Out Of Africa - Epilogue
written by Pythia





Epilogue:

Sunnydale Museum, two days later.

"What about this one, Mrs. Summers? Do you think this is recoverable?"

Buffy glanced up as her mother put down the carved mask she’d been examining and moved to join Albrecht among the rest of the tumbled African Artifacts.

"I think so," Joyce decided, taking the pieces the scholar held out to her and considering them with a critical eye. "It’s Mangbetu work, isn’t it?"

The German smiled. "Yes, yes it is. You know your carvings, Mrs Summers."

"Please – call me Joyce."

Willow nudged Buffy’s elbow, grinning at her suggestively. Buffy frowned for a moment, then rolled her eyes, shooting her friend an exasperated look. Her mother was just being friendly, and Albrecht was just grateful to have help with salvaging what little he could from the remains of the devastated collection. They were hardly flirting with each other. So help them, they’d better not be flirting …

"Coming through," Xander announced cheerfully, weaving his way around the tables with yet another tray of assorted artifacts and papers . Willow made a space for him to deposit it, moving aside the box she’d nearly finished emptying. "Want me to junk the trash?"

"Would you?" Buffy asked, nodding towards the bucket of broken glass and wood splinters that they’d been busy filling. "Thanks. ‘Preciate that."

"No problem," he grinned. "Useful guy at your service. Old family firm of fetch, lug and carry."

"I know that company," Oz said, looking up from his sorting tray. "An affiliate of manual labour inc. They have franchises everywhere."

"No job too small, no bucket too – urk." Xander had lifted the bucket off the table – and found it a lot heavier than he’d been expecting. "Heavy," he concluded with a slightly strangled note. "What are you lot putting in here?"

"The weight of centuries," Giles murmured softly from the other side of the table. He was intent on some very delicate work – the kind of thing he could manage more or less one-handed, since his left arm was still supported in a sling – so he didn’t look up, but Buffy could hear the smile in his voice all the same. It was good to hear it, to know that all was well in her world – well, as well as it could be , given that she was the Slayer, the Mayor was still planning something unspeakable, and she was busy working in a museum on a Saturday afternoon. Which was, she had to admit, proving to be kind of fun. Giles, of course was in his element; with him, Wesley and Albrecht on the case there was a very good chance that far more of the Koenigsberg collection would be recovered than had first been thought possible. The Scoobies were pitching in – along with her mother, some other volunteers from the Gallery and several of the museum’s staff.

And most of them have no idea about what really happened here …

Her smile at that was wry. It wasn’t really fair, that she be asked to constantly put her life on the line, to risk it in defence of the world – and never get the thanks and recognition she’d earned as a result. But she was learning that life wasn’t fair; the world was better off living in ignorance of the horrors that besieged it, and if fighting them didn’t bring her fame and fortune, at least it meant there was still a world worth fighting for.

It helped to know what Lilithu might have done had she succeeded in regaining her power – to know that they had stopped a monster from raising hell on earth.

Again.

The smile grew warmer as she glanced up at the man across the table. This one hadn’t exactly been down to her. She’d told him once that she couldn’t do what she did without him – and while working with Wesley had demonstrated that wasn’t entirely true, she had quickly come to realise that she didn’t want to. Giles had brought a lot more to being her Watcher than simply acting as a walking encyclopaedia and a handy sparring partner. He was – well, he was Giles.

A part of her life, a foundation for her strength, a stalwart companion in their on-going war.

And the fact that he could kick serious butt, worked mean and major mojo, looked damn good in black, and was willing to risk his life and his soul in her service – well, that was just a plus, really.

She’d thought she’d lost him. Her soul still ached from the echoes of how that had felt; still shivered whenever she thought about what the demonness had done to him. And somewhere in there was the guilt over what she had done, the damage she’d inflicted and the pain he’d endured at her hand …

Giles looked up as she fought down a sudden shudder; looked up to favour her with a thoughtful glance and a wry smile. "I know you find this somewhat of a chore, Buffy," he observed gently. "But I think you’ll find the work will progress much quicker if you actually do some."

Willow sniggered, which earned her a sideways glare as Buffy dutifully returned her attentions to the tray in front of her. She wished she knew how he did that – how he could be so focussed on a task in hand and yet still be paying attention to what she was doing?

There was a damaged photograph lying in among the broken glass and the tumbled stone tools that littered the top of the tray. Buffy carefully pulled it free, staring at the time and water stained image it had captured.

Eva Koenisgberg looked back at her, smiling at the photographer as she displayed some precious piece or other – and the answer to Buffy’s question was eloquently captured in the faded sepia. There, lurking in the background of the photograph, was Gregory Webber. His eyes were fixed on his Slayer. Making her the focal point of his attention, even though he appeared to be concentrating on something else entirely.

Because that’s what the best Watchers do …

Buffy sighed, slipping one hand out of its protective leather glove to gently smooth flat the creased surface of the photograph. All she had of Eva was this, and a few words scribbled in a Watcher’s diary over a century ago. But she felt as if she knew her – her and her Watcher, who’d died beside her, fulfilling his duty, just as she had fulfilled her destiny.

I didn’t lose him, she reminded herself fiercely, knowing full well that Giles had been prepared to make that same sacrifice. Knowing that, one day, she might have to call on him to make it.

But not today.

Today was a day for salvaging the treasures of the past and being grateful for the present. Being grateful too, for whatever future still remained to her.

A future that Eva had been denied.

"Giles," she called softly, lifting his head without drawing the attention of anyone else in the room. "There’s someone I’d like you to meet." She held out the photograph, smiling at the way he managed to convey puzzlement, curiosity and a hint of affectionate suspicion, all in the lift of a questioning eyebrow. "This is Eva," she said. "Eva Koenigsberg." Her smile widened.. "And Gregory. Dr Webber. Or – or maybe just – Webber, I guess." How had Eva addressed her Watcher? She didn’t know, and she supposed she never would. Giles’ eyebrow climbed a little further. He put down his brush and reached across to take the picture from her.

"Good Lord," he breathed, staring – as she had done – at the image that awaited him. "That’s … " he lifted his eyes and met hers; his smile was warm and sudden, and endearingly self-conscious. "I had … wondered how she knew who we were."

"Well, duh," Buffy reacted. "Late night, cemetery. Vampire? Me with a stake and you – " She grinned. "Watching. Who else would we be?"

END