Sixty Years In

Author: Beleg_Cuthalion1 <beleg_cuthalion1[at]>

Rating: PG at worst.

Disclaimer: The characters do not belong to me; they belong to Joss Whedon and Co. Only the story is mine.

Category: B/X, B/W friendship, Character death.

Summary: I don't know how this is going to be received. This is the most personal thing I've ever written, I hope not too much so.

Although her legs and hips were hurting, she still stood and waited. The night had fallen and the last to leave had been John. In one of the odd little distractions that came at times like this, she reflected that it was amazing to her that her grandchild was thirty years old. Not even her oldest grandchild, Becky was what, thirty- three? Yes, Becky had turned thirty-three this year. The party had been nice.

John was sweet. He had stood with her and held her arm. It was a testament to her increasing frailty that she had been glad of it. Frailty, of course, being a relative term; she was probably about as strong as John. When she had told him to leave, he had refused at first. It was beyond him to leave an eighty two year old woman alone as night fell in a cemetery. He took after Xander.

"Grandma Harris," he had said plaintively, "you have to come with me. You need to eat and there's food and everyone's waiting."

"Go," Buffy had said. "Tell them not to wait. I'll be along. I can still drive just fine."

John had quirked a sad little smile, "Pop always said you never could drive."

"Pop said a lot and he was usually right. I can drive well enough to get me home," had been Buffy's response. She would have to remember to look right for traffic. Xander had finally lost his license and for years she had practically never driven without him in the car. He looked right from the passenger side and told her if it was clear. It was one more dependency; one more thing to get used to doing alone. They kept adding up and she wondered if they would ever stop.

"Let's go, Grandma," he said again. He took her arm and tried to urge her along.

Buffy pulled her arm away. "No, Johnny," she said, giving him his childhood name unconsciously, "I have to wait."


"Someone else will be here," Buffy had said, and she was certain of herself. "I have to wait."

"Who," he asked, growing aggravated, "and why didn't they come before."

"You don't know her," Buffy had answered. "She'll be here."

"This is silly, Grandma! I am not going to leave you standing alone in a graveyard at night."

She had laughed a bit, cynically, before she turned and stood on tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek. "You are your Grandfather reborn," she said. "Go away and leave an old woman alone, please. I'll be fine."

He had finally left. That had been and hour ago and Buffy had simply stood and waited, shifting uncomfortably. "He waited in his car for an hour," a voice had finally said. "So I waited too."

"I knew you would come," Buffy said. She turned and looked at Willow. It should have been surprising but somehow wasn't: Willow was still the young woman she had been sixty years ago. She hadn't aged. Buffy knew a little about magic and wondered what the price of her agelessness had been and what had prompted her to pay it. She took Buffy's hand and arm, subtly supporting her and they turned to look at the grave.

"Alexander Harris," Willow read softly, "Beloved Husband, Father, Grandfather and Great-Grandfather" After a pause, she said, "It should say more, I think: warrior and protector; friend and craftsman; savior of the world."

Buffy nodded. "It should," she said.

"He saved me," Willow said, "when we were kids, on that hill when Tara died. He saved me time and time again."

"Could you have saved him?" Buffy asked suddenly. She looked hard at Willow, "Could you have made him well? Or young, like you?"

"I could have," Willow said, her voice sounding human for the first time. "There are few things I can't do, really."

"I remember when my Mother was dying," Buffy said, "and you said that couldn't be done."

"I am not now what I was then," Willow said. "I came to see him in the hospital," she said.

Buffy looked surprised, "I didn't know," she said.

"I shouldn't have," Willow replied, "but it was him. You were asleep in the waiting room. I had to watch for a long time before he was alone. I spoke to him. He looked so small and weak. He was so sick and he was hurting."

"He tried not to worry me," Buffy said. "Worry me," she added bitterly, "Like I was feeling something as simple as worry."

"I knew I shouldn't have offered," Willow went on. "I couldn't stand it. It made me feel… for the first time in years, I felt for one person instead of the whole world. I told him I could fix him. I could have made him well. I could have made him strong or young. There would have been a price and I would have paid it so he didn't have to."

Buffy flinched and felt her stomach lurch. He could have been saved. He could have come back to her and she wouldn't have to face passing time alone as long years went by. She thought she had cried herself out but as she gasped and struggled for a moment to breath, the tears started again. "You mean he choose to leave me?"

"He was wiser then you and I," Willow said. "He said that he was just a man and that he had lived a man's life. He said he would die a man's good death."

"That selfish bastard," Buffy chocked out through her tears.

