Title: Risk The Pain

Author: A.J. Hofacre

Rating: PG-13 for language

Summary: I don't know why the hell I came up with this. I was reading fanfic late one night, and something reminded me of "The Gift" and I had the sudden urge to write this. All it is are her thoughts as she's getting the life force sucked out of her in the vortex.

Disclaimer: All characters belong to joss Whedon. I just like playing with them. A little more than I should.

Feedback: Will do, and you'll get your very own Spike teleported right to your house :) (please don't sue for false advertisement. I'm just a very poor high school kid here)

It hurts.

It hurts so much, and I know that I got myself into this, but Christ, I just wish it would stop.

After this I'll be hailed as a hero. The Slayer that fought a god, the Slayer that fought for five years against the forces of darkness to make the world a better place. The Slayer that killed herself for her sister and friends.

Oh, god, it hurts.

I think this is just my way of getting out. I'm tired... I'm so tired of saving the world all the time, of being the one everyone counts on. I can't be myself anymore. I have to be what they need me to be.

Even my friends can't seem to recognize me from the Slayer anymore. They know who Buffy is, and they know who the Slayer is. But ever since the Glory shit started going downhill, ever since Mom died, Buffy the scared college sophomore seems to have faded from existence. She's been replaced by Buffy the hard, steely Slayer, who saves the world on a daily basis, no matter what the cost.

Heh. Like to see them try and make me do it now.

I just want this to end, so, so much. I know it's selfish of me. I can't help it. I've given myself to the Powers for five years, though. I've served the world for five years, and it's just... it's my time to go. I can't be selfish that way anymore. By being selfish, I'm giving everyone else a new chance. Dawn can live out her life now. It hurt her so much to know that she was only some mystical energy funneled into the form of a fourteen-year-old girl.

"Is this blood?"


"Dawn!"


"Oh, baby."

"What did you do?!"


"This is blood, isn't it? It can't be me. I'm not a key. I'm not a thing."


"Oh, sweetie, no. Wha-what is this all about?"


"What am I? Am I real? Am I anything?"

If she wasn't before, she can be real now. She can be something. Make something of herself. No one can hold her back.

Over the dull rush of wind and light crackling in my ears, I was sure I could hear her crying. I know it isn't fair, sweetie. First Mom, then me. You're all alone.

She isn't, really. She has the Scoobies.

Willow.

"Willow, hi!" "Hey, Dawnie! How's my favorite chess partner? Still leading with your knight?"

Tara.

"Do you wanna thumb-wrestle?" "Okay."

Xander.

"Dawn patrol!"


"Hey!"

"Check this out, they put cheese on round bread. It's gonna be big."

Heh. Anya, too.

"We are gonna have fun, fun, fun. Look, I've got Monopoly, Clue, and ooh, the Game of Life! That sounds good!"

I can trust all of them to care for her. They're not the most conventional group of people – Xander and Anya are huge with the big mouths – but they'd get the job done.

I'm gonna miss them. So much. But like I told Dawnie, this is the work I have to do. This is why I was called. I knew it was gonna end eventually – I didn't want it to then. I do now. I know better now. I have to leave to keep the world going round. I don't think it's a stupid reason at all. It's just my death wish, catching up to me, like Spike said.

"Death is on your heels, baby, an' sooner or later, it's gonna catch you." "Part of you is desperate to know: What's it like? Where does it lead you? And now you see, that's the secret. Not the punch you didn't throw or the kicks you didn't land. Every Slayer... has a death wish. Even you."

I wanted to kill him that night. He scared me so badly. But now I know that he was just being himself – he was telling me the truth.

At least I can trust him for that.

I can trust his love. He proved it to me.

"Why did you let that Glory hurt you?"


"She wanted to know who the key was."


"Oh, well, I can tell her, and then you'll—"


"No! You can't ever. Glory never finds out. "


"Why?"


"'Cause Buffy ... the other, not so pleasant Buffy ... anything happened to Dawn, it'd destroy her. I couldn't live, her bein' in that much pain. Let Glory kill me first. Nearly bloody did."

After everything I'd done to him, said to him, he still didn't betray me to her. Yeah, Glory found out about Dawn, but point was, Spike didn't tell her. It would've been hell to have to go through all this earlier on in the game.

Like it's any fun right now. Being sucked of my life force here, and not in the usual way, hel-lo?

He loves me. It's so hard to believe, but there's something inside of me that tells me it's true. He wasn't just messing with my head.

It was little things I remembered that clued me in. The way he would act.

