Ides of March

by Christina K
Copyright 1998

All Characters belong to Joss Whedon, Sandstar, the WB, and 20th Century Fox.

Thanks to Lizbet, Perri, Cath and Dianne, and especially the Sunnydale Slayers for their feedback and encouragement. Feedback hoped for at

"Hey. 'S been a while. Sorry about that, but I've been pretty busy. You know how it is....

"It's been weird since you've been gone. I don't know if you keep tabs on us wherever you are, but so much has happened I don't even know where to start to tell you about it. Some things are still the same. Trig still sucks. Biology, to nobody's surprise, continues to be a case study in brain death. English is okay when Cordelia isn't taking over the discussions.

"Oh. Well, uh, right there, that's different. Cordy and I are kinda - Cordy and I. Does that make you mad? You know it never would've happened if you were still here, right? 'Cause I used to just---despise her, partly because of the way she always blew you off. Partly because we'd always hated her, ever since kindergarten and the thing with the Crayons.... She's improved a lot. But I still don't know why we're together. I like her more than I did--well, at least a *little bit--- but it's not as if either of us thinks this is a Nobel-prize-winning idea. The two of us. Just sorta going with it.... Hard to believe, hunh? Talk about changes.

"Willow's changed too. You wouldn't recognize her. She's not even close to being as shy as before... You'd think she'd've had a nervous breakdown or something by now, with all the weirdness there's been. But she's been tough through some pretty intense craziness. I think she's liking it a little *too* much, sometimes. Will's really into helping out Buffy with the Slaying thing. Not that I don't help too, 'cuz I do. 'S true. Swear. I'm still no good at the computer junk, but I can research with the best of 'em by now---I should, I've had enough practice. Giles even admits it. Turns out he was pretty cool, by the way....

"I hate to say it, but you were right about me and Buffy. I had absolutely no chance with her. She shot me down like a Russian satellite over Spring Fling. She was already a goner for Dead Guy by then. Which isn't exactly working out right now, but I can't talk, I'm hooked up with the drama queen of Sunnydale High, so it's a matter of glass houses and big rocks. Buffy can throw a lot harder than I can....

"You know about her being the Slayer, right? I think I told you about that before... I did, I remember now... Ever since we found out we've been living on a Hellmouth, Will and I have been hanging with her, trying to fight the bad guys. It's been fun. In a sick, perverted, soul-sucking way... The best was definitely getting possessed by a hyena. Yeah, I think that beats out the man-eating bug and the mess with Ampata by a very slim margin.

"Ampata... You were right, man. My taste in women is catastrophic. And I can't even say 'At least I'm not hung up on Cordelia!' any more....

"So, the hyena thing, where I got to almost dismember Principal Flutie---glad I missed _that_---and be a compete jerk to Willow; a load of laughs. Thank God she and Buffy still think I don't remember any of it. Giles never told, like I said, he's cool. For a guy who wears tweed and drives a Citroen, I mean. The man gives me hope. If an ubergeek like him can date Ms. Calendar, there's gotta be a normal---okay, semi-normal---girl out there who'll date me. It's not like Cordy's exactly _dating_ me, or exactly normal....

"Blaine found out I was a virgin after the bug thing, but it turns out he was just as much a non-starter as either of us, at least as of last April. Who knows what the situation is now... Still. It's prime blackmail material. Took some of the edge off that whole almost-becoming-a-cockroach's-dad bit.

"It's been a year.

"I'm leaving out stuff... like saving Buffy's life, that was pretty awesome. I still didn't get to dance with her at Spring Fling, though, even after that. Not with Angel there.... Willow's sorta got a guy. Oz. He's a guitarist with some lame grunge band. Did you know him? I tell you, I don't know about him and Will... I just, I think they should take it slower. Much slower. Glacially slower. Nobody listens to me when I say that, but it doesn't make me wrong. Right?

"Maybe that's why I'm here. Just... wanted to talk to you. If you were here, I know you'd be on my side about that. About a lot of stuff. You'd probably have tried to rip my face off after I frenched Cordelia, but it'd almost be worth it.

