If It's You That You Are Following
By Darcy Galvan

Title: If It's You That You Are Following
Author: Darcy Galvan
Rating: PG
Spoilers: none
Summary: Buffy talks through some unresolved pain
Disclaimer: Buffy and co belong to Joss and such, not me, Evita is property of Andrew Lloyd Weber and his theatrically musical cohorts.
Distribution: drop me a line and it's yours
Feedback: will be shellacked and framed
Notes: Here's an old one I found! Probably written around S4. Time warp for me!

"I know that it's very difficult
To keep momentum
If it's you that you are following."

Buffy Summers had come to this spot many times in previous months. Sometimes it was to talk, sometimes to just sit, but she'd always come. The grass had grown over the rectangle of earth, taking this man back just as surely and blindly as it took everyone. The granite with gold lettering looked none the worse for the wear, and it probably would not look dilapidated until far after Buffy had joined the long line of others back in the embrace of the earth. The thought brought a dark smile to her face.

She swept late autumn leaves from the top of the headstone and would have cleared the patch of grass, but she knew he loved the season, his favorite. He'd told her he still relished the sound of crunching leaves under his feet, their quiet, comforting and scritch-scratchy shuffle across the ground, long after he'd stopped kicking through them in childish amusement. She left the leaves and stood looking at the name. Rupert Giles. She had come before many times, but somehow--though she didn't know exactly why--this time would be different.

"I know that you weren't supposed to go this way, separate, alone," she started, much as she always had in some form or another, lamenting the wrongness of his departure. "I wasn't even there for you. They just told me about it when it was too late. This wouldn't have happened if I'd been there...I know it.

"It wasn't supposed to be this way." She fixed her gaze on the stone. 'Full of love. Ever watchful,' it read, and wondered yet again if he would have scoffed or been touched by it. "I-is this how it was for you? When I..." Buffy shook her head, "I hope you were stronger than I am. We were supposed to go together, side by side, breaths and hearts slowing, disappearing. Perfect harmony in death the way it was in life." She laughed, sticking her tongue out in a half-hearted mime of gagging and rubbed her head. "God, I've been reading too many of those poetry books you owned.

"Uh, Willow and Xander said they'd stop by later. They wanted to let me go first. I think they know something's up." She stopped, glancing around, breathing deeply, gathering thoughts and strength together inside of her.

"I tried to read your Watcher journals the other day. I never tried before, but I'm starting now. I wouldn't let the Council have them. You know, I never knew why they didn't take them when they fired you. Maybe they thought that you'd be a bad influence on future generations of The Tweed Brigade. You were censored, you freaky revolutionist. I'll get around to copying it for them one day. After I've finished. Maybe I'll try again later...I'll do it, it's just a matter of when I'm strong enough. Breathe, Buffy, breath. It was too hard. I had to put it down after the first page. Hell, you hadn't even met me yet, only written about your 'hopes for this new Slayer' and I was crying. Never thought of myself as a weeper, but...things change. We changed." She smiled at the memory.

"I remember the first time you kissed me. I never really thought about it before that--before you kissing me--well, I guess that's a lie. I thought about it quite a lot, actually: where, when, how. I just never thought that you WOULD. And it was just an accident. You clipped me in the head with your sword...I could have sworn you thought you'd taken my head off the way you started fussing over me. I told you I was the damn Slayer. You didn't care. You just started mopping me up...then you kissed the cut. Then me.

"I was closer to passing out than you were--kinda close to vomiting, too, but in a really good way. But you looked so shocked I almost laughed after the dizziness passed. You didn't apologize the way I expected, just smiled at me and explained that you loved me. I could see your fear, could feel it, but you didn't have anything to worry about. Not that you could finish with me kissing you back. I guess I'm glad it actually took so long to build up. We weren't really ready for that before. I think...even back in college, you wouldn't have kissed me, or else we would have just gone all gawky and weird on each other for a while." She chuckled, remembering how they'd teased each other back and forth about their fateful kiss in the year they'd had together.

"I loved to surprise you. You'd just...stop. And watch. Always watching." Buffy paused, looking somewhere into the distance, somewhere her lover was resting, and a slight, awed smile swept across her lips. "But when you paused...I could see everything. See it running over in your head because your eyes and your face told it all. You never thought that I was good at reading faces, that I was just stupid in that aspect. You were right about me not reading *most* people, but you weren't most people. I could look at you and know just what you were thinking. And maybe that's why I acted like I couldn't. It was too scary, too hard to know just what someone else's mind is going through, you know? And to know that when you'd stop, and it was that disappointment, or just barely concealed anger --or pain-- when I knew that I was the cause of that, it hurt me too much and so I acted like it wasn't there, like I didn't see it. If I did, we'd have had to talk, and you would have seen all of me, and I couldn't let that happen.

