by Giuliana


She's falling and it hurts, like her skin is being pulled off cell by cell. It hurts so much, but she's still alive, still conscious, and still feeling everything. Her eyes are open; she doesn't want to close them, wants to see everything, because it's beautiful and maybe she'll never see anything beautiful ever again. It's pure white and shining so bright that it stings to look, but she does anyway, and the burning in her eyes doesn't compare to her skin being frayed. She's trying to breathe, even though she knows it's useless, that whatever she's breathing in is melting her lungs, and it all doesn't matter anyway because she's going to die. She finally closes her eyes, but she's still falling and it's taking too long. She should've hit the ground by now. It should all be over. She should be dead -- and maybe she is. Maybe this is Hell, and maybe this is how she'll spend eternity: forever falling, forever in pain, forever uncertain if this has worked. Maybe--

Warm. Like Saturday mornings back before vampires and slaying and Hellmouths and divorce, back when she used to sleep in as long as possible, buried under a mountain of covers, under fabric softener- scented sheets, and wake up slowly to the smell of French toast and a day filled with normal, non-Slayer things. She's surrounded by warmth now and her skin no longer feels like it's peeling away. Something like a hand touches her -- heals her, comforts her -- and she doesn't need to open her eyes to know who it is. She's safe and somehow knows that it worked, that her friends and Giles and Dawn are safe. She smiles and burrows closer, feeling nothing except warmth, peace, love, and her body beginning to dissolve. It's a slow process. Or maybe it's fast; she can't tell. All she knows is that she has never felt so free, so happy.

The transformation is almost complete when there's a slight tingle in her feet. She tries to ignore it, but then it starts to burn. The pain spreads and intensifies, and this time her skin doesn't feel like it's being torn off. No, now if feels like it's being stitched together with a blunt needle and inch-wide thread. She cries out and opens her eyes. Her mother's face is different, without true form, but still recognizable. And when she speaks, her tone is regretful. "I know how it feels."

She doesn't understand the words and doesn't understand why this is happening, why she's feeling all this pain in this wonderful place. She cries out again when the pain arrives in her fingers. It makes her let go of her mother, and then some force violently yanks her from the warmth. She tries to scream, but she can't.

The bright white is suddenly back, and it's no longer beautiful.


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