Author's Note: This episode finishes off the series. I did think for awhile that there might be a second season, but I didn't want to rehash S7 when I was already planning to do so in Seasons Rewrite, and I was never a fan of Ats S4, probably because I've only watched it once. I've really enjoyed writing this series and it is sad for me that I have come to the end. I have tried to ensure that it is a happy one for all concerned, though it does begin rather darkly. There are references to Season Four of Charmed, The X Files Season Three, Jack London's Call of the Wild, and the 1982 Scarlet Pimpernel Film. Enjoy.
It was weird, Tara reflected, attending your own funeral. They had told it would be so, given her sound reasons for keeping away; it was not for herself, but for her friends, they needed to reach a sense of closure and seeing her would not achieve that. Which was why she had agreed not to reveal herself to them, but insisted still on going. She needed closure too, for this duality of living and unliving had come upon her so suddenly that Tara felt all of her had yet to accept it.
So here she was, at the back of the large mausoleum in one of Sunnydale's cemeteries, her hair and features cloaked by a hooded jacket, listening to the service and wondering if any of her friends would actually see her.
If she had known before hand, or had any time to plan, it was the kind of funeral she would have desired for herself. Her coffin was placed on a pedestal surrounded by various varieties of wildflowers. A priestess, attired in ivory, presided over the service, which to any but those who knew appeared part new age, part traditional. Before her stood an altar covered in blue silk, adorned with a chalice, three candles- representing birth, death and rebirth -and a tied circle of silver cord.
"That which belongs to fellowship and love," the Priestess said. "That which belongs to the circle, remains with us. The wheel turns. As life is a day, so our sister has passed into night. Nothing is final, and we who remain behind know that one day, we will once again share the bread and wine with our sister. O' blessed spirit, we bid you farewell, for you await a new destiny."
After she finished, the priestess untied the silver cord and gently laid it in the chalice. She then blew out the candles.
One by one her friends rose from the chairs and made their way to pay their farewells to her coffin. Her family had not come, which Tara had expected. Ever since that confrontation with them in the Magic Shop she had never heard from them. Nor had she expected to, however. They were a part of her past, the life she had left behind when she moved to Sunnydale. She mourned their ignorance and misunderstanding, but did not regret her decision to stand firm and stay with her friends.
Tara watched them now, as they came up to the coffin; Willow in the lead. She was clutching her best friend's hand with all her might, tears still sliding down her cheeks. Tara could not look at her without feeling every drop of them. She still had not appeared to her. Everyone, her other friends, the Elders, even Leo had advised her against it, and it was one piece of advice which she was actually following for now. So much had happened to her girl during the aftermath of her passing. Tara feared that orbing before her might be another shock that Willow was nowhere near ready to deal with right now.
Xander was subdued, but calmer, letting Willow grip his hand for the entire service. Tara had not seen him crack a joke since Proserpexa's temple had slipped back into the ground of Kingman's Bluff. She had gone there after Giles woke, to find the temple reversing its ascension, and her girl in his arms, crying as her hair reverted its original shade of red, the evil magic slowly draining out of her. Tara had wanted to comfort Willow then, but Leo had forestalled her, leading her into the clouds to accept her new life as a whitelighter.
Buffy was next in line, Angel standing beside her. Tara found herself remembering all the times she and the slayer had talked alone. She and her had discovered many things they liked, and Buffy had found in her someone to talk and confide in, about things which she couldn't tell the others, who were at times incapable of seeing her point of view without selfish perspectives. Tara had understood more than the rest, the difficult duality Buffy used to protect her friends from the parts of her life that they were not ready to understand.
She had understood why Buffy had chosen to go with Angel to Los Angeles, and why she stayed when all her friends did not. Most of all, Tara felt grateful for Buffy's easy acceptance of her into their 'family' and when she had gone to her for help. And when she had told her and the rest of Angel Investigations, the truth behind her appearance at the Hyperion.
Strangely after them, came Spike and Giles. The latter had come back from England especially, although he had been informed by the others of what her real destiny was. Giles had taken the news in his usual way, and was shocked when she appeared to him the night before, though that emotion turned into fascination as his curiosity for information concerning that part of the supernatural world evolved.
