Sundowning - Last Rays



My world is ending, but not with a whimper but a bang. A hell of a big bang too.
Typical.
I would have preferred the whimper. The last gasp of a life support machine maybe, surrounded by my family and loved ones as my aged body finally gave up and let me go. Maybe not even that, just me, at an old age of course, sitting on my porch admiring the garden or the sunset. Admiring something at any rate, and I'd get really tired and fall asleep.
I think that would be a whimpery enough ending to my world. Not gonna happen though. I should have expected it too. All Slayers die, some just live longer than others.
Check that.
Slayers don't live. We exist. Living requires happiness. Yes I'm being bitter, I'm seconds away from dying you can't expect me to be all perky at this instant can you?
Stop screaming Dawnie. This is the only way. Okay it's not, I could have just chucked you into this void but ..right. I'm gonna do that. Better me than you lil sis. What was that line? The needs of the many something something... I don't think I'm gonna have time to remember. That 's okay, the movie sucked anyway.
Stop screaming Dawn, no really stop. If you mess up your voice how will you give Willow my last message?
Willow.
I promised I'd never leave you. You think I forgot my promise? I remember it, in the shower, with my clothes on. I promised and I keep my promises but..but I couldn't keep this one. At least not now. Dawn will tell you, she has a message for you. It's not long, I didn't have time to come up with anything really deep. Just seconds. Seconds to give you some fucking words that are supposed to fill the gaping hole in you I'm about to tear open.
I'm sorry.
I'm so very sorry. Wanted to spend my life with you. Your magic, my slaying, our adventures..our love. Our love..that would have been a grand adventure. One worth exploring over and over and.. you can't hear me now can you. Can't even see me.
You don't know what's happening, don't know I'm falling into a hole in the sky. You don't know I'm seeing a different, million nightmares each with a million different faces. You're standing at the foot of the tower right now aren't you? Did you save your friend Tara? She's probably all better now, got her mind back, that's a good thing. You're standing at the base of the tower and waiting for me to come back down with Dawn. The Slayer, once again triumphant over the bad guys. Like all those other times right?
I'm not gonna this time my Willow.
For that I'm sorry. Really, really sorry.
For such a short way to fall this is really taking a long time. Gives me all the time I need to see all these lovely different aspects of Hell. Aren't I lucky?
Oh God, oh God, oh God, I'm scared, I'm falling into Hell and I'm so scared, so scared, scared, scared and there's nothing to save me and I can't grab anything and even if there was I couldn't grab it 'cause that would mean the world would die and I'm scared but the world..scared..the world..all worlds..there's only the wind, nothing comforting, nothing ..fear..wind...it's getting closer but it's not actually here. Oh God.
Willow!!
It's not fair! It's not fair, I earned something didn't I? What did I do to deserve this! It's not fair, oh mommy I'm scared.
Why can't it be fair? In all those movies and stories where the hero sacrifices themselves for something greater they.. they earn some sort of understanding. They always look so peaceful right before the end, like they know something nobody else does. It's not fair, I'm going to die and there's no understanding, don't I even deserve tha-

