Title: Working Through

Author: A.J. Hofacre

Rating: PG-13 for language

Summary: One of my fave authors asked me if I would put out any sequels to my story, 'Risk The Pain.' Here ya go :) The second installment, all courstesy of a great writer that made me get my ass in gear :) This follows Buffy as she is brought back from the grave. ::eerie ghost noises:: Whoooo.....

Disclaimer: Wish I could say the characters were mine. Can't though. Awww, snap.

Feedback: Gimmegimmegimme! :D

It's so quiet.

It's weird, really. This isn't what I expected when I got to the pearly white gates. Maybe it was the imagery that so many people yapped about. Blindingly white, poofy clouds to lounge on, perfect serenity everywhere, everything and anything you want, pure and mystical (right, like I haven't seen enough mystical things in my time). I was pretty surprised when I got here, and none of those ideals were functioning.

Not that this place isn't perfect. It's beautiful, serene, majestic, all those other words that can basically be summed up by saying, "oooh, pretty." It's not all white up here. It's perfect, though; there's shimmery peaches, and pinks, and purples, and blues, and greens, and creams everywhere, and it's all exquisite.

You don't sprawl around on clouds, like I said before. I mean, the clouds are there, but it's kind of like they're there for scenery or something. Instead of sitting, you really just float. Oh, and if you wanna get somewhere, it's sort of by teleportation. You just think of where you want to be and boom, there you are. It's nifty, sort of like Star Trek, except without all the pretty, shimmery sparkly stuff coming down.

You don't talk up here, either. Well, you talk, but not like you talk on Earth. In Heaven... you use more of a telepathy. Just concentrate on whoever it is that's in front of you, and listen to their mind, and once you get galled into a couple of unwitting conversations, you kinda get the hang of it. I thought I'd go crazy when I first got here, and my mouth wouldn't move. That's when I realized that I have no mouth. I have no body; I'm just a being. I exist, but I'm not solid. It's definitely weird.

Probably the best thing that has happened to me since I came here, was that I've been reunited with my mother. Yep, Mom's up here. I passed through to this plane, and the first one waiting for me was Mom. And the first thing she told me was, "I am so proud of you." I would have cried had I been able to (yeah, no crying up here, either). And even though my sister is all alone down there -- the-last-of-our-family type of alone, I mean -- Mom thinks I did the right thing. She isn't too happy that I had to kill myself for it to be the right thing, because she wanted me to be able to live out a future. Pfft. Like I had a future. What was I gonna do? Slay-for-pay for the rest of my life? Bah.

I'm not too happy about Mom's recaptured role of SuperMom, though. Even in Heaven, where you barely have to lift a finger for anything (actually, if there's something you want that isn't within your immediate reach, all you have to do is reach out your hand and concentrate on the object, and it'll come to you). My mom honed up her nagging skills before I came here, it's kind of evident. She likes taking back her position and ordering me to clean or something. Like what do I have to clean? It's like -- snap of the finger and poof: all tidy.

Another thing I'm not too keen on is watching my friends. When I look down on them, it's apparent that they aren't coping too well. They're doing fine ridding Sunnydale of its vampire population and everything, but they don't want to seem to get over my death. At least, Willow and Xander don't. Giles, Anya, and Tara are at least trying to get on without me. I think Giles even left. I'm not sure. Sometimes I'll look down, and I can see Willow holding her head in her hands and sobbing her eyes out. And Xander will just walk around in a complete daze, like a zombie. I know I shouldn't expect them to be over this in a snap, but it's been quite a while down there, they should at least be trying. Right?

They've employed the BuffyBot again, in order to fool the demon population into thinking I'm still around. I watched Willow fix it up again. Jeez, they really don't wanna let go of me. It's getting unnerving.

Dawn is trying her hardest, I can tell. I think her grades might be slipping again. I understand why. Poor Dawn. First, the three of us lost Dad from the divorce. Then she and I lost Mom. And then she lost me. She has my friends, though. And more importantly, she has Spike.

There we go. Been wondering when I'd get to him, right? Yeah, well, truth of the matter is that Spike has kept good on his word. He's made himself an integral part of Dawn's life, I can tell. I look down on them, and whenever there's a particularly evil baddie the gang needs help with, or Dawn needs a baby-sitter, or she gets herself into some sort of trouble, whether it be scraping her knee or getting chased by some ugly, horned demon, Spike is right there next to her in under a fraction of a second. He's protected her all summer long. I knew I could count on him.