Like Buffy he had respected her, and treated her with a kindness he always reserved for his surrogate daughter of a chosen one. Buffy had told her once it was because she reminded him of his lost love; Jennifer Calendar, who had died tragically at the hands of Angelus before Tara came to Sunnydale.
Tara was touched to see Spike at her funeral; he had always treated her with a kindness he rarely showed to anyone else, despite punching her nose, which was an act of kindness within itself when the resulting pain he endured revealed to everyone that she was human. His gentleness with Dawn had earned her respect of him, and the slayer's, who had a difficult time accepting her new sister when she learned the truth of her existence. In return, Buffy had arranged for the funeral to be held at dusk, so he didn't have to worry about stray beams of sunlight during the service.
A hand touched her arm, bringing her out of her reverie, and Tara turned to see Leo by her side. "Time to go, isn't it?" She asked softly. he nodded in reply. Taking one last look at her girl, who was quietly listening to Buffy, Angel, and Xander's conversation, Tara followed her former guide outside where they could orb to the clouds above unseen.
"Are you sure we can't dissuade you?" Buffy asked him.
Xander shook his head. "Come on, what's left for me here? Will's going to England, where that Devon coven have promised to help her heal, Giles is there too, Anya's a demon. There's nothing left for me here. I was never much help anyway."
"Yes you were," Buffy protested.
"We both know that's not true," Xander smiled sadly. "For as long as I can remember I wanted you, and I hated deadboy here for succeeding where I always failed. All I did was provide jokes and weird, often demonic dates. Besides I need someplace new. Where I can build a life. The construction company's offered me a gig in Nevada, and I'm gonna take it."
"Well, good luck," Angel offered.
"Thanks," Xander replied. "I hope there are no hard feelings between any of us," he added, holding out his hand.
"We can do better than that," Buffy replied before hugging him. He and Angel settled for a more manly handshake, then he quietly left them to quit the church.
Willow turned to the two of them then, who looked at her with heartfelt compassion. Every evil between them seemed to have been forgotten or healed during the service. Buffy impulsively pulled her into her arms, and Angel followed suit, before Giles came quietly behind them to say his farewells too, and take her to the airport.
Alone, Angel took Buffy's hand in his own and they wandered outside into the darkened graveyard.
"What are you thinking?" He asked her, knowing the thoughtful expression on her face intimately by now.
"That the hellmouth will need a new protector," Buffy replied. "And Roisin will probably enjoy such a challenge as Angel Investigation's representative here." She paused to glance at him. "What do you think?"
"It could work," Angel agreed. "If she accepts the position. And what about Faith, what will we do when her parole comes up?"
"Well, get married for one," Buffy replied, "I promised her head bridesmaid and charge of my bachelorette party, though I'm not sure that was entirely wise of me." She smiled as Angel chuckled. "Ultimately, what she does next is up to her. I don't know if she'll want to join us or not."
"Do you think we'll ever see Tara again?" Angel asked her in a lowered voice, cautious of anyone else in the graveyard overhearing them.
"I don't know," Buffy replied. "I hope so. She was a good friend to me. I think when Willow is healed, she will visit again, perhaps. Though what Willow will do after her time in England I'm not sure."
"You seem sad," Angel remarked, wrapping his arm around her waist.
Buffy nodded. "I am, a little," she replied. "Everything is changing. The Scooby gang is splitting up, moving to pastures new. I know we disbanded almost a year ago, but this is a true breakup now."
"Do you still blame yourself for that?" He asked her softly.
"Part of me does," she confessed. "After all I did bring them together on the same mission, and held them together over the years when others threatened to tear them apart. And then I broke from them, ran from them." She paused. "Deserted them."
"Buffy, you needed to get away," Angel reasoned. "They would have understood, in time, I think."
"No, not when I joined you," Buffy explained. "When I sacrificed myself for Dawn. For me then, death was more welcome than you could know. The past year had been nothing short of hell. My mother dying, my boyfriend letting vampires suck his blood in an effort to understand why I still loved you, leaving me in the middle of it all. Xander yelling at me for letting him leave. Glory. When I realised she could defeat me, and easily, I was so scared, Angel. And yet part of me was also relieved."
"Relieved?" He echoed, stopping to take hold of her hand with his free one.
