Title: Funeral for a Friend
Timeline: Eight months after the end of Mishtwanai
Synopsis: I’m not really sure what to write here this time. I think the title says it all.
Giles stood motionless, the sun shining brightly down on him. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. Most unusual for this time of year. The dark suit and his slumped shoulders reflected his mood.
Buffy stood by his side, her
hand resting against his lower back.
Their children were currently inside with
Giles stared out across the green paddock as he leaned against the railing. “Hm?”
“It’s okay to cry…”
He cleared his throat and shook his head. “Not right now. Later, perhaps.”
Buffy sighed softly and gently rubbed his back. Giles didn’t say anything else, just continued to stare across the land. Buffy stood next to him, remaining quiet as Giles continued to work through his grief.
He allowed his mind to wade through the memories of the previous eight months. It hadn’t taken him long to settle into his role as Head of Council. He was grateful of Amelia’s forethought of appointing someone to deal with the majority of the paperwork for him. He had always detested paperwork.
Two weeks after Amelia left, she had called to announce the arrival of her granddaughter. She had sounded tired, extremely tired. Giles spoke with his concerns over her health with Buffy after the phone call had ended.
Three months after that, his phone had rung again. His hand trembled when he saw Amelia’s name on the caller id display. He breathed a sigh of relief when it was her voice on the other end. And then a smile of surprise found its way to his face when he heard the strength in her voice.
She had stated that she was feeling much better and had received news from the doctor that the mass had appeared to have shrunk a little. Not much, but it was smaller than it had been. Giles found himself grasping onto the hope that she was somehow going to beat the disease.
Between that phone call and the one that had been received two weeks ago, he had spoken with Amelia weekly. She seemed well rested, strong, and…happy. The doctor had been very surprised at the turnaround in her health. He had stated that she was far from being out of the woods, but the situation wasn’t nearly as dire as it once was.
His mind surfaced to the present for a brief moment. He was very aware that Buffy had not left his side. For that, he was extremely grateful. Buffy…he sighed as he thought about his wife.
She had been the one to answer the phone two weeks ago. He had worked his way through a difficult week at the Council. The death of a Slayer and her Watcher at the hands of a vampire cult hell bent on taking over a small village in the South of France had taken precedence over his work.
A group consisting of four Slayers and two Watchers had taken out the cult earlier that day. And that night, he slept. The first real sleep he had been able to find in a week. He woke to Buffy gently shaking his shoulder. He opened his eyes to find her talking softly on his mobile.
His heart dropped as he pushed himself up and leaned against the headboard. He could easily see the sadness in Buffy’s eyes as she handed him the phone.
“Hello, Rupert. I apologize for ringing so late.” Andrew Clayton spoke softly.
Giles swallowed and shook his head. “No harm done, Andrew.” He hesitated for a moment, unsure of how to ask the question that was so prevalent in his mind. “Amelia?”
Amelia’s son exhaled deeply. “She, uh…Mum asked me to call you. She’s…she’s taken a turn for the worse.”
Giles heard the young man’s voice break. “How, uh…is she…that is…”
“The doctor has told us to make the necessary calls.” He cleared his throat and continued softly. “He said that it could be a few days…maybe a week. Mum wanted me to ask if you, and Buffy…if the two of you might be able to come. She’d…she’d like to say goodbye.”
Giles’ eyes filled with tears, but he didn’t allow them to fall. Instead, he took a deep breath and, after giving Buffy a quick glance, gave a soft response.
“We’ll be there tomorrow.”
A few more words were spoken, but if Giles were to be asked what was said, he wouldn’t have been able to recall precisely. He closed the phone and dropped it onto his bedside table.
When he heard Buffy whisper his name, he turned his glistening eyes towards her. “She…wants to say goodbye.”
Buffy pulled him into her arms and held him tightly. Her fingers tenderly stroked his hair as his tears began to fall.
* * *
Ethan quickly offered to stay
with the children when Giles explained the situation to him. Buffy and Giles accepted his offer, with an
added request that he’d bring them to
All four children sat on their parents’ bed. Braden and Lucas were somber and quiet, and Ethan could tell that each had been crying. Haddie and Evan played with one another, not really understanding why their brothers were upset.
Braden took a deep breath and climbed off the bed. Giles looked up from his bag and sighed. “Are you alright, Ru?”
Braden shrugged a shoulder and looked down at his feet. “My throat hurts.”
Giles dropped to his knees in front of his son and pulled him into his arms. “Mine does too, son.”
Braden hugged his father tightly and buried his face into his neck.
When he heard the child sob, Ethan tried his best to swallow the lump in his throat.
* * *
Amelia smiled when Giles and Buffy walked into the room. The first thing Giles noticed was that much of the light in her eyes had gone. The first thing Buffy noticed was how much weight the woman had lost.
She didn’t look skeletal, but she had lost a fair amount of weight. Buffy was expecting to walk in and find Amelia lying in the bed looking frail and tired…beaten by the cancer that had ravaged her body. Instead she found Amelia lying in the bed looking tired, but not frail…and definitely not beaten.
