2 - Keep The Faith
"Oh, Buffy," Joyce Summers sighed softly. She enfolded her arms around her daughter, hugging her tightly.
"He's gone, Mom," Buffy sobbed against her mother's shoulder.
"I know, I know" Joyce said, stroking her child's back slowly, trying to soothe her.
"I couldn't, I tried, I couldn't get there," Buffy hiccupped through her tears. "One minute everything was going so well, I was out of the school, Giles was about to press the plunger, then it all went wrong. Nothing happened."
Buffy took a deep breath, before continuing. Her tears ran unabated down her cheeks.
"The Mayor exploded out of the building, faster than I thought possible, he'd turned into a giant snake. I attacked him, but I couldn't hurt him. He just flipped me away like I was nothing. Nothing! When I looked up, Xander was screaming for people to give him time.
"I saw him run, through the smoke and I tried to stand, but I just couldn't. He shouted at the snake; I couldn't hear what he said. I managed to get up, I took a step, I tried to save him, I did!" She insisted frantically.
Joyce frowned as Buffy's voice neared hysterical levels. She tightened her hold on her daughter, trying to hold her together physically; while praying it would help her mentally.
"Xander looked at me as the snake reared up, and he smiled, and then he shot at the snake. He got its attention." Buffy shook her head, trying to deny the image she passing all to vividly through her mind. "As the snake came down on him, he winked at me - he winked at me. Mom; he knew he was about to die, but he wanted to reassure me.
"The snake pulled back up, Xander was gone. Everything seemed to go quiet, it was like all the fighting stopped. Then the snake just exploded, bits of it went everywhere. The explosion set off the trap we had made in the high school, and blew that up as well. "
Buffy pulled away from her mothers embrace, looking her directly in her eyes. Her tears seemed to stop.
"He had written us a note, Mom. He knew he was going to have save us if something went wrong. We had no back-up plan, we were beaten. Xander saved us, he saved the world. He was a hero, Mom. I don't know what to do now."
Buffy's tears started again, burying her face back against her mother's shoulder, desperately seeking direction and reassurance.
"Honey, " Joyce said quietly, whispering into her little girl's ear. "I know you don't want to hear this, but Xander died doing what he wanted, saving his friends. He lived for you, and was ready to die for you. Sometimes you can't win without a huge sacrifice."
Joyce's words ran out as she was overcome, trying to deal with her own grief while comforting her daughter. It was too much for her; she held her daughter and cried with her, crying for a boy who gave his all, so that others might not have to.
Mother, mother, tell your children,
That their time has just begun.
I have suffered for my anger.
There are wars that can't be won.
"Giles, (yeah, I didn't call you G-man) as hard as this is to say to another man, I love you. You cared about me and looked out for me, when those that birthed me didn't."
The words ran around in Giles' head again and again, an endless mantra. He sat, alone, in a large armchair in his living room. He had a book perched on his lap, but he was ignoring it. He silently contemplated the glass in his hand, the whisky amber in the dim light.
For a man who spent his life dealing with Hell, Giles had very little faith in heaven. He had seen too much pain and suffering, too much evil in his life to really believe in a merciful and compassionate God. For the first time in over twenty years, Giles hoped he was wrong. So he prayed. He prayed for Xander, and in the end, he prayed for himself and for the others, that they might enjoy what Xander had given them.
Father, father, please believe me,
I am laying down my guns.
I am broken like an arrow.
Forgive your wayward son.
Cordelia Chase lay on her bed in a small apartment. She planned to leave Sunnydale, to become an actress. She was beautiful, she knew that. She knew she'd be able to make it.
She looked around her room, at the barrenness of it. She compared it to the luxury of her upbringing, and for the first time, she didn't care.
A single tear slowly appeared in the corner of her eye. It dripped off her eyelash and slowly slid it's way down her cheek. to her chin, where it dripped off and landed on her pillow.
"Oh, Xander," she whispered softly. "I'm sorry."
She looked up at the ceiling, hoping that Xander would be able to hear her.
"I never said I forgave you, I just hid myself from you. You reached me like no one else. Even at the end, you gave me everything you had.
"I knew about Buffy, Xan. I knew you were in love with her. You always thought you hid it, but you couldn't, not from me. I felt your heart beat that little bit faster when she was near. It was why we spent so much time in the closets; I knew that I had your complete attention then. I'm not accusing you Xander, just explaining that I understand and forgive you.
"I shouldn't be here; I should be dead, along with everyone else. Thank you. Thank you for my life. I'm going to take it, I'm going to L.A. to be an actress. I'm going to make it Xan, and it will all be thanks to you."
Cordelia turned over, burying her face in the soft pillows. She fell asleep seconds later, imagining a soft hand brushing her hair back.
Tell me, baby, when I hurt you.
Do you keep it all inside?