"Spike was right, though not in the way he meant it," Buffy continued. "When he said that all slayers had a death wish. I don't think it's a wish as such, as more a weariness of life. From the moment we are called, we fight. That's all we do. Any kind of a life outside slaying becomes less of a priority, because slaying puts that life in danger every night. Eventually, you begin to see the futility of even wanting one." She smiled, surprising him. "You have to have something to live for. Or someone. Else it's worthless." Gently she took his other hand, gazing up into his face. "A year ago, I didn't have anyone to live for. So it was a relief to sacrifice myself for the cause. Then my friends brought me back. And you were there waiting for me."
"And now?" Angel asked her.
"Now, I have everything to live for," Buffy replied.
She stretched her face to his, and they kissed.
With the funeral over, and the slayerettes all relocating for pastures new, the couple had no reason to linger in Sunnydale. After dropping off Giles and Willow at the airport, they headed for home.
The Hyperion was devoid of all but staff who greeted them silently as they walked into the reception area.
"All quiet here while we were away?" Buffy asked as they joined them in the living area they had created off the reception.
"Eerily so," Wesley replied. "How's Willow?"
"Bearing up," Buffy answered. "I think the coven in England will help her find some clarity, if not some peace. I certainly found some when I moved from the hellmouth." She paused considering. "You know the evil which draws demons and vampires towards it? I can't help but wonder if it also affects the good people who live there aswell."
"Well humans are certainly not immune to evil," Wesley remarked, in a similar manner to Giles whenever he explained something. "As we all know. And those who deal with it on a daily basis, are often more tempted into involving themselves with it, rather than striving to eliminate altogether. Especially when one realises that you cannot make evil disappear, for it is the balance to good. Evil gives us the ability to realise the flip side of its immorality. To know right from wrong. It's rather comforting actually."
"Comforting?" Echoed Roisin. "To know that you can never eliminate evil?"
"The knowledge that evil is a balance to good stops you from blaming yourself or others when you hear of the horrors its reaps," Wesley replied. "After all, if evil no longer existed, how would we know good from wrong?"
"We would remember it," Roisin argued.
"Only those who were alive during it," Wesley countered. "Memory, though immutable, is not immortal. It only survives as long as the last person who remembers it. History teaches us that survivors and victors are its' authors, shaping it to their own opinions and loyalties. Memory is unable to ignore the truth, but neither can it escape the eternal truth that everything dies."
"So are you saying we should give up?" Cordelia asked.
"No," Buffy replies. "He means we should have something to live for other than our ideals. Family, friends, love," she paused to look up at Angel from her position in his arms. "Without those, our ideals mean nothing. They become worthless, along with our lives. That is our ultimate battle. To survive, against all the odds."
"So are we going for something sedate and mature for your last night of freedom?"
"Hell no," Buffy replied. "I thought we hit the nightclubs after this."
"That's my girl," Faith smiled and finished her wine, the others soon following suit.
It was some months later. Time had flown by, in the midst of the usual demonic and or vampiric encounters, international calls between England and it's former colony, and more local uses of the telephone, as two slayers sought to secure another's parole, and the establishment of Angel Investigations' Sunnydale Office. Plans were also underway for one of the slayer's forthcoming nuptials, as Buffy and Angel finalised a wedding date, booked the necessary officials, and filed the necessary papers.
Faith had been out of jail barely two days and though she tried to hide the effects of it under her usual devil may care attitude, Buffy could see that it had affected her deeply. Confined spaces were avoided as often as possible, exits surveillance almost continuously, and slaying, even handling of the weaponry, was not to be even thought of until she was finished with curfew and reporting to her parole officer. Even if these conditions had not been imposed on her, Buffy doubted that her sister slayer would return to her destiny as eagerly as she had embraced it before. Faith had changed. Confinement had matured her more than slaying did, lessening the wildness within her, though not the wiliness. To others she still appeared dangerous, but to her friends; for all of A.I were now considered as such, she was more cautious, less reckless and more assured within herself than she had ever been before.
Buffy had been wary of including a tour of Los Angeles nightclubs when she arranged for her bachelorette party to occur mere days after Faith's parole, but the officer had granted permission, and even Faith seemed eager to dance night away with the girls of the firm. So she chose the venues wisely, seeking out the less rowdy clubs, including ending with a visit to Caritas, which Lorne had recently finished refurbishing.