"But I guess you did eventually, I let you. I never felt better about anyone seeing the real me: how messed up or sad or scared or angry I could get. And you let me love you. Honestly, I was afraid that after you'd kissed me you'd take it back and tell me that it wasn't proper or that you'd just made a mistake or just...take it back. I know that you were afraid, but I was just as scared as you."

She looked down at her hands where they were now twisted together, the fingers from one side indistinguishable from the other. She grimaced with sudden insight and the words passed her lips, forced at first, then tumbling into the crisp, open night with unstoppable force. "I went on a date last night. Is that okay? It wasn't wrong, it's been a long time, and I know that you'd want me to keep on living my life. I-I couldn't quite pull it off, though, Giles. It felt-it felt wrong and bad and-and it hurt so much that it was someone else sitting across the table trying to make me laugh and I just kept thinking that he was trying to get me to bed and that was all. He wasn't, though, and I knew it, but I couldn't let it happen and I had to make him the bad guy, had to do it to make myself believe that it was the right thing to do by not getting attached or letting him close. But it wasn't right. He was really nice and I couldn't just tell him that I didn't want to date him because he wasn't an older British man who's been in the ground for over a year." She put a hand over her mouth, speaking through the trembling fingers. "I thought that I wanted to move on. I just didn't know how hard it would be to do it.

"The others think that I'm fine. Sometimes. They usually believe that. I don't let on how I feel inside, how much it kills me when I wake up and you're not there. You weren't always there when I woke up, you were always so much more of an early riser. But there's *nothing* of you there now. Not your smell, not your heat or the indentation you made in the mattress or the twisted sheets stuck at the bottom of the bed because you pulled them up to your neck at night but kicked them off when you were sleeping. Not that I minded, because you'd get cold and then roll over and put your arms around me to keep warm. I never knew quite why. You seemed so much warmer than me.

"Now there's nothing left of you. I don't tell them about...about how I make pots of tea and pour the cups now. I still hate tea, but I leave it on the night stand so that it smells like you when you wanted to calm down. Or how I still keep your glasses by the bed or that shirt you wore the last night I saw you and you left it hanging on the inside of the closet...it's still there.

"Can I move on?" she asked, the words slipping out on a pained breath. "Do I want to? I told myself that I would, knew that I had to and that you'd want me to. We talked about it after the vampires nearly got us on my birthday. And I told you that I wouldn't ever let your leaving me stop me from trying. Stop me from living. But I lied, Giles. I didn't know it then, but I lied." Her voice broke in a sob, pulled out and wavering. "How could I know?" She tightened her jaw and ran her hand brokenly through her hair, her fist roughly against her chin. Hard with her attempt at control. "I thought that I could do it for you, but I don't know if I can now. Damn it, Giles. Damn you!" Her voice now thick with tears and emotion, she pounded the earth. "Damn you for leaving me first and making me" she hiccuped "have to choose, have to push on when it's so hard and so lonely." She let gravity guide her to the ground and wiped a clumsy hand across her face, spreading the tears over her hot skin. She tilted her head and looked at the gold lettering. "And I'm so tired. Why didn't you wait for me?

"If I were a different person, I think I'd probably even think about killing myself or something dramatic. But I can't do that, that's just not me. And I think that you knew that. You always had to be so smart." Buffy sniffed and rubbed at her nose. She sniffed again wetly, calmer now, but drained, having finally figured it out. "I guess that's why I came. I talk to you all the time, but...never like this." She laughed. "Never this rambling and mood-swingy, certainly. I guess I just had to tell you. Had to explain it." She paused thoughtfully. "I think I'm done now. Yeah. I'm done. I'm going to move on, and I'm gonna go on living like you wanted me to. Do you think I can do it? You always believed in me. I mean, at least I'm going to try. Not the way I would have--or could have--if you were with me, but-but I'll do it. I'm not gonna stop loving you, though. That was never part of the deal. So...whoever I move on with is just going to have to deal with that. There'll be room for both of you, right?" She nodded firmly. "You're always going to be with me. Always watching. Don't ever stop watching."