Disclaimers;
Joss Whedon created them, 20th Century Fox owns them, we just empathize with them when they are made to suffer.

Author's Note;
The following is an alternate Fifth season finale, an extrapolation of recent events, but with the supposition that a) this is the last story of the series, and b) Willow is Buffy's destined soulmate. Spoilers abound, up to "The Body", as does angst(Hey, after that ep, what do you expect?). Bear with me, this is going to be a harrowing ride.

Oh, and the title? Latin, means, "Thus passes the glory of the world".

Rating; R for disturbing images, thoughts of death, and violence. Just remember, this is the last ep of the show. Who says I have to bring Buffy back alive? ::diabolical laughter::

Summary;
How far will the Slayer go when she loses too much?

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Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
By Kirayoshi
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Chapter One
Ragnarok and Roll

"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."
--Janis Joplin, "Me and Bobby McGee"

She stood outside of the cemetary, while her sister laid a single rose on top of the grave. She never set foot in the cemetary after the funeral. She couldn't bring herself to.

It was two months ago when her world was finally and forever ripped away from her. Two months ago when her last tether to her real life was severed. Two months ago when everything stopped making sense.

Two months ago when she came home to find the flowers. And to find her.

Her mother, Joyce Summers, lying on the couch. Her eyes wide open and lifeless. Dead.

It wasn't any kind of vampire, demon or other big bad that killed her. There wasn't a spell, a vengence ploy or any evil involved. Her tumor, the one the doctors said had been successfully removed, had flared suddenly. Too suddenly. All at once, the loving, vibrant woman who had cared for her, sometimes misunderstood her, but always loved her, was nothing more than a lifeless bag of meat and bones.

She suddenly found herself alone, with her little sister to take care of. Her home felt empty, lifeless. Dawn barely spoke to her, as though she blamed her for their mother's death. She was the Slayer, she had saved the world more times than she had eaten in restaraunts, and she still couldn't save her mother.

The day after the funeral, a lawyer read Joyce's last will, which named Buffy as Dawn's legal guardian, requesting that Giles should take custody if anything happened to Buffy and splitting her assets and worldy goods equally between Buffy and Dawn. Remembering her earlier tumor scare, Joyce had arranged trust funds for both of her daughters, naming Giles as trustee to Dawn's fund. And Buffy's fund would at least cover another year of college.

College. Like Buffy was even considering that an option anymore. In the two months since her mother's death, she had effectively dropped out of all of her classes. She didn't even bother to sign up for any classes in spring quarter. When Giles heard about this from someone in the faculty, he grew angry at the Slayer. Buffy shot off the defense that she probably wouldn't live long, being the Slayer and all, which only served to make Giles madder. She didn't listen as he ranted at her, she just didn't care anymore.

Somewhere along the line, she found herself thinking about that situation a few months ago involving the ferula-gemina. Something called a Toth demon used that magic device to split Xander into two seperate entities. Apparantly its original target was Buffy, to split her into her human half, and her Slayer half. She started to think that she could do something like that, seperate the weaker part of herself, the part that failed to save her mother, and rid herself of it. She started to think of herself, not as Buffy, but as the Slayer. 'Buffy' wasn't able to save anyone when it really mattered. Not Jesse, not Jenny, not Kendra. And certainly not her mother. 'Buffy' was weak, small, stupid, a coward who would be better off dead. She simply stopped being Buffy, and became the Slayer full time.

She distanced herself from her friends more. Willow, Xander, Anya, Tara, all of them tried to reach her, none of them succeeded. Even Dawn, who could always be counted on to annoy the hell out of Buffy, failed to get a rise out of her. Every day, she made herself a little bit less accessable.

Willow was hit by her coldness hardest of all. She had been Buffy's best friend, she loved her as deeply as she loved Tara, if in a different way. She grieved with her when they buried her mother. She had always liked Joyce Summers. She and Giles were the only two adults in Sunnydale she could talk to about things; about her wicca practice, about her love for Tara. Her parents would never understand, but Joyce, for all of her protests regarding Buffy's 'night life' and her own efforts to 'march in the Slayers Pride parade', she could understand. She got her. And Willow loved her for that. And she wasn't her real daughter, so she could only imagine how devistating this was for Buffy and Dawn.

But Buffy had refused any and all attempts at sympathy. "I'll tough it out," she always said, "I'm the Slayer."

Yes, she was the Slayer. But she once was Buffy. And now Buffy was being lost under the grip of the Slayer. Willow was losing her best friend.

And she didn't know how to make things right.

