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He watches her sleep. It's what he does; in a way it's what he's always done and today is no different; except that it is. The machines are quiet now – no need for the beep beep beep of life when death is already well inside the room – and her shallow gasping breaths are the only sound in the dark room.

She'd hate this, he knows, so quiet an end – a whimper. She lived her life for the bang and yet those bastards who robbed countless generations of a choice also robbed them of a future. No Slayer lived this long. It was a harsh lesson they'd had to learn. The mystical adrenaline boosts, the sheer intensity of life; they all took their toll and now it was time to pay the piper and all those other pointless metaphors that mean nothing when what's really happening is that she's dying. In an hour, in a minute, in a second, in less than a heartbeat she could be dead and the world will keep turning, the clocks will keep ticking, nothing will change.

Except that it will.

He wants to scream, to shout out her name, to hear her voice right alongside his own as they try to wake the world up to what's really happening.

In the silence he hears her breath falter, an out breath with no following in breath and he wonders if this is it, but then she gasps and the cycle starts again. Shallower this time, it won't be long now. And what then? The line stops here: Faith is the last of her kind and, in a way, so is he. The world still needs them but can't sustain them. He's tired, deep in his bones, and he knows that when it happens, when that next breath doesn't come, it would be easy to just… stop.

Xander stands and walks to the darkened window, seeing his reflection ghosted over the lights of the city and he's no longer the boy who just wanted to keep his friends safe; no longer the man who had to make so many mistakes in order to learn what really mattered; no longer the stalwart. Now, only a ghost. For half a moment he thinks he sees her reflection smiling and he realizes silence has finally fallen.

He opens the window wide and steps out. Maybe now he can stop.

Except…