Author's Note: I posted this story several years ago during the hiatus between Buffy season 5 and season 6. Because of the changes in the rating system at the story was taken down. I am now going through it and editing it so that it can be posted here again. I hope you all enjoy it. I will post new parts as I get them edited.
Summary: Post-The Gift. Post-There's no Place Like Plrtz Glrb. In the wake of Buffy's death, Angel struggles to find the equilibrium he needs to fight the End of Days, but under the seemingly uncaring watch of the Powers, all is not as it seems.
Pairings: B/A, S/A (occasionally)
Death. Death was her gift.
The magnificent irony of it all hit her like a club across her face. The slaying, the death, the destruction, it all lead down to this. That death was her gift.
She stared at Dawn, realizing that this was the last chance she would get to see her little sister. Her last chance.
She had sacrificed Angel for the sake of the world three years ago, and Buffy couldn't muster the strength to do it again. Having to sentence her soulmate to eternal torment was something that had torn her to shreds inside, into little pieces that even all the superglue in the world couldn't repair, and when Angel had come back and left again, she had broken even more. All the king's horses and all the king's men hadn't been able to put her together again, least of all the shell of her relationship with Riley.
Riley. He had been safe, and comfortable, and there. But there wasn't substance -- there wasn't the fire she had felt before. God knew Riley was sweet -- an all around perfect guy that anyone in their right mind should have wanted to settle down with. But she didn't want to. Not really. Never had.
All because she had saved the world and destroyed her Angel.
Because I could see your heart. You held it before you for everyone to see and I worried that it would be bruised or torn...
Smashed, more like.
She just couldn't kill again. Not for the world -- not for anyone. Damn them all... She doubted she could do it to Angel, let alone her own sister.
Death was her gift. And she would give it. Willingly. Generously. For Dawn.
She stared at Dawn, her eyes watering slightly, preparing to speak. With Angel, she hadn't needed words. Angel, trusting her, loving her, had been content to kiss her one last time. Because even if he hadn't consciously known, he had been aware on some level of what was going to happen.
But she needed words now. A hug and a goodbye wouldn't do it. Not this time.
Dawn took a baby step forwards, a look of scared recognition fleeting across her face. "Buffy... no..." Fathomless blue eyes widened in denial and fear. Her lip quivered slightly, threatening to tumble into an oblivion of tears.
"Dawnie... I have to..." Buffy replied, her voice sure, decided. Serene. She had to. She wouldn't condemn Dawn. She couldn't.
Dawn shook her head. "Buffy... no..." she repeated, as if she expected her words to be more effective if repeated again.
The portal rumbled. A cacophony of screaming Hell blasted out into the world with each flash of lightning.
"Listen to me! There's no time, Dawn," she snapped, and then grew softer, feeling her tense muscles relax, her eyes bleeding with feeling. "Please listen."
More lightning flashed.
She had to go.
Because death, was her gift.
"Dawn, listen to me. Listen," she continued. "I love you. I'll always love you."
It occurred to her that she simply hadn't said it enough. Never enough. But, how often was enough? If you babbled a million 'I love you's' that didn't mean anything, was that better than saying it once when you really meant it? Did it have to become a habit phrase?
I love you. I try not to, but I can't stop.
Angel... He had meant it. And he had said it.
Once, then. Once again before she'd sent him to his death. A few other times.
But each and every one had meant more than anything else in the world to her, then, and now.
"But this is the work I have to do. Tell Giles I... I figured it out, and, I'm okay." She was surprised to find that she was okay. After so many years, she realized that she was finally giving up. She didn't want to fight any more. She was tired of it.
She had grown cold.
But Dawn looked like she would break into cascades of sobs at any moment.
She gripped Dawn's shoulders. "Give my love to my friends." And Angel. God, Angel... "You have to take care of them now -- you have to take care of each other. You have to be strong, Dawn." I'm done being the strong one. "The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me." Because I just can't anymore. Not as the thing that I have become.
Wiping a tear away from her face, Buffy leaned in close to her sister and kissed her cheek, memorizing the planes of her soft peach face. Even if you're not really my sister, I love you all the same. Live, for me. Please.
She turned, hoping her eyes had said all the words that she hadn't been able to make herself utter.
The portal was growing, flashing. A living, breathing, sphere of sizzling energy. She leapt forward, muscles springing with newfound vigor. Heading straight for the light, she never let her eyes leave it. A bird hypnotized in the thrall of a cobra.
She took a flying leap and dove into the swirling mass.
Every day you wake up it's the same bloody question that haunts you: Is today the day I die?
Yes. Yes. Her body collapsed with relief as the electricity struck her across the face and the rest of her body. Please, take me away.
Today was the day she died.
It's a warrior's pain, a warrior's question and you ask it every time the sun rises.
The sun was rising now. She wasn't asking, she was answering.
And every day you manage to survive, you're only partly relieved because you know -- it's just a matter of time. Death is on your heels baby -- and, sooner or later, it's going to catch you. And some part of you wants it. Not only to stop the fear and the uncertainty -- but because you're just a little bit in love with it.
In love... with death. In love with Angel. In love with peace. She wanted peace. She wanted Angel. Angel, she couldn't have. Peace, she could.
Her vision dimmed, despite the brightness surrounding her. Despite the pain. Pleasantly numb.
Death is your art.
No. Death was her gift. You make it with your hands, day after day. That final gasp, that look of peace...
Angel hadn't looked peaceful... Mom hadn't looked peaceful. Everyone important to her had looked as though death was terrible. But it wasn't. Not if you were ready for it -- that had to be the difference.
Part of you is desperate to know... What's it like? Where does it lead you?
Where did you go, Mom? Am I following? Or will I be where Angel was?
That's also a warrior's question. A warrior's curiosity. So you see, that's the secret. Not the punch she didn't throw or the kick she didn't land. She simply wanted it. Every Slayer has a death wish. Even you.
And now, she was finally going to die. No longer a wish, or some desire filed on some list in the back of her mind. It was a tangible thing. A wonderful thing.
The power surges caught her, twining tendrils of electricity around her limbs, made her writhe and close her eyes.
The only reason you've lasted as long as you have is, you've got ties to the world. Your Mum. Brat kid sister. Scoobies.
Angel -- gone. Riley -- gone. Mom -- gone. All gone. Just the gang and Dawn. Not enough anymore.
They tie you here but you're just putting off the inevitable. Sooner or later, you're gonna want it and the second, the second that happens, I pray to God I'm there. I'll slip in -- have myself a real good day.
I hope you have your day, Spike. I hope you have your day...
The darkness was getting stronger now. Stronger.
She felt cold, and numb, and dead.
She was going home...