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Meat.
She hit the ground like a sack of meat.
The woman I love, the only person I've ever loved...she hit the ground like a sack of meat.
I hate them right now. I hate them so much. The Powers That Be, she gave them everything. They refused to do anything to help themselves taking, instead, everything from one girl who just wanted to love me. Just took and took and took..couldn't they..I dunno.. lowered her to the ground. A small gesture of respect? A thank you? Anything? Not just have her collide with the ground, letting her flop around, limp.
Oh God, Oh God..she's dead. Buffy's dead, Buffy..Buffy!! BUFFY!!
Mmm..her hair is all mussed up. That's bad. She hit a wooden crate on the way down and now she's got splinters all tangled in her long lovely blond hair. That's no good. I'll have to fix it. That's something I can fix right now.
I move over to where she's lying and kneel beside her. Reach out..pick out the pieces and smooth the hair. Pick n' smooth, pick n'smooth. Soon she'll look much nicer. No one is saying anything. That's fine though, I'd rather not get distracted by conversation. Pick n'smooth, pick n'smooth.
I know she's moving before she touches me, don't ask me to explain how, it's a witch thing.
"Willow."
"Yes Tara?" It's Tara who was moving you see. It's Tara who has her hand on my shoulder and it's Tara who is in really, really big trouble right now. No..not really. She's my friend. A fellow Witch. Wiccan really, we try not to disembowel each other even when we've just lost, scant seconds before, the one thing we really, really loved. It's called 'Respect'. We always have to respect each other.
"She's gone Willow." Tara says.
"I know." Pick n'smooth, pick n'smooth. Almost done. Just a few more pieces. Maybe a french braid?
"I..I don't think B-Buffy is worried about her hair where she is." She says it so quietly. Like she's afraid I'm going to turn on her or something. Scream maybe..shout..lose my temper.. Do something really badly bad magical wise. Mmm..tempting.. but no.
"I know." I say again.
"She..she..really can't care Willow." Tara tries again. For someone who has a such a hard time speaking up she's really being brave right now. Good for her.
"Yes." I say and turn to face her. Jee, I wonder what she see's 'cause she's stumbling backwards. Looks really scared. Am I scary right now? Do I look dangerous? That's odd, I don't feel scary or dangerous, I don't feel anything.
"Yes." I say again. The voice of understanding, calm..calm old Willow. "But I care you see. I care how she looks, we all should. Because," I gesture toward Buffy with my hand. "She did this for us."
Hmmm..Tara doesn't seem to be listening, she's just backing up real fast with one hand over her mouth..gosh..is she trying not to scream?
Well..I still have to finish fixing Buffy's hair.

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No one came and helped me down from the tower. Sheesh, you think they could have ..y'know sent Giles up or even Spike but noo..Dawn has to get down by herself just because her older sister di..di...
Oh God I'm sorry, sorry sorry..so sorry Buffy, I'm sorry..didn't mean to be selfish it's okay..I don't mind getting down..really..I'm sorry..oh..please..please I'm sorry Buffy..
Don't be stupid, she can't hear me. And...even if she could..I..I.. I have to get down of this tower. I have to get down right now. Gotta get off..just..gotta...Have to tell Willow. Focus on the ..the..message..collapse later.
No, no, no..damnit..whoops. I swore. Buffy said she didn't like hearing me do that. What a pain she wa..IS!
What.A.Pain.She....was....big sister..
I can do this, I have to do this. Got to give Willow her message. Jesus Christ(Sorry Buffy.) If my big sister can save the word multiple times I can deliver a stupid ..it's not stupid.. try again. If Buffy can .. can..do her thing then I can do what she asked me to.
Yeah.
no no no no no no no no no..
Three steps left..move feet..c'mon move. Can't just stay in this metal tower forever..three steps to go. Just three. Then I'll be down and everyone will..uh..be..there and they..will..but so will..I ..I don't wanna see! Don't wanna look, don't make me look! I can't look, I'm sorry, I'm sorry I can't I just can't!
I just fall down, collapse on the last steps before I get off this tower and they're all waiting for me, right around the corner but so is..and she's and ..and I can't..and..
I cry. It's not like I know she's dead, that..she..maybe..maybe she survived, yeah..maybe she's okay, a little hurt but she'll be fine and..no. Didn't work for Mom and it won't work for Buffy. Lying to myself is ..oh God...why?
I don't hear his footsteps on the metal and I don't notice his shadow falling over me but I know he's there and I look up.
"Hey bit." He says.
"My..my feet Spike..they won't work." I stumble over the words, tears are getting in the way.
"No prob luv." He leans over and offers me his hand. "I'll take you the rest of the way."

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My...my Slayer.
I failed.
She lies before me broken, sorry..lies before us. Actually, that's not fair either. She lies before Willow. We were ...all so important to her but Willow was special and...
Dear lord no, I'm already thinking is past tense. Damn my watcher mentality. Must I always be so pragmatic? Not even have the comfort of an illusion for a few moments.
Willow crouches beside the Slayer's body. She finished ..correcting..Buffy's appearance some time ago and now is just sitting beside her, holding Buffy's hand in her own with her other clasped over her heart. Tara has moved over to my side.
"Did...did you see her?" She hisses at me.
"I'm..I'm sorry..what did you say?" I cannot tear my eyes off the image before me.
"Did you see her?" Tara whispers again. "Her face?"
"No." I whisper back. "No I didn't. Is something the matter?"
Of course it is you stupid british pillcock! Everything is the matter! Your Slayer is dead, more than that your daughter is dead! Her sister is alone in this world, and yes while it is rather nice to still have a world around us the price has been so very high and I'm really quite unsure it was worth it.
Lord, Dawn. What will happen to her now?
"Willow." Tara whispers to me. "She's..she's..she's being eaten."
I ..
"What?" I say back.
"I c-can't say it any other way." Tara whispers. "I looked into her eyes..and..she's not there, or she's less there than she was!"
I spend a moment digesting that.
"Eaten?" I query.
Tara shrugs, it's a slight, small gesture. "Hiding?" She offers.
I look again at the tableau before us all. The words come unbidden and unthought but they are there and I say them freely.
"A hero taken, a lover alone, a family shattered and a sister lost, merely for the sake of the world." I pause and take a deep breath. "Oh yes, what on Earth could she be possibly hiding from?"

