Loving Eternally: Chapter 1
by Lisette

Created: 09/04/01 Revised: 11/15/02

Legalese: The television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all related characters and material belong to a lot of important people. I am not one of these people. I claim ownership solely of the story idea - no profit will be made by this. The Death Prayer found in Buffy's letter was written by Henry Scott Holland, the Canon of St Pauls Cathedral in the 1800s.

Brief Description: In this sequel to The Chosen One, Buffy must face an old adversary in an attempt to salvage what remains of her life, and in doing so, must decide if there really is a life worth saving.

Rating: PG-13 for violence


The Chosen One: Loving Eternally

"The good that you do, she thought. Oh, Buffy, I hope it lives after you."
- Willow, The Evil That Men Do, Nancy Holder

A Few Days Later

With practiced ease the long, dark car pulled up in front of the familiar ranch house, the tinted windows barely legal as the bright sun glinted off the smooth glass. Hissing through clenched teeth, Angel instinctively tightened his pale hands around the steering wheel of the car, watching as Joyce Summers slowly walked up the long sidewalk, clothed from head to toe in black and supported by Giles and Xander on either side. Closing his eyes briefly, Angel quickly shook his head as Buffy's beautiful face flashed in his mind's eye.

"Buffy, what happened here?" he whispered to the empty car before slowly letting up on the brake and pulling away.


That Night

Kneeling down, Angel lowered himself to the softly turned ground, the cool night quiet around him. Sighing, he slowly lifted his eyes to the gleaming tombstone that adorned the fresh grave, his breath catching in his throat by reflex.

Riley A Finn
June 24th, 1978
March 3rd, 2000
He Died To Save Her Light
An Eternal Hero

Shaking his head, Angel slowly lowered his head, and then froze as he sensed movement behind him. As a hand was gently laid on his shoulder, he felt himself relax slightly. "How did you know that I was here?" he asked, his eyes locking on the tomb.

"I saw your car," came the quiet response. "What are you doing here?"

The question wasn't an accusation exactly, but it caused Angel to wince all the same, his gaze never leaving the smooth granite. "You didn't call," he responded slowly, biting back his anxiety as one hand slowly clenched into a fist. "What happened here?" he asked, skipping over the most important question.

"The spell worked," came the reply, stating something that Angel already knew. It was impossible to not feel the change that had come over the town - not to notice that the evil pull of the Hellmouth was gone.

"But?" he asked.

"But somehow they learned of it and we were attacked. Riley was killed."

Absorbing this, Angel sat in silence for a second before forcing out his real question - the question that had driven him from the others and his business in L.A. "And Buffy?"

"Gone."

Closing his eyes, Angel exhaled loudly before finally standing and turning. Giles stood before him, his shoulders slumped wearily and his eyes rimmed with dark circles. The man looked as though he hadn't slept in days. "Gone where? Why?" he asked, his long-dead heart already breaking for her.

Shaking his head, Giles wearily pinched the bridge of his nose, trying not to look at the fresh grave. They had just buried Riley that morning, and in between contacting his family and searching for Buffy... well, there had been little time to grieve. They just didn't have that luxury.

"Giles?" Angel questioned again, his dark eyes filling with concern as he moved a hand towards his friend.

Breaking out of his reverie, Giles brushed away Angel's concern. "We don't know," he sighed, finally answering the vampire's question.

"She ran away again?" Angel asked in surprise.

"We fear worse," Giles admitted, thinking back to that morning. He had been awakened by a frantic call from Willow and Xander, urging him to join them at Angel's abandoned mansion. He had berated himself as he rushed over. He was ashamed at how long it had taken them to think to check there. The place had just never been mentioned since the last time that Angel left - years ago. When he got there, a pale and frightened Willow met him at the door. Without saying a word she led him to the dusty living room... and to a very large and drying pool of blood and a knife that he recognized all to well.

"What does this mean?" Xander had asked frantically.

Giles had no answer then or now. As Angel's dark eyes settled on Giles, he felt as though the vampire was peering directly into his soul. "The Watcher's Council attacked as well, and they told Buffy some things about herself... devastating things..."

Even though Angel was curious, he also knew that there would be time for more details later. Now, there was only one thing on his mind. Turning, Angel quickly started through the cemetery towards his car. "I'll find her," he vowed over his shoulder.

"But..." he heard Giles call out behind him.

"I'll be in touch!" he called back before disappearing into the night.


Six Months Later

Sighing tiredly, Buffy pushed the motel door open and trudged inside, kicking the door shut behind her as she flipped the lights on in one fluid movement. Turning, a yawn was caught in her throat as she met Edward's eyes from across the room. "What are you doing here?" she snapped, her eyes fiery as she moved further into the room and dropped her keys on the small table, her weapons bag falling on the floor beside it. "I told you that I don't want a Watcher."

