Chapter Seven
These Are the Days

These are the days
These are days you'll remember.
Never before and never since, I promise,
Will the whole world be warm as this.
And as you feel it,
You'll know it's true
That you are blessed and lucky.
It's true that you
Are touched by something
That will grow and bloom in you.

June 11, 2004

An open letter to the Watcher's Council
from Rupert Giles, Watcher,
Sunnydale California

To Mr. Quentin Travers, and my esteemed colleagues;

At your request I am writing you to report on the status of Sunnydale, California, three years after the sealing of the Hellmouth. As the Hellmouth has existed for as long as human settlement of this region(the Spanish name for this region, indeed, was 'La Boca Del La Inferno'), as well as being the first Hellmouth in recent memory to have been successfully sealed, the ramifications of this event are certainly worth studying.

There have been many positive developments in Sunnydale in the years since Buffy Summer's last battle as the Slayer. Increased business, urban development, reduced statistics in crime and abuse reports. I will explain these at length in this letter. But to more fully explore the transformation of Sunnydale(and I do not believe the word 'transformation' to be overstating what has happened to Sunnydale), I wish to describe two exceptional young people that I have come to know and care deeply for over the last few years. Their names are Alexander Harris and Willow Rosenberg.

Alexander Harris, who prefers to be called 'Xander', was the son of, from what I have been made to understand, two loathsome individuals. Mr. and Mrs. Harris were, from all reports, uncaring and abusive alcoholics. I have never seen actual evidence of abuse on Xander's person, but from what his life-long friend Willow has told me, the Harrises were at the very least verbally abusive. Truly terrible people from all I have learned from Willow. Surely, their unfeeling attitudes and constant drunkenness have contributed to a poor self-esteem that Xander had possessed for much of his young life.

Willow Rosenberg's parents, from all accounts, were not much better. Not abusive but innatentive and uncaring. They paid little or no attention to their daughter, or else completely curtailed all of her extra-cirricular activities. Willow, as a result, was secluded for most of her life, shy, scared of her own shadow. By all accounts both Willow and Xander should have become statistics, killed by vampires or worse long ago.

Then they made the acquaintance of Buffy Summers.

I have been reprimanded in the past, indeed even dismissed from the Watchers, for 'caring for my charge'. But Xander and Willow have also cared greatly for Buffy. They, along with others, formed a core of friends and allies who call themselves the Scooby Gang, after the principle characters in a popular animated cartoon, or so I'm lead to understand. While this circle of support has, I have no doubt, contributed to Buffy's success as a Slayer, I cannot help but agree that Buffy's association with these people has contributed to their betterment as well. Not only has she kept them alive, but she has, by her example, given them a positive role model. Through her, they have learned of the dangers of the Hellmouth, and instead of hiding, or running, or living in the same level of denial as the other citizens of Sunnydale, they chose to remain at her side, to aid her in her fight. Xander became more assertive, more capable as a fighter, while Willow turned to the study of magic and has become an effective practitioner of Wicca.

I believe, from seeing Xander and Willow and a few others who chose to stay at Buffy's side, that we have underestimated the true danger of the Hellmouths. The Sunnydale Hellmouth, in addition to drawing monsters and demons from around the world, has held a greater threat. I believe that the Hellmouth had created an aura of evil, a force if you will, that had held most of its citizens in its sway. Very few people outside of the Scooby Gang were even aware of the existence of vampires, until coming face to face with one, by which time they were either dead or Turned. Those who were aware, like the late unlamented Mayor Richard Wilkins, were swayed by its evil to become evil themselves.

Since the sealing of the Hellmouth, this aura has, I believe, been dispersed. Allow me to provide further evidence of this theory. Within the last year:

--- Violent crime within the city limits of Sunnydale has dropped 75%.

--- The reported suicide rate has dropped 92%.

--- Reports of spousal or child abuse have fallen 88%.

--- The number of unexplained deaths from May 2001(when the Hellmouth was closed) to the present is 3. That same statistic from May 2000 to May 2001 was 89.

--- No less than three major corporations have made plans to open offices in Sunnydale. These include Microsoft Software, Bank of America and Starbucks Coffee.