They could not have made a more unusual grouping; Buffy, Cordelia, Faith, Fred and Roisin. Three slayers, one Seer and a former physics grad. Each differing in character, attitude, opinions, beliefs. Three attached, two single, though they would have to been blind if anyone had not noticed the recent sparks flickering between one slayer and the boss of the firm, ever since they had liberated her from Wolfram and Hart. Nothing more concrete had been displayed by either of them, but all their colleagues foresaw the inevitability of the relationship.
They fell into dancing, Faith and Buffy keeping to themselves as they moved about the floor, while their companions happily danced the night away, freely accepting offers from the suitors that soon began to flock about them in typical male fashion. All longed to dance with the two girls who kept to themselves, but wisely respected the silent signs and signals that these girls would not welcome continued persistence, so gave up without holding grudges, turning their attention to the other three in the party. Cordelia, Fred and Roisin were having too much fun to resent being second choices and too close to Buffy and Faith to even envy them, possessing a confidence as well that their own powers of attraction would soon erase any regret or need for comparison.
While Buffy had no desire to continuously tell such suitors who did not notice the silver claddagh on her left hand that she was engaged, Faith had her own reasons for keeping the men at bay. Apart from a resolve not to revert to her old habits, Faith wished to adjust to a life devoid of entanglements, male or jail bars, or restrictions or otherwise. Her jail sentence had taught her the value of solitude; time spent with herself and no other, even amongst crowds of people wholly connected with her. She clung to it, not because the alternative was frightening to her, but because the solitude was a sanctuary where she knew no loss of identity, and knew that she had survived through all the trials she endured after the murder of the deputy mayor. That night still haunted her, causing her to analyse again and again what she did and why she did it, and, most importantly, could she have prevented his death. Her conclusion was the same every time. Yes. She was irresponsible, reckless and she could have avoided killing him if she looked before she staked.
If she had listened to the girl dancing opposite her. As much as she resented Buffy's abilities, life and friendship before, Faith wished now that she had listened to her three years ago, instead of blindly rushing ahead. Had she listened, the man would still be alive. And she would not be carrying a conviction for the rest of her life. Instead, by striving to be different, to be noticed and still appreciated, she had committed the gravest of crimes. Humans who murdered were considered monsters, but for a slayer to kill a human it was somehow worse. For slayers should know the quality of life even more, the morality of Hippocratic oath. From their first slaying, they recognised the abruptness of death, the frailty of life. The importance of their duty to such life. What good were they if they failed to protect those their destiny had charged them with the safety of?
Speaking of duty, Faith mused as she suddenly felt the unmistakable sensation that humans were not the only ones frequenting the nightclub this evening. Silently she glanced at her companion who nodded in understanding; she was sensing them also. She gestured at her pocket where her weapons were stored, inquiring by the unspoken signal if Faith was packing as well. Faith shook her head. She felt reluctant to resume her duties, for she feared what desires they might awaken in her if she did. But as Buffy handed her the weapon, Faith realised it was both unavoidable and inevitable.
Roisin met them as they tracked the large group luring their prey from the dance floor to the exit. With a glance filled of an unspoken but clear message to Fred and Cordelia still dancing, the three slayers left the nightclub to trail their prey.
They found them in a large dead end alleyway outside, pushing the helpless humans they acquired in the night club back and forth between each other, taunting them. Buffy, Faith and Roisin only needed no more than a second to size them up. These were the worse kind of vampires; ones who were entirely too cocky for their own immorality. Who treated prey not merely as food, but as objects of derision to torture, making sure they died in agonising terror.
Parting, the three slayers took up strategic positions around the vampires and their prey, silently stalking their first victims, waiting for the right moment to strike. Then simultaneously they launched their assaults, catching the vampires by surprise, enabling the humans to gain freedom through the distraction of their attack.
