From Her Heart

Summary: Buffy comes to a decision about her life, and decides to share it with her loved ones.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG, for mild language and themes.

Time Frame: Just before fifth season BTVS and second season Angel (spoiler possibilities up to that point).

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (eilandesq@aol.com) to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.


FROM HER HEART


Buffy sat quietly, watching the swimmers churn along busily in a preliminary heat. Her mother was away on a business trip, and Willow, Xander, and the others wouldn't be by for a while, so she was taking some time to watch the Olympics on her own.

Watching the Olympics was something that Buffy had always done with her father: from the time she was three years old, and the Olympics were going on all around her in Los Angeles, Hank Summers had spent time with his daughter, trying to pass on the love for sports that had seen him become a nationally ranked hurdler before a knee injury at eighteen had permanently banished him to spectator status. The last Olympics had come just before her Calling as the Slayer, and her father had watched them with her as before, though the troubles that had ended the Summers' marriage had already become all too evident. Buffy had hoped that he would at least make some time to come by and watch with her, but he was on the East Coast for an extended business trip, and yet another family tradition had fallen victim to the estrangement between father and daughter. Buffy sighed and continued to watch.

The heat concluded, and Buffy smiled to see the excitement on the face of the Costa Rican swimmer who had won. Watching the competitors always awakened something in her that she found hard to identify. It wasn't really any desire to compete herself: aside from her brief flirtation with ice skating, competitive sports had never really drawn her from the participatory side (although she still felt a rush of pride when she remembered the astonished expressions on the faces of Wesley and the other observers from the Council when they had seen the performances that Buffy and Faith had produced during their physical and psychological testing after Faith had killed Finch). It wasn't that they were doing something inherently more important than what she did; quite to the contrary. Kerri Strug's heroism had been memorable, but it had saved no lives, much less the entire world. Buffy frowned and pondered the question further as the next heat started.

Abruptly, it hit her. Most of these athletes had been preparing for most of their young lives in preparation for these few moments in front of the crowds, not to mention the cameras that beamed their heroics to billions. Aside from inborn talent, it was their focus, their dedication that had brought them to this moment, and it was obvious from the expressions on their faces that it was worth it, even for the swimmers who finished well back in the preliminaries, for whom there would be no more Olympic moments except a long plane ride home.

Buffy frowned as she contrasted that focus to the state of her own life. She had done her job as the Slayer, and done it well, occasional errors of judgment aside, but even now, she realized, she had never admitted to herself that this was going to be her life, period. With Faith stuck behind bars and not in any great danger (Buffy smirked at the thought of the first prison misfit who made the mistake of messing with Faith), there was not any real chance that a new Slayer would be called any time soon. The responsibility fell on her, and she might as well make the best of it by embracing it and, like the Olympians, dedicating herself to doing it as best she could, letting the chips fall where they might.

Buffy chuckled and thought * Great. . .I've come to this big, earth-shaking decision, but what do I do about it? Do I just go on like before, or should I do something-- * Buffy blinked, and abruptly remembered the young woman at the Opening Ceremonies who had stood before the assembled athletes and read a short paragraph that had originated more than a century before. Buffy smiled, turned off the TV, and went to work.


* * * * *

"So, what's this all about, Mrs. Summers?" Xander had finally gotten to the point where he could speak comfortably with Buffy's mother after the dream fiasco in May, and even if he hadn't, Buffy's message had sparked his curiosity thoroughly. The two of them were standing in the kitchen, with the sound of conversation drifting in from the living room.

"I don't have a clue, Xander," Joyce replied as she finished preparing the snack tray. Xander nodded and picked the first tray up as Joyce worked on a second one and continued, "She's been working on something for the last few days that she wouldn't let me see, but I can't imagine what it might be. . .I guess we all get to find out together. I'm not complaining. . .it's a better deal than I usually get."

Xander smiled sympathetically at her as they went back into the living room and deposited the snacks on the coffee table. Riley, Willow and Tara were quietly conversing over by the TV set, while Giles and Anya sat quietly and uneasily on the couch, avoiding conversation. The clock struck eight thirty, and as the chimes died down, there was a knock at the door. Joyce went to answer it, and was startled to see Angel, Wesley, and Cordelia there. She forced herself to smile, then invited, "Come in, please."

Angel smiled slightly and replied, "Thank you," as he walked in. Wesley, somewhat ill at ease, settled for a polite nod as he followed Angel. Cordelia, still wondering what in the world was provoking this little reunion, smiled and nodded automatically at Joyce as she walked into the house.

The others had noticed the new arrivals, and the reactions were predictably mixed. Xander's overt hostility to Angel had subsided over the months, though he remembered Anya's initial reaction to the ensouled vampire and cast a suspicious glance back at her, noting that she seemed puzzled at the arrival of the Los Angeles contingent. Willow smiled broadly and ran up to give Angel a hug, followed by more restrained greetings to Wesley and Cordelia. Tara's expression was openly curious: she had heard all of the stories by now, but had never laid eyes on Angel until now. Giles, still ambivalent about both Angel and Wesley, settled for a curt nod, though his eyes lightened a little when he looked over at Cordelia. Riley had adopted a poker face upon seeing Angel, and concentrated on being part of the furniture.