She was amazed that a woman who had fought for so long and had been so sick could look so…beautiful, even if she was a bit thin.
“Hello, Mealie.” Giles whispered as he leaned over and softly kissed her cheek.
Amelia raised an eyebrow at him. “I can’t say that I’ve heard you call me that in a while. Years, even.”
Giles gave a sad chuckle. “Seemed the right thing to say at the time.”
Amelia smiled and turned her eyes to Buffy. “Hello, Buffy.”
“Hi, Amelia. How are you?” Buffy shook her head and groaned, not believing she had asked that question. “I’m sorry.”
To Buffy’s surprise, Amelia laughed. “Oh, Buffy…it’s fine, really. All things considered, I’m alright. And how are you?”
“Okay…been worried about Giles…”
Giles looked at her sharply. “Buffy.”
Amelia narrowed her eyes and looked at Giles. “Rupert?”
Giles shook his head. “Everything’s fine, Amelia.”
Amelia regarded him carefully for a minute and then looked back at Buffy. “Care to tell me the truth, Buffy?”
“Oh, no…he is fine. He was just having trouble sleeping this past week.”
Giles gave an exasperated sigh. “Buffy, we’re not here to discuss work.”
Amelia rolled her eyes and looked expectantly at Buffy. Buffy recounted the entire ordeal of the vampire cult to the older woman. Amelia listened intently, glancing at Giles now and then. When Buffy ended the story, Amelia smiled.
“I knew you’d be the perfect man for the job.”
Giles shook his head slowly. “I really don’t want to talk about work right now.”
Amelia tilted her head slightly and looked into his eyes. “Rupert, I don’t want the last few days I spend with you to be full of sadness. And…you look so very sad.”
Giles cleared his throat and averted his eyes from her. “Anya wanted me to ask you if you would object to them naming their daughter ‘Amelia’.”
Amelia grinned and looked at Buffy. “Ever the master of changing the subject.”
Buffy laughed and nodded. “He likes to think so.”
Amelia pushed herself up in the bed and sighed heavily. “Rupert, look at me.”
He took a deep breath, exhaling slowly as he complied with her request. She wasn’t surprised to see the unshed tears.
“First of all, I would be honoured for her and Xander to name their child after me. Second of all…I don’t want to die, but I have no choice in that. I have accepted it…I accepted it long ago. I don’t want people to remember me as being in pain, or unhappy about my lot. And so, I laugh…and I joke. And I want you to laugh and joke with me. I want these last few days to be memorable for the laughter, the stories we share…not to be memorable for sadness.”
“It’s, um…difficult.” Giles responded quietly.
Buffy reached over and slipped her hand into his. He lightly squeezed her fingers.
Amelia nodded in understanding. “I know. But, please…try for me.”
When he gave her a quick nod, she grinned and met Buffy’s eyes. “Did he ever tell you about the time he got caught in the girls’ locker room at the Academy?”
“Oh, dear Lord…” Giles groaned.
Buffy’s eyes widened as she laughed, turning her head to stare at her husband. “Um…no, he didn’t. Wanna tell me about it, honey?”
“Not particularly, no.” He responded, a genuine smile appearing on his face. “I’m sure Amelia will have no issues with telling you. She’s always had a good laugh over that one.”
Buffy looked at Amelia expectantly. Amelia laughed heartily and began her long tale. She laughed even harder each time Giles blushed.
* * *
Amelia’s ‘few days, maybe a
week’ stretched into two weeks. Ethan
had brought the Giles children on the third day.
Giles spent as much time with her as he possibly could. Most of the time, Buffy accompanied him…because he asked her to. Sometimes, he would ask Buffy to join him and she would gently shake her head and give him a tender kiss.
Giles knew her time was close when he walked into her room and found all three of her children surrounding the bed. She looked up at him through slightly unfocused eyes and smiled wearily.
He nodded slowly and made his way to the edge of the bed. Her children left the room quietly, her daughter gently squeezing his arm as she walked by him.
Giles clenched his jaw and lowered his eyes. He looked back up when she covered his hand with hers.
“I’m glad you came today.”
She interrupted him with a softly spoken fact. “I don’t have much time left, Rupert.”
“I know.” He whispered, unable to stop a tear from escaping the corner of his eye.
“Hey…we’ve talked about this. No tears.” She offered him a warm smile and gently squeezed his hand.
“How can I not?” He cleared his throat and sat down in the chair next to her bed. “A part of me has always loved you, Amelia.”
“I know. And, more importantly…Buffy knows and understands. She’s an amazing woman…in so many ways.”
Giles nodded slowly. “I shall miss you terribly.”
“Stop.” She whispered and coughed gently. “If you don’t stop, you’ll make me cry.”
He chuckled at that and leaned forward, resting his arms on the mattress as she lightly held his hand. He spent the next thirty minutes telling her stories of his children’s exploits. He smiled as she laughed.
