The lights are dark. She's clutching the banister as she watches them, dancing below her; so sweet, so happy, so very, very stupid.

She grips tighter and watches as her knuckles go deathly pale; white pristine porcelain. No-one's looking at her up her – not yet another pleading stare, going Are you okay Buffy? Buffy are you okay?

Because they won't care if she isn't. The ask what they need to as part of the 'good friend' role they have carved out for themselves in her life; the same sort of 'good friends' who could never just let her stay dead. And if she gives them an answer they don't like, well, that can be brushed over and minimized into nothing, because she's Buffy and isn't Buffy always our hero; always the one we can rely on?

Just for a second, she entertains the thought of jumping. She did it once and maybe it would work again; she'd laugh to see the looks on their faces – all their work for nothing. They would have to put her back in her coffin – she only saw it for a second, but it looked so warm, plush and inviting; laced with silk and velvet, more comfortable than any bed she's ever been in.

She shakes the thought away. It's stupid. The distance is shallow, and wouldn't do any actual damage to a slayer (there it goes, fucking her up again), and besides – they did so much for her sake, and she can't be that selfish.

She feels something crawling towards her, like an infection. Spike; she feels it before the she thinks it. He murmurs something against her ear – the content isn't important; nothing he says really is – and it makes her shiver, to feel the air particles floating unnaturally out of his mouth. Then it stops, and the world goes back to normal – it always strikes her as odd, when she can feel him not-breathe (like when he talks). The air around them is chilly, as if he's sucked all the warmth away by his very presence.

She looks back down at her friends, and suddenly feels a hell of a lot warmer with Spike behind her.

His hand is traveling under her skirt, playing with the delicate fabric of her panties - "Stop," she says. This is wrong; this is a fundamental betrayal of her slayer calling, she cannot allow it. She doesn't want to be this thing. At least Faith had continued to define herself by the rule of the warrior, and love for a figure – she was one of the bad guys, sure, but she had reasons for it outside herself. She didn't cut herself off from the world which had been trusted to her.

Kendra would be horrified – Kendra; always the perfect slayer. Buffy judged Kendra's lack of emotion, but now, she thinks maybe her successor had it right. Maybe having lived without feeling for years would make it easier to go on without it now. Maybe she should have just stayed dead the first time around, and Kendra would be the perfect slayer the council was always trying to build. There would be no Angelus to save the world from (once again, people get hurt? All Buffy's fault), no Drusilla to slit a slayer's throat. And she would be safe. Free. Happy.

God, Drusilla. Drusilla, more likely than not, took Spike's cock in her with Kendra's blood still drying on her nails and Buffy's turning into the exact same thing. Slayer killer, she thinks as Spike fingers her under the cotton underwear; slayer-killer, slayer-killer, slayer-killer.

Her panties fall down, hidden by the balcony and dark lights – not that anyone would notice anyway, because who notices her? – and he's in. He's pulsing in her as she gasps, tries to push him in further, that one (hyphenated) word still pounding in her head: slayer-killer, slayer-killer, slayer-killer.

He tells her what she is, a creature of the dark. A demon. They ripped her out of the world of light and peace, and they couldn't even get it right because they brought back this black in her, one she didn't have before. Even when she speared Angel through the heart, even when she found her mom dead on the couch, even when she collapsed under the weight of her guilt over Dawn, even when her parents point blank told her she was crazy – she never had this vicious entity of wrong in her before, consuming the nourishment of each and every cell like a cancer.

Spike is pressing her against the railing, still muttering things about how she belongs in the dark with him. It's not true – she's been told time and time again that she's a creature of light, designed to fight evil (built in a factory like a toy or gun, replaceable and mechanical). But the light just stings now and she's tired of trying to guess what the hazy shadow shapes she sees – her friends, her family, her mission? – are meant to be.

If she was the old Buffy, she would fight it. The old Buffy could defeat anything with a quip and a stylish-yet-practical hairdo; she took down a freaking god, for instance. The thing her friends brought back can't even push away this one – neutered! – vampire away. She's letting everyone down just by being there; not good enough, not strong enough, not enough to support their (unbelievably heavy) weight. The moment they realize that and let her go, everyone will be so much better off, but the message never gets through.

The just keep living on her. With the magic and their weddings and their teen abandonment issues and their money needs and their parental running away and they just keep telling her; Come on Buffy, you can't take more, you're a big strong girl, aren't you? You're a good, strong, brave little girl, now come on, let's watch you carry all this for us.

But she's not. She's wrong and she's weak and she's a coward, and she's so sick of everyone lying about. Why don't they carry their own fucking weight; they deserve it for what they did to her! Enough with the pushing every single fucking thing to the Great Buffy Summers, because she's so tired and isn't it her turn to be okay yet?

She keeps quiet when Spike is fucking her; she can't let anyone find out – the way they would look at her would kill her (wait, why is that a bad thing?). Somewhere at the back of her mind is screaming for it, screaming at how he feels in her – although whether it's out of pleasure or pain or despair or something else entirely, she's not sure. Spike looks like he'd like to be screaming too – never one for the quiet life – but he knows she's threatened to kill him if he makes anyone find out, and calling their attention with noise would probably fall under that. She wonders, just for a second, if she could actually do it – turn Spike, who has loved her, fucked her, fought with her, into dust like any other vampire.

She's pretty sure she could.

The sound in her head is ear-splittingly loud when she comes, and as she watches her friends dancing under the artificial lighting, she only wishes they could hear her.