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A Shower of Ash

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She is in the shower when she feels it.

The water is lukewarm, because the weather has turned sticky and she is spending too many nights up late in a vain attempt to escape its claws. It is nearly midday, and Dawn has long since disappeared for school, and so she can just enjoy the needle-sharp pelting for the massage she so desperately needs. If she asked, he would give her one that would work just as well, but for now, Buffy wants to be alone, and the shower is a more than welcome substitute.

It is just as well. He wouldn't have understood when the flash came.

…dark…wet…cold rain-slick…the scents of copper and oil suspended in the air…

Her hand shoots out to grab the metal handle on the shower stall door, steadying herself as a wave of vertigo makes the water dance around her head and into her eyes. And it's not warm anymore, but cool, fresh-cool with a hint of asphalt as it fills her nostrils, and the question of why she can't smell the citrus soap she'd spent a fortune on doesn't even seem important as the taste of blood fills her mouth.

…honking…the dull roar of an army of demons…a flash of silver and black dissolving into crimson and smoke…

She can see them both, the scales and claws and screaming tongues devastating and being devastated almost blocking them from her vision. She doesn't know why, and she doesn't have time to ask why, but all the whys are trivial in the face of the carnage playing out before and around her.

And she smiles around the drops of blood that stain her lips when she sees her vampires creating a vast majority of it.

She knew about Spike, of course.

Andrew sucked at keeping secrets.

And she'd been mad at first, the yen to fly to Los Angeles and kick his stubborn ass into the next decade for not letting her know sooner driving her as far as the airport and the ticket line for Alitalia. It had taken a phone call from Xander of all people---solicited by a frantic Dawn all the way to Africa---to bring her down from her rage, all his calm explanations of how even annoying vampires deserved to find themselves when the need arose reaching through miles upon miles of air waves to tingle into her ear.

It wasn't that that stopped her, though.

It was what Xander said at the end.

"You told us he gave you the world." Though he sounded so hollow and far away, the deep timbre of his voice still did that warming thing in Buffy's chest that it had since they'd been teenagers. The same kind of warming she equated to her mom's hot chocolate recipe. "Maybe Spike's just trying to keep his promise to you."

And as she feels them falter, and bleed, and fade from whatever vision the stupid Powers That Really, Really Sucked had decided to share with her, she wonders if she'd ever made a promise to Spike. Angel had gotten tons, but then that's because first loves were always big with the epic vows, the grandiose gestures. The only one she can remember as the sensations wash down the drain with the water is the one to save him from the First after he'd been snatched. She'd kept that one; did that help even the score?

The short answer is no. Because Spike never really kept score. Not when it came to her.

It is gone almost as quickly as it arrived, and she turns back into the stream with a faint question of whether it was real or not. When she sees the patch on her leg, and reaches down to touch it with quivering fingers, the wet from her hand turns the dust into grayish mud, one that is more than recognizable from years of traipsing through graveyards on rainy nights.

And she knows.

That it's true. That it's real.

That they are gone. Both of them.

Because there are two black holes in her world where her vampires used to be. Watching her from the shadows they'd long since been banished to. Protecting her as they best saw fit.

Giving her life as only they knew how.

And so…she weeps.

For the two souls she hopes can finally find their peace.