My note: this was where I was going to end it. I have some tentative notes on how to keep it going, but I'm not sure if I should.
I've only proof-read this chapter once, so please tell me if you spot any mistakes.The aftermath
In the end, they'd decided to leave town. They didn't go far, just to the town limits. If this was a ploy by the First, they were still in a position to do something.
So far, nothing had happened. Some of the girls were beginning to question whether anything would happen. They were anxious, they were uncertain, and some of them were worried that Amanda had been killed last night and the title of slayer would land on one of them next.
Some of the girls were secretly hoping to be the next chosen one. "Nothing's happening," Kennedy said, petulant. "We should go back to the high school and---"
It happened so suddenly that it took a moment for their eyes to adjust.
A pillar of blinding white light shot up out of the ground. The ground shook, eaten away, as the light expanded outwards, consuming first the high school, then the neighbourhoods around it, then the rest of the town.
Time seemed to stretch. A tense silence settled on them. All eyes were transfixed by that light.
Then, as suddenly as it started, it was over. The light faded, disappeared. Sunnydale was gone. There was nothing but a huge chasm where the town once was.
"Buffy..." Dawn whispered quietly.
A strange-looking weapon was thrown up over the side of the chasm. Everyone tensed. Was this some demonic survivor? A moment later, Amanda struggled to pull herself up, completely out of breath.
"Amanda!" Dawn gasped.
"C-can someone give me a hand?" Amanda stammered.
Dawn was already at the slayer's side. They managed to pull her up. For a long moment, Amanda just stayed there, on hands and knees, trying to catch her breath.
She had to have outrun the destruction. Even with the slayer's speed, she almost didn't make it.
Amanda struggled to pull herself to her unsteady feet, grabbing the weapon for support. Dawn was there to help her.
"Are you alright?" Willow asked, frowning. "You never came back last night."
"I just need to catch my breath," Amanda gasped. "I-I think it was worth it. I got this."
She brandished the strange weapon she'd carried out of harm's way. It was an axe-thing, crimson, and very shiny. All eyes turned to the weapon, some curious, some hungry.
Amanda handed the weapon off to Giles. He studied it curiously. "Where did you get it?"
"I took it from the scary preacher guy," Amanda said.
"You went up against Caleb?" Kennedy asked incredulously, and maybe a little jealously. It was pretty obvious she wanted to be the slayer.
Amanda nodded. "He's history."
"Foolish girl," Giles chastised. "Have you any idea how dangerous that was? You could've been killed."
"I had to," Amanda said, a little defensive. "That's what he was guarding. I think it's meant for the slayer. I feel... something when I hold it, like it's mine."
"Really," Giles murmured thoughtfully, studying the weapon closely. Amanda nodded her head. All attention was now on the weapon.
Dawn helped her over to one of the parked cars. They sat down on the hood. They just sat there, staring at the chasm that was Sunnydale.
"Buffy told me to trust my instincts," Amanda said after a moment. "I couldn't have done it if she hadn't believed in me."
"Yeah," Dawn said, quiet, despondent. She glanced over at Amanda, before returning her eyes to the chasm that was Sunnydale. "It was us. We didn't believe in her. She couldn't trust us anymore, so she thought she had to do it on her own... Save the world."
"She said she's happy where she is," Amanda said, maybe trying to comfort her.
Dawn looked at Amanda. She felt tears welling up in her eyes, and a moment later, she broke down completely. "She's not coming back, is she?"
Amanda put an arm around Dawn, comforting her awkwardly. She was not very good at it, but she tried. "I really don't know."
The Scoobies approached. The potentials were still crowded around Kennedy, who was handling the weapon Amanda took from Caleb like it belonged to her, like she owned it.
Something would have to be done about her too, Dawn knew. Amanda was the slayer, not Kennedy, but that wouldn't stop Kennedy from undermining Amanda's authority any.
"What happens now?" Xander asked quietly.
"With Buffy essentially dead, the imbalance in the slayer's line should sort itself out," Anya said, very matter-of-factly, earning herself a glare from Willow and Xander.
"Anya!" Willow objected. "We can't leave her like that, stuck on a totally different plane of existence!"
"Why not?" Anya asked, frowning. She really didn't understand, Dawn knew. None of them did. "All of this is our fault. We caused the imbalance when we brought Buffy back the first time. Maybe it would just be better if we left her where she is."
"I don't care!" Willow snapped, looking shocked. "She's our friend. We have to help her!"
"No," Dawn said tearfully.
"Dawnie, what are you saying?" Willow asked.
"She sacrificed herself so we could win," Xander added. "If we can get her back, we---"
"We didn't win. She did. Amanda did," Dawn interrupted.
She didn't understand what Buffy was exactly, and it didn't matter. She was happy where she was; they had no right to take that from her. Amanda was the slayer now. She was the one they'd support. Dawn offered her a smile.
"She's happy where she is, and we're not taking that away from her. Not again," Dawn said. It hurt so much that she'd been part of the reason that Buffy saw this as her only option. It hurt even more that she'd never see her sister again. She fixed them with a bitter look. "We have to live with what we did to her. We have to let her go."
Giles nodded his head sadly. He understood, Dawn thought, though it probably took this display of power by Buffy to make him understand. They existed in totally different worlds now.
Anya nodded easily, but Willow and Xander looked away. They still refused to accept they were wrong.
Then again, what could she expect? Xander never accepted responsibility for his actions, and Willow was the same way.
Dawn turned her eyes to the chasm. Her sister did this after they abandoned her, left her all alone. She protected them, even though they betrayed her.
Buffy was gone. Dawn knew things would never be the same again.