Nothing is mine.
Some days her mind would flash back to white rooms of the institution. She would wonder again if she was really there, and this life was nothing but a vivid hallucination.
Life was like a watercolor for her now, full of washed out greys and faded pastels. Nothing seemed real or tangible anymore, and the complexities of society began to torment her. Other times, for rare, startling moments, life could be seen in crystal-clear high-definition with the sound turned up.
The first crystal-clear moment she experienced was the day they laid Giles to rest.
It was the first time in five years she was able to see all of her friends again, the first time in two years that she had seen Dawn. Every moment of that day was etched into her mind: the sight of Willow's running mascara and her new girlfriend, Melissa, silently comforting her; Xander, so much older, a full grown man with tears in his eyes, trying to smile; Dawn and her boyfriend, Michael, holding hands beside the grave. There were white gladiolas on the casket and the sky threatened rain.
A deep guilt possessed Buffy throughout the service. They were only seeing each other, only visiting England, because of Giles' death. When it was noted that no immediate family had come to the wake, Dawn began to sob and Buffy spilled her tears as well, holding onto her sister. They were both relieved when Xander put his arms around them and managed to tell them, "You know that's not true. We were his family."
"A damn good one, too," Willow had replied as proudly as possible, and they managed to smile.
Their reunion lasted a few years before they drifted apart again, but Buffy stayed close to her sister. It was the announcement that Dawn was getting married that caused everyone to return again, and the girls eagerly worked out every detail. They arranged a beautiful wedding, and for once the tears were filled with joy. Willow and Melissa decided to move closer to Buffy and Dawn, planning on staying for a long time to come.
"I thought you were dating someone in Italy," Willow mentioned to Buffy one of those nights, in the beginning. "The Immortal."
"Right," Buffy replied uneasily. "We broke up a while ago."
"Really? I thought he was the new Angel."
"Wils, there was never anyone who could replace him."
Dawn was just as hellish in labor as she was when she was a teenager, and even more so. Buffy gracefully ignored Dawn's abusive words when her hormones spiked, and her sister's eyeroll at the suggestion of naming the baby Liam. She still remembered cradling the baby boy in her arms, all pink skin and tiny wisps of hair. She still remembered the way her heart ached in a bittersweet way, watching Dawn become a wonderful mother and wife.
"Now I know how mom felt," Dawn sighed one day after Ryan Giles had thrown a horrible temper tantrum. "If she were still around, I would be on the phone right now, apologizing for all the crap I put her through."
"You're not the only one," Buffy agreed.
When Michael and Dawn's children were in first grade and Buffy still hadn't gained a single wrinkle, Dawn finally accused her of having work done.
Ten more years passed, Xander gained a girlfriend, Dawn's two boys were in high school, and Buffy hadn't aged a day. She finally admitted something had to be weird about that, and Willow set to find out what. She hadn't been turned, but her healing had increased tenfold. They discovered that when a potentially fatal wound had been reduced to a faint scar. Lesser wounds disappeared altogether in a matter of seconds.
"I'll figure out what happened," Willow promised her, and Buffy bit her lip.
Months passed without apparent results, but it wasn't such a big deal, since Buffy didn't go around pretending to be invincible. They knew well enough that she was only immune to time: any type of strong attack or dismemberment would undoubtedly be the end of her. Even then, it was likely that Buffy would probably die of old age in a thousand years, but they didn't mention that possibility.
Dawn had to start telling people that Buffy was a friend instead of her sister. Although Dawn was still a young woman, there was a noticeable age difference now.
"The day someone asks if you're my daughter, I'm going to jump off a bridge," Dawn told her, somewhat annoyed.
One of the hardest moments of her life was when Buffy had to call Xander and tell him that Willow had been diagnosed with cancer.
"Oh… God…" Xander had said, immediately sitting down and trying his damndest not to break down. "Is she…" he hadn't managed to hide a sob then, but quickly banished it. "Is she in any pain?"
"No," Buffy had replied, teary-eyed, even after hours of crying at the hospital. "She's fine, but we're all… we're all scared."
"Is she scared?"
"No," Buffy smiled thoughtfully. "She's very brave."
"That's good because she…. She's strong. She shouldn't be alone in this. Make sure she knows… Tell her I'll be there in the next flight."
When Willow started chemo therapy, Buffy, Dawn, and Melissa shaved their heads to show support. The mastectomy failed when doctors discovered the cancer had spread. There was still a lot of hope when Willow outlived the doctor's five year estimate, but ultimately she became sicker and sicker.
It killed Buffy to sit by Willow's bedside, knowing that her friend would die and she would live. It wasn't fair, and she would give it all away for Willow to live a normal, happy lifespan.
All that Willow wanted, however, was to see Dawn's sons, Ryan and William, graduate from college. She had gotten her wish, and was most forgiving of Buffy when she finally asked her, "It was the Immortal, wasn't it?"
I revisited this on July 5th, 2009 (yep, almost two years later! I am in fact a slacker) and realized that the first chapter is the only thing that is really good. I love the concept but I realized I was taking it the wrong way - I got my end result wrong and that is why I stopped in the first place.
I'm going to salvage what I can and repost new chapters as soon as possible. It was not originally very long, so it should actually be wrapped up relatively quickly. Sorry to those who were looking forward to the ending. I really did write it, but it all felt wrong. Judging by the chapters, it will be massively rewritten so I hope you will enjoy the new chapters.
Thank you to those who have reviewed, even after such a long time. Goes to show that if you poke me about something, I'll eventually roll out of my shame and fix it.