"No, Buffy," Willow said. "He said that he wanted more then anything to stay a little longer. He knew that it would be wrong. He realized something simple. He was a man and he spent years walking among giants and heroes, good and evil, and he remained quintessentially human. That's what beings like you and me are allowed to exist for, to defend that. He knew what it meant to be human because he had seen what it meant not to be. To die is to be human and there is nothing finer in the world to be."

"He could have lived and he choose to die," Buffy said, still not believing it, "Oh, God, I'm going to be sick. Why are you telling me this?"

"I don't know. Perhaps I shouldn't have. I could make you forget, if you want," Willow said.

Buffy grasped at the thought. She truly didn't want to know this.

"He wouldn't have been the man you spent your life with," Willow said, "if he had let me"

Buffy's knees went weak and Willow had to hold her up. She could think only of the fact that her husband, who was central to her soul and so inextricably tied into everything she was had made the decision to leave her. Willow said it could be taken away and she wouldn't know this terrible thing. She would have no memory of it.

Memories were all she had of him now. This ugly one went with many others that weren't sweet to recall. The time they almost divorced was painful to think of, or the time he had been in the accident that finally took his right to drive and nearly killed him, or when James had been so sick that the doctors had all but told them to give up hope.

Xander hadn't given up hope, even when Buffy herself had, in the quiet of her soul had begun to say goodbye to her little boy. Xander had said that sometimes hope was all you've got. Hr had said things like that a lot; more importantly, he had lived that way. She couldn't reconcile the two things. How could he live so optimistically and then let it all go? Had even he, in the end, lost hope?

Willow silently held the elderly woman she had once known. No one could claim they were friends now. Too many years had passed and Willow was too far gone on strange paths. All they had were shared experiences and secrets but it was enough for the moment. Willow waited, knowing or at least believing that Buffy would make the right decision.

Buffy pushed her self to her feet, eschewing Willow's support. She knew her husband was incapable of surrendering to despair. She didn't truly understand his decision and she resented him for it, but somewhere in it there must be light and hope. Xander always moved towards the light, even when he wasn't aware of it. As to Willow's offer, Buffy knew the answer to it now. While she didn't understand him right now, her faith in him and his love for her was enough. Someday maybe she would understand. Someday, she knew, she could ask him. Better then any other mortal who ever lived, she knew that.

"No," Buffy said, "I don't want you to take it away. Memory is all I have of him for now and I will not give up any of those."

"That's good, Buffy," Willow said. In the silence, Willow closed her eyes and listened. Songs from far worlds passed through her and she ignored them; pleas for help echoed from endless vaults and she turned away, listening hard for one still, small voice, and she heard it. Somewhere very far away, so far that even her consummate power could find him only because it was so well known and loved a voice, Xander waited in, and perhaps created, a pool of light in an endless maelstrom.

Buffy sighed and wiped at her eyes, feeling every moment of her age. "Life goes on," she said.

Willow said, "Everything goes on."

"I'm not going to invite you to meet my family," Buffy said, "it would be too much to explain." That and if Willow had cared she would have come sooner Buffy didn't add.

"I understand," Willow said. She turned to face the old slayer. "I don't think we'll ever see each other again," she said.

Buffy nodded. She briefly clasped Willow's young, strong hand with her own withered one. "Goodbye, Will," she said.

"He's happy, you know," Willow said.

"I know," Buffy said. She turned and for a moment touched Xander's tombstone, "I love you," she whispered. Without speaking again, she walked away.

Buffy watched an old woman who had once been the greatest of champions move through the graveyard, going back to where she belonged with family and children and a load of grief. It was sad, she reflected, but it was also life and that was good.

It was then that Willow realized that Buffy had slipped a piece of paper in her hand. She looked at it and read:


"Xander Harris, a citizen of Seattle for more then fifty years, died today after a long illness. He was a successful contractor and builder for many years and upon his retirement continued in his love of his craft by creating objects of beauty in wood. A host of friends and associates mourn his passing.

He is survived by his wife of fifty eight years, Elizabeth Anne Harris: three children; Amy White-Harris, James Harris, and Eric Harris: eight grand children; Rebecca, John, Alicia, Tracey, Michael, David, Renee, and Mark: and three great-grand children; Alexander, William and Carrie.

Services will be held on Sept. 4th at 7:00 PM, at Morgan Funeral Home with burial to follow at Carlson Gardens Cemetery."


Willow let the clipping fall through her fingers to the ground. Something dark moved somewhere and it tugged at the edges of her mind, creeping slow and silent into her vast awareness. With an act of will she floated slowly into the air and with a twinkling like a star, she vanished.