Title The Dawn of New Life
Author Brutti ma buoni
Characters Buffy/Spike (though this is mostly ensemble)
A/N: the Green Card verse moves on to the end of season six. This follows Like A Shadow We Flee, and covers material mostly from Grave.
So this is Buffy Summers, at the most important moment of her life.
Kind of a surprise. She'd thought she’d already had that moment, maybe with the not-dying after the Master killed her. Maybe with killing Angel-not-Angelus and ripping out her teenage heart to save the world. Maybe with the moment when she put aside every principle she lived by, and killed Faith for Angel (though, she notes absently, Faith didn’t die either. Tough, these Slayers).
Maybe when she admitted, silently and without conscious thought, that she wanted to stay married to Spike. Maybe when she told him so, and spoke of love.
Maybe when her mom died. But maybe not.
Maybe when she killed a God, and Spike killed Dawn, and they tried to make believe that their world hadn’t shattered and their family could go on. But no, that should have been the moment. They let it slip, kept right on pretending that nothing had changed. It became unimportant, and they crucified themselves pretending otherwise.
Maybe the epiphany that followed her personal rock bottom. When Spike beat her bloody, and she beat him back, and it didn’t make one atom of her feel better. The night that followed, when she didn’t patrol, just sat and thought. Nothing fancy, nothing she hadn’t already known, but remorseless all the same. That hurting him and hurting her was killing them both, and that there had to be another way, and no one could find it for her.
Maybe when Spike killed Jonathan, and she didn’t for one moment think it was her duty to Slay him. An accident, obviously. Of course. She looked back at her younger self condemning Faith out of hand for the same crime, and mentally shrugged. Kids. What do they know?
Maybe when Spike left anyway, to follow his dream or whatever the hell stupid thing it was that he’d been saying as he walked out of her life. But that shouldn’t become an important moment, because he was coming back. Of course he was. Not killing humans halfway round the world. Totally coming back.
No. This is the important moment, because it's the moment after she should have arrived and stopped this from happening. Facing her little sister and her best friend. Facing an out of control witch and a murderous vampire. Facing the man they just killed.
This is the moment when Buffy Summers decides what sort of Slayer she really is.
Xander’s watching Buffy. Which is probably the wrong thing to do in the circumstances. The scary dark beings that were once his family are standing by the corpse of their enemy; probably worth a look. But he can’t stand to watch them, caught between exultant victory and guilt.
So he’s watching Buffy. Which way will she move? Can he stand by while she kills them?
If. If she kills them.
And the thing that really scares Xander? He’s actually not sure that’s what she should do.
Life used to be so simple. Evil soulless things killed his friends. Therefore Buffy killed the evil soulless things and her surviving friends helped.
This… well, if nothing else, it’s bringing home that souls really aren’t the huge deal he’s always believed. Not a one of those involved today is soulless, but they’re pretty much all evil, for a given value of evil. The last soulless killing he’s seen was Spike accidentally offing Jonathan in demon guise, and having some kind of breakdown as a result. Much as he’s unthrilled by Buffy’s continued attachment to dead men, even Xander doesn’t think that was an evil act. Maybe not spotless good, but still… just one of those terrible, horrible things that happens when you’re with the Slayer.
He’s going to be the last Scooby left. Except he’s not. Because if Buffy kills them, he’s taking Anya somewhere far away from Sunnydale. He doesn’t call this a decision; it’s just what will happen. This is pretty much the end of them all.
He’s so focused on Buffy, and the choice she’s presumably making, that he doesn’t even notice Willow till she moves.
Which, when he looks over at her, seems a little careless. She’s black-haired, black-eyed and riding in her own personal tornado, looks like. Little purple lightning flashes add that important splash of colour.
She’s apologizing to Dawn, but angry still. “You shouldn’t have to be like this. I’m sorry, Dawnie. I know better than to bring a vampire in on this. But it just shows, right? There's too much wrong with this world. Too much pain. Too much… everything. I have to end it.”
