Out Of Africa - Epilogue
written by Pythia
Sunnydale Museum, two days later.
"What about this one, Mrs. Summers? Do you think this
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
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.
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
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?"