"Oh, yeah. Okay, let me guess... you won't kill me? Wooo... the whole crowd-pleasing threats-and-swagger routine! How stunningly original. You know, I'm just passing through. Satisfied?... You know, I really hope so because God knows you need some satisfaction in life besides shagging Captain Cardboard and... I never really liked you anyway and... and you have stupid hair!"

Heh. That was actually funny.

And it was almost always the things he said.

"What do you want now?"

"... what's wrong?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"... Is there something I can do?"

----

"Spike?"

"Yeah, listen, uh, did you hear a noise?"

"What the hell are you doing in my house?"

"Right then, caught me... Your basement's full of junk. And... me being in need of, uh, junk..."

"You were stealing?"

"Well, yeah. Can't exactly work the counter at Burger Barn, can I?"

"Wait, are those pictures of me?"

-----

"It's me."

"Every time you show up like this, you risk all of your parts, you know that?"

"I wouldn't be here if I didn't have a good reason. As usual, I'm here to help you and I – are you naked under there?"

"Get out."

"No, I'm serious. I mean, not about the naked part. I mean..."

"Get out or I will drop you out head-first!"

-----

"What are you doing?"

"Making this woman more comfortable. I'm not sampling, I'll have you know. Just look at all these lovely blood-covered people. I could, but not a taste for Spike, not a lick. Know you wouldn't like it."

"You want credit for not feeding on bleeding disaster victims?"

"Well, yeah."

"You're disgusting!"

-------

"You were right. This is my fault. I should have told her."


"Look, she probably would have skipped off anyway, even if she never found out. She's not just a blob of energy, she's also a fourteen-year-old hormone bomb. Which one's screwing her up more right now, spin the bloody wheel. You'll find her, just in the nick of time, that's what you hero types do... You'll find her."


"And then what?"

Oh, yeah, and then there's the fact that he loves me and admits to it.

"Oh, my god."

"No, look at me! I... love you. You're all I bloody think about. Dream about. You're in my gut ... my throat ... I'm drowning in you, Summers, I'm drowning in you."

If I hadn't been chained to his wall with Drusilla tied up about ten feet in front of me, I might've actually listened to him for once. But I was pissed, and when I get pissed, I tend to make some... not-so-sound judgments.

That and I'm a real bitch.

I was a colossal bitch to him that night. He deserved most of it, but I think I went a little over the line with most of the stuff I said. Maybe if I had listened to him, like he'd wanted, things might've turned out differently. I mean, I'd still let him know that he didn't have Antarctica's chance in hell, but he and I might've been a little better off.

I'm just trying to make myself feel better.

He put himself through hell for me, when he had nothing but my hate and scorn. Of course, I'm still mad about him chaining me up, and egad, let's not forget the BuffyBot incident (actually, we can forget about that), but... he did some awesome things for me.

Glory nearly demolished him that night. Even Xander felt bad for him, and that's saying something. Xander's hated all vampires ever since his friend Jesse was turned into one, and he'd had to stake him. Spike was no exception to the rule (of course, part of it might have just been that Spike is Angel's grandChilde, and Xander hated Angel from the moment he met him. Family linear thing).

He stole an RV for me, when we had to hit the road to get away from Glory. That's not saying much, but those weird looking goggles were amusing, and the RV did get us pretty far. He even took a sword hit for me. I would've been sliced right in the head if Spike hadn't shoved me and grabbed the blade.

I wanted to kiss him tonight. To just fall into his arms and let the world melt away. I should've said something to him tonight, something reassuring. I didn't know that I'd be killing myself though.

"We're not all gonna make it. You know that."


"Yeah. Hey. Always knew I'd go down fightin'."


"I'm counting on you ... to protect her."


"Till the end of the world. Even if that happens to be tonight."


"I'll be a minute."


"Yeah... I know you'll never love me. I know that I'm a monster. But you treat me like a man. And that's..."

I don't trust just anyone to be enlisted as my younger sister's official protector. I wanted it to be Spike because he's as strong as I am. And he cares about her as much as I do, too.

I wanted to know what he'd been going to say. I'd been standing there, listening to his words, listening to him call himself a monster, and acknowledge the fact that I could never love him. He'd paused, and then mentioned something about waiting for me. I trudged slowly up the stairs after watching him for a minute longer.

Talk about conflicts.

That was when I knew. That was when I finally knew that Spike loved me. Because he believed that I couldn't, yet he was willing to stay with me, all the way to the end. Nothing more, nothing less. He didn't expect anything of me, he didn't expect me to fall into his arms, shouting my eternal devotion to him. Instead, he stood by my side, fought with my friends, and did his best to protect my sister. He got knocked off of the tower for his troubles.