When he noticed the weakness showing clearly in her eyes, he exhaled slowly. “I should go. You should be spending this time with your family.”
She lifted her hand and touched the side of his face. “A part of me has always loved you as well.”
He leaned over and brushed his lips across her forehead. He refused to say goodbye, as did she. As a result, those were the last ten words he heard her speak.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He opened the door of the guesthouse on Amelia’s estate that his family was sharing with Xander and Anya. He made his way to the kitchen and found Buffy preparing a cup of tea. She looked up at him as he walked over to her.
“You’re back earlier than I – ”
He cut her off with a kiss, cradling her face between his hands. The spoon she was holding dropped to the floor, the sound of silver hitting tile resonating in the room. He ended the kiss slowly, but left his hands where they were.
“I love you, Buffy. I love you so much.”
She heard the catch in his voice and she swallowed hard. “I love you too, Giles. What’s wrong? Is…is Amelia…”
He lowered his hands and took a deep breath. “She’s…fading quickly now. I believe…” He swallowed thickly. “Her family is with her now.”
Buffy’s eyes glistened. “Oh God.”
“Where…where is everyone?”
Buffy reached up and brushed his cheek. “Lucas, Haddie, and Evan were tired…they’re taking a nap. Xander took Braden out exploring. Anya is upstairs resting.”
Giles gave a quick nod, leaning into her touch. “Would you…would you lay down with me?” He met her eyes and shook his head lightly. “I’m…it’s not…”
She lowered her hand and took hold of his, sadness filling her heart when she felt the tremor in his fingers. “I didn’t think you were asking for anything other than for me to hold you.”
A single tear slowly rolled down his face. “Thank you.”
* * *
They were lying in the bed, Buffy on her back with Giles curled around her, his head on her chest. Buffy had a brief thought that it would probably look almost comical to anyone else, considering the size difference between them. But, there was no humour to be found.
Her left arm was wrapped around him, her hand gently rubbing his back as the fingers of her right stroked his hair. She lightly kissed the top of his head and he tightened his hold on her.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
He sighed heavily. “Knowing…expecting…it doesn’t make it easier when the day comes.”
“I know.” She whispered and kissed him again. “I know, honey.”
“I’m sorry.” He shook his head, loosening his arms. “I’m sorry…this isn’t…it isn’t fair to you.”
When he pushed himself up, she placed her right hand on his cheek, gently turning his head to look into his eyes. “What’s not fair to me?”
“You…are my wife. The mother of my children. I…I shouldn’t be…I shouldn’t ask you – ”
She silenced him by placing a finger over his lips. “You should. For those very reasons, you should. It may have been over thirty years ago, but you were in love with her. Really in love with her. And…when your first love…”
She hesitated and he swallowed, his voice a barely audible whisper when he supplied a word for her to use.
She nodded slowly. “Yes…when your first love…dies…it doesn’t matter how long ago the relationship took place. It doesn’t matter how the relationship ended and it doesn’t matter where your life is at the moment. It still hurts. And that’s understandable.”
She pulled him back down and tenderly kissed his lips. “And I don’t think it isn’t fair to me. I love you…you are my soulmate, Giles. I know that she will always have a place in your heart…and I know that she always has. But, I also know that you love me. Let me help you as much as I can through this.”
He thought over her words for a moment and exhaled slowly. “I have always known what an amazing woman you are. From our first meeting, I’ve known. I’m glad that she was able to witness that side of you…on more than one occasion.”
A sad smile appeared on her face. “Amelia thinks I’m amazing?”
“She knows you are.” He replied softly and lowered his head back to her chest.
She didn’t release her hold on him. Not even when the phone rang two hours later and he reached across her to answer it. And she cried with him when he dropped the phone, not caring that it landed on the hardwood floor.
* * *
Braden and Lucas stood inside, watching their parents through the glass door. Lucas looked up at his older brother.
“What’s Daddy doing?”
Braden had his hands shoved in his pockets, watching his father stare out across the green field. “He’s thinking.”
“Is he sad?”
Braden nodded slowly. “So is Mum.”
Lucas sighed heavily. He looked down and noticed Braden’s hands in his pockets. Lucas copied him, digging his hands deep into the pockets of his suit trousers. He turned his eyes back to the door and watched his mother pull his father into her arms.
“I really liked Mealie.”
For the first time since they had taken their positions at the door, Braden looked down at his younger brother. He pulled his left hand out of his pocket and wrapped his arm around Lucas’ shoulders.
“I did too, Luke.”
“But…she feels better now. Right? She’s not sick anymore?”
Braden smiled softly. “She’s not sick anymore.”
“Good.” Lucas whispered.
Braden gently pulled Lucas away from the door. “Come on, let’s go find Haddie and Evan.”
“Okay. ‘Addie’s probably with Anya.”
“ ‘Haddie’, not ‘Addie’. Remember your h’s, Luke.”
Lucas smiled and followed his brother into the other room.
Outside, on the back veranda, Buffy and Giles held one another as his tears finally came.