She’s rising as she speaks, walking on air, moving away. She snaps her fingers, and Warren’s body flames into instant ash.
This is Buffy Summers. Doing the wrong thing.
"Dawnie? Can you help us? We have to stop Willow before she…" Before she whatever. Hurts herself, maybe, or more likely hurts others, turning her grief outward to the world.
Buffy can feel Xander's relief, Dawn's confusion. Not how they thought this would go. They don't dare believe this isn't a temporary reprieve: saving the world from Dark Willow, followed by slayage of most of the people Buffy loves.
(How much courage must it have taken Dawn to take that bite, knowing Buffy was coming and what it should mean? Knowing that she had vampire strength, but little skill, that she'd never hold off the Slayer determined to turn her to dust for murdering a man. Buffy doesn't want to be impressed, but she is.)
As they run blindly in the direction of Willow's flight, hoping to catch the purple lightning to guide their way, Buffy tries to rationalize her decision. Because she doesn't think she did the wrong thing, letting Spike go free after accidentally killing Jonathan. So she's let a vampire get away after killing a human. This not-killing-Dawn, this is not a precedent. And Buffy's not chasing Willow to Slay her but to save her, because she's a traumatised, grief-stricken human being who mostly-killed a murderer in the heat of emotion, and Buffy's business isn't Slaying humans anyway.
Dawn is a vampire, but she's not evil. Dawn has a soul. Dawn's a sixteen-year-old who’s been through the worst year of her life and her judgment's impaired and if Buffy's not going to kill Willow how is it right to kill Dawn and…
And Buffy can't kill her sister. Not again. Which is the only important thing to say.
So yeah. This is Buffy Summers, doing the wrong thing.
Willow's not real discreet about trying to end the world. They can see purple lightning on Kingman's Bluff from half a mile away.
They're all a little freaked by Giles suddenly appearing, babbling of covens and teleportation and the true essence of magic. But it feels good to have him there. Xander's pleased.
For one thing, Giles knows exactly why Willow would be trying to explode something on Kingman's Bluff, which is handy. ("I did mean to exorcise that dread place, but never quite got around to it. There's always something, isn't there?") Surprise hell-goddess temples are such a pain in the ass.
Plus, it means they're all together for the big scene. Giles and Xander and Buffy. And Dawn. Just the way it should be. And if Xander's less warmed by the bonds of old comradeship, and more relieved by the extra witness meaning a reduced chance of Buffy killing pretty much everyone he loves in the name of justice… well, that's heart-warming in its own way.
So Buffy tries to fight Willow away from the temple, and Giles tries to drain the terrible dark magic from her. And Dawn explains that she's a grown up teenage Key/vampire and she makes her own decisions about murdering bad men and it's not Willow's fault (which isn't all that comforting, but what else can she say?).
And Willow ignores it all. Keeps on raising Proserpexa. Keeps on ending the world. There's a dead zone extending as far as he can see on the Bluff already. Xander wonders, astonished, if it's really this easy to end the world. Just some darkest magic texts, a powerfully maddened witch, and a handy temple… Can't be that simple, because nobody's succeeded yet. Willow must be hella powerful to bring this off.
Shame about the collateral damage.
It's that thought that brings Xander to action. Because he may not be demonic or magic or Slayer-strong, but he has the weapon they don't: he really, really knows Willow Rosenberg.
So he walks into the heart of the dead zone, and tells her to stop. Because of the collateral. Because she's better than this. Because she may want to die, but she doesn't want to kill them. Because he's her friend, and he's not going to leave her.
It's Xander that wins and saves the world. Xander that gathers Willow's crumpled, heaving body and hugs her while she sobs out her loss and her guilt.
Buffy can face Dawn instead, as the first morning light starts to seep across the sky, and she registers the need to get her little sister home before deadly sunrise.
"Dawn. We have to talk."
Dawn lifts her chin, as if still expecting a stake.
