I'm so sorry about the delay! But...I got an inspiration...and I wanted to do it right, because I'm rather proud of it...and I kept forgetting...and frankly this has been one of my worst updating patterns and I hope to never repeat it. To my loyal readers, I am deeply sorry and hope this final chapter is worth the wait. This is supposed to take place the day after Forever.

Oh, and...sorry if my tenses are a bit confused. Grammer has always been my weakest point. If you could point of specific examples, I'll do my best to correct them.

I Can't

Giles asked me to help out at the Magic Box today.

He let me sit up in the loft where he keeps the "Do Not Read" books. He asked me to organize. But considering that he's got these books alphabetized by author, subject matter, and title…it's pretty obvious he just wants to keep an eye on me.

Love ya, Giles. I get to be up here all by myself. It's…quiet.

It's the perfect place to hide.

Hide from what?

From everything.

I was such an idiot in high school.

I was such an idiot in college.

What was I thinking when I kept on asking for "a normal life"?

In high school, when I griped to Giles or to Mom or to Will and Xander about wanting "a normal life"…I was dreaming about getting to bed at a halfway decent hour. I was dreaming of going to the Bronze to hang out without having to worry about my boyfriend killing half the student body. I was dreaming of going to Prom without having to kill a pack of Hellhounds on the way. I was dreaming about making some new friends and having a social life and getting my picture in the yearbook!

In college…I was dreaming about passing my classes and getting a new guy. When I got a new guy, I just wanted to be as normal around him as possible. Y'know, go on dates that didn't involve misty graveyards and demons trying to rip my limbs off. And then, when things fell apart with my friends…my best friends…I just wanted things to be like they were again in high school!

But this…this…is real life. Merciless. Hard. Unfair. Ripping away what you love and care about and leaving you with nothing but hurt in your heart.

My mother is dead.

And now I get what I've always wanted.

A normal life.

Normal people don't graduate from college. Normal people have to get nine-to-five jobs and pay bills. Normal people have to spend their lives take care of family members that legally aren't allowed to take care of themselves.

I know this scares Dawn as much as it scares me. God, she's so scared of what's to come that she tried to undo it all and bring Mom back.

And for a minute…when I heard that knock at the door last night…I was ready to let her.

To top it all off, I get to be normal while coping with my oh-so-not-normal late night gig. The vampires and the demons don't care how much I hurt. Everyone's been amazing, taking up the slack for me. That's making things so much easier, but I can't let them keep it up.

They're getting hurt for it.

But they're my safety net. My wonderful, wonderful safety net.

The thought confused me for a second…but it made sense. A sad, pathetic kind of sense. Because they knew how much Dawnie and I were hurting, everybody's been trying to fill the gap. Do all the chores I knew I have to take up sooner or later.

They've been trying to take care of me.

And I know I can't let them keep it up. I can't use them like that.

No matter how much it hurts…they'll have to stop, and soon.

And…then what? What do I do?

I was scared. Put me up against the Mayor again with nothing but a stake in my hand. I'll face him without a word if it means I can get out of my new normal life.

I can't do this anymore. Facing Glory would almost be better than this.

Someone softly called my name. I looked up, startled, but it was only Giles standing on the ladder.

"Um…" he began.

I forced a smile. Gotta look tough.

I have to let them believe I can do this.

"What's up?" I asked.

He gestured a little helplessly back towards the store. "Actually…things are slowing down a bit, so I wanted to get the books on the table put away…"

"Need a hand?"

He tweaked his glasses with a free hand, looking nervous. I took that as his own don't-wanna-upset-Buffy version of a "yes". I got to my feet, and followed him back down to the ground. Letting my thoughts wander, I helped him put the piles of books back where they belonged.

I got through it until we were nearly done. My head felt cursed-beer-drunk.

It was only when I was slipping the last book onto the shelf that the thought stabbed me like a knife.

I can't do this.

The awful certainty of it made my head spin, and before I knew it I was back at the table with my head resting on my arms.

I can't do this. I can't handle all of this. Bills and jobs and housework and patrol and vampires and training and Glory…

Just thinking the name made me shudder. Yeah. Life just hadn't had enough of playing kick-the-Buffy. Not only did I have to be a regular human being, but despite everything that had happened to me I still had to be the Slayer and protect the Key…


A new certainly formed in my mind. One I suddenly knew had been coming ever since Dawn had hocus-pocused her way into my life.

I want this over.

I want this done.

I don't care how it ends, but I want this to end. I want an end to this fear. I want an end to the waiting and I want an end to Glory and her games.

I don't care how. Even if she wins…

if she wins

If Glory won, that would be the definite end. If Glory won, Dawn would die, and Glory might not want any more to do with me or my friends. No more Hellgod.

No more Dawn.

Dead Dawn.

Dead sister, just a few days after dead mother.

No more mother to worry about lying to.

No more sister to worry about protecting.

And I get to put real life off for a little while longer. If Dawn died, it would rip me up all over again…no matter what, she's my sister…but my friends might all still live, and they would help me get through the pain. They would take care of me for a little while longer…and the pain would pass, and…maybe things would be better for it.

Someone's hand was on my shoulder. I looked up, and this time both Giles' and Anya's face came into view.

"You're…you're scaring people," Anya pointed out quietly.

"Are you all right?" Giles asked just as quietly.

"Y-Yeah," I managed. I shook my head a little. I suddenly wanted those thoughts gone. In front of my friends, just having them in my head made me feel ashamed. They'd give their lives to protect Dawn. I'm related to her, and I'm probably the only one wavering. "I just…didn't sleep well last night."

Giles touched Anya on the arm. They drew back a little from me and had a very quick conversation.

"Half an hours, tops?" Anya asked. Giles nodded.

"Okay…" she continued. "…but I hold no responsibility for special orders. I still have scars from that mummy hand in the cellar."

"Half an hour," Giles assured her. He glanced at me. "Buffy, perhaps you should get home for now…some sleep will probably help enormously…"

Love ya, Anya.

Love ya, Giles.

He drove me home, and kept casting me so many worried looks that I was afraid we'd get into a wreck. But I was too busy with my own thoughts to tell him to cut it out.

That entire line of thought I'd had before being snapped out of it was something I knew I should be ashamed of. And I was, oh dear god I was. Dawn was my sister. The only Summer I had left. My sister. My blood.

But no matter how much I reassured myself that I would…I had to…protect Dawnie, come what may, I could not get rid of that new little voice in my head.

I can't do this.

Well...that's the end of it. Thank you for reading, and I hope I have presented a fitting tribute to the horrifically depressing episode known to all as The Body...not to mention the lady I shall miss dearly, our own Joyce Summers.

Thanks for reading.