Deep into that darkness peering,
Long I stood there, wondering, fearing,
Dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before
Edgar Allan Poe
The white sheet of Buffy's bed twists in knots as the inhabitants of the bed twirl and spin with it wrapped around them. Its early morning, the sun has risen little over an hour ago; however Buffy and Spike have yet to fall asleep. It's been two weeks since the battle with the First and Spike has kept his promise of celebrating properly every day since. He flips Buffy on to her back and stares down at her with a bright smile. She matches it with her own toothy grin as she looks back up at him, then hungrily his mouth meet hers. Buffy's fingers tangle in Spike's platinum locks and they fall into another round of celebration.
Anya leans over from her position in the passenger seat to the driver's seat of Xander's car to honk the horn. It rings with impatients through the air signaling Xander who waits in the doorway of the Summer's home that she is more then ready to go. Xander stares back at the car then turns to see Dawn still rushing about gathering books and whatever other materials she needs for school. Sunnydale High is offering summer classes since the school was shut down over the last few weeks due to an absentee principal and Dawn doesn't want to fall behind.
"Come on Dawn, you're gonna be late," Xander calls into the house.
"Okay… just… one minute," Dawn says as she grabs a bagel off the kitchen counter and rushes to the door.
Xander follows Dawn out to the car and closes the door behind him. They drive off just like any other day without the fear of the First or uber-vamps. Everything for the most part has gotten back to normal in Sunnydale and the apocalypse has basically been forgotten. Xander's construction job has picked back up, businesses are reopening, and life in general seems to be getting back to normal.
As for other members of the scooby gang things are moving smoothly for them as well. Giles stayed for a week after the defeat of the First then went back to London where he's been helping getting the Council re-established, the potentials went home, and Andrew slept on the Summer's couch until he decided to atone for his wrong doings by aiding Giles in the council and left for London.
Kennedy and Willow tromp down the stairs in a quick pace. Willow hits the light as she comes to the end of the stairs since the lower level now sits in darkness from the new thick drapes that were bought the week before. Many changes have occurred since the destruction of the First, the most appreciated of which is the lack of potentials swarming about and the newfound silence that overcomes the house during the day. Along with that all Buffy's debts have been wiped from existence as the bank and local companies neared going out of business just a month ago when people had started to flee the city. Also Kennedy has moved in permanently as has Spike who no longer spends any time in the basement.
Willow grabs her keys off the kitchen counter, where she left them the night before, then grabs her jacket and she and Kennedy head out for breakfast.
Buffy has once again fallen into a deep slumber after another early morning with Spike. They lie in bed wrapped up in each other with nothing but a sheet to cover them. Spike watches Buffy for a short while as she drifts off into a peaceful sleep, then he himself succumbs to exhaustion as well and falls into a deep sleep beside her.
Buffy wanders through her mind as she dreams the morning away. She walks through a thick vibrant forest. Sunlight streams through the leaves of plants and creates rays that illuminate tiny floating particles of pollen in the air. Instantly Buffy recognizes this place. It is the same forest which has been the location of her dreams for some time now. This time however, the air is clear and lacks the white mist which Buffy has come to associate with this imaginary location. Slowly the slayer turned vampire walks through the foliage. Twigs snap beneath her feet letting out a loud wet crunch for each stem and Buffy is reminded of how much life exists in this place. She is reminded of how alive the forest is and how dead she is.
Buffy continues walking and the forest around her begins to thin. Then suddenly the sun is shining down brightly on her face as she walks out into a clearing. Buffy looks out at the field before her. Tall yellow grass blows in the wind and a willow tree stands tall in the distance. Buffy looks up at the sky and feels the warmth of the sun upon her skin. She lets her eyes fall shut, when she opens them again there is movement in the brush.
Xander treads through the field, behind him Willow's red hair blows in the wind as she follows and behind her Dawn moves as well flattening the grass with each step. Buffy smiles at them and confusion over why the sun isn't burning her skin flees from her mind. Buffy and Xander's eyes meet then the young man before her embraces her in a hug, Buffy doesn't know why but it seems appropriate. Willow then joins the hug wrapping her arms around Buffy and Xander and finally Dawn walks up and is pulled into the center of the hug as well. In that moment Buffy doesn't ever want to let go, she wishes that she could hold on to them forever.
Buffy lets her eyes flicker shut and she grips her friends tighter. When Buffy opens her eyes the sun is gone and those in her arms are starting to crumble. Fear overcomes Buffy's features as she watches her friends turn to ash. Willow is the first to disintegrate and Dawn is soon to follow with Xander being the last to turn to dust in her arms.
Buffy claws at the dust and pulls it to her body frantically trying to pull her friends back together again. Slowly she falls to her knees covered in powder. Silver moonlight shines upon her as tears start to fall.
"Buffy, love," a caring voice calls, Buffy looks up to see Spike standing before her with a concerned expression.
"They're all gone," Buffy says and Spike reaches a hand out to help Buffy to her feet.
As she stands she looks out at the field which moments before grew tall yellow grass. Now the grass has been cut short. The weeping willow tree in the distance seems to stand taller then before and from where Buffy and Spike rest until past what the eye can see gravestones cover the land.
Buffy's eyes snap open and she sits up in bed. Her fingernails are clenching the white sheet of her bed close to her chest so tightly that she rips holes through it. A deep unneeded gasp is quickly inhaled and then Spike is at her side. He reaches an arm around her to calm her and Buffy pulls herself into his chest.
"Buffy, love. It's alright… I'm here… What's wrong?" Buffy takes a few more breaths to steady herself.
"Nothing… it's just a dream."
"Slayer dream?" Spike asks with worry.
"No… no, just a regular old nightmare… I'm alright, really." Spike places his hands around Buffy's face and locks his eyes with hers.
"There's no need to be afraid pet… I'll always be here. Forever."