I worry, though. Because when I look into Spike's head as he sleeps, I see the same thing, every single night. The same scene that should've left his mind by now. Me, on the scaffolding of that tower, from Spike's point of view, taking a running leap and jumping into the vortex. Sometimes he's standing right behind me, screaming out my name but completely unable to move any muscles at all, sometimes he's standing below and can do nothing but watch as I take the plunge. He's torturing himself with my death. And it's heartbreaking, really. Because Spike believes that it's his fault that I died.

I've been watching him a lot more lately, and I'll sneak into his head a few times, manipulate his dreams a little. Just trying to make him feel better. He feels grief and guilt because of me, so I try to level it for him, even though I'm not there. I'll make his body dive, make him grab Doc and throw the little bastard off the tower before he can slice Dawn, just in the nick of time. The ritual's time limit fizzles out, and Spike's just saved my sister, and me.

Maybe it seems a little cruel to put those ideas into his head. I've been doing it for him since the night I died. I don't want him to feel guilty. I want him to know that what I did was necessary; that if I hadn't thrown myself off, Dawn would've died, he would have died, Giles and Xander and Anya and Will and Tara would all have been goners. Maybe I am torturing him more with making him dream that he's saving my life, but I think he prefers that rather than dreaming night after night of my untimely demise. One time I even saw him smile in his sleep.

Of course, that was probably because I manipulated his mind some more that night by allowing him to kiss me in one of his dreams. Eeek. Don't pay attention to that, I didn't really say it.

Jeez, even Mom's been nagging at me because of him. And oh, look, here she comes now. More nagging about Spike. Yay.

Hey, Mom.

Hello, sweetheart. She floats next to me without saying anything. I can tell that she's following my gaze. Weird, right? We have no bodies, yet we know exactly what the other is doing. I feel a little sheepish, cuz I've been watching Spike again. He's with Dawnie, and she's snuggled up to him in the living room of our house. They're watching TV. I sense Mom's gaze drift away and focus on me.

You're torturing yourself, Buffy. I look toward her sharply.

What? That's ridiculous. I am not. Oh, I so am.

Oh, you so are. Hehe. She knows me way too well. She senses my humor. See?

I'd roll my eyes if I could. Yeah, yeah, so what if I am? I'm sorry, Mom. I miss her.

The voice pattern I hear is sympathetic. I know, baby. I miss her, too. But I wasn't talking about Dawnie. I've been paying attention to you lately. I notice that you've been keeping watch over a certain vampire...?

Now would generally be when I'd blush a bright beet red head to toe. I have not! Oh, yes I have.

Oh, yes you have, don't you even try to lie to me, young lady. Don't forget, we're not on earth anymore.

Sorry, Mom.

This is the oddest conversation, I know. Not my fault...

I sense Mom beckoning me in a different direction, so I follow the pretty copper-ish light that surrounds Mom's essence. Me? I kind of have a reddish-gold glow with silver and blue sparklies. Oooh. Pretty.


I look toward my mom. Yes?

How do you feel about him?

She's always been straightforward. That's my mom; she just cuts right to the point, whether she's alive, or... um, living on another plane.

I don't know, Mom. I trust him with Dawn's life. I think he's a good fighter. He's a huge help with my friends. And suprisingly, he's... he was a good... friend... to me.

Her voice filled my head, her laughter like tinkling little bells, amusement all too clear. Buffy, I can see right through you.

I look down at my non-existent body's floaty-ness. So can I.

She chuckled again. You know what I mean. Buffy, I'm your mother. I know that you feel something toward him. Maybe something as strong as you felt for Angel...?

Mother! Don't -ever- compare whatever I feel for Spike to whatever I felt for Angel again! That is -so- of the wrong, that... that I...

Argh! I hate it when she does that! She always ends up leaving me tongue-tied!

Buffy. Don't be testy. Like I said, I'm your mother, I know.

Yeah, yeah, yeah...

Oh, so you -do- feel something for him, then?

Mom! Her sweet laugh is heard once again.

Oh, come off it, Buffy. Admit it. There was something there between you. I pout to myself. I don't wanna answer. 'S not fair. Moms always have the upperhand on you.

Okay, okay. Maybe a little something. Like a spark. Not even a spark, more like a twitch. Spike shouldn't merit a twitch, even. And why are you suddenly so gung-ho about whatever that perverse thing between us was? You were terrified when I first told you that he was in love with me! You even said to try and turn him off of me!

Her voice is contrite. I think he's more than made up for it, sweetheart. I frown. Unfortunately, she does have a point there. And I hate to admit it, but... I... didsortofhaveanattractiontohim.

It was minor, though. Minor attraction. Really.

Whoa. What just went through me? I look toward my mother's shape. Mom? What was that?

Mom sounds scared. Uh-oh. Not good. I-I don't know. You... just sort of rippled.


