by Siryn

When she first asked him, he almost said no. The pain that was eating away at his soul was too raw, too exposed to face that place again so soon. The place where she made the ultimate sacrifice for him, for all of them.

At first he let the humor take over, his ever-present crutch. He made glib jokes about Starbucks and pushed the pain way down deep. He helped Willow with the injured and held Dawn while she cried, for Amanda, for Spike, and for Anya. He made phone calls to Los Angeles and managed to be civil to Angel, which surprised all of them. When they realized they needed food, changes of clothes and shelter, he went with Giles wordlessly and handed over his credit cards and money.

There were introductions made at the hotel, people to be settled. He took care of everything he could, doing his damnest to avoid sleep and quiet. But there was only so much he could do and Willow had to threaten him with physical violence before he would relent. Because he knew that's when she would come back and his heart would break into a million tiny pieces, like hers had the day he left her at the alter.

Sleep finally overtook him and there she was, standing in his parents' basement, wearing that dress from the first time they'd slept together. He wanted to touch her so badly, to hold her and say so many things that he hadn't said, but it was too late. All he could do was relive all the moments he'd spent with her in his mind. He watched himself at the prom, on the night before the ascension when she asked him to leave with her, saw the hurt in her eyes when he brushed her off in Buffy's dorm, the utter confusion she felt after Joyce's death. The reel stopped abruptly when he felt a small hand on his face and a body slid in next to his. When he turned his head, he saw someone else who was grieving like he was. Buffy's eyes were red and puffy, the evidence of her sorrow marking her face. They were more alike now than ever, mourning the lovers who might not have known how much they truly meant to them. He cradled her against his body and they wept, her tears staining his shoulder, his glistening like rain against her golden hair.

On the outside he was fine; he was getting better. Thanks to the miracles of modern science and some string pulling by Angel, he was fitted the best glass eye Wolfram and Hart's money could buy. Some mornings he and Dawn went in and did research with Wesley, who was visible impressed at the knowledge he had amassed over his years on the Hellmouth and Dawn's translation and language skills. Other days he spent with Giles and Willow, working on plans to remake the Council and contact the numerous newly made Slayers. The days stretched on and night after night, Anya would creep into his mind and they would relive the short time they had together.

He was sitting on the roof of the hotel, staring out at the twinkling lights of the city below when he heard the door creak open. He didn't look at who it was and wasn't surprised to see Buffy hop up onto the ledge next him.

They sat in silence for a while and for a few seconds he just looked at her, remembering the girl he'd met in the hall that fateful day, thinking how much she'd changed and how much she'd stayed the same. She sighed and he came back to the present, knowing that expression. It was her version of Willow's `resolve face'. She began to talk, about things he knew and didn't, about Riley, her mother, and Dawn. He was shocked when he realized how much she'd held inside herself and how far apart they'd drifted.

Tension bloomed around them when she mentioned Glory. It had been a bad experience for all of them, made worse by the fact that they all still felt responsible for her jumping into that portal. If only they had known, done more research, it might have turned out differently. She spoke of heaven and the beauty and peace she'd felt there. Guilt washed over him, mixed with the hope that maybe Anya was in a place like that now, sunny and warm, never wanting for anything.

Spike was a something he wasn't sure he wanted to hear about, but he knew she needed this, to spill out everything that was swirling inside her mind. Knowing she'd gone to him instead of her friends still stuck at him, like he had something they didn't. She made no apologies and stopped him when he tried to argue about the incident in her bathroom that drove Spike all the way to Africa for penance. She had loved him as much as she could, she said, and he loved her so much, maybe too much. In a Willow-worthy babble, she rattled on about cookie dough and not being done baking until he could help but laugh at her. She laughed too, and they were okay for a moment. That's when she asked him.

She wanted to go back to Sunnydale. They were leaving for England in a week and she could bear the thought of not saying goodbye. Didn't he want that too? A chance to let her go and try and move on? Nothing lasts forever, but the earth and sky and even that she wasn't too sure about, with all the things they'd seen. He shifted away from the edge as dizziness washed over him. The idea of letting her go, that she wasn't coming back had occurred to him, but there was tiny part of him that wanted it not to be true. He wasn't sure he was ready to face the cold, hard truth. That she was out of reach, out of his life, and all he had left were intangible memories.