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If I'm not careful I'm going to break Anya's ribs.
But I have to hold her tighter. Have to make sure it's really her in my arms, that her own are around me and I'm carrying her and that sweet air on my neck is her breath. That it's not illusion and she's really alive and she really did say 'yes' a few hours ago and the woman in my arms, who is still alive, is going to be my wife.
And all it cost was Buffy.
She's there on the ground, Willow beside her and where I have Anya (thank you God, thank you, thank you, thank you.) Willow does not.(Damn you God. Damn you, damn you, damn you!)
No.
Damn me.
Because I know Willow is ... beyond..she's..pain.. there's .. Willow is in ..pain right now. Not 'stubbed toe' pain or even 'Stubbed soul' pain. She is IN pain. She's drinking it, soaking in it and all I can think about is 'Thank God that's not me.' And then I look at Buffy's..at..I..look AT Buffy and.. all I have is simply..'Thank God that's not Anya.'
No, not damn you God, or damn me.
Damn us all.
I'm sorry Willow, I'm so sorry.
I pull Anya even tighter.

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Holding Dawn's hand we step around the corner. She can see now. We all can see.
Dawn sinks to the ground again, that ceremonial robe that Hellbitch gave her pooling around her bare feet. Mm..need to get her something warmer, she'll catch cold.
She's crying of course. That's the odd thing. She's the only one. Willow is right beside the Slayers body, she's not crying, just holdin' her hand. The newest member of the Joy Luck club, Tara, she's not cryin neither. Just huddlin' next to the Watcher, himself standing silently. I'd say he's being 'utterly british' but he's wearing a haunted expression that humans just can't fake.
Xander and Anya. Ah, now them I can read. Xander refuses to look, he's starin' at the ground while holding his woman. She's just got these eyes right now, big as billiards balls they are. Not Xander though, refuses to look. Call it an 'educated guess' but I'm willing to bet a fiver that he's feelin' a tad guilty. I could blame him for that but I think he's blaming himself enough.
Dawnie's crossed her arms over her chest, she's sobbing really loudly now, it's the only thing you can hear. Not even a wind right now. Rockin back an' forth on her knees, not taking her eyes of her big sister. Promised I'd protect her but there's nothing I can do about this.
I could act supportive I suppose, lay my hand on her shoulder, let her borrow my 'strength', cluck sympathetically a few times maybe...
Nah.
For the most part because I don't do that well and additionally what good would it honestly do? Not a lick. It wouldn't help one iota, I doubt she'd even notice. Then, of course, there's my general streak of bastard behavior.
I look at the Slayer. Check that, her name's Buffy. I owe her that much.
Okay then, starting over.
I look at Buffy.
She's lyin' there, real peaceful. Looks like she's sleepin, and what the hell made me think of that? I've seen more than enough dead people to tell the difference 'tween a sleepin one, and a dead one. Most noticeable is the vibe that's missing from a corpse. Vamps can spot it in an instant. A glow that the living have, we don't and they don't either when they're not living either. You still have it though don't you luv? I ask myself.
I can feel it still. The air is humming about you now, just like it always did when you ..were not dead. Pardon my brusequness but you are now and I feel little need to bely the obvious. Still got the vibe though. Good for you lass. Maybe that's why I can almost fool myself into thinkin' yer merely resting?
I glance at the lil' bit. She's still crying.
Yeah Slay..sorry..yeah Buffy. I remember my promise. I'll watch over yer sister, yeah yeah..blah blah blah..end of time. End of my time at least, or hers. But that'll only come from old age, I swear it.
I keep my promises Buffy. You know that, in fact for you I'm going to do one thing I never did for no one before.
I'm going to break a promise. Just for you though and if you let it get out I'll...do what exactly? Kill you again? Nevermind, anyway...
Remember how I promised you I'd dance on your grave one day? Well, what with things bein' how they are I'm sure you won't mind it too much if I pass on that one. So, can you hear me Slayer? I'm gonna keep my promise to you and break a promise for you, and me, without even having a bloody soul and..and.. God how pathetic have I become anyway?
I hate you Slayer you know that? Look what you'd done to me! I'm soliloquising!
This, you realize, is all your fault don't you?
Look at me, protecting people and feeling a little crappy because someone who, being dead, is making me feel somewhat miffed. I should, at this very moment, be throwing a party.
Ah.
No. You're going luv. I can feel it, I mean..you're gone already but the vibe, even yours..
Happy trails pet.