For Faith, the slaying routine- paradox as that was, for every fight was unique -came as easily to her as it appeared to do so for Buffy and Roisin. Before she was fully aware of her actions, she was trading blows, kicks and punches as fast as the other two. The primitive slayer within her, was eager to return to her destiny it seemed, even if the soul of the girl it lived inside, felt the opposite. As much as she tried to tell herself that the man before her was nothing but a vampire in human clothing, all her emotions were making her recoil from doing anything but defence. Going on the offensive felt abhorrent to her, as much as the end result of the fight which the primitive within her already knew was inevitable.
She wanted to run, to drop her stake and retreat, but she could not. Her friends were fighting beside her, outnumbered, if not outmatched. If she obeyed such instincts it would be a betrayal to them and to herself. Despite all, Buffy had kept faith in her, believed that she was as just as good as her, just as important to the world. Turning her back on her would destroy that faith forever, just as it would destroy herself.
To outsiders, it would appear as if only seconds had passed in which this turmoil raged its way through Faith's subconscious, but for her it felt an eternity. Victory achieved, the triumph of destiny over fear, she turned on the offensive, rapidly gaining the upper hand with a vampire who until this moment had believed that he was about to drain the life of his first slayer. He had no opportunity to cling on to the advantage she previously presented him with, swept up in the zone she now was. Before either of them were aware of it, one stake was in his chest, and he was dusted.
Faith stood still as the minuscule remains fell slowly to the ground, a slight breeze keeping some particles afloat about her. Artificial light from the street lamps caught them with their rays, reflecting on to the ground, and the slayers. Time seemed slowed once more as if put through a motion delayed camera lens, waiting for some silent sign from an invisible director to call a wrap.
Then something struck her arm, and instinctively her hand moved to block the punch. Time returned to its normal pace once more, and Faith to her destiny again.
It was a day he would remember for the rest of his life. A day which seemed would never occur until recently. Reality had always intruded into his imagining of how such a precious event would play out, a harsh reality born out of fire and judgement, as if even his unconsciousness strove to remind him that what he wanted most in this life could never be. At first he had never believed himself worthy of the future, his self-esteem worn down by years of nothingness, then decades of uncomfortable sovereignty over a malicious, vengeful, sadistic, brutal demon, it's quiet, deadly, cruel voice constantly whispering in his mind's ear, mocking his every move, his every thought.
Cowed into hiding his true feelings, his true emotions from the one who was the most dear to him, he was naturally astonished when he discovered that those feelings, those emotions, were returned and felt with equal force. During the first days, these first precious moments when their love was new and innocent, he rarely allowed the harsh reality to intrude into his thinking, knowing his tendency to brood nearly always caused despondency between them and within her, whom he wished to only cause happiness.
If that created distance between them, it was necessary, for it protected her from being hurt, and gave her the courage to fight the hardest of battles as was demanded by her destiny. He had little idea that it would only cause her to cling more and more to him, to turn those moments they had together into the most precious, most happy moments of his entire long life.
And then the harsh reality intruded, in a brutally painful manner, when they were at their most vulnerable. He had thought that their love would never recover from such a cruel destruction. That they were doomed now to spending the rest of their existence alone, never allowing themselves to love or live in the same way, too frightened of something ripping apart their scarred hearts again.
But he had underestimated her. Call it fate, destiny, coincidence, happenstance, whatever forces that existed to cause their reunion that day almost seven months ago changed their lives forever. In a way his unconscious, fearful imaginings had once foreseen the key which would provide them with this precious second chance, an opportunity to start afresh.
Three years ago, the day before her prom, when he dreamed of the ceremony which was to happen today. He could still remember every moment of that nightmare in vivid detail, from beginning to end. The perfect weather outside the church. The emptiness of that sanctified building during the ceremony. How beautiful his beloved looked in the slim-fitting satin bodice, and the flowing taffeta skirt. Her unchanging smile as she alternated her gaze between himself and the priest, visible even through the veil which adorned her head.
The simplicity of the gold rings they bestowed on each other's left hands. The moment of humorous relief after the kiss which sealed their union. How the stained glass windows seemed to loom over him as they walked down the aisle. How the high ceiling appeared to be slowly crushing him as they headed towards the open church door. How the bright light which emanated from that archway bore a striking similarity to the one talked of by those who suffered near death experiences.