The wind had come up, forcing tears that waiting just under the surface and whipping her long hair around her face. His throat was tight and all he could do was nod. She smiled that sweet, shiny smile that thought he would love forever, only to lose his heart to someone else. When she hugged him, he felt her hope seep inside of him, and he didn't want to rob her of that, even he himself had none.

Two nights later, they were off. Several government agencies had been investigating the strange "natural" phenomenon and he was pretty sure they weren't going to let them walk up to the mouth of the massive crater and shoot the breeze. He treated it like a reconnaissance mission and clamped down on the voice in his head reminding him that she was down there somewhere, alone in the dark.

Driving in mutual silence, he slowed as they came to the freeway exit for Sunnydale. Most of the main roads were blocked now, including the one they had taken out of town on that fateful day. Parking the car, he slipped a small brown paper bag in his jacket pocket and reached for Buffy's hand. He knew she didn't need any help, but the reality of her warm hand in his settled the screeching panic that had been building inside him. Slowly they made their way around trailers and trucks filled with equipment toward the covered fence that had been put up to keep the public out. Reaching inside her own jacket, she pulled out a small pair of wire cutters and made a hole in the fence. She went through first and as he watched her back, he wanted so badly to turn and run, but he couldn't. Willing away the nausea, he slipped through and faced the place he had spent his whole life until six weeks ago.

It was smaller than in his nightmares and the moonlight cast a silvery shadow across everything. It reminded him of the filmstrip he had seen in elementary school about the surface of the moon. Some scaffolding had been put up on one side, and there were barrels of dirt with sifting screens all around. Without speaking they headed towards the opposite side, where nothing had been touched.

The ground was stable as they made their way to the edge. She stayed on his bad side, keeping watch for anything that might send them careening down into the pit that had swallowed their lovers whole. A part of him wanted that, to join her in oblivion and peace, but he knew it wasn't his time, not yet. Whispering softly to her, he dropped her hand and made his way to a small ledge that he thought might hold him long enough to get what he needed.

The bottle was glass, pale pink with a small stopper shaped like a rose. He'd seen it in the window of an old antique store near the hotel and bought it for her before he realized he couldn't give it to her. Leaning carefully, he ran the bottle through the sand along the rim of the crater, filling it to the top. He put the stopper back and stepped back until he could sit down, his feet suddenly unsteady.

Emotion overwhelmed him and the tears came unbidden. This was all he had left of her now. No body to bury, nothing to mourn but a small vial of earth from the last place he saw her. All his dreams came flooding back to him - her laughter, her smell, the feel of her body pressed against him. He wanted nothing more than to hear her voice one last time.

The Powers That Be work in mysterious ways sometimes.

In the back of his mind a memory stirred. They were sitting in the park, sharing a cherry Popsicle. It was summer and they had spent the day doing nothing, for a change. She was wearing new sandals and chirping about needing a manicure when all of sudden she said,

"If I ever die, I don't want you to be sad." He sputtered, not knowing how to respond. She was always coming up with these things out of the blue.

"Anya, don't talk like that. You're not going to die," he said hastily, wanting to change the subject. But she wasn't taking the hint.

"Yes I will, Xander. I'm mortal now and someday I'll be dead. So will you, but we're talking about me. I've been around long enough to know how it works. Cry, mourn, feel guilt, blah, blah, blah, same old song. Don't hang on to me. Move on and get over it. That's what I'm going to do. Black makes me look old and washed out."

He threw his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close. "You are a strange girl, you know that?" She smiled proudly, and kissed him.

"Yes, but you love me anyway."

"Yeah, I do," he answered. The pain of losing her rushed through him again only for a moment and then the moment was gone.

He opened his eyes and saw Buffy standing next to him. She held out her hand and he took it, standing up and feeling lighter than he had in weeks. They made their way back to the car as the first bit of sun was breaking over the horizon. When he looked back, the pain was less and he knew that his heart would heal, but part of it would always belong to her. He patted the bottle in his pocket and drove back towards the highway, thinking of cherry popsicles.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Updates / Silverlake Remix