These statistics speak of a change in the atmosphere of this town. Furthermore, anyone who has lived here and observed this town for any period, such as myself, can testify to a change in mood, a change in the town's personality. The newly rebuilt Sunnydale High School is one such example. Where once Mr. Snyder(as odious a human as any I have ever had the displeasure of knowing) ran the school like an armed camp, the current principal, one Miss Edgars, has encouraged her students to express themselves. Instead of breeding militant toadies like Mr. Snyder, Sunnydale is encouraging people to be at their best, and to care for each other and the city. A new civic pride that I had never witnessed is flourishing, as new business takes a chance on a small town that no one would even consider before. The decreased body count helps a great deal, I suspect. Less of an aura of fear surrounding Sunnydale presently.

Another sign of this improved mindset within Sunnydale is a renewed interest in the arts and culture. A greater number of theater groups have opened in Sunnydale, as well as a few movie companies from Hollywood filming here, as a cheaper alternative to Los Angeles. I myself have joined the board of directors for the Sunnydale Museum of Art and Culture, and last year we opened a new wing, the Joyce Summers Memorial Wing, that specializes in ancient artforms and relics of primitive peoples, and has enjoyed a great deal of success.

This last year, Xander has been promoted to assistant foreman of Sunnydale's most prestigious construction firm. He has personally handled the building of a new corporate headquarters for a new software firm, TechnoMage Incorporated. And Willow Rosenberg has joined this firm under a lucrative contract where she is allowed partial ownership of her intellectal property. Furthermore, Xander's parents have recently gone into alcohol rehab, and have begun the healing process, mending fences with their son. As for Willow, she and Buffy had begun a serious romantic relationship in recent years, one which Willow believed her parents wouldn't approve. They have not only accepted this relationship, but they have welcomed Buffy into their family with open arms.

The transformation of Sunnydale, from the breeding ground of all manner of evils, to a prosperous and positive community, is the legacy of Buffy Anne Summers. That this city, and the people whos lives she has touched, are all the better because of her, is testimony of her success as a Slayer. I submit, gentlemen, that it is not enough for us Watchers to simply aid the Slayer in destroying vampires and demons, but it must be the Watchers' duty to aid in the closing of all Hellmouths, wherever they may occur in the world. The evil that they have fostered in the world has gone on for far too long. And once that evil is removed, the land will heal, as Sunnydale can bear witness.

I thank you for your time and indulgence, and hope that you will take my words to heart.

I remain,
Your servant,
Rupert Giles

These are days you'll remember.
When May is rushing over you with desire
To be part of the miracles you see
In every hour.
You'll know it's true
That you are blessed and lucky.
It's true that you
Are touched by something
That will grow and bloom in you.

"Hey, Mom," Buffy greeted the tombstone as she lay a single white rose on the spot where her mother lay in eternal rest. "It's been a while, I guess. Three months, right?" She waited for nothing in particular, she just thought it was polite to let the dead have their say. Even if they kept silent.

"You hear the bad news? Dawn has a boyfriend. His name is Steve, and he seems like a nice guy. Naturally Giles and I ran him through a full screen, Giles even considered renting out a polygraph, but I decided that was overkill. Not too much overkill, but just enough. He's okay though. Kinda looks like Xander did when he was that age.

"Hey, you should have seen the gang in Orlando, Florida, last month," she chuckled at the memory. "Xander and Anya finally tied the knot. The main reason it took them so long was because they were saving for the wedding. They wanted to keep the details a surprise, but they finally called us up one day, had us pack a couple of suitcases each, and flew us all to Orlando. Seems Xander and Anya planned the whole thing. They had the ceremony at Walt Disney World. I swear, they had a chapel there and everything!

"Giles gave the bride away, but Anya arrived in a model coach, just like the one in 'Cinderella'. Dawn carried the rings in a glass slipper on a pillow. They even had Angel fly in at night to be Xander's best man. Willow was Anya's bride's maid. I'm glad that Will's finally cool about Anya, it took them forever to get along. Guess Willow was being over protective of Xander, him being her childhood friend, Anya being a former vengeance demon who tortured men for centuries, that sort of thing.

"It was still a lovely ceremony. And while Xander and Anya went on their honeymoon, the rest of us spent a couple of days at Walt Disney World. Giles even bought a souviner oversized Mad Hatter hat. He's got it on display at the Magic Box.

