Chapter 1: Gone
“Be brave. Live. For me.”
Buffy heard the sob of resignation from Dawn as she turned and stared at the rising sun, golden and bright, creeping its way slowly above the horizon. She’d never really taken the time to appreciate just how beautiful a sunrise could be. Figures she’d realize as much when there was no more time to really appreciate it.
No more sunrises, sunsets, swims at the beach, lazy afternoons with Dawn, hugs from my friends, chocolate, puppies, kisses, sex, love…just no more.
With the strength of will that came from somewhere buried deep within her, Buffy ran.
One, two, three, four… great, long strides.
Arms extended, legs parted, hair whipping around her head as she threw herself off the edge of the tower. She closed her eyes.
And then she was airborne.
Down, down, down.
So this is what free-falling feels like… she thought as the straightness fell out of her jump and the descent began.
There was no fear, no regrets, only a strong sense of confidence, of understanding.
Death was her gift.
She hadn’t understood that before, but now she did.
Death was her gift.
The descent came to an abrupt halt, followed by several long seconds of nothing before it hit her.
Her eyes blinked open in response, her fingers curling into fists as she bit back the screams that wanted to rip from her lungs.
Crackles of blue energy zapped her body as she writhed against an unseen barrier. Her muscles clamped up in defence, her body’s baser instincts of survival taking over.
Blood… only blood can close it…
As if reading her mind she felt it begin. Buffy’s body suffused with the heat that emanated from the portal. Her arms and legs began to shake from the shocks of electricity that were ravaging her flesh, frying away her nerve endings where the blue energy snapped. As her body temperature rose, so did that of her blood, until it felt almost as if it were at boiling point.
The pain was no longer restricted to that of the flesh, her insides twisting and contorting in response to the extreme heat. The sensation of being stabbed rippled inside her stomach as her internal organs began to liquefy. It felt like she had been dropped in molten lava, and was slowly burning to death.
The pain was too intense, it was just too much to handle. Her mouth opened, her scream of agony coming out as a silent puff of air. You needed vocal cords to make sounds, and hers were long gone.
Stop, stop! No more… I can’t, it’s too much…
Something cracked in her lower back and she lost all feeling from her hips down, a part of her thankful for the loss of sensation. Then another crack followed, and another, and another, each louder than the previous.
The brightness from the portal that had been blinding and frying her at the same time became a vast white nothingness as her sight evaporated.
Her body’s violent shaking began to lessen and Buffy knew it was only a matter of seconds before it shut down completely. All thoughts went to her loved ones—to the people who had been important in her life, both those living and deceased, in what she knew to be her last moments on this earth.
Willow, Xander, Anya, Tara, Giles… Mom… Dawn…
Misery. Despair. Anguish. Desolation. Heartbreak.
None of the words gave justice to the emotion that was coursing his undead veins.
Should’ve stopped him, should’ve stopped Doc.
Spike’s arm quivered as he lifted himself from his back, needing to get up, needing to find her. He hadn’t seen, but that didn’t mean he was unaware. He knew; by god did he know.
He’d felt the electricity in the air, felt the rumbles signifying the end of the world shudder and then stop. And he’d heard the scream.
And then she’d screamed again, long after the earth’s tremors had stopped.
It could only mean one thing.
He’d failed her, failed them both. She, Buffy… She must’ve… Spike didn’t even want to finish the thought.
Spike found his feet and stretched his senses, hanging on to the last thread of hope he could muster that it wouldn’t be true, that she would still be here. The scent of vanilla hit his nostrils and his eyes fluttered closed. But scent was all he got, not the tingle, not the buzz of awareness that he always felt when she was near. Buffy was a force of nature, and her life force was stronger than any he’d ever come across before. And he couldn’t feel it, couldn’t feel her.
A silent sob of panic died before it reached his lips, weary limbs quaking as he forced his body to stand, to move.
All around him there was nothing but pain. He could hear the sobs, smell the salt of tears, and feel the sorrow resonating off the Slayer’s closest friends.
But nothing could prepare him for what he saw.
There, lying just outside of his reach in bright morning sunlight, unmoving, still… lifeless.
For a long moment he just stared at her. Even in death she was the most beautiful thing he had ever laid eyes upon. It was thinking those exact thoughts that opened the floodgates to his heart, the pain and emotion pouring out like life’s blood.
She was truly gone.
Spike’s legs gave way beneath him and he fell to the floor like a rag doll, quivering hands lifting to his face. Tears fell unbidden, sobs wracking his wretched body, the group as one mourning the loss of their fallen leader, friend and sister.
The others moved towards her and Spike wanted nothing more than to join them, to hold her in his arms and never let her go. But he knew they wouldn’t let him near, Spike didn’t belong, and he wasn’t worthy. He was supposed to protect her, supposed to look after her. And he had failed.
Because he failed, Buffy was gone.