WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
“It was a short career,” Trina said.
She stood beside the portal, a canvas bag full of slayer parts slung over her shoulder. Xander and Andrew had directed the building of a makeshift bridge, made of picnic tables, between the cliff edge and the portal. Now the deceased slayers were filing onto it, back to where they came from. The souls of those who had been completely hacked to pieces had apparently already gone on to their reward, but the bodies were being hauled away by their compatriots, just in case.
“I’m sorry,” Kara told her.
“I’m not. Did you notice not a single one of the slayers said they wanted to stay back here on Earth? I have a feeling I’m going to a better place. I’m kind of sorry I didn’t make it to the Olympic trials, but a few days with all of you was a lot more fun than life in Cleveland.” Trina turned, but Kara reached a hand out to stop her.
“If you see Jason --”
“I’ll tell him you said . . . happy journey.” Trina joined the others.
Kara turned to find her father, and caught sight of him standing by the uprighted SUV with Giles and Xander. To say he’d been glad to see her was putting it mildly, and he’d suffered nothing worse than a few scrapes and cuts. Mostly, he was suffering over how to break the news of Jason’s death to the boy’s father.
But at the moment the group debated why the portal had not closed with the removal of its power source. “Maybe you have to shed blood to close it, like with the ones Angel and Glory opened --” Xander realized what that meant, and clamped his mouth shut.
Giles gave him a hard look. “I believe it’s more likely the two spirits who remain here, powering it through their supernatural presence. That would explain why their power has been strictly limited, and it also means the portal will fade when they go back to the ghostly plane.”
Nodding, Richard looked toward the edge of the clearing. The two spirits floated there, seeming a bit more insubstantial as the early morning sky began to lighten. Standing arm in arm, Willow and Kennedy leaned forward before the ghosts in what appeared to be an animated conversation. “Who were they?”
“One was Tara, a former member of our group,” Giles explained. “She died in -- well, it’s a long story, but apparently her violent death trapped her between planes of existence, and she could only watch events on Earth until Sweet guided her to us. I haven’t gotten close enough to identify the second one, but I would imagine her story is similar.” He looked around, saw Buffy and Dawn were out of earshot, and added, “I'd rather hoped the second spirit was Joyce Summers, so the girls could have some closure.”
He hadn’t noticed Willow, who’d left the spirits to join them. “Closure’s important, wouldn’t you say, Giles?” She watched him intently, and Kara realized an important decision hinged on his reply.
“Yes, of course. Simmering resentments, unfinished business -- that’s what causes problems like this to begin with.”
“Yeah.” She caught his arm, and tugged him gently toward where the spirits waited. “Come on. There’s some unfinished business to take care of.”
Looking puzzled, Giles allowed himself to be pulled away.
“I wonder what that was all about?” Andrew said.
Kara shrugged. “All I know is, she calls herself Jenny Calendar.”
Xander started and jerked around. “What? Are you sure?”
“Yeah, she said --”
“Oh my God.” Xander hurried off after his friends, leaving Kara and her father puzzled, but Andrew wore a knowing and rather bemused expression.
“Jenny Calendar was Mr. Giles’ true love, who died in battle against an evil Vampyre named Angelus. Then Buffy killed him -- Angelus -- but he came back as a good vampire with a soul and is now fighting evil is Los Angeles, which is kind of appropriate, except he’s now in charge of an evil law firm and may be going bad again. It’s a long story.” Andrew thought about it a moment. “Actually, I guess it’s not so long, but I left a lot of details out.”
“I could tell,” said.
Kara touched her father’s arm. “I’ll be back.”
Richard nodded, and she felt him watching her as she walked across the meadow. She trailed after Buffy and Dawn, who ignored her as they hurried toward the rest of the Scoobies. Giles now faced the ghost of Jenny Calendar, looking as pale as her, while the other gathered around them.
“I wasn’t sure if I should reveal myself to you,” Jenny was saying.
“I . . . how are you . . .”
“I’m well, Rupert. I’m in a peaceful place, and I even got a chance to pitch in and help those I left behind.”
“Jenny, I’ve always wanted to tell you how sorry --”
Jenny Calendar held up a translucent hand. “No, Rupert. You’ve always blamed yourself, but you know deep down that it wasn’t your fault. Angelus killed me, not you -- and if our differences caused us to lose moments we didn’t get enough of, it’s too late to change that.”
“Yes.” Giles pulled off his glasses, and wiped his eyes with his coat sleeve. “Still, I . . . it’s unfortunate . . . that is . . . bloody hell.”
“I miss you, too.” She reached forward tentatively, and when her hand touched Gile’s shoulder he started. Then he reached his own hand up, lightly touching hers.
Feeling like a voyeur, Kara turned away. She didn’t really know where she was going -- it was all so overwhelming. Before, there'd been no time for thought, only action. Now her thoughts tumbled over each other in a mad rush. She longed to stop the dwindling line of dead slayers, to ask them about what it had been like to fight and die alone. To ask them for advice on the strangest career in the world. To ask where they had been, since they died. To ask about Jason.
