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This fic is also my submission to LJ Seasonal Spuffy. I hope you enjoy. Thanks to Sotia and PaganBaby for beta'ing and to Xaph for the amazing banner.
She was falling…
And then she wasn’t. There was no landing, no crashing onto hard ground; she had just stopped falling. Her eyes had closed at some point, as she prepared for a hard impact, only now, opening them, all she saw was soft blue sky all around her. Clouds of translucent downiness that seemed to be illuminated from within surrounded her. Sitting up, she found that her body wasn’t on anything solid, yet it wasn’t sinking. She was floating, as if she was a cloud herself.
Her clothes had been replaced. No longer was she wearing her sweater and pants—soiled and torn from her fight with Glory—but a flowing gown of pastel fabric, ethereal in style. Her golden hair hung loosely around her shoulders, clean and shimmering in the rays of light filtering through the clouds above her.
She sat there for what seemed like a long time, but the passage of time felt very different.
Buffy’s mind searched for an answer to where she was, why she was there, and what she should do now.
Like a tidal wave, her memories flooded her mind. She remembered the tower and her torturous decision to jump. I leapt into the portal to save Dawn. To save them all. Their tear stained faces now haunted her, as if she could still hear their pleading. But she had done her job. I did it to save the world…
Her face fell into her hands as she wept for her many losses. Dawn, her sister, the key, her family. Spike, the vampire who loved her, who would have died for her, even if it wasn’t his sacrifice to make. For all of her friends, for the entire world, she had died. She had been strong in the end; jumping had been her only choice. For now, she could not see what her courage had gained. She could only grieve.
Saint Peter watched the latest arrival—he always did, but that one was special. Buffy Anne Summers, Slayer of Vampires, had died. Again. Only this time, she had arrived at his gate by choice.
He watched as she sobbed quietly, as she dealt with the repercussions of her decision to jump through the portal. He gave her time to process all that had happened, allowed her time to mourn.
“Buffy?” he said softly when her crying seemed to slow.
Buffy heard a man’s voice. Instantly, she was quiet and alert. She searched for the source, and spotted a tall man in a long flowing white robe standing behind a podium just a few feet away. Has he been there the whole time? Why didn’t I see him before?
She stood quickly, warily, unsure of what was happening.
“How do you know my name? Who are you? And where am I?” Buffy asked, steeling her voice.
Peter smiled at her before he spoke, hoping it would ease her nerves.
“I’m Saint Peter and this—” he waved his arm behind him and a large ornate gate appeared out of nowhere, “Is Heaven’s gate. Do you remember how you came to be here?”
Buffy’s stance dropped as she was reminded of her actions that had brought her here. She suddenly wondered if her sacrifice was going to be considered a suicide, remembering that she had heard that was an unforgivable sin.
“I do.” Her voice faltered as she once more could hear the pleading cries of Dawn.
Saint Peter opened the large book on his podium, eager to begin. “Do you understand why you are here?”
Buffy nodded, and walked closer to Peter.
“You’re an Saint? Really?” Buffy didn’t mean to sound disrespectful, but she was questioning her sanity for the moment.
Peter’s gentle smile told her that her comment had not offended him. “Yes, I am.”
“Oh. Will I get wings?” Buffy turned and looked to her back, seeing bare skin just above the hem of her gown.
“That remains to be seen,” he said, tapping his finger on the large book. “We do have some business to take care of first.”
Buffy’s mood darkened in awareness that she was about to be judged. She was unsure she would be granted entrance after all was said and done.
Peter stood tall, and motioned for her to come closer.
Tears began to flow once more, as Buffy thought about her life. She felt broken—a pain deep within her chest that she was sure would never end—but walked forward as he instructed.
“Buffy Anne Summers, daughter of Hank and Joyce, and Vampire Slayer. You’ve died before, I see. I don’t remember seeing you here before, though. Tell me about that, please.” Peter leaned on the podium, urging her to tell him her story.
Choked up at her memories, she was unsure of where to start.
“Ok, how about this, Buffy? Let’s start when you were first called as the Slayer.” Peter could see that she was struggling. She was physically weakened and distraught and he thought it might be easier for her to start at the beginning. Picking up his book, he stepped down from his podium and walked over to her, to offer her his hand. With a wave of his free hand, the nearest cloud took the shape of a couch, similar to the one in her old home, and he led her to it. “Please, have a seat. If the thickness of this book is any indication of your life deeds, this might take a while.”
They sat on the two ends of the couch, each at an angle so they could see the other as they spoke.