Leaning forward from his seat in the shadows, Edward eyed the Slayer. In the time that had passed since he had seen her last, the only changes were ones he didn't wish to see. Oh, the petite blonde looked as healthy as ever in her customary tight, black leather pants, black halter and hooded sweatshirt, unzipped and covered in a mixture of ashes and caked blood - her outfit of choice since her departure. There were even ashes dotted in her high, blonde pony-tail. But the grief that he knew she must be going through was invisible, tightly locked down and hidden beneath a cool and expressionless facade. Only the eyes showed a flicker of her pain and loneliness - and she must be lonely.

The arrangement that she made with the Watcher's Council was simple: they contact her by phone as to where she was needed, provide transportation and housing, money for food, clothing, and of course the weapons that she'd require, and she'd do the slaying - provided that there was no personal contact. It was obvious that she'd never again risk getting close to someone that she was bound to lose - a hard life for anyone. Slayer or not.

"Well?" she asked impatiently as she slipped out of her jacket, dropping it unceremoniously to the floor.

Shaking his head, Edward focused on what had brought him there. "Your friends are still searching for you," he said, finally catching her full attention. "You're hurting them," he continued in a matter-of-fact tone as she turned away from him, leaning forward and bracing her hands on the table, her head hung. "Something must be done."

Sighing, Buffy slowly nodded her head. He was right, of course... but Buffy had been prepared for this. Turning away, she moved to the small pack that she carried with her everywhere and withdrew a starched white envelope. Lifting it, she peeked at the folded letter within before slowly lifting her left hand. As it began to shake, Buffy forced it to stop as she reached up and slid her engagement ring off. But as she dropped the ring into the envelope and sealed it, she couldn't help the single tear that blazed down her cheek. Turning, she quickly stalked over to the Watcher and thrust the envelope into his hands. "Buffy Summers is dead - now they can get on with their lives as they were meant to."

Surprised, Edward looked away from the envelope and into the girl's eyes. What he saw there caused him to nod curtly and leave without another word. For in those eyes, he saw that if she wasn't already, the real Buffy Summers was dying and being replaced by a cold, emotionless Slayer - the Council's dream weapon. And the second after the door clicked shut behind him, Buffy slowly settled onto the strange bed, her arms wrapped tightly around her knees, small tears squeezing out between her tightly clenched eyelids as pictures of her friends and family flashed before her. Alone once again.


A Few Days Later

Running a hand through her tangled hair, Joyce Summers forced a smile and opened the front door to an empty porch. "Well that's odd," she murmured, knowing that she had heard the bell just a few seconds ago, and stepped outside to survey the quiet neighborhood. Nothing - just a normal bright and sunny afternoon in Sunnydale, California. Shrugging, Joyce turned to go back inside when she noticed the plain white envelope that was taped to the door.

Wary now, Joyce quickly turned and surveyed the happy neighborhood once again. Everything had been quiet for so long, but one never knew - especially for the mother of a Slayer. Biting her lip, she eyed the innocent looking white envelope and debated calling for Rupert.

"Oh, this is nonsense," she whispered harshly to herself, forcing a small laugh as she reached forward and pealed the envelope from the door. Frowning, she slowly turned it over in her hands, noticing how it bulked on one end. Shrugging once again, she reached one manicured nail under the sealed flap and tore along the crevice. And somehow, in that instant, the small bulky object within the envelope slid free and bounced on the ground. Cursing softly, Joyce knelt down - and froze as her eyes finally locked on the little object.

Gasping, she felt herself pale and tears flood her eyes as she gingerly picked up the small ring, the diamond glittering brilliantly in the bright afternoon sun. Shaking her head quickly, she palmed the ring and ripped the rest of the envelope open, her hands shaking as she withdrew a single sheet of paper. She recognized the handwriting immediately as she lifted one hand to her mouth and read through her tears:

To Everyone I Love,

I need to start by saying how sorry I am for leaving. After last time, I made so many promises to never do that again, but I didn't want to hurt any of you any longer. I didn't know what else to do and knew there was no other way. I love you all so much and we all know that my being there only endangers everyone that I love. I can't live with anyone else dying because of me and my fight - and that's what it is, my fight. Not Giles, my friends, or anyone else. I'm the Slayer and its my sacred duty.

I've finally learned that lesson.

I've been working with the Watcher's Council ever since I left, doing my job where needed, and I've instructed them to give you this letter if anything happens to me. Just please remember how much I love you all. Everything that I've fought for and everything that I've done - it's all been for you. Please live the lives that I've always fought for, free of fear and death... the one that I was never meant to have. Live them for me.

Remember these words: "Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room. I am I, and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we still are. Call me by my old familiar name; speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was, let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was; there is unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well."

Love Forever and Always, Buffy

Shaking her head slowly, small gasps escaping between her tightly pursed lips, the letter slipped unnoticed from Joyce's fingers and floated to the ground. With shaking hands, she slowly pulled her hand away and looked once more upon the ring that her baby had worn with such happiness and pride. The one that she would never willingly part with. In that instant, something inside of Joyce Summers died as she fell to her knees, tears streaming down her cheeks. "BUFFY!"