Angel glanced over and noticed the taciturn young man who was pointedly not looking at him and sighed, then walked over to Riley. Without waiting for Riley to acknowledge his presence, he commented, "I heard about what went down with the Initiative, Riley. . .risking your neck to save Oz was a gutsy move, and I heard what you had to do to help Buffy beat those robo-zombies. . .thanks."

Surprised, Riley turned to Angel and was at a loss for words for a moment before replying, "I helped make the mess. . .only right I should help to clean it up. Besides, Buffy put herself on the line. . .she deserves all of the help we can give her."

Angel nodded and responded, "Yes, she does. . .and cleaning up after one's own mistakes is something that I know a thing or two about, too." Noticing the puzzled expression on Riley's face, Angel managed a small smile before commenting, "Don't worry. . .I still don't like you."

Riley managed a chuckle at this, and introductions and greetings were exchanged all around. Conversation continued for a few more minutes, then Buffy came downstairs and smiled at all of them, calling out, "Good. . .you're all here-" She glanced over to see Angel, Riley, and Xander were quietly watching her, and continued, "-and we haven't had to send in the security guards yet!" There was general laughter, and Buffy joined it before frowning and commenting, "Wait. . .we're missing someone." She walked over to the front door and opened it, then glanced out into the darkness for a moment before narrowing her eyes and calling out, "Give it a rest, Spike. . .you aren't fooling anyone."

The assembled guests heard a muffled curse, then Spike walked in, glaring at Buffy and avoiding the looks from the others in the room as he complained, "I'm not some bloody message boy you can order around, you know. . .I don't know why I even came tonight."

Buffy rolled her eyes and retorted, "After your stunt in May, you're lucky not to be ashtray bait, Spike. . .now sit down and zip it up." Spike pointedly turned away from Buffy and settled into an easy chair, and was grumbling softly until Joyce put a hot chocolate down in front of him with a reproving look. He winked at her and looked back at Buffy.

Buffy was looking at the assembled group, suddenly visibly nervous. She took a deep breath, then began, "I know you've all been wondering what I called you here for. . .it's been just about four years since I started my run as the Slayer, and it hasn't been easy, for me or for any of us. I neglected some very important things, during this last year in particular, and a lot of you paid the price for it." She looked over at Xander, Willow, and Giles; then over to Angel, whose eyes glinted in acknowledgment as Buffy continued, "I've been trying to get a handle on all of this. . .figure out the best way to dedicate myself to being the Slayer, and to do right by all of you. Well, I've decided how to do it, and I wanted you all to be here when I did, because all of you-" She snorted and inclined her head at Spike before continuing, "-well, almost all of you-- are very precious to me."

There were a lot of smiles in the room, and Wesley-visibly surprised to be included-was surreptitiously reaching for a handkerchief as Cordelia smiled in gentle amusement. Spike snickered and commented, "Well, that's just touching, Slayer. . .but why AM I here, anyway?"

Buffy smiled coldly and replied, "To bear witness." Spike blinked in confusion, as did several of the others, but Willow saw the small piece of paper in her hand and smiled as she divined Buffy's purpose.

"Giles, could you come over here now, please?" Buffy called out. Giles approached her, carrying a single book: his account of all of Buffy's activities in Sunnydale since the Council had fired him nearly two years before. His eyes shone: he too had realized what Buffy was up to, and it was all he could do to keep his face solemn as he held the book level in front of Buffy.

Buffy glanced at the paper one last time, then put it away as she placed her right hand on Giles' diary and raised her right hand in the classic position as she began:


"I, Buffy Summers, the Slayer, in the presence of all she holds sacred and in the name of the power that watches over Slayers, do solemnly swear to dedicate my life to the destruction of evil wherever I might find it, to protect the innocent from those who would do them harm, and-above all else-to work for a day when a Slayer is no longer needed. In performing these duties, I will honor and cherish those who I am fortunate enough to have fight by my side, and to accept their help as readily as they accept mine. Within those limits, I will live my life to the fullest, with the hopes of leaving a worthy legacy to the Slayer who follows me. I take this oath of my own free will, and shall do my very best to live up to its terms."


Buffy tingled as she finished speaking: she had written and re-written the single paragraph several times before coming up with the final version, but she had never spoken the words aloud before. . .it felt good. The room was silent: everyone seemed to be waiting for her to say something else. Once again, it was left to Spike to break the silence, "Uh, yeah, Slayer. . .that's nice. . .tell me something. This whole dedication to the destruction of evil thing. . .how exactly is that different from how you've been kicking the ass of every big bad who's wandered into this town since you got here?"

