A/N: Set it sometime in season six.


Buffy Summers trudges through the cemetery. Not stalks, not struts, not stomps, not strolls…she trudges. This little trip through the necropolis at sunset is her duty and it shows with every downhearted step she takes. She's not animated or excited, merely determined, as though she wants to get this over with as soon as humanly--or inhumanly, as the case may be--as possible.

It wasn't always like this…no, there was a time when she enjoyed the rush that came with nightly patrol…

But all that has changed. Her second death has left her melancholy and without humor. With her friends, she makes an attempt to hide it. Here amongst the dead, there is no need for putting on such a farce.

Sometimes she wonders if everyone else sees it despite her best efforts…and then she proceeds to wonder whether or not they'd do something about it if they did…

Then she decides that yes, they probably would. Not that it matters. Nothing matters…

God, how she wishes for the days when life was simpler. High school might have been rough, but at least she didn't feel as badly burnt out as she does now. Her patience for life and all the troubles it houses is rapidly growing thin.

The graveyard does little to improve her mood, as she passes the headstones of friends and…family.

She sees her mother's marker, but she doesn't pause. She wants to, but she doesn't. That will just make things even harder as the night wears on if she dwells on it.

Years ago, when she was still a relatively 'carefree' teenager, she would keep patrols from getting boring by playing games with the epitaphs on the headstones of people who died in Sunnyhell from less than natural means. Yes, it was macabre, and yes, it may have appeared cruel to others…but somehow, it made dealing with what she did for a living (if you could call it that) and the casualties that were always surrounding her line of work easier to deal with.

She passed by headstone after headstone in those days, tacking on a 'turned into a vampire' here and an 'eaten by a demon' there. Sometimes she thought it was a cheat that the real reason these people were shaken off the mortal coil was so well concealed, but in the end, it was probably better that nobody knew that 'always daddy's little princess' had been dusted by her own hand or that 'beloved husband' had been playing with nymphs that sucked out his soul.

But now…

Now she doesn't even bother to play those games. She doesn't even remember why she fell out of the habit of it.

Maybe it was when she first realized that--from an outsider's standpoint--it wasn't a healthy activity to engage in…

Maybe it was when she lost one too many friends…

Maybe it was when she couldn't find anything to tack on the end of Jenny Calendar's epitaph other than 'murdered by my boyfriend'.

She is deeper in the cemetery now, the sun has dipped below the horizon, heralding the official arrival of night, and her disposition is more sour than ever. Her eyes sweep over her surroundings, looking for something that looks like it might start wriggling with a fledgling any minute.

Instead, her eyes catch on a blank sheet of stone in the distance, without name or epitaph.

She pauses in her trudging and stares at it.

Her own grave. How terribly droll.

The one thing that should have proclaimed who she was and what she did for the world…and it's completely blank, as if she had never existed in the first place.

If it had been safe to let it be known she had died, what might it have said?

She wonders. She wonders and composes a few in her head, playing her ghoulish game from days of yore for the first time in forever.

Buffy Summers, Sister, Friend, Chosen One…

No. That didn't feel right.

She frowned.

Buffy Summers, Sister, Friend, Chosen One, Saved the World on More Than One Occasion…

It was still missing something…

Buffy Summers, Sister, Friend, Chosen One, Saver of Worlds, Could Kick Vampire Ass in Stilettos Like Nobody's Business.

Her face cracks into a smile--a small one, but a smile none-the-less--and she thinks that there's a very good chance Xander would have been the one to suggest something along those lines.

The sound of earth cracking and shifting behind her pulls her out of her reverie and her attention snaps to the fledgling clawing his way out of what should be his final resting place.

Her weapon is at the ready in an instant and the very moment his torso is high enough out of the ground for her to get a good puncture to his heart, she stakes him.

She leans back and watches the vampire's remains settle and a semi-bitter smile creeps up on her face as she reads--and subsequently alters--his epitaph in her head.

Jonathan Asthon, Friend and Son, Pile of Dust.