Buffy began her story with her life at Hemry High School, in Los Angeles. She told of her initial meeting with Merrick and how she had tried to ignore the insanity he was proposing, convinced he was some sort of pervert.
Peter nodded, agreeing it must have sounded crazy.
She told of her first kill, pausing, waiting to see Peter’s reaction at her use of that word.
“You slayed a blood-thirsty demon, Buffy. Something that would surely have killed and fed upon other humans. You did a good thing. Continue, please.”
She told him of the fire at Hemry, Merrick’s death, her parents’ concern and her subsequent stay at the mental hospital.
“Sounds like more than any fifteen year old should have to deal with.” Peter’s book suddenly appeared in his lap with a large quill pen lying across its open pages. Lifting the quill, he scratched out a note and placed a check next to some elaborate writing on the page. “You were strong, even then. You accepted your job as the Chosen One, and did your best.”
“But… I couldn’t save Merrick, my parents divorce followed shortly after my stay in the hospital.” She paused, lower lip trembling. “I let them down.”
“Buffy, even then, you exceeded His expectations. Your parents were destined to divorce, regardless of your actions. I think you actually saved Joyce from a few more unhappy years with Hank. Merrick made mistakes, but in his end, you learned from his mistakes and became the best Slayer in the history of Slayers.” Peter looked down at the book, scribbled once more, then said, “Tell me about Sunnydale.”
Buffy described her arrival in Sunnydale, meeting Giles, Willow, Cordelia, and Xander. “Those people became my best friends.” A watery smile appeared on her lips at the memory. “Back then, Giles filled the shoes my father had vacated, and did a better job than my dad ever had. Then there was Angel.” Buffy went silent at that.
“Angel, Angelus, Liam. I am very familiar with him.” Peter’s face was open, not judging. “Tell me a little about each of your friends; what they mean to you.” He made himself comfortable, paying close attention to Buffy’s words as well as her reactions.
“I met Xander and Willow first, then Cordelia and Giles later the same day. My first day at Sunnydale High. Xander and Willow were what most would call outcasts from the popular crowd. They had been friends their whole life and never thought twice about accepting me into their group. Cordelia was the elite snob, who always thought that she was better than everyone. And Giles. He was this stick in the mud, stuffy British guy, who had all the answers. Or, at least he wanted you to think he did. I’m going to miss them all so much.” She smiled as she remembered them the way they were when she’d first met them.
“Xander was this goofy guy, cute and clumsy, who had a crush on me from the first time he saw me. He was sweet, and kind, and caring, and always there for me. I never felt that way about him though. I loved him, but like a brother. Like the big brother I never had. Xander was always there to help do research and he was the one who always brought the snacks whenever we all got together. He was the one that brought me back the first time I died. He did what Angel could not. He saved me.”Buffy’s face beamed with pride at her statement.
With a breath, she went on. “And Willow. She was my best friend. I remember the first time I met her. She was this little meek, nerdy girl, looking for a place to fit in. She had a thing for Xander back then, and—even as much as it hurt her that he liked me—she listened to him and encouraged him to talk to me. She was a great friend to us both. Willow was always a phone call away, looking out for all of us, always trying to make a potion, or a charm to protect us." Buffy stopped talking for a few moments, losing herself in her happy memories. "I think she started learning magic so that she could help me more. She always wanted to do more, spending hours researching demons with Giles.” She slipped into present tense without noticing. “Willow also has amazing computer skills that helped out where Giles’ book knowledge left off. Giles even eventually accepted computers because of her. Willow is so smart, and has no idea how important she really was. She was the one who put Angel’s soul back. I don’t know if I ever told her how much she meant to me. To all of us.”
She remembered all the times the three of them spent together, movies, mall trips, patrolling. She was trying to bring forth all memories of their happy times.
Peter encouraged her to continue, “Tell me about Cordelia and Giles.”
“Cordelia was one of the popular crowd, and tried early on to recruit me as one of the Cordettes, only she found that she really wanted to hang out with us. Deep down I think she was just a geek, cleverly disguised as a gorgeous cheerleader.” She giggled at that. “And Giles… We butted heads for years as he trained me in the art of slaying, but in the end, he taught me to be me. He’s really the reason I’m here. He gave me the confidence and courage that I needed to make the hardest decision I would ever have to make.” Buffy’s face clouded with sadness once more.
“Buffy, from what I can tell, it looks like you changed all their lives for the better. It says here—” his finger ran under the line of text as he read in the book, “Xander Harris learned courage, and he learned to love. These are things he was never taught by his family and other friends. Without you, think of how Xander would have turned out.”