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"Large and heavy package for Rupert Giles," Anya announced in a too-chipper voice. Giles emerged from the back room of the Magic Box, where Willow and Tara were sitting at a nearby table sifting through arcane texts while Buffy was currently engaged in beating the living daylights out of the bodybag.

Xander brought the large package in on a dollie, and Giles looked it over. "Hmm," the Watcher mused, "no return address, British post-mark." He ripped off the brown paper, and pried open the packing crate with a screwdriver.

The first thing he saw was a letter, written in the crisp, concice handwriting of Quentin Travers. He read the note carefully;

Dear Giles;
The contents of this package must be guarded at all cost. The sword Ragnarok within must be used only to defeat Glory. It took a great deal of doing on my part, as I had to call every favor I had with the Council, but I was able to convince them of the neccessity of these measures.

This crate, as I have indicated, contains the sword Ragnarok, and a copy of the pertinent texts. It is a desperate gambit, as you shall read. I pray that the Slayer is up to the challenge. And that she has made peace with her God.

Good Hunting,
Quentin Travers,
Watchers Council

Giles looked again at the letter, thunderstruck. Ragnarok, the Godkiller? He knew all the legends, most Watchers did. Have things gotten so out of hand with Glory that such drastic measures were truly needed? He stared at the letter for a few more seconds, then started to dig through the styrofoam pellets, finding the sword handle. An ornate knotwork pattern, like Celtic but different somehow, graced the handle, as the pommel shined with a light that seemed to come from deep within itself. From what little he knew about the sword, he dared not handle it any further.

Willow glanced at the sword, while Giles dug out a small, tattered book bound in red cloth. As he read the book hurriedly, his face blanched even further; so the reports about Ragnarok were indeed true, its terrible legends accurate.

Buffy emerged from the backroom, towelling herself off, and saw the sword. "Hey, what's happening?" she asked, as she casually gripped the handle of the sword. "New toys from the Council?" She lifted the sword out of the box, and began to feint and parry into the air. Giles stood thunderstruck at her suddenly improved fighting form; it was as though the sword had made her more profiecient in the use of arms. Buffy herself marveled at how easily the handle fit her hand, as though molded only for her. She thrust a few more times in the air, getting a sense of the blade's balance.

"Buffy," Giles whispered hoarsely, "put that sword down now, please."

Buffy stopped her exercises, and put the blade on the table. "Right, Giles, no touchie."

"So," Xander asked, "What's the deal with Green Destiny here?"

"Wha--" Giles stammered slightly, before realizing that Xander was referring to the sword. "Ah, yes, the sword is called Ragnarok. I had believed until this moment that Ragnarok was a myth. I certainly prayed that it was."

"Ragnarok," Willow repeated the word slowly. "Isn't that a Norse word for 'Armageddon' or something like that?"

Giles nodded, his attention still riveted to the blade. "Specifically, Willow, it means 'Twilight of the Gods'."

A brief and profound silence was broken by Xander, who said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. You saying Twilight, as in End? As in, this thing can kill gods?"

"The sword is also called the Godkiller, Xander," Giles replied somberly.

Xander started to chuckle, then laugh out loud. "Somebody give me a Hallelujah!"

"Xander--"

"I mean, here we are with a psycho Goddess on our case," Xander continued, "and the Council guys send us the very thing to take her out of the picture."

"Xander--"

"I say we take her out tomorrow night. Tell her we have that key thingie she's looking for, and ambush her when she gets here."

"Xander!" The young man's ramble stopped suddenly as Giles shouted, something he rarely did before. "I have a vault in the backroom for dangerous mystical artifacts. I'm placing Ragnarok in the vault immediately, and tomorrow I'm sending it back to the Council."

"Good idea, G-Man," Xander nodded enthusiastically, "we wouldn't want her flunkies to get their mitts on the blade before you SEND IT BACK TO THE COUNCIL?"

"That's precicely what I said, Xander," Giles intoned. "We cannot ever use this sword."

Xander gaped at the former Watcher, his mouth wide open. "Giles, I do believe you've your brain's developed a slow leak. Now, follow my logic here. This blade is called the Godkiller. Translation, it kills gods. Now we have a god who desperately needs killing--"

"Ahem," Anya coughed rudely.

"Okay, honey," Xander amended his statement, "Goddess, but leave us not get bogged down in gender issues."

"If I may continue," Giles' voice grew more irritated, and Xander meekly silenced himself. "The sword can only be used by one person, the Slayer. And its use would kill her."

Xander blinked at Giles as his words sunk in. "Cancel that Halleluja and make it a Hoo Boy."