Now it's all quiet.
No..sirens.
Bollocks, we gotta go!

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"Times up campers! Smokey is coming."
That's Spike.
I've been hearing everything very clearly. Tara's whispers, Dawn's tears. I've been listening very, very hard. Listening for her heart, anything. Anything at all would do. Some...farewell, a last sigh..or sign. I'm not picky. Listening very hard but I hear nothing.
Oh, I hear them fine, I hear nothing that I want to hear though. Nothing from Buffy. My Buffy.
Police? That's fine I guess. I would think a big whole in the air, complete with lightning and all other whatnots screaming across the skies would get some attention.
Spike's words seem to snap everyone out of where they were. Spike himself is now crouching next to Dawn, some whispered words I guess, trying to get her to stand up. She doesn't seem to be listening, I'm not.
He scoops her up into her arms when she doesn't react.
I can hear them now too, the police. Sirens wailing, good ol' law and order sweeping in to right the wrongs, preserve justice.
All sorts of good things. Right.
Giles has stepped up beside me.
"Willow." He says. "We have to go."
"Yes." I reply.
"Come." He says. "Stand up. I'll..."
"I've got her." I say.
"Willow." He begins. "I'm not sure that's a..."
"I am." I reply.
I'm not strong, never have been. I am in my own way, I mean I did give a hellgod a good zappin not so long ago but physical strength has never been ... I ..that is. I'm not strong.
I stand up, lean over and pick Buffy up in my arms anyway.
"Please Willow." Giles says. "Let me..."
"No." I say quietly. "I've got her. I..I have to."
Xander, who is still holding Anya speaks up.
"She's not heavy, she's my lover. Or something like that right Wills?" He's trying to smile. Trying to be Xander.
"Yeah Xander." I say back to him. "Something like that."
"We really have to go people!" Spike shouts. Well, at least he wasn't sarcastic.

*********************************************************************************************************************

"Put me down!" I say.
"Pet, you're just not moving fast enough." Spike mumbles.
"I can, I can, please..just put me down." I'm still crying but I have to do this, something..anything is better than just being carried. I'm not weak, I'm not helpless I don't want to ever be helpless ever again.
"Whatever." He grumbles. "Hang on a mo' let's just get into this alley."
We hide around the corner, out of sight of the police who are getting closer to the..to ..that..place. Spike finally puts me down but as we're not running anymore...
All of us, we're huddled in this dark little shithole, we're the heroes and we're hiding. Giles, Spike, Xander carrying Anya, Tara behind the two of them, Spike standing behind me. Willow with my..my... All hail the conquering heroes.
I peek around the corner. I can see the..tower. Where it..everything happened. I can still feel the chains cutting into my wrist, the knife..Buffy words in my ear..it's all there. All part of that tower, that building, that..place.
Ben is still in there. I guess, I didn't exactly look for him. I hope he's hurting... he was a coward, a traitor. Glory...Ben..what's the difference? Both were takers, not caring for anything but themselves. Not Buffy though, she didn't, she couldn't have, even if she wasn't the Slayer.
I just stare at that tower in the sky.
I hate it, I hate, I hate it, I hate it..I wish it would die, I wish I could kill that place, kill it dead and keep on killing it over and over. Nothing left..hate it..oh I hate it so much.
"I wish I that place would die." I whisper.
I don't notice Willow standing beside me, watching me, watching the tower. She shrugs her shoulders, still carrying Buffy.
"Okay." She says.
What?

