... Rather than sacrifice The Key, her sister, Dawn, Buffy chose to call upon their fundamental, essential connection and jumped into the void herself, sealing the rift with her own blood.

It is to be devoutly hoped that at least some of the destructive creatures that entered our dimension during the time the rift was open will find this dimension inhospitable or even toxic. However, careful watch should be kept around the area of the Hellmouth for the immediate future.

Buffy Summers' body was recovered at the foot of the tower, and will be buried in Sunnydale Cemetery.

Rupert Giles
23 May 2001 A.D.

Sitting in the bright sun of a new day, a day that almost never came, I find myself truly grateful that I killed Ben when I did, gently and quietly, while I still expected her to come back down those steps. When any other outcome had... simply never occurred to me. Whatever sins he might have committed, Ben wasn't responsible for Glory's actions. And I'm not sure I could have lived with what I might have done to him if I had realized....

I take one last look at that entry — my final duty as a Watcher — and close the book. It's so cold, so clinical — emotionless, like a hundred other final entries I've read over the years. It manages to say everything, and tells nothing.

She once complained that none of the past Watchers gave sufficient detail regarding the death of their charges. I told her then that it was too painful a subject, and I was right. But now I've found out that it's more than that: Words are simply unable to express a void where once there was life and spirit and passion and purpose and hope.

So I find myself recording the cold outline of the night for an uncaring Council far away, unsure whether my drive to do so is the result of a wish to inform the future as we were so often informed by the past, or whether it's a way to memorialize her — to somehow finally make immortal a life that was lived so deep in death's shadow.

Goddammit, I wasn't ready for this.

I had prepared myself against the probable need to sacrifice Dawn. And no matter how cold Buffy may have thought me, or how much I tried to rationalize the act as simply returning The Key to its natural, free energy state, I could never have found peace living with the necessity of that choice.

But Buffy herself? No.

"One Slayer dies and the next is chosen." I knew that. I always knew that. Of any death, hers was the one so clear, so real, so inevitable.... How long ago was it that my acknowledgement of that ancient law — as fundamental and unchangeable as gravity or the tides — turned from understanding to lip-service? I used to accept the truth of it — the fear and pain that visited me in my nightmares and in the cold quiet moments when I waited for word on the outcome of a battle I was unable to witness.

When did I start to believe that Death couldn't hold her? She cheated that end time after time, visiting death, hell, loss, self-doubt, and the wasteland of her own mind — but coming back to us each time. And each time stronger. Apocalypse after apocalypse — until the word all but lost meaning. Demons and monsters — each one more horrific in their ability to cause her pain. Night after night of routine patrol, fighting for her life so many times in an evening that we all lost any respect for the danger.

And through it all she became only stronger. Her understanding of her own powers was growing, her skills being honed to a finer and finer point. And, even more importantly, she was on the verge of finding a peace within as well. Since she was first thrust into this life she was always forced to be mature far beyond her years, but the weight of that mantle was just starting to seem like it might one day fit those small shoulders comfortably.

And then... nothing.

Another Slayer — another child — is called somewhere to begin the fight again. Over and over. As it has been and ever shall be, world without end, amen....

And for what? More cannon fodder for the fight? What kind of hope does this one — do any of us — have?

She was special. All fa... all Watchers must think the same, I am aware of that. But I'm not just allowing my own pain to delude me when I speak of her. With no disrespect to the hundreds — thousands — of Slayers before her, they were, for the most part, children. Lethal, self-controlled, self-sacrificing children. Most lived a few scant years at best after their call. Of those who lived longer than that, which among them went through so much in such a short time? Who had survived so much and grown so strong from it? Which among them had managed to grasp so much of their potential?

We needed that. The world isn't ready to lose her yet. Lord knows I'm not.

But her body will be laid in the very ground she spent so much of her life patrolling, and she is gone. In most ways the Slayer had grown far beyond the need for a Watcher, but, surprisingly, the Watcher had not grown beyond his need for her. The evil is still out there — monsters to be destroyed, innocents to be protected, no doubt soon a world to be saved, again — but I can't seem to care.

Once I was faced with the gruesome reality of my youthful rebellion, once I joined the Watcher's Council, such things became my life's focus. When I became her Watcher, that focus intensified into a way of life — of eating, breathing, sleeping. Of living. But now....

She may not have brought me that focus, but she's taken it with her.

I feel old. Old and worn. Much the way any... any parent must who has lived to see the death of a child. That horrible sensation of the natural order grotesquely wrenched out of shape. A feeling that I have lived beyond my time.... And the knowledge that I am not alone — that I am not the first and will not be the last — offers no comfort at all.

Dawn needs to be protected and cared for — Buffy would have wanted that... did want that, above all else. The Hellmouth remains under the old library, ready to belch forth destruction and chaos at regular intervals. Vampires will still roam Sunnydale nightly, and with the Slayer gone will be even more of a threat to those left behind.

And yet I can't seem to care. If the evil will always be there, if the best that any of us can do is break our hearts and our bodies just to hold back the tide for one more night... Is it worth it? Can it ever be worth the price we pay?

Looking in from the patio I can see Tara where I left her asleep on the couch. She was left to be my watcher, I think, when the others had to leave. To keep me from feeling alone, no doubt. A lovely gesture, but...

The children — who are no longer children, of course, except in my heart — don't know what to do with me. In amongst their own grief I could see them watch me with worried eyes. I should say something, comfort them, reassure them that I will be all right. But for once I have nothing to say, no comfort to offer.

And I don't think I will ever be all right again.  


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The Darkest Dawn  


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