Even before they reached it's threshold he had felt a foreboding, a omniscient knowledge of what fate awaited him beyond that light. She had seemed oblivious to it, her pace increasing as his decreased, leading him out into the mortal glare of day. The harsh ending which followed haunted him even now. His worse nightmares realised while he searched for the nearest shady protection. Slow realisation that he was somehow immune from that celestial danger. Relief only temporary, transforming into horror as her voice called to him, causing him to turn. To watch as she burned before his eyes.
At the time, he had believed that moment to be symbolic. His unconsciousness attempting to make him aware that love was not enough, that their relationship could never last, because reality would always interfere. It spurred him to listen to her mother's advice, to make him break her heart the night before prom, in middle of a sewer, during a slaying. To leave the hellmouth for Los Angeles, putting a distance between them which he doubted would ever be conquered. He had done it for her own good, hurting her to save her from the future hurt everyone was convinced would eventually occur. Even the Mayor seemed certain of that, having experienced such events himself. It was cruel and harsh, more hurtful perhaps than all his demon's torture visited upon her after her seventeen birthday, but, at the time, he believed it was necessary.
Then he returned from Pylea to find Willow waiting in Hyperion's reception. Of all the things he feared, strangely he had never imagined the very real possibility of her death. He knew with a slayer that death was more likely, expected even in one who risked their lives every night dusting vampires and demons, saving the world. But he had never contemplated her dying before him. Yet she had, suddenly and unexpectedly, although when he listened to the retrospection of events through her eyes, he knew that was inevitable.
In a world of harsh choices, few constant friends and daily mortal injury, he had been her one hope for a better future. He had given her the courage to face the next day, and the next. Until that long drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles he had never known that his decision to break up with her was not protection, but actually the opposite; the death of hope. By telling her that their future could never be, he had destroyed her belief in the reward of a life outside of slaying. For the second time as in many years, his ignorance had destroyed them again.
Her death, followed by her rebirth, gave them today. Despite their best and unwitting attempts to ruin every the chance the Powers That Be gave them, fate had intervened once more in their favour, by bringing her back from the grave. He wondered, just as she did, from time to time, what would have happened if he had not been there when she crawled her way out of the soil, if she had come back into the world alone. She had no doubt that a darker future would have occurred, that she would attempt to destroy herself again, because she believed that there was nothing left worth living for. He refused to believe events could be so cruel, but after the confrontation with her once best friends, he had been forced to accept the likely possibility.
But that was another dream. The reality was today, a recreation of his nightmare, transformed into bliss by the Powers That Be, one whitelighter and four charmed witches. There were differences, of course, a perhaps wise precaution of theirs. Instead of the ceremony taking place inside a deserted church, a priest would perform it within the grounds surrounding the holy building. Instead of no congregation, ten would serve as witnesses to the happy occasion. He would be dressed in a similar contemporary morning suit, but the flower adorning his buttonhole was the one which signified the month of her birth. As for her dress, it was nothing compared to the fussy one of his dreams. Buffy had chosen an off-white silk, styled close to her upper body, with thin straps of material caressing her arms just below her shoulders, while the skirt gently flowed out to the ground. Her veil was a simple, elegant affair, with circlet of silver and garnets to fasten it to her unbound blond hair. The birthstones continued through these long tresses, adding sparkles of light which glistened throughout the ceremony and into the night beyond.
They held the event at dusk, their eleventh unseen witness providing the one vampire who attended with the necessary protection from the setting sun. Spike would later deny that the wetness on his face was tears at the sweetness of the ceremony, but it was an emotion experienced by all who witnessed the happiness so readily displayed by the bride and groom.
Giles gave Buffy away, solemnly walking her down the gravel path aisle to the chosen spot where she and Angel had asked the priest to perform the sacrament. It was an honour which she felt none deserved more than he, and one of the proudest moments of his life since she had bounded into it. All his once justified objections to their relationship no longer existed as he handed her over to Angel's care before the priest, nor did Giles desire to even contemplate thinking of one.
The words of the service were traditional almost to the point of old-fashioned, reflecting a more innocent time when religion was considered to have more sway over every part of life. Prayers and readings were devoutly timeless, conveying symbolic meaning which was clear to all those present, who knew what the ceremony truly meant to the bride and groom, a deeper meaning beyond the mere joining of hands and lives. Vows were a simple declaration of names, an oath to take each other, to remain steadfast and true whatever the future may bring. Platinum claddaghs were exchanged as they promised to endow each other with gold and silver, swearing their oaths in the name of father, the son and holy ghost, placing the ring over each finger as they recited the words, until the metal circles reached their final resting place.