Buffy shook her head. “But by being my friend, I put him in danger everyday.”
“You included him in your family and taught him to fight for what’s important.” More checks were made in the book, then he turned the page. “It says here, your influence on Willow allowed her to stand up to her parents, and find the courage to love someone different. You introduced her to the world of the supernatural, which led her to find her true passion. She leads a life filled with love and satisfaction because of you.” He turned his eyes to hers.
“But I put her in danger too, she could have been killed so many times.”
Peter flipped another couple of pages. “According to my notes, without your influence, she never would have managed to be the strong, loving woman she is today.” Check, check, scribble.
“I suppose you’re going to tell me that Cordelia benefited from having met me too. This I gotta hear.” Buffy pulled her knees to her chest, and circled them with her arms.
Peter located the page with Cordelia’s information, and read. “Before you, Cordelia’s only interest was herself. She was vain and shallow.”
Buffy laughed loudly. “You’re kidding right? She’s still that way.”
“No, Buffy, you’re wrong. Cordelia may still be vain, but she is far from shallow. She fell in love with Xander, learned to respect others, and is now working with the Powers That Be. This is because of her time with you and your friends. You made her see what she’d been blind to for so long. She had the ability to help others. Do you see that?” Peter hoped that he was getting through to her.
Buffy shrugged. “I guess you’re right with Cordelia. But Giles? He had a job he loved—that was until he was assigned to me. I gave him a hard time from day one. He was so frustrated in the end, he just couldn’t see why I wouldn’t kill my sister.”
“I think you misunderstood his anger in the end, Buffy. Everything written in here says you were the shining star in Rupert Giles’ life.” Reaching across the distance, Peter patted her hand. “He was proud of what you’d become, and struggling with the thought that you were a grown woman, capable of making wise choices on your own. The student had become the teacher. He couldn’t bear the idea of failing you. He couldn’t see a different solution to the problem. He was afraid he was losing you, in more ways than one. Through it all, you taught him that life is more than work. You made him proud by showing him you wouldn’t just conform to the standards set by the Watchers’ Council, and thrived. You lived life, because of those you loved around you. Until you, Giles’ was alone. Because of you, he was loved. Don’t you see that now?” Peter was amazed at the stunned look on Buffy’s face. He was shocked that she had never considered this or that no one had ever pointed this out to her.
Buffy pondered Peter’s revelations. “I guess I never looked at any of this that way…”
He allowed her a moment to wrap her mind around what they had just discussed. He watched her relax—seemingly more at peace—before he continued. “Next is Angel. Can you tell me about him?”
“Angel was my first love. My first lover. But it was all wrong from the start. What was I thinking? He was a vampire for God’s sake!” Buffy cringed as she realized what she had just said. “I didn’t mean to offend anyone…”
Peter laughed. “Not offended. Keep going.”
“Angel was the first person I’d ever met that I felt a true connection with, but things went bad. Very bad. I take it you know all about the curse?”
Peter flipped through several pages, going over all the entries on Angel. “Yes, the Gypsy’s curse. That was pure genius, in my opinion. Well, until it was broken, that is.”
Buffy’s face fell again. “Because of me, Jenny was killed, and you know who only knows how many others. If only I had known. I would never have let myself—”
Peter set the quill in the spine of the book, and gently closed it, realizing that was a difficult subject for her. “Buffy, the things that happened with Angel were part of his destiny. By losing his soul, he reverted back to Angelus. By being Angelus, and you and your friends working to replace his soul versus dusting him, he changed for the greater good.” Nodding at her incredulous look, he went on. “You even sacrificed him to save the world, after his soul was replaced. You showed him that you did what you had to do to save the world. Changed him so much, in fact, he’s now working directly with the Powers That Be. You did that. Without the event that caused him to lose his soul, he might have never lived to fulfill his potential, to find redemption. By not staking him, you showed him that—not only you, but also your friends and family—saw something in him. It changed him. Made him want to be a better man.” Peter wiped a tear that had fallen from her cheek. “Buffy, you made the world a better place by keeping him in it.”
“But I’m just a girl.”
Peter cradled her cheek in his hand. “Buffy, you were never just a girl. You are the Chosen One.”
Buffy tried to smile through the tears, acknowledging that Peter had shed new light on her life. She had done some good, she had just never seen it through all the bad.
“Buffy, I once lived on earth myself, and died for my job—for what I felt was the way to save the world as well. I completely understand your pain.”
Wiping her tears, she looked confused. She had very little knowledge of religious history. “I never really studied much of anything, let alone religion. I had no idea.”