"Who am I kidding. It would definitely be worth it.... Things aren't the same without you. Most of that's the Hellmouth and the vampires... but some of it's not having you around. I'm outnumbered, man. Willow and Buffy gang up on me all the time, which is fun, but every once in a while I can hear your voice in my head, giving me a hard time along with them, but you're not there....

"This is pretty stupid. It's not like you're buried here, or anything. I mean, your ashes were all over the floor of the Bronze, but that wasn't even....

"Your parents just put this marker up yesterday. They're moving, I guess you probably know... It really ripped them up when you disappeared. I wish we could've told them what happened, but it's not like it'd make it any better. Maybe it would be worse if they knew for sure.... Your mom still talks about hiring another private investigator to find you, but I don't think she really expects any results after all this time.

"I know that wasn't you at the Bronze. It only looked like you, and not even that much. Sounded like you. Liked Cordelia... It freaked me, okay? It was laughing at me, sounding like you, and I know it was gonna kill me in another heartbeat. I still feel like I ought to apologize for killing it. I didn't even *do* it, though... mostly an accident.... And it's not like I'm sorry I'm alive. I just wish... I wish Buffy and I had gotten down there sooner....

"When your parents still thought you were alive somewhere, that you just ran away, it was like I could pretend you hadn't died. I could act like you were coming back. Stuff would happen, and I'd go 'gotta remember to tell that to Jesse.' Like I was ever going to see you again.

"I can put you in the picture with all the freaky stuff that's happened all this year, and work out exactly what you woulda done when things went down: Willow and Moloch, the nightmares and Billy, the talent show... It's as if you were there. But you weren't. You're gone. You're really gone....

"I miss you, Jesse."

I carefully stuck the Batman comic book in the urn on top of the gravestone, behind the yellow roses Jesse's mom had put there. Then I shoved my hands in my jacket pockets. My eyes burned and my throat was dry, but the tears weren't falling. Not after all this time. Way too late for that.

Willow picked her way across the graveyard toward me, her face real solemn, and her hands were wrapped tight around a plastic action figure. I knew it was Luke Skywalker without looking at it. Jesse gave it to her on her eighth birthday. He was sure that anything he liked that much would have to be something Willow would want, too, no matter what me or his mom told him. I think she did like it, actually. Or at least she liked it enough never to let him know she'd rather have gotten a Princess Leia.

"I wish..." Willow's voice trailed off, and she lifted her shoulders in a helpless shrug. "I feel so bad about his mom and dad."

"I know. But telling the truth wouldn't help, Will."

"Maybe it would."

"You don't believe that." I took the Luke Skywalker from her, and turned it over in my hands, not really seeing it, just thinking about Willow's eighth birthday party, and the game of Marco Polo, and Jesse doing the voices from Empire Strikes Back. "We talked about this before." Willow nodded, but didn't look at me as she took Luke back when I held him out to her. She hates lying. Especially about this. It got so she'd have to leave the house when Jesse's mom would come by to talk with hers, a couple times last year. But she doesn't want to make things worse, and it's not like we could prove what happened.

Willow lifted up the roses and put Luke under the flowers, then patted them back in place. She reached for my hand and I took it and gave it a squeeze, then we both turned to look down at the new stone at the edge of the graveyard.

"Wherever you are... we haven't forgotten."

"Not ever," Willow whispered. I wrapped an arm around her shoulders, and she leaned into me, gulping back tears for a second, then sighed shakily. I closed my eyes, and imagined Jesse's reaction. He was leaning on the tombstone, shaking his head at both of us, grinning. I could almost hear his voice, telling us he was fine. Having a good time in the afterlife. Definitely not hanging out in the graveyard, not like some people he knew.

"Ready?" I asked, opening my eyes. Weird, to feel better after admitting Jesse was dead. Gone. Kind of made it okay to think about him again....

"Uh-hunh." Willow wiped at a couple tears that got away, then smiled at the marker. "'Bye, Jesse."

"Later, man." I couldn't stop a small grin as we turned away from the marker, still hearing Jesse's voice as I put my shades on against the afternoon glare. "Be seeing you...."

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