Giles smirked ruefully as Xander conceded him the point. "The sword may only be used to kill Glory if it is annointed with the blood of its wielder. That annointment creates a bond between the Slayer and the sword. The sword becomes master, its wielder a servant to the sword. And should the Slayer, god forbid, succeed in killing Glory, her death would release her goldy energies, creating a feedback that would kill the Slayer." He stared intently at Buffy, saying, "Do you understand what I'm saying, Buffy? The bond was begun already the moment you picked up the sword. If you were to actually use it, the bond would be complete, and you would die."

The room fell silent as Giles concluded his lecture. All eyes fell upon the cursed blade. All thoughts mirrored Giles'; they had in their grasp the tool to eliminate the mad goddess Glory, to save mankind from her wrath, but to use the tool would mean the end of Buffy's life.

Buffy broke the silence, calmly saying, "So now we at least have a plan 'B'."

Giles glared sharply at Buffy as she spoke. "The sword goes back to the council tomorrow," he insisted.

"You can't do that, Giles," Buffy answered coldly. "That sword is the only sure chance we have to take down Glory. If no one has any better ideas, we need the sword."

Giles stared at Buffy silently. The others sat still, the silence a palpable and wearying force over them all. "Buffy," Giles finally said, "may I see you in the back room?" Buffy silently followed her Watcher to the backroom. None of the others dared follow, or even dare speak to each other.

========

Giles looked at Buffy, a profound sadness in his eyes. Buffy sat silently on the lifting bench, her hands in her lap, awaiting what he had to say. "Buffy," he said, as gently as he ever spoke to his charge, "I was not on good terms with my father when he died. I'm sure you know of my wild past, my 'Ripper' years. But the news of my father's death did something to me. I understand what you're going through. We all do, we all have lost someone close to us."

"Yeah, I know," Buffy answered. "Willow and Xander lost Jesse, you lost Jenny. And you know what? If I'd been doing my job then, they'd be alive. But no, I had to be normal, I had to have a life." Buffy stood up and paced the room, giving Giles the impression of a wild animal, straining at the leash. "And now, when my mom needed me, I wasn't there either!"

"Buffy, you cannot blame yourself for what happened to your mother," Giles started.

"Why not?" Buffy cried out. "Dawn is! I'm the Goddamned Slayer, and I couldn't even save my mom! Where was my blasted Slayer-Sense when it really mattered?"

Giles let her rave for a minute longer, recognizing that this was something that has been weighing down on her soul for too long. "We were learning about past Slayers these last few months, Giles. I think I know now why they never lasted as long as I did. Because they weren't supposed to. After eighteen, they start to get sloppy, they think they can do anything! But when it comes to crunch time, they can't do squat! At least with this sword of Hardrock I can stop Glory before she finds out that Dawn is the key!"

"At the expense of your own life," Giles argued.

"Oh yeah, like that's worth something!"

Giles got up and placed his hands on Buffy's shoulders, stopping her pacing. "Is that what this is? You want to die that badly? This isn't self sacrifice on your part, this is suicide!"

"Why not?" Buffy shouted. "I've endangered you guys long enough! Why not end the whole thing? Glory's gone, Willow, Xander, all of you guys can have a normal life, away from Hellsville!"

Giles looked at the broken soul that stood before him. Her mother's death had done what all of her greatest enemies could never do, it had truly and completely destroyed her. Crushed her soul and robbed her of her will to continue. He knew that she was holding it all inside her to keep the others from worrying about her, but now it was all out in the open.

"Buffy," he stated calmly, "you must understand, I am concerned for your well being, for your future--" "I'M THE GODDAMNED SLAYER!" she screamed. "I DON'T HAVE A FUTURE!"

"Yes you do, Buffy," Giles snapped back harshly. "And I'm not going to stand by and allow you to throw it away!" He stopped himself before his anger spilled over any further. He collected himself and continued. "When this ordeal with Glory is over -- and we will find a solution that doesn't involve you sacrificing your life -- I want you to consider hanging up your stakes. Perhaps you're right, Buffy. Perhaps you shouldn't be the Slayer any longer. You have greater responsibilities now, to Dawn, for her well-being. You need to start your own life, outside of slaying, outside of Sunnydale if you can arrange it. It's time for you to stop being the Slayer, and start living a normal life again."

Buffy was genuinely surprised at the suggestion. She stared hard at the floor in front of her, ashamed of how angry she had been at Giles before. "But what about my responsibility? You know, the one girl in all the world, yadda yadda yadda."