Buffy looked at him with an expression remarkably free of rancor, then turned to the others as if the question had come from them and replied, "Ever since I've been the Slayer, I've wanted out: that's no secret to almost all of you. I've actually tried to walk away from it a few times, and it never worked; somehow, it always comes back to me. When Faith showed up being all gung ho about it, I saw that as a way out too. . .we all know how that turned out." Her eyes turned sad, then brightened as she continued, "I've known since last year that I was basically stuck with this job, and was doing my best to deal with it, with mixed results." She paused and gave an apologetic look, then continued, "So I was sitting here a few days ago, and it finally occurred to me: hating the job and wanting to make it go away doesn't make it any easier, so why not just embrace the whole thing? We've accomplished things here. . .important things, and the fact that almost no one knows what we've done doesn't change that any, damn it! When I die, whether it's tomorrow or when I trip over my walker at ninety-seven, I want the next Slayer to know that I was proud of what I did, and of the friends who helped me do it. . .and that she should want to do as well for herself in her own time."

Buffy saw that there were more than a few eyes moistening in her audience, and hastened to conclude, "I do good work here. . .and I never could have done it without your help. I want you all to know that I know how much I need you, and that I hope the next Slayer has friends at least half as good to save her butt, or we're in a whole lot of trouble. I wrote that oath, and read it to you today, to let you know that I'm in it for the long haul. . .and I really hope that I can depend on all of you to keep helping me do it."

Buffy took a deep breath, then paused and looked at the others. Giles was looking at her with an expression of naked pride, as was Joyce. Xander looked stunned, and Anya seemed rather more subdued than usual. Willow was crying, and Tara was holding her gently as she gave Buffy an approving nod. Angel's expression was almost unreadable except for a slight curl at the corners of his mouth, and Wesley was still dabbing at his eyes as Cordelia patted him on the back and watched Buffy with a neutral expression. Spike made a show of sighing, but Buffy could see the nervousness in his body language as he casually asked, "Oh. . .I suppose that explains it, then. . .can I go now?"

Buffy nodded, then as Spike was quickly moving out the door, she called out, "No more mercy rule, Spike. Screw with me again, and-"

"Yeah, yeah. . .I can read the subtitles, Slayer. . .later." Spike departed, and most of the others in the room exhaled. Angel glided over to Buffy and whispered, "You should have staked him, Buffy. . .he may not be harmless forever."

Buffy frowned and replied, "I know. . .but as long as he's helpless, it just doesn't seem right. . .still, I mean it. . .no more plotting or he's dust." She patted her former lover on the shoulder and walked over to Giles, handing him the diary and the handwritten oath. "Giles. . .if I don't survive you, I want you to make sure the next Slayer gets this diary and the oath. She has a right to know that she can do this without having some Watchers' Council breathing down her neck. . . and that someone could choose to do this of her own free will."

Giles nodded and replied, "Of course, Buffy," before turning away. Buffy had the distinct impression that Giles had been about to hug her, but she knew that only the most extreme emotional provocation would have allowed him to do it in front of a room full of people, and she silently decided to take the intention as the deed.

The others crowded around her, and there was hugging and laughing and crying in great quantities for several minutes before a sound at the door attracted Buffy's attention. She turned to the door and blinked in total shock as she called out, "Dad?"

Hank Summers blinked in embarrassment, then replied, "Uh. . .yes, Buffy. . .I cut my business trip short. . .I thought it would be nice if we could spend some time together. . .watch the Olympics like we used to do. . .but I see you have friends here-"

"-who are just leaving," Xander announced loudly as he saw the expression on Buffy's face. With admirable simultaneity, everyone but Joyce and Buffy quickly got up, made their leave-takings, and filed out the door, nodding at Mr. Summers as they walked by. Xander pulled the door closed behind him, then walked over to the group and called out, "All right. . .everyone to the Bronze. . .drinks are on Dead Boy."

Angel scowled at Xander, then shook his head in defeat as he followed the others back to their cars.

Back inside the Summers house, Hank Summers shook his head and smiled, commenting, "You seem to have a lot of very loyal friends, Buffy. . .what was the big occasion?"

A chill went through Buffy, and she took a deep breath before replying, "I was telling them how I intended to spend the rest of my life." She turned on the TV, and the sight of swimmers busily moving along appeared on the screen.

Hank Summers smiled and responded, "That sounds like a big deal. . .do I get to hear about it, or have I screwed things up too much in the past few years to deserve it?"

Buffy blinked, and tears came to her eyes as she looked at her father, then up at her mother, who was watching the scene with visible concern. She subtly gestured for Joyce to sit down, and Hank had only a moment to register this before Buffy began:

"It all started back in my last days at Hendry High-"


CLOSING DEDICATION: To those who strive for greatness, whether in athletics or the wider arenas of life. . .your efforts are an inspiration to us all.


As always, comments are welcomed and desired