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"Spike? Could you take her please?" I ask. "For just a minute."
"Red?" Spike looks confused for a second then gives his head a brief shake. "Sure. Sure thing I..
I don't wait for him to finish just gently hand the body of my love to the arms of her enemy, a vampire. I don't think she'd actually mind though.
"Willow what do you think you're..." Giles begins speaking.
I turn to him. "Shhhh.." I say. A finger across my lips. "It's okay."
I look at Dawn, her eyes are real big. I'm not sure she expected anyone to actually hear her but... I'm glad I did.
I feel so... strange. My Buffy is dead. She's in the arms of Spike. Her hair is hanging limp, arms never gonna hold me again. Behind her lids, even though she looks like she's sleeping, I know those eyes will never shine with laughter or look at me in a sultry manner again. She's not going to smile, pout, or be sad again. She's not going to be anything again. I'll never get to hold her, she'll never get to hold me. Like..like Anya said about Joyce a few months ago..she'll never get to drink fruit punch either. Though..I don't think Buffy actually liked fruit punch that much. I'll...I'll never get to help her with her homework.. or..pizza... patrols even. I..
She's gone. She's right here but she's gone. I'm looking at her but she's far, far away. Maybe not even at all. We don't know but she's not here.
Where's my pain?
I don't feel anything at all. Just... a wind in my hair and everyone's eyes on me.
But no pain..
Oh.
Wait.
There it is.

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I know where she is. My friend Willow. She..she... she's being eaten. She's not hiding, she's inside somewhere.
Her..she's...she's always been so strong in the magic. Doing things so fast. Alright, it didn't always work all the time, or even most of the time but when it did. We practiced spells, her and me. I owe her so much. Not just for the magic, or...anything wiccan-ish. She's my friend, and through her I've met these other friends and I've never had friends before and it's all thanks to her. All I did was tell her ..as she told me..I helped her with her Truth and she gave me all this. And they're still my friends, even after all that nonsense with my family. Now, when it counts the most I can't do anything...can't do anything at all.
She was..she is..so strong. Now though it's eating her. I can't help her. None of us can.
She...hunches over. I feel it first. This..wave of grief. Then I hear her. A choked out hiccup, or ..something. She can't clear her throat, like all this pain is trying to take actual form and rush out her throat but it's gotten stuck and now she's choking on it.
None of us move. She..bends over a little more, her back is too us... I hear something like she's gagging. Then the noise cuts off. She's clapped a hand over her mouth so the only sound is a muffled ...noise.. over and over. Each one drains her, she's falling lower and lower to her knees.
Finally she's resting on one hand and her knees, the other still muffling her sobs.
We watch.
Goddess forgive all we do is watch.
She pulls her hand away slowly. Sniffs a few times, wipes her cheeks with the back of her hands. Then, holding up her index and middle finger she collects her tears, and then kisses the tips of her fingers, drinking the tears collected there. Slowly, she reaches out with her fingers, fingers that were covered in tears and then blessed with a kiss..and she touches the ground.
She's stopped crying.
Without a tremor or a bit of hesitation she stands back up.
"Spike." She says. "Can I have her back?"
Wordlessly he complies.
She turns to face all of us. "We should go." She says.
Re adjusting her...lover she turns and begins to walk away. I don't say anything, what can I say? I just move to follow her. No one says anything either.
We make it about three steps before we hear the first screech of metal.
I spin around. We all do, Xander turns a little more slowly of course, he's still carrying Anya.
The tower is falling.
No, falling isn't the right word, it's like it's being crushed from above by a giant hand. Or two fingers gently, but unceasingly pressed into the earth. It buckles, twists and, with a shriek like...like no building ever shrieked..collapses. The then the walls begin to cave...I can see a few roofs beginning to shudder as well. Glass windows explode outwards but the shards don't fly far as they are suddenly forced into the ground as well. It's not collapsing, it's not exploding. The whole place is being ground into the earth. There is no shrapnel flying around...just dust..dust being ground into dust.
The police cars screech to a stop in front of..what was seconds ago..a construction site. Now it's...flat. It's good chance that the cops would find more remains at ground zero of a nuclear explosion.
Willow...she didn't even look back.
Just walked on, down the street.
Carrying Buffy.
Away.



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