Giles chuckled dryly at her words. "Buffy Summers, no one has upheld that responsibility better than you have. And you have already lost too much because of it. You've done your bit for king and country, several times over. It's time for you to think about your own future. It's time to stop being the Slayer, and start being Buffy Summers again." Giles bent to look at Buffy's face, and could swear that he saw a tear coursing down her cheek. He thought that he might have reached her.

That hope was dashed when she suddenly got up, clenched her fists, and shouted, "Who wants to be that loser anyway?" She grabbed her things and charged out of the backroom, out of the Magic Box, and far out of sight.

Xander and the others stared at the swinging door, and back at Giles. "She's had a rough time recently," was the Englishman's only explaination.

"I'll take the Glaringly Obvious for 100, Alex," Xander shot back angrily, adding to the tension.

"Should we go after her?" Tara asked. "Maybe she needs us."

"No," Willow said wearily. "What she needs is for the last six months to never have happened. She needs to wake up and find out this is all a dream, there isn't a phycho goddess after her sister, her mom isn't dead and her boyfriend wasn't a jerk who got his jollies shagging vampires!" Getting up from her chair, she collected her coat, and said, "I'm going out for a while. A long while. Don't wait up, Tara, I wouldn't be fit company anyway." She left the Magic Box in a hurry, and over the next five minutes, the other young people quietly filed out the front door.

Giles sat alone for a very long time, wondering where it all went so horribly wrong, and why everything was falling apart so fast. "Joyce Summers," he murmured to the air around him, "your absence is felt more keenly than you could imagine."

Buffy, for her part, managed to make it down several blocks before she could walk no more. Not caring who saw her, she dropped to her knees and wailed loud and long. She cried not only for her mother, but for all those she couldn't save. Jesse. Kendra. Jenny. Faith.

And herself.

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Dawn was in her bedroom, plowing through her homework, desperately trying to come to grips with her algebra assignment. She found herself solving the same damn story problem three different times, with three different answers, before she threw her books off her desk in disgust.

What had happened to her? Why did she have to lose her mother? Why did her life have to be a hollow lie, a fiction made up by some monk to protect her from some goddess?

I'm Dawn Summers, she reminded herself for the million-and-seventeenth time, not the Key. I'm Dawn Summers! It didn't keep her mind away from the horrors she's seen in the last year.

Sure she knew her sister was the Vampire Slayer; two years ago, she was sitting on the stairs listening in when Buffy finally told her mother, and Mom went Pompeii over her. She knew that Buffy had fought the nastiest of nasties, from vampires to demons to those freaky Gentlemen creeps(her personal least favorites). She knew that if given the chance, Buffy could probably flatten that Zhang Ziyi chick from "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon". And she knew that her friends could probably paste the X-Men in a clinch. But it didn't make her feel any safer. Especially since she became the target.

And especially since something as mundane as a brain tumor managed to kill her mom.

Before she could continue that line of thought, the doorbell chimed. Dawn got out of her chair to answer the door. She immediately recognized the woman on the other side. Honey-blond hair, early-forties, watery blue eyes, even her wardrobe was the same. The woman smiled at Dawn, saying, "So how's my little girl?"

Dawn gasped slightly. "M-Mom?"

"Yes, honey, it's me," her mother answered. "Aren't you going to invite me in?"

Dawn snapped out of her shock and gathered her wits quickly. "The hell I am!" she shouted to the older woman, as she backed away in search of a crucifix. "I know the rules; I don't invite you, you can't come in."

The woman looked saddened at Dawn's fear. "You think I'm a -- a vampire?" She started to laugh warmly. "Oh honey, I'll prove I'm real. See?" She stepped across the threshold into Giles' house, and smiled at Dawn. "You're right, dear. If I were a vampire, I couldn't walk in without an invitation."

Dawn gaped in wonderment. This woman wasn't a vampire, wasn't a demon. She was Joyce Summers. Her mother. Dawn rushed into her waiting arms, and cried tears of joy. "Oh Mom," she sobbed, "I missed you so much!"

"There, there," the older woman soothed, stroking Dawn's hair. "I missed you too, my little burro."

Dawn just caught that last part, and it made her stop and think. "You never called me that before, Mom."

"But you are, my dear," a different voice answered. Dawn looked up, and into the face of her mother.

But now she wasn't her mother. She was the enemy of mankind. She was Glory.

"My little burro," she started to laugh. "My donkey. Get it? Dawn-Key!" She laughed hysterically at her own humor while Dawn was too scared to scream. "Oh I just kill me sometimes," Glory gleefully announced as she transported herself and her captive away.