Peter thought for a minute, trying to put into words how their lives ran a parallel so that he could better explain. “My life on earth, like your own, was simple. I was a fisherman. That was until one day, a man approached me and told me I had a greater calling and that I should follow him. He had some great ideas, and I knew he meant well, but there were some I disagreed with.” He ran his hand down his face. “I feared that I might disappoint him or look like a coward if I voiced my opinion. In the end, I chose to believe in him and his cause, and died for it as well. Any of this sounding familiar?”
Buffy stared at him, awed by the coincidences. “So you had a watcher too.” A slight smile appeared within her tears. “I guess you do know what I’m feeling.” The smile widened. “Only, I’m sure no one’s going to refer to me as Saint Buffy in the years to come.” Laughing as the tears still fell, she said, “Saint Buffy, can you imagine!”
Peter opened his book once more, when Buffy’s tears stopped. “Are you ready to go on? There’s still more to talk about.”
She nodded, letting him know she was ready.
“Dawn Summers, the key, pseudo daughter of Joyce and Hank Summers and sister of the Slayer. It says here, the reason you arrived in this place, was to save her. Tell me about Dawn.” Peter was reading ahead in the book as Buffy began.
“Dawn arrived from out of nowhere, and somehow it was like I always knew her. The monks had made her human—a part of me—knowing I would go to the ends of the world to protect her. And they were right.” Buffy released a nervous laugh as she looked around at her cloud filled surroundings. “It’s always about the blood. Blood is life. Someone told me that recently.”
A hint of something washed over Buffy’s face, and it wasn’t lost on Peter. He made a mental note to come back to that.
“Dawn was, or should I say is, more than my sister. She is me. Sure, the memories of our past were all fake, but somehow it never mattered. I love her. I will always love her.”
Peter could see that this was plain and simple in her mind. “So, you saw Dawn as an extension of yourself and by saving her, you not only were saving the world, but in a way, saving yourself too. You feel like somehow, if she would live on, then you could too. Only without all the bothers of being the Chosen One. Am I right?”
She’d never really thought that in-depth on why she needed to save Dawn, but he was right. Self-preservation. The hardest part is living… “Yeah, I guess you are.” Buffy’s mind searched to make sense of everything, accepting all she had learned.
Peter turned to a section in the book he had not yet read. He wondered why this person had not been included within the same section of the book as friends and family. God must have seen him as someone extraordinary in her life. But there are blank pages… there’s never blank pages, unless… Peter decided to finish his interview and ignore his findings for now. “Tell me about William Pratt. I believe you know him as Spike. To us, he has many titles, but one that stands out is vampire. But you have spared him. What is it about him, that you hold dear?”
Buffy looked at him, shocked. “Spike? Dear? Nothing that I know of. Why?”
“He has had a profound effect on your life. Is he not the one whom you quoted earlier?”
Buffy remembered her comment about the blood. “Yes, he was. But he’s a vampire, he’s always talking about blood.”
Peter shook his head. “Tell me about when you met him, maybe we can figure this out.”
“Let’s see… he came to town, tried to kill me, failed.” Buffy had a smug look on her face.
Peter could see that this was a relationship she had missed, though had never put any thought into. “How did you feel when you met him? Was he the same as all the rest of the vampires you dusted, or just the one that got away?” He could see the wheels turning in Buffy’s head as she contemplated his question.
“He was cocky. Just so sure of himself. I knew right away he was old—as in been around a long time. He was a skilled fighter, and very strong. But he was evil.” She paused, hoping Peter would be satisfied with her answer.
“Go on. So then why didn’t you kill him?” Peter pressed on. It wasn’t exactly what he was looking for, but he thought he could get to it eventually if he kept with his line of questioning.
Buffy had never really considered why, only that he had helped her with Angelus, and that was enough to justify it to herself. “He made a deal with me. I was dealing with Angelus and all the pain he caused, and Spike offered to help me save Giles and stop Angelus. You know, Apocalypse and all that. He promised to leave and never come back.”
“Why did he make the deal?” Peter knew the answer, but wanted her to see things for herself.
“To save Dru. Drusilla. An equally evil vampire,” she said, disgust in her voice.
“Why would he want to save Drusilla?” Peter prodded.
“She was his sire, his true love. Couldn’t bear to have anything happen to his precious Dru. Plus, he hated that she preferred Angelus to him. He was jealous.”
“A vampire without a soul, but he still retained traces of humanity. Capable of love, and jealousy. You saw that in him from the beginning. Didn’t you?” Now it was Peter’s turn to look smug.
“Maybe, but he was selfish. He’s always only done things he could profit from.”