Near the front of the line she came across Robin and Faith, who stood arm in arm before Robin’s mother, the slayer Nikki. Kara stood quietly, watching them.
“I’m proud of you,” Nikki told her son. “I’ve always been watching you, and I’ve always been proud.”
Robin nodded. “That’s what I wanted, more than anything.”
Nikki turned, and reached out to touch Faith’s hand. “He’s a special man. He deserves special treatment.”
“I’ll --” Faith looked away, but then turned back to meet Nikki’s gaze. “It’s hard, staying with someone. In this business.”
“That makes it all the more worth it.” Seeing it was her turn to leave, Nikki took Robin in her arms. “I’ll still be watching. Be good to each other, and do good work.”
Robin just nodded. He watched until his mother, with a small wave and one last look, disappeared into the shimmering mist of the portal. Then he turned away, while Faith held him close.
That was love, Kara thought, as she wandered in the other direction. She wondered if Nikki’s last words would kick Robin and Faith into realizing what they could mean to each other. Everyone deserved a love like that, a love stronger than anything.
Maybe, someday, she and Jason would have had that. But he’d gone and gotten himself killed while saving the world. Big jerk.
When someone called her name she wiped her face and turned, to see Rona, Vi, Chao-Ahn, and the rather worse for wear Amanda standing together at the edge of the clearing. “We have a present for you,” Amanda said. “We wanted to give it to you before I left.”
“It better be chocolate.” No wonder Buffy was always cracking jokes -- it really did mask the pain.
The four parted, revealing two figures who limped into the meadow toward her.
“You kicked me in the head,” Kendra accused. “And I think I broke my leg when I landed. It took us forever to find a place where we could climb back up.”
Jason just looked at her.
Kara waited, trying to control her breathing, until the group reached her. “I thought you were dead,” she finally blurted out. Oh, how original. Don’t be lame, say something cute. “I really thought you were dead.”
“There were only a few jagged rocks, as it turned out, and I missed them.”
“But I hit them,” Kendra added. “Again.” She limped past them, toward the portal. “I’m going back to where there’s no pain and fighting. Tell Buffy --” She paused, and looked back with a smile. “Give her a hug for me.”
When Kendra disappeared, Kara turned back to Jason. “I thought --”
“I was dead?”
“Yeah.” She fell into Jason’s arms, causing him to gasp before she remembered not to squeeze too hard. Then, after checking to make sure her father’s attention was elsewhere, she kissed him. Rona whistled, but she didn’t care.
When their lips parted Jason gasped, “I’ll try to almost die more often.”
The portal finally faded out of existence and the makeshift bridge, left without support, tumbled into Lake Superior. Their two spirit friends faded from sight, favoring two of the living with their last, wistful smiles. And Buffy, surrounded by her friends, stared out over a sunlit stretch of water so beautiful it made her ache.
Beside her, Willow reached out to cup Kennedy’s cheek. “You’re not upset?”
Kennedy shook her head. “I suppose without her, you wouldn’t have become the woman I fell in love with.”
“So, what now?” Xander looked around. “I don’t suppose there are any miniature golf courses around here?”
“No,” Dawn told him. “I checked on the way up. And the nearest mall is a hundred miles away.”
“It’s like a cultural vacuum.”
“There’s still the hellmouth in Cleveland,” Richard reminded them, which produced groans from everyone.
“I’m glad you’re here to take some of the abuse,” Giles said. “In any case, if you plan to stay in Chicago we could continue the search for new slayers while our more experienced ones get a much needed vacation.”
Everyone looked at Giles in varying degrees of surprise, but Andrew nodded happily. “You find the slayers, and I’ll go around the world to pick them up.”
“I’m up for some nightlife.” Faith snaked her arm through Robin’s. “What do you say, B? What now?”
Buffy looked off toward the horizon with a slight smile. “Dawn, how about a Eurotrip? I’m dying to check out the nightlife in Rome.”
Dawn just nodded happily, but then gave Giles a dirty look when he said, “There’s also a hellmouth in Venice. It’s entrance was blocked in the early 18th century, but it still attracts . . .” When he saw their expressions he added, “Well, why do you think the city is sinking?”
“I’m for Rio,” Kennedy said. “Kara can take over for me in cold Chicago, while we search for evil in the clubs and on the beaches. Right, Willow?”
“Do we get an expense account?” Willow grinned at Giles’ look. “Well, we might find more slayers in the clubs and beaches.”
“I’ll check out Cleveland,” Xander volunteered. “That’s where the rock and roll museum is, right? Maybe Elvis really does still live.”
With a sigh, Giles rolled his eyes. “The Earth is doomed.”
A/N: Yes, I know I wrote a later story about Kara's first kiss -- I forgot this chapter's liplock. Don't sue me, okay? And while we're on the subject, only the original characters belong to me, the rest are owned by Joss. If you want to repost the story anywhere, just let me know so I can jump up and down and making squealing noises -- Mark