"I'm sorry." Buffy doesn't know what else to say, for a moment, but Dawn looks so hopelessly confused that the words come easy after that. "I- I think we all made a mistake. We thought because you had a soul you were just like you always were before. But if we've learnt anything from this mess it's that souls don't mean squat. Not really. You're a vampire, and we've been treating you like you needed to pretend to be a normal girl. Because you're not, and that's okay, and we needed to help you work out who you are now. But instead… well, there was denial, and ignoring, and being a really bad sister and I'm sorry Dawn. "
"I killed Warren. He wasn't dead yet. I killed him." Like Buffy doesn't know that, Dawn's compelled to make the point.
"Yeah. That was wrong. That was… God, it's awful. I don't know how we can make that right but I can't-"
Giles coughs, quietly. "Might I make a suggestion?"
It breaks Buffy's miserable spiral. "Yes. Please."
"I'm going to take Willow to the coven, I think. Assuming we all agree that's for the best. They can help to heal her, and work to understand her magic rather than drown in it or reject it. Her relationship with magic has become rather fraught of late…" He pauses to let the understatement sink in. "There is perhaps an element of penance there, but there is also training, discipline and finding a good path. Which would similarly seem appropriate for her accomplice, don’t you think?"
Giles's sentences, as always, need unscrambling. "You want to take Dawn to the coven?"
"No. No I don’t think that would be appropriate. I would have thought you, and Spike, were the best people to train a… ahem, a vampire Slayer, if you will. Wouldn't you? Because the obvious way for Dawn to make amends is surely to save lives. Many lives. Or is that hopelessly liberal of me?"
Dawn says yes before Buffy's even really processed what Giles is suggesting. Helping the mission. Using her demonic talents for good. Having a real place in the world, where she is herself, not a false schoolgirl. (Dawn gets so excited about dropping her whole fake human self that Giles turns fuddy-duddy before their eyes. "It will of course be as well to keep up a façade of normality. And good schooling never goes to waste. Not that the parody of education available in this benighted district is…")
Buffy holds out her hand to Dawn. "So, you want to join the Slayers? Because I think you could be great, Dawnie. You can be you."
This is Buffy Summers, letting two murderers go free. It feels so much like the right thing.
The demon snickers in the dark. Spike doesn't care. He's seen off Mister Fiery-Hands, the monster twins and the bloody invasive beetles, and he's still undead and standing. Well, sprawling, but let it go.
"So I can have my heart's desire now, right? Passed all your tests."
"That is the bargain. The desire of your heart. Ask, and it will be granted to you."
"I want Dawn Summers to be a normal human girl. Not a Key, not a vampire, alive and well and normal."
There is silence for a moment. Spike pictures how grateful his girls will be, when he sees them next. How this undoes his wrongs, and makes sense of his unlife. How he could have asked for anything, but saving Buffy and Dawn is the most important thing in his world now.
And the demon says, "No."
"What? What the fuck-"
The dark, dusty voice at the back of the cave says, "You should have read the small print. Your heart's desire shall be given to you. No third parties allowed."
Spike wants to scream. Or kill something. Yes, definitely kill something. This demon for preference.
Especially when the voice continues, "It's perfectly normal. What do you think, I'm some kind of vengeance demon changing other people's lives for them?"
"All this way. All this sodding way for nothing. That's what you're telling me? Won't let me have my heart's desire and-"
"You can roll again, if you care to. I can grant a heart's desire. Any one you like to name."
Spike takes a moment, but shruggingly realises there's not much option. "Started on this because my chip was bollocksed up. Got scared of what I might do without a leash in my head and had to run away to find myself. Vamps always kill, in the end. So might as well get it fixed while I'm here. You can do that, right? Fix my head and stop me killing people all unnecessary?"
"I can do that," agrees the demon.
"Fine. Do it," says Spike.
"You have endured the required trials. We will give you your heart's desire. You will not kill unnecessarily. We will return your soul."
And Spike barely has time to say, "No! What the f-" before the demon's hand reaches his heart, and his whole being burns with the light of his returning soul.