Oh. There it goes again. Okay, this is weird. Things are starting to flash. I keep seeing black.

Okay... now I'm starting to get scared. Something is tugging at me, and I look frantically toward Mom.

Mom, what's happening?! She sounds as helpless as I feel.

I don't know, Buffy, just try to hold on! There's a whirring sound filling my ears now and the tugging becomes stronger, almost insistent.

MOM! I scream. I can feel her hold on me begin to slip, and my surroundings begin to flash in and out, spinning into a myriad of dizzying colors. I keep trying to hold back. I know that I'm not gonna like the result of what's happening, but something just won't let up. Something is happening, something bad, and oh, god, I can't hear Mom anymore.

The colors start flashing faster, between a sort of tie-dye scene and black. The tugging is becoming slightly less insistent, but I can still feel it, and the black is becoming more apparent.

And suddenly, I spasm, drawing in a deep, desperate breath. My eyes open and I look around me frantically.

Oh my god.

No. No, please, no. Oh my god. I'm in a coffin. Why am I in a coffin?

That's right. I died.

So if I'm dead, then why the hell am I not back up there with Mom? Why am I in a coffin?

Oh, Jesus. I have to get out of here.

I start tearing and clawing at the silken insides of the box, desperate to get out. Someone's locked me in here. The last span of time has all just been a dream, or I've been hallucinating while some big baddie had their fun with me, locking me in a box and trying to fucking suffocate me!

I've regained use of curse words.

This can not be good.

Somebody has made this fabric really strong, because I keep trying to tear my way through, and it just --

There. There! It's ripped. Oh thank God, it's ripped.

Oh, hell. I forgot. It only covers the wooden part of it.

My air isn't going to last much longer. I have to get out of here. I have to! I have to know where I am! I have to know why I'm here! My hands begin clawing and scratching so frenziedly that I think I'm scratching right through the wood. Let me out; let me out, PLEASE, for the love of all that's holy, let me out of this box!

I think I've regained normal muscle strength, because suddenly, I'm not just scratching at the wood, I'm tearing chunks of it off. So I test my punches. My hand goes right through the lid. Normal muscle strength is definitely a go, so I keep punching, and dirt spills out on top of me. No... no, it's taking up my room. I need to breath; I have to breath. My lungs hurt so bad, and I need to get air in them now or I know I'm going to suffocate.

I lift myself up and shove my way through the dirt that keeps piling onto me. I tear away at the packed soil that's above that and push myself out of the box. I've got to feel my way up. Where am I going? I have to get out. I need air! I punch through the dirt more; that seems to be working. I squirm higher and higher and -- there!

My fist breaks through to the surface. I can feel a cold breeze blowing across my bleeding hand. Where in the world...

My other hand pushes up and both set themselves against the ground. I lift myself up and -- air. Oh. I'm out, oh, god, oh, god, I'm out, thank God. I can feel my lungs expand and deflate with each desperate gasp of air I take, and I start looking around.

What the hell am I wearing? I don't remember owning this. What the hell is the big idea burying me ali--

No. No, no, no. This can not be happening.

Buffy Anne Summers

1981 -- 2001

I'm dead. Or I was. I look down at myself. There's only one thought that flashes through my mind.

I'm too pale.

Pale? No. That shouldn't be right. I haven't been in there that long have I? Pale? I can't be. I'm healthy. I just burst out through a hole in the ground, that shows you how strong --

Oh dear God.

I'm a vampire.

No. This only happens to vampires. A master drains their blood, feeds them theirs. Subject is thrown into the ground for a night. Then comes back up through their coffin... through the dirt... out of their...


I'm a vampire.

I look around desperately, hoping that I won't see anyone. If I don't see them, they don't become Buffy food.

Then I start to run.

Who would do this to me? Who the hell would have the cruelty to do this to me? I was dead, I was at peace, and all of a sudden I'm brought back as a goddamn vampire?

I'm gone. I can't do this. Where am I? Sunnydale. That's right. I must have died here. Anywhere else, and they wouldn't have known my name. Where can I go? I need to go somewhere. Can't go near people. Being near people is bad. Being near people might lead to mini Buffy feeding frenzy. Where can I go?

Spike. Spike doesn't live. He dies. He's not human. Don't have to be scared of Spike.

No. Can't go to Spike. He might be scared. Or taking care of Dawn. That's right. Spike's taking care of Dawn. And Dawn's human. Can't go near Dawn. So that means no Spike.

When I find the ones that did this to me, they are SOO gonna pay.

Hmph. Show them what happens when you bring a Slayer back from the grave.

As a vampire, of all things. Fucking hell.