Buffy and Angel beamed at each other as the priest pronounced them husband and wife, before granting them permission to thank each other for the honour. Their lips met in a gentle devout kiss, passionate yet chaste, broken only by the applause of twenty hands, started by Faith before she returned the bride's bouquet. In the midst of this cheer, they thanked the priest for his kindness in performing the ceremony in such a unusual place, before turning round to walk down the gravel path, out of the church yard and to the cars. Humour ensued as the bride threw the flowers, forcing Cordelia to explain to her boyfriend the symbolism behind his catching them.
Then Angel started the engine of the Plymouth Belvedere and Buffy sank down into the passenger seat, fastening the safety belt as he drove the car away. Reception was to be held back at the Hyperion, leaving them all the time in the world to relish the reality of what had just occurred. Something they had never dared to dream would take place without harsh consequences, or cruel judgement from on high.
Just before the exit to the highway which would take them back to Los Angeles, Angel pulled the car into a little side road, parking it at one of the scenic rest spots. Turning off the ignition, he turned to his beloved, who gazed happily into his dark eyes, and smiled. Slowly he reached out to take her left hand in his own, whereupon his fingers reverently caressed the three rings that now adorned it. For a moment he marvelled at how the metal felt before his skin, symbolising the full truth of the event which had occurred. Then he felt her hand trace the contours of his face, before guiding it forward to capture their lips.
Day transformed into night, and the moon descended from the heavens, bathing the hellmouth with its eerie glow. Such natural light untempered by any artificial means caused the gravestones to glitter, producing highlights upon the names craved upon them, requiescat in pace. Grass caressed the ground before each momento mori, left to recover the once disturbed soil, leaving little evidence of its previous state, which was dependant on the passage of time since it was first struck.
At one such marble monument, surroundings were unusually devoid of noise. Few forms of life frequented the graveyards of Boca del Inferno, respecting the mortal dominion which reigned supreme over them. Stalking the earth with victorious arrogance, reminding those who fought to make a difference that the battle was eternal and eventually even they would be forced to surrender.
The silence was provocative, challenging the devious and cunning form which had secretly taken possession of the mortal remains the night before they were holy interred, to answer the haunting call of the moonlit night, and rise. Slowly it answered, having no need to rush such a non-shriven event. No evidence could be found of disturbance at this shortly peaceful shrine, until one hand, brown from soil, emerged from the earth below.
Hand paused, waiting for its twin to join, then en masse they gripped the blades of grass, seeking purchase support to help the rest of the body out of its burial place. The primitive being within growled, in pleasure, in agony, in desire for it's immortal hunger to be quickly sated.
Surprisingly, it appeared to him, as the beast opened it's eyes, that the want would soon be satisfied. For as it rose above the resting place, it was greeted by the form of it's prey, who the hunter assumed, was waiting for him.
In this he was half right, for the woman was indeed waiting for him, though not for the reason he supposed. She stepped back as he rose to his full height, waiting for him to descry the weapon she held, to sense the aura around her which identified her.
The beast was not unprepared for this circumstance, the sense not as unfamiliar to him, as one would believe. Rapidly it steadied and calmed those famished tendencies, delaying their wants, and called to the strength and intelligence it would need to face this next battle for survival.
A encounter such as this was not new but as old as time itself. Again and again it had been waged between similar opponents, on similar fields, foreign and domestic. Victories were stacked almost equally on both sides, the determination of either being such that superiority or advantage was rarely allowed. Strengths and weaknesses of each combatant were known by the other, strangers as they were.
Punch for punch, kick for kick, blow for blow traded on and on, until one side moved faster than the other, catching their opponent off guard, striking the fatal wound.
Vampire turned to dust, and Roisin withdrew her stake, returning it to her pocket. Her hand then retrieved her vibrating cell phone, and placed the device to her ear.
"Angel Investigations, Sunnydale department," she greeted the caller with. "How may I be of service?"