"Don't worry, Mom, Willow and I won't go that far overboard at our wedding. That's right, Mom. Tomorrow Willow's finally going to make an honest woman out of me." She gave a watery smile as she spoke of her future plans. "Actually, we already did the deed two nights ago, we're just having a more formal Jewish style ceremony to please her folks. Sheila's been surprisingly nice about the whole thing, and Ira's being the nervous father-in-law. Wants to make sure that her daughter will be looked after, that I'll answer to her future. I don't think Ira's got anything to worry about. I opened the dojo six months ago, right after I got my diploma, and we're finally turning a profit. Landing that contract to teach unarmed fighting to the Sunnydale police didn't hurt either.

"Anyway, two days ago, we were handfasted. Sort of a witch wedding. Tara was made a priestess of the local coven recently, and Willow asked her to perform the handfasting. She was happy to do so. A couple of years ago, she and Willow finally de-ratted Amy, and I understand that Amy and Tara just moved into an apartment together. It was a beautiful ceremony, Mom. We held hands as we spoke our vows, then Tara wrapped a silk cord around our hands, and prayed to the Goddess for the sake of our marriage."

She could feel a tear sliding down her cheek as she recalled the ceremony. She could sense Willow standing behind her, and took her hand in hers. "I was about to say, I wish you were there. But in a way, you were." She placed her free hand over her heart. "You're always with me, Mom. Always." She leaned forward, and kissed the tombstone lightly. "I'll see you soon, Mom." She turned to Willow, who knelt down beside the stone, a red carnation in her hand. Placing the flower beside Buffy's rose, she contemplated a brief prayer to the Goddess for Joyce's soul.

"Mrs. Summers," she whispered to the stone, as she felt Buffy's hand in hers again, "before the wedding tomorrow, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for being there for me when I needed someone to talk to. Thank you for putting up with my babbling. And above all, thank you for the gift of your daughter."

The two lovers stood there briefly, then embraced tightly. Tomorrow, the world would see them take their vows, and they and their friends would celebrate their union. For today, they were happy to remember the past, before entering the future.

They left the cemetary, their hearts high with the promise of their future together.

These are days.
These are the days
You might fill with laughter
Until you break.
These days you might feel a shaft of light
Make its way across your face.
And when you do
You'll know how it was meant to be.
See the signs and know their meaning.
It's true,
You'll know how it was meant to be.
Hear the signs and know they're speaking
To you,
To you.
--10,000 Maniacs
"These Are Days"

Epilogue;

Dawn ducked her head into the front door of the Magic Box. "Uh, Mr. Giles? You busy?"

Giles looked up from the financial books he had been pouring over. "Never too busy for you, Dawn. Come in."

Dawn entered the shop hesitantly. "Can I see you in the back room?"

"Certainly," the Englishman answered in slight surprise. He led her to the back storage room. Dawn noted the exercise equipment that had been set up years ago and never taken down, even after Buffy officially retired as the Slayer. She still liked to keep in shape, and there wasn't that much room in the apartment she shared with her and Willow. Giles had let Dawn stay with him while Buffy and Willow were in Cancun for their honeymoon.

Giles pulled up a chair and sat down quickly. "What seems to be the problem, Dawn?"

"Giles," Dawn asked quietly, almost timidly. Something in her reminded Giles of when he first met Willow. This didn't seem quite like the Dawn he knew, even if the bulk of his memories of Dawn were crafted by a monk desperate to protect the Key from the rogue goddess Glory. "Giles," she continued, "do you know whether a Slayer died recently?"

Giles looked startled at Dawn's question. Indeed a Slayer had died two weeks ago, at the hands of a Fyarl demon outside of Vladivostok, Russia. He had not told the others about this, hoping to allow Buffy and Willow the chance of a honeymoon together. "Um, why do you ask?" he stammered.

Dawn stood up from her chair, and approached a rack that contained two sharp swords and a number of wooden stakes. She took one of the stakes in her hand, and let it fly at thirty feet, impaling a cloth practice dummy without even warming up. "That's why," she answered.

Giles let this sink in briefly. There was no possible explaination, other than the one he had dreaded when Dawn first asked about the dead Slayer.

He collected his thoughts, wondering how he was going to tell Buffy. And how Buffy was going to take the news.

Not too well, he figured, but there was no denying what he had seen. Dawn was the new Chosen One. The new Slayer.

And Giles felt his own world grow a great deal more complicated.



To be continued.......someday