Author: Emily )
Rating: PG 13
Spoilers: Up to "The Gift" and the Angel season two finale.
Summary: There's a difference between the things that you should do and the things that you can do.
Notes: Buffy ficathon assignment for Sorcha (tablesex).
"Not before their thirtieth birthday. Did you know that no Slayers have ever had children? So I'm guessing that the whole vampires not having kids thing doesn't even matter considering I'll most likely be six feet under before we even think about that."
"I've known Slayers before. I've fought with Slayers before. You're different."
"How am I different Angel?"
"You…have people around. You have friends and family. You're not alone."
"But even with them, I'm still alone. They help with the Slaying and occasionally kill a vampire or two. My mother wonders why I'm so distant but loves me all the same but none of them know what it's like. To do this every single night. To have to kill. To have this be all that there is."
"You're right. That's the deal. You get to know about the monsters in the dark and you get to do something to help but in return…it isolates you."
"And you're gonna live forever but you can't even see a sunrise or taste food or breathe."
"And one day I'll get staked just like the vampire you just killed."
"I would never stake you… Maybe the Slayer after me."
You listened to her when she told you that a Slayer's life was short. You always listened whether she was telling you gossip, whispering 'I love you' in your ear or sadly stating the facts of her existence. But maybe you never really heard her. You moved south down the coast but you sent birthday cards and you saw her every now and then. You think you did a pretty poor job of getting over her but you didn't care because you always thought that eventually you would be with her. Someday. You have lived for years and of course you should know better.
You said all these things to her though. You walked away because you wanted her to live in the sunlight you could never give her. You tell yourself that she did but you're not too sure. You told her that you lived in two different worlds. You lied and told her you didn't want your life to be with her. What you meant was that you didn't want her life to be with you, and there is a difference. Really the truth is that you didn't mean any of it. You pretended to agree with her that Slayers were alone but you honestly thought she would be different. The difference was that you loved her, and you were too afraid to say it at the time, but that was the difference. You loved her and you wouldn't let her die young. And now you sit by her grave and leave numerous floral offerings in the hope they will change things and find yourself wondering where that went wrong.
"Angel, when I first met you I thought you were…permanent. You've been alive for hundreds of years and you were always there but then you went to LA and I thought maybe you would never come back. Now you're back again but it's not the same. Mom is gone and I don't know what to do. About anything. You and I...We broke up and I thought we were going to live happily ever after but I'm not going to live happily ever after with anyone. Not because I can't do relationships or anything but because I don't have ever after."
"Buffy, that's not true. You have time and maybe, eventually you'll have normality too."
"How's that gonna happen? I am the Slayer until the next Slayer is called. The next Slayer is called when the previous Slayer is dead. The math is simple. As for relationships, you were the only person I ever felt briefly normal with and I know we're never going to have normality because you're a vampire and I'm a Slayer, and the math there is simple too. "
"The Slayer line is already out of whack...I just said out of whack..."
"You just said out of whack."
"I really did. But one day, Buffy, maybe one day...You know, someday."
"Someday it'll all be okay and someday I will be normal and have all of the other stupid little things I want? Someday. That impossible someday that everyone dreams about."
"Nothing is impossible."
"I know you don't believe that and I know I can't believe it anymore."
"We can pretend."
"Don't we always? I can't have normality though, Angel, right now I just want to live. However screwed up my life may be. Spike said that Slayers had a death wish. I…I don't wanna die. I thought Slayers were permanent too but they're not. I'm just one girl in an unending line of girls and I may be the Slayer but that's only until I die. Only crazy people and guys on death row know when they're going to die and I don't know when I will die but I do know that I will die and it will be sooner rather than later. Slayers are supposed to make a difference and I want to make a difference, I do. But mostly? I want to live."
"You will. You don't have to die young or be like every other Slayer. You're stronger than that. You're stronger than you think. You'll be okay. It's not fair that your life is like this and it's not fair that Joyce died or that you were chosen but you can handle this. You're strong."
"Am I though? I just want to break down and cry and I know I can't because I need to be there for Dawn and I need to be the Slayer and save the world but I feel like I'm falling apart."
"The world can wait. I…you can cry…I'll stay. However long you want. Buffy you don't have to be alone."
"I think that I do."
You wrote a birthday card this year hesitating over writing your customary sign off of "Love, Angel" because you knew she has a boyfriend. You wrote it all the same and mailed your love away. Later that year a red-haired girl you could barely recognise welcomed you back to the dimension of Buffy and sunshine to inform you that it no longer had Buffy. It is a cliché of course (all of this is), but all of a sudden it no longer had sunshine either. Your ambitions of humanity slipped away. You laid flowers on her grave through the long summer without her and all you could think was that you wouldn't be sending any more birthday cards. There would be no more birthdays and these long nights beside her grave were all there was.
Dawn is Buffy in monochrome and she shows you Buffy's room. It's a little different from how you remember it. She kept your birthday cards in a little wooden box (and now she is in a wooden box under the earth) and they are preserved there forever and ever (but she is no longer forever) bright and gaudy. Slayers die and she fell fast and hard from the stars to the dirty ground. She won't be having children just like she said she wouldn't and even though you loved her more than you managed to tell her, it wasn't enough. You remember when you first saw her; you planned to protect her somehow because maybe this little blonde girl was your salvation. Then you knew her and she became your everything and clearly you did not manage to protect her. Maybe you loved her too much or maybe you didn't love her enough but either way she is gone.