Do you tell me all's forgiven,
And just hide behind your pride?
"They said it was a gas leak," Willow said softly.
Daniel "Oz" Osbourne nodded silently.
"But it wasn't, it was Xander," she continued. "He doesn't deserve that, he deserves to have everyone know what happened. He deserves to be recognised as a true hero."
Oz slid his arms back around his girlfriend, holding her tightly. Willow rested her head on his shoulder, still too numb to cry.
"I can't believe he's gone," she admitted finally, trying to gather the courage to talk about her best friend.
"I know, Willow," Oz said quietly. A man of few words, he was shaken up internally.
"When we kissed, we knew it was wrong, but for once, we wanted to kiss each other. We thought we were going to die," Willow rambled, not noticing as Oz tensed. "I'll never regret that, because it meant that we finally knew. After the growing up, after my crush on him, we finally knew. We loved each other completely, but we weren't in love. We kissed as passionately as we could, but when you interrupted, we knew. We knew that we weren't meant for each other like that, we were meant to be the best of friends for eternity.
"That's why I could be with you Oz, because I knew finally. Xander gave me peace and closure, and the biggest gift of all, his friendship."
She looked up at her boyfriend, her eyes begging him to understand what she was trying to say.
"You'll always love him, but you're not in love with him?" Oz summarised briefly.
Willow nodded, resting her head back down, her mind refusing to let her think about what had happened.
Walking in the footsteps
Of society's lies,
I don't like what I see no more,
Sometimes I wish that I was blind.
It was only a gradual lightening of the ambient light that told Buffy it was dawn. She looked out at the cold dark weather; an unusual heavy rain was beating down on the window ledge and the roof It fit her mood completely.
Buffy hadn't slept; she had cried and talked all night. She looked down at her mother, sleeping on the couch, then smiled gently and covered her with a blanket.
Buffy slipped on a pair of sneakers and pulled her hair back into a loose pony-tail. She walked out of the house, trudging slowly towards the school, needing to see it one last time.
She arrived minutes later and stood, staring at the spot she had last seen Xander, the place he had smiled at her and winked.
She was joined minutes later by Giles. The normally immaculate watcher looked the worse for wear. He had not shaved, and was still wearing the same clothes he had worn the day before.
Cordelia arrived next, her face bare of makeup, wearing old jeans and a tee shirt.
They stood and stared, each alone in their grief, yet comforted by the presence of others.
Willow and Oz soon joined them, holding each other carefully.
"I feel I should say something," Giles whispered, his voice barely audible.
The others turned and looked at him. His heart broke as he saw the despair in each of his young ones' eyes. He had wanted to protect them from this, to not allow them to join the fight. But now, he was exceedingly glad he had been forced to do so; the kinship he felt with each of them was like nothing he had experienced.
"I was going to make a speech, saying goodbye properly," Giles began, a little sad laugh in his throat, "but we all know that Xander would have hated it."
Giles took of his glasses, absently polishing them. "So I'll keep it short. Thank you, for my life, for the life of everyone on this planet. You saved the world, and you will never be forgotten."
Giles replaced his glasses, ignoring the tears running down his cheek.
Cordelia looked up, catching the rain on her face. "I was wrong, Xan, you weren't the Zeppo, you never were." She fell silent again, unable to say anymore.
"You were cool, Xander." Oz announced, his face suddenly expressive. "You gave me my everything, dude." Oz took a deep breath, desperately fighting for the control he normally found so easy.
Buffy turned, moving towards Willow. The redhead released her hold on Oz, grabbing on to Buffy desperately. They sank to their knees, uncaring of the puddle they were kneeling in.
"I miss him," Willow said, unable to process anymore than that.
"I know. I do too," Buffy replied.
"I loved him, he was my brother."
"I'll never know," Buffy admitted finally, Xander's last words to her where indelibly etched on her brain. "I hope that I would have eventually looked at him for what he was, not what he claimed to be."
Buffy sighed softly, "I'll never know."
Willow looked at her best friend. "He's gone, hasn't he?" she asked, tremulously.
Buffy nodded, suddenly finding more tears.
The damn burst for Willow, as she hugged Buffy tightly, the tears cascading down her face.
Sometimes I wait forever
To stand out in the rain,
So no one sees me cryin',
Trying to wash away the pain.
"What do we do now, Giles?" Buffy asked from the ground.
"We keep going, we have to have faith that we are doing the right thing."
Cordelia nodded, agreeing. "We have to keep the faith."
There's things I've done I can't erase.
Every night we fall from grace,
It's hard with the world in your face,
Trying to hold on, trying to hold on.
Faith: you know you're gonna live thru the rain,
Lord, you got to keep the faith.
Faith: don't let your love turn to hate,
Right now we got to keep the faith.
Faith: now it's not too late,
Try to hold on, trying to hold on,
Keep the faith.
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