He didn't have to be here. But he was here.

Maybe I should've told him I cared.

Guess it's a little too late now.

The pain is blinding. The power of the vortex is pretty much sweeping the inside of my body clean, tugging away at my life. The pressure is building, slowly, painfully slowly, my head feels like it's going to explode, and I don't think I can take much more, because if these keeps going I'm gonna have to stab myself and put me out of my misery.

And like a prayer's been answered, it stops.

The pain is gone.

Now I'm just floating. I can see my body falling. I barely wince as it crashes down on the brick and debris, shattering.

I'm drifting down. Giles is waving away at the smoke and dust. It's morning, I can see the light streaking over the buildings.

I'm chicken shit. I can't even bring myself to look at my own dead body.

Something just registered. Whoa – I'm dead.

Holy fucking shit.

Giles looks absolutely astonished. Not really what reaction I was expecting there, buddy. Willow's is more appropriate. She's freaking out, and Tara's holding on to her, trying to calm her down.

Xander looks numb. I can see Anya in his arms... poor Ahn must've gotten hit by something major. She looks horrified.

Or maybe it's just seeing yet another human death. First Mom, then me.

Dawn is coming down the steps now. I can see her, trying to hold back her tears. The first person she walks to is Spike. I follow her movements, and that's when I finally notice him. He's curled up on the ground. He has a broken leg. He'll need about a month of rehab to fix that.

Wow. He's sobbing his eyes out.

He's crying over me. Over me. The bitch that used him as a punching bag for two years, the bitch that fucking put herself up on a pedestal compared to him. The bitch that told him that he was beneath her.

William is crying over me. He and Dawn both are. My sister has her arms around him, hugging him tightly. He won't uncurl, he just has his face buried in Dawn's shoulder, and he's rocking back and forth, crying.

Crying.

Never thought I'd see the day when Spike would cry.


Too bad it had to be now. It always takes something tragic to reveal your true self to people.

Maybe I should've told him I cared. Then at least I could leave and not feel like such a cruel, heartless bitch about the way I treated him.

I try to justify myself by saying he did loads of stupid shit that made him deserve everything I said and did. But the truth is that no matter what anyone does, nobody deserves the things I've done.

It's been my undoing. I didn't lose the ability to love. But I lost the ability to feel compassion. I can't react soundly. I'm one big black hole. Spike tried to do good, tried to show me he'd changed, did everything in his power to make me like him, and I ruined his efforts. Everything he said or did that was nice, I ended up quadrupling and throwing back in his face as hate and disgust.

Why did he disgust me so much? Was it just because he was a vampire? Or maybe I just hated him because he was there? A reminder of what Angel had been, solid, constant, by my side... he was even related to Angel.

Maybe I really am a selfish, self-satisfied, holier-than-thou bitch and I just looked down on him because I thought that I was better than him. I used his inadequacy to me to make myself feel better. I'm the Slayer, you're a vampire, hey, I can kick your ass, I'm better than you.

Right. Pull the other one.

Is it too late for me to apologize?

Floating down, I pull in close to him. I can feel the hurt, the pain, the grief rolling off of him in waves. Not just that. I can feel guilt. He thinks this is his fault.

If I could kiss him now, really kiss him, I would. Anything to make him feel better. This wasn't his fault. Never his fault.

Boy, I really am a cold-hearted bitch.

I lean forward and press my airy lips against his forehead. He feels nothing – of course, I should know that. I'm dead, duh.

Does that sound creepy?

Anyway. I guess it's time to go. Spike is starting to fade. I don't want that.

Maybe I'll come back and visit him.

If I could stay, I would, guys. But that can't happen. My work is done. I've finally given my all.

I can leave.

I brush my fingers against Dawnie's wet cheek and she shivers a little. Hmm... maybe she can sense me?

I love you, Dawn. Be a good girl for me.

Giles, Xander, be strong. Don't let this get to you too much. You know I'll still always be here. Wills, I need you to be the brave one. I need you to be there for the group.

Spike... love Dawn. Take care of her for me. It's all I ask of you.

So this is what the First Slayer meant. All her 'you are full of love' and 'risk the pain' bull was just her cryptic way of telling me that I love till it hurts and that it'll kill me.

She could've made it a little easier.

At least easier on them.

But it's all right. The grief will go away. I'll still be in their hearts.

Hey, it's not like they can resurrect me, right? They know better.