Even the sun is not permanent and two hundred and fifty years went by before you knew death. You thought you knew it before then of course. You had died it after all and then you had defied it and then you had caused it over and over. Never before had you lived it. Buffy died - Buffy - and maybe nothing is permanent after all. She died and so will Cordelia and Wesley (and you can't protect them either) and one day, so will you. You would think some clichéd poetic thought about how you will be with her then but Buffy is cold and rotting in her grave and you don't believe in heaven. You're not sure about redemption either because the wisp of a girl who was your salvation is gone. And you're not even sure if you should be redeemed because you should have saved her and you did not. You were in another world saving other girls and you were Too. Late.
"She missed you, you know."
"I didn't know."
"Well she did. And you left her."
"You don't know the half of it Dawn."
"I know that you should have been there."
"There's a difference between the things that you should do and the things that you can do. If I could have..."
"I'm sorry. I'm not angry with you. I'm not. I'm just angry at everything. It's not fair and she died for me and I wish she hadn't. She wasn't angry with you either. I just wish that...She told me to tell you goodbye. That death was her gift. And it was okay"
"Life should have been her gift. She told me she would die young but I never thought it would happen, not really. She...she was Buffy."
"I know. And it's not okay. I'm not okay with her being gone. I know she jumped because of me and I should have stopped her."
"You couldn't have stopped her. When Buffy set her mind to something there was no stopping her."
"God, she was so stubborn."
You think it's wrong that you almost agree with Dawn. You almost think Dawn should have jumped because surely you would hurt less then. Dawn is a little girl and maybe life is her gift but it should have been Buffy's too and a little black and white version of Buffy living in the sunlight is not what you wanted. You're not sure what you did want and you think you should take care of Dawn – for Buffy -but she already has people to take care of her. You know you should have been there. It's okay if Dawn is angry with you because you're angry with Dawn. You shouldn't be of course but you can't not be. You told her that there was a difference between should and can but it was something you made up on the spot and maybe it sounded good or deep or wise or something but it didn't mean a thing.
You are supposed to be a warrior of the light followed by some more meaningless titles. You should be fighting but you don't think you can. You should fight because that's the right thing to do but the truth is, you always fought because of her. Now she is gone there is nothing to fight for and maybe Dawn and the myriad other innocents in the world should be enough but they are not. You always pretended that you fought the good fight because it was the good fight but back then she was fighting it too. Back then you fought alongside her and maybe there was a reason to it all. You fought because a man showed you a girl and she touched you. She made you think that maybe you could be good (and at least you could try). And so you tried. You just wish you could keep on trying. You used to dream about drinking her and you never told her. You never did it – except before her high school graduation (and no wonder you wanted her to have the sunlight) - but you still dreamed it. You still wanted it. Dawn tells you that a big portal in the sky wanted her blood. Well so did you and maybe if she hadn't died that night then you would have killed her later. You're dwelling on this. You can't help but think of all the little things that you never told anyone. The things that would make them despise you.
"Isn't that freaky? Like, oh hey I totally died on the night of my High School prom. A vampire bit me actually. He was really old. But then I got brought back to life and I kicked some ass in my equally kickass dress. My mom asked me if I had a good night. I didn't mention any of this. 'Cause it's freaky. I'm doing the Valley girl thing again aren't I?"
"Yes. But it's cute."
"You think I'm cute?"
"I think you're cute."
"Yay! So...can we watch something really tacky on TV now? With angst and melodrama and possibly a river of some kind? With montage scenes that have lots of crying and radio friendly music?"
"You want to watch Dawson's Creek again?"
"Yes...It's the stereotypical teenage drama that all the normal girls watch, dontcha' know?"
"So you tell me. Only this once though. We're only watching it because you're making me and –"
"And I'm cute?"
"And you're cute"
"And I died, which is pretty freaky and melodramatic, so I think I deserve like a lifetime of watching tacky teenage angst and melodrama. And rivers."
"Buffy we're not watching this for a lifetime."
"We can watch the news or the weather channel or whatever you vamps are into after a few episodes."
"You think I watch the weather channel?"
"Sssh Joey is whining. We can make out afterwards, okay? We have like, forever. Or okay, two hours because my mom will be home then and she might want to know who you are and other minor details like that. But aside from that, we have forever."
You have lived long enough to know that life isn't fair. You are outraged and betrayed all the same. Her gravestone says that she saved the world a lot and you think that the world could have done her a favour and saved her. Or you could have. Should have. You go through what happened, remembering what Dawn told you, and you wonder how you could have saved her whilst saving Dawn and the world. You aren't sure how but there must have been some way. Surely there is always a way. That's how the cliché goes and you are relying a lot on cliché's these days.
It's on one of those nights when you're by her gravestone that you figure it out. It is raining and quiet in the forest. The flowers beside her grave are beginning to turn brown and this makes you think of her body underneath the soil. She is not coming back. You know this, you should understand it but every single night, you entertain the hope that she will claw her way from the ground back into the night, and back to you. But she is gone.
You used to think you could have saved her if only you had been there. Now you realise that you couldn't have saved her. Even if you had been there, there was no way to save her. And somehow, somehow that is worse than knowing you could have because now you know you couldn't have. You could not have saved her even if you had tried, even if you had been there. It was impossible to save her then and so, it is impossible to save her now.
Perhaps, sometimes, there is no way. Perhaps there is no perhaps about it. And now you know that some things are impossible.