt that.

She ran her fingers over the indentations carved into the stone wall – Dawn Summers, Joyce Summers. Her family. Both too young to die, both taken in the blink of an eye. It was always like that, of course. Even when it wasn’t. She hadn’t been with either of them when they had passed away and it would be something that she would never truly forgive herself for. Buffy knew, logically, she probably could have done nothing to prevent either of their deaths. Probably was not good enough, though. Still, she would do her best not to dwell upon their deaths and instead remember their lives. Buffy had been shaped by both her mother and sister into the woman she was today. Not everyone liked that woman but Buffy was increasingly finding that she was on her way to accepting her.

That was the thing about personal growth; it was just that – growth. Buffy knew that she was growing, knew that she was headed in a direction that she thought she could learn to like. A lot.
The Slayer took a step back from the wall of plaques and took in the bigger picture. So many names. Buffy didn’t recognise any but her three but she felt them all. Being the Slayer had meant she was more connected to death and loss than she had ever cared to be but she saw now that she wasn’t the cause of it. She was the preserver of life. Sometimes, a lot of times, she failed. The important thing was that she tried. She had to believe that.

“Love you,” Buffy spoke softly, no witness but the warm breeze.

It was important to her to face her ghosts, the remnants of her past, the people she had loved and lost.

And there was still one ghost she had to see before the sun rose on the day of her sentencing.

+ + +

The cell felt smaller. It was way after visiting hours but she had been granted access anyway. Buffy didn’t know why but figured that Spike and his connections had something to do with it. Of course he would know where she would choose to spend her last night. He’d always known her far too well. She wondered if he would be upset with her for coming to see Angel. Then she decided that no, he wouldn’t. Spike had changed a lot since his days in Sunnydale and she was sure he understood there was no romantic undercurrent in this meeting.

Angel had seemed surprised to see her, though. It bothered her that he would think she’d just forget him. She would never forget him because she’d never been as sure of anyone as she had been of Angel. Buffy, looking at things through slightly clearer eyes now, knew that partly this was because she’d been a much more receptive person when she’d met him. She’d had her guard down when he’d walked into her life in Sunnydale and captured her heart. When he’d left, so too had her ability to trust unequivocally. He would always be the man she was sure of because he’d been there before she’d closed the doors on her heart. Now, it took a much stronger, much more masochistic man to try and earn her love. Luckily for Buffy, she’d found one.

“It’s good to see you,” Angel said, breaking the silence.

Buffy sat perched on his cot as he stood, “You too and you know, bright side to the murder trial thing? I could be taking up residence in the cell next to yours in the not too distant future. We could talk to each other every night. Through vents, or something. I’ve seen it in the movies.”

“Sounds great,” Angel didn’t mask the insincerity in his voice.

Buffy frowned. “Hey.”

“Sorry, it’s just…I loved a lot of things about you, Buffy. Your ability to talk and talk wasn’t really one of those,” he smiled softly, leaning against the wall.

“Hey!” Buffy gaped, outraged.

He shrugged, voice warm. “One virtue of prison? Makes you honest.”

“I’m not sure I’d consider it a virtue,” she grumbled, glancing down at her hands for something to do. “But, hey, I look forward to gaining Cordelia levels of honesty.”

Angel flinched at the name but made an effort to smile at her attempt at humour. It didn’t pass by unnoticed by the Slayer and she would have asked but she recognised the look of deeply repressed sorrow in his eyes. The thing about Angel was that everything passed through those eyes. Buffy had never been all that good at reading his mind – even with the help of super mind-reading powers – but everything significant laid just behind those warm brown eyes if you were looking for it.

“You don’t think the trial went well?” Angel asked just to fill the silence.

“Don’t know,” she admitted. “I just…I know I did my best.”

He pushed off the wall and took a step towards her, “Then you did all you could. Everything else is out of your hands.”

“I don’t like that. I like control. I like things in my hands.”

Angel looked at her.

“Oh! I mean, not things things,” Buffy corrected, eyes a fraction wider. “Although, sometimes –”

He held a hand up. “Spare me the details. I have a lot of free time in here and my imagination is…tricky.”

She nodded and looked down at the floor, a slight blush spreading across her cheeks. She hadn’t come here tonight to make things worse for Angel. She hadn’t come here for anything, really. Had just wanted to see him and to assure him that she hadn’t forgotten him, hadn’t forgotten everything he had done for her and for the world.

“Angel,” Buffy started, trying to phrase this properly, “if I don’t end up in here myself then I’m going to get you out.”

He surprised her by smiling sadly, “There’s no out, Buffy.”

“There’s always an out,” she retorted. “I’ve got this awesome lawyer. As it turns out my hiring of the so-called ‘rookie’ lawyer really paid off, so –”

“No lawyer is good enough. I used to work for a law firm. They even let one of their best lawyers out of hell to defend me,” he told her, folding his arms over his chest easily. “And if she couldn’t get me out then no one can.”

Buffy stood. “I can.”

“It’s not that easy anymore, Buffy. We can make grand sweeping statements and heroic overtures all we like but the law is the law,” Angel gestured to the bars on his window. “And I don’t hold with that law.”

The Slayer shook her head, a disappointed scowl on her face. “You know better than that, Angel. You know me. Belittle the overtures, turn your back on the sweeping statements – fine. But you know me. I’ll get you out.”

He simply smiled, “No.”

They faced each other unflinchingly. Angel may have aged but he was still him. He still burnt with the desire to do good, his entire body still thrummed with the need to move, to fight, to chase. He’d never be satisfied with taking a back seat in the fight against demons. He was no longer a vampire but he still remembered being Angelus. He remembered the evil he had been capable of and so he assigned that same level of wretchedness to every other demon like him. For Angel, there would be no acceptance of ‘humanoids’. He couldn’t live amongst vampires and not hunt them. Every game-face he saw reflected Angelus back at him. In this, like many things, he would be unmovable. Buffy saw it and she’d always known it, really, but it made her sad. A world without Angel in it was poorer for it.

“Okay.” Buffy said after a while.

Angel unfolded his arms and reached out to take her hand. “Thank you. Thank you for the offer. It means…everything.”

He was another ghost in her past but his memory and the part he had played in her life didn’t haunt her. Not anymore. There was nothing left to say between them. He’d never liked her blabbering, anyway, apparently.

And so, for the first time since she had met him, it was Buffy who turned and walked away without looking back.
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