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Though I Walk Through the Valley... by randi
Please note: This epilogue has been posted in other forums (i.e., AO3) as part of Chapter 5.  It is posted separately here.  The epilogue is short and not happy, and you are free to skip it if you like.

Though I Walk Through the Valley…

The feeling was much too familiar.  She knew this numbness, and she knew the pain that followed.
Buffy was glad of that numbness.  Maybe they’d won the day and beaten back the ultimate evil, but it certainly didn’t feel like a check in the Win column, and there was no urge to do a victory dance.
Because Spike was gone, burned up in the Hellmouth, just like that other-Buffy had shown her.  She hadn’t recognized the amulet Angel had given her, hadn’t remembered the not-a-dream until it was way too late to save him.  He had to go and be all noble…
The walls of the hotel room blurred.  No, don’t think about it, she cautioned herself.  Think about what you would sacrifice…
“I humbly request passage…”
The numbness had let her continue to function, but it had still taken until they’d stopped for the night for her to remember the book.  As soon as she had, she’d gone in search of it.  As opposed as Giles had been to the ritual before, Buffy knew he would be no help this time.  So she waited until she could talk to Willow.
“Will?” she asked, trying to control the hope rising inside. Surely Willow would still have the ritual.  “Do you still have Wesley’s book?  The one…”
Willow shook her head, and Buffy felt her stomach plummet.  If there was no book, there was no way to get Spike back this time…
But Willow smiled as she reached into the bag at her feet.  “No,” she said, and pulled out a piece of notepaper.  “But I’ve got the list of ingredients here.”
She knew her eyes were bright as she took the paper from her friend’s hand, because everything wavered in her vision.  “Thanks, Will,” she whispered.
Willowgathered her into a quick hug.  “No thanks necessary,” she replied.  “Just go get him back.”
Quietly reciting the words just as she had in Sunnydale, Buffy scattered the crushed herbs in a circle around her.  I’d give up anything to get Spike back again, she thought, letting the prepared mixture flow through her fingers.  My Slayer powers, even my life, if you want it.  Anything.  Just… anything.
The circle closed.
Nothing happened.
Standing inside the circle she’d made on the hotel carpet, Buffy waited, fidgeting.  “Any second now,” she murmured.  “C’mon, portal…” Why isn’t anything happening?  She double-checked the bowl of the mortar, but she’d used all the herbs.
Desperation and anger surged up inside her.  “Hey, your humble supplicant is waiting!” she called, face tipped up to the ceiling.  “Open the door!”
The matter is closed.  You will not come here again.
The words echoed in her head, and she stilled.  Was it a one time only deal? she asked herself, and heartbreak settled over her like a blanket.  I can’t get Spike back this way again?
Her legs refused to support her any longer and she slumped down onto her knees, still inside the circle.  “But this was the only way we found,” she whispered, stricken.  “How can I get him back?”
The answer to that was obvious.
The numbness was gone, and Buffy gave in to her grief, body shaking with the force of her sobs.
May 21, 2010