Title: "The Gift"
Author: Mala
E-mail: malisita@yahoo.com
Spoilers: Through hypothetical S5 finale.
Rating/Classification: 'PG', B/S-ish, angst, character death, ficlet.
Disclaimer: Grrrr aaargh.
Summary: A hypothetical end to the season and to our favorite character. When it comes to Spike, as Bartok from "Anastasia" would say..."This can only end in tears." Or in blood.
Dedication: To Chelle and Lynn. Just think "moosie"...!

Glory is standing across the clearing. In all her so-called "glory". Between her and her sister. Debris is raining all around them...scattering like the rotting bodies of the hell god's minions. Whatever she has managed to throw keeps getting turned back at her. Stakes. Bricks. Wrought iron benches.

But Buffy Summers can't back down.

Not this time.

This is the most important fight of her life. Of Dawn's life.

"Death is my gift," she reminds herself, focusing on nothing except the creepily pretty face...the vapid grin that promises chaos.

Death is her gift and she will die for Dawn if she has to.

Suddenly, something slams into her, hard, sending her to the ground. And she knows, instinctively, what...no...*who*...it is. "Jesus, Spike! I'm trying to fight the big evil, here, remember?" she snaps, exasperated, shoving at the bleached blond weight atop her. "Could we save the grope attempts for the victory party?"

"Sorry, Pet...don't mean to cramp your style," he cracks, with a pained smile, rolling most of his weight off of her, leaving just his head on her knees.

A *pained* smile.

That is when she sees the stake.

Three inches wide, protruding from the left side of his chest. It'll leave a heinous hole in the leather. He's going to be royally pissed. The laughter bubbles from her throat before she can stop it...before she can reconcile it with what is before her.

A fading light in his dark blue eyes. A stake. Him lying still as battle raged on around them. A stake. His face getting whiter. A stake.

A stake inching deeper.

No. No. *No*.

"Y-you can't do this, Spike. Not like this." She hears the rush of words from a distance. Feels their vibration on her lips but can't register thinking them up. "You're not supposed to go like this. *I* get to kill you. Nobody else."

"Y' do kill me, Baby...ev'ry day...ev'ry hour..." He smiles. No teeth. No taunts. Just a smile. She wonders why she never noticed before that he has tiny dimples in the hollows of his cheeks.

"Stop it!" she gasps, viciously brushing dirt-streaked strands of platinum hair from his forehead. "You're. Not. Allowed. To. Die. I can't lose you, too...I *won't*."

"I never did play by the rules...'s why I loved you..."

"Spike...!"

She chokes...wants to tell him to take the words back...wants to tell him to say them again...to say them over and over until she grows old under the weight of them.

But he sighs.

And all she is left with is the unbearable lightness of dust. With gray cinders that will never make another joke...never smoke another cheap cigarette...never love another woman enough to die for her.

She can't quite feel Willow's hand on her shoulder.

She can't quite hear Xander's mumbled words or Tara's whimpers.

But Glory's laugh makes it through, pierces the veil of sluggish disbelief. "Awww, wasn't that touching? Now, I can kill you and you can join him."

Suddenly, she can't see anything but the clarity of purpose. She crumbles ash between her fingers, rubs it against her cheeks, feeling the faint traces of the demon and the poet sinking into her skin. She coats her face in his essence, in all that remains of his mad devotion, his sane love.

When she rises, she is like the firebird...reborn from a vampire's ashes. She is like Shiva, covered in soot and serpents and destruction. She is the light and the dark. The end and the beginning. Life and death. Love and indifference.

"Death is my gift," she whispers to the Beast. "To *you*."

She shrugs off the hands that hold her back...ignores the flurry of 'No, don't!'s and 'You can't!'s.

She is the Slayer. She can. She must.

When she reaches the end of what seems to be an endless succession of steps, the boy kneeling in the trampled grass stares up at her with panic in his eyes. With a plea on his handsome visage. She gently cups his face in her hands, thumbs stroking his neck. "Buffy..." A thousand missed coffee-dates and lonely pediatric wards are right there in that one word.

"Buffy!" Dawn says it, too. Shouts it. Her name, full of a thousand messages: *Spike's dead, oh God, he's dead*...*Save me, don't let me die like Mom...*...*Don't kill Ben, you can't kill Ben, he's good....*

He could be a good doctor.

He could be a good man.

But she can't let him.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Blood to blood.

"I'm sorry, Ben," she whispers. "Close your eyes."

--end--

May 9, 2001.



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