“Really?” The saint’s eyebrows rose. “Seems to me, he’s done plenty and demanded nothing in return.”
Buffy suddenly envisioned his battered face not too long ago. Glory had tortured him, but he had kept his promise. He’d never told her anything. He’d protected Dawn, before he’d protected himself. “He has, but I have to wonder if it was because he was just trying to get—” Buffy lowered her voice, “in my pants, you know? He’s been running around telling me he loves me for a while now. Twisted isn’t it? Predator and prey should never be attracted to each other. It’s just wrong.”
“Did you not tell him you loved him too, just recently?” Peter smiled. It was all sinking in now.
“I did not! Where does it say that?” Buffy leaned forward, trying to read whatever Peter had in the book.
“It was just before the battle. You had all your friends and family gathered at the Magic Box and you told them you loved them all. Is this ringing any bells?”
“I said that, yes, but I don’t think it applied the way you’re implying.” Buffy wondered—though briefly—if maybe Peter was right.
“Did you not invite him into your home, once more? You could have turned him to dust so many times, but you didn’t. Can’t you see?” Peter kept feeding her clues.
“I did invite him in. I trust him, now that he’s all chipped. He can’t hurt humans.” Buffy seemed sure she had found the reason she was looking for.
“The chip in his head never prevented him from hurting humans; it just hurt him if he did. Didn’t he strike your friend, Tara, to prove that point relatively recently? And he did this to prove several things. One, that Tara wasn’t a demon as her family told her, but two… he cared enough to stand up for one of your friends. Someone who was important to you.”
“I suppose so.” Buffy’s stance wavered slightly as she considered Peter’s explanation.
“Did Spike not also thank you recently for treating him like a man, not the monster he is?”
Buffy’s heart ached as she remembered him standing at the bottom of the stairs of her former home, saying those stinging words. “He said that, but he was wrong. I treated him terribly, I never saw him as a man, just a neutered vampire. Even after he’d promised to protect Dawn till the end of the world. Why would he offer to do that for me?”
“Buffy, Spike meant those words he said to you. He loved you. Still loves you, and will love you until the day he dusts.” Peter’s tone was matter-of-fact. “He saw something special in you and it changed him, too. Look deep within yourself, and I know you will find the answers you seek.”
Her emotions took over as memories of Spike drifted in and out of her mind. She remembered the early fights, and—looking back—realized they weren’t really fights at all. More of a dance. She remembered him telling her and Angel that he was love’s bitch, and always would be. The Thanksgiving with him tied to the chair in Giles’ apartment, teasing him while he was chained in the tub. Willow’s spell, and the kisses they’d shared. She remembered him offering to kill his sire to prove his love, and promising to protect what was closest to her, until the world ended. Yes, he was special. He had been from the very start. But he was still a soulless vampire. She still wasn’t willing to admit out loud that she cared for him, too. “Thank you. I see what you wanted me to see. Spike was different.”
Peter knew the world wasn’t done with her yet, but he had to complete his job. “You were special to him, as well. His feelings for you were real.” He pretended not to notice how she avoided his gaze. “There is one more thing, Buffy, and then I will pass my final judgment. Besides wanting to save Dawn, and save the world, was there another reason why you jumped?”
Buffy knew the answer, but feared her judgment. In the end, she had been selfish. Still, she couldn’t lie. “Being the Slayer was hard—harder that most will ever know—but I did my job and I did it well. But life… in this world… I didn’t know how to live in it. I missed my mom.” Sobs wracked her petite body once more. “When my spirit guide told me, death is your gift, I don’t know if I understood her right. I thought death was my gift to Dawn, to the saving of the world, but now I think it was my gift to myself. I’m so tired. I think I jumped to save them all, but also to save myself.”
Peter stood and held his hand out to Buffy to rise. “It’s time. You have seen all you were meant to see.”
Buffy’s tearful eyes looked up to him. “Will I be allowed to stay?” Buffy struggled to speak through her grief and fear. “Can I rest now?”
Peter led her to the gate, which swung open as she approached. “I think you can.”
She walked through the gate, unsure of what to expect. In the distance, she saw a figure beckoning her to come closer, arms opened wide. Mom… Joyce had appeared, ready to guide her into the cloudy kingdom.
Peter watched Buffy disappear into the mist, wrapped within her loving mother’s arms. He hoped he’d been able to shed light on her life’s work, to help her cope with the internal struggles she’d dealt with for so long, to give her comfort in her time of grief. For now, she could rest. Buffy was special, and he knew… She won’t be here long.
Chapter End Notes:
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