'Stupid' Thwack! 'Dumb' Crunch! 'Idiot' Slap! 'Moron' Kick, kick... 'stake'....poof!
The pile of dust was proof positive that messing with the slayer now was not the best move to make after first rising. She'd made her rounds through the cemetery as usual. Checked the crypts, and two fresh graves. It would have taken her all night had Willow not left her a map of the cemetery and the names of the two boys who'd died of a 'mysterious loss of blood.' Willow. Her mind drifted back to only a week ago, when they'd crossed the line...gone past the point of no return. Buffy felt the color rise in her cheeks and her pulse quicken. Willow was all she'd thought about lately. Winter break was here and it was a chance to explore the new side of their relationship, make a solid connection. So what went wrong? Why was Buffy in the cemetery patrolling alone and Willow was.....
"I have to go."
"But Will, classes are over. We finished exams! We have to celebrate, together..."
"No, Buffy. I'm...I'm spending the holidays with my parents.....in Wyoming. They're at my grandparents' house...and they...um...they reserved me a ticket...."
"But, I thought...."
Buffy looked beyond her friend, saw the bags there, on her bed. Saw her computer packed up, her bed made, and apparently, her mind was made up too. She couldn't move. Afraid that the slightest movement would put things in motion. She stood there, her head down, a million images running through her mind....
Before she knew it, Willow was a breath away.
"I have to go. My plane leaves at six."
She was at a loss for words, they both were. Without a sound, Willow reached up and lightly touched her fingers to Buffy's cheek. Leaning in, she left a light, lingering kiss there.
Buffy was startled. After Willow began to pull away, Buffy reached out and grabbed her friend into a crushing hug. The tightness in her throat let go in a strangled sigh, tears rolling down her cheeks.
"But, I don't want you to go. Why do you have to leave now?"
"I need to, Buffy."
"No! You're...you're running away....there's a difference...."
Willow pulled away and removed Buffy's arms from her neck. Buffy frowned at the loss of contact. Gathering her things, Willow made her way to the door.
"I'll see you after break, Buffy. Take care of yourself."
Willow opened the door.......
"I love you, Will."
Then she closed it.
........She'd closed the door to their room, and effectively, their relationship. By some fluke, Buffy found the phone number to Willow's grandmother's house buried on the desk underneath the cemetery map and called earlier in the evening. Willow refused to come to the phone, her grandmother made excuses and said she was resting, but Buffy knew the truth. Willow was avoiding her.
For three days before exams, a silence covered the town of Sunnydale, an unwelcome silence. 'The Gentlemen' took their voices away, slowly and methodically hunting for seven hearts. By the time Buffy reached the bell tower and, side by side with Riley, fought the demons, there were two jars left. They both knew what it meant. With Riley smashing the box and Buffy screaming, The Gentlemen's plan was averted, but not without consequence. As Willow put it, something really 'freaky' passed between her and the new witch Tara. Admittedly, something passed between Buffy and Riley also. They'd kissed.
Buffy was sure Willow found out about the kiss. She and Riley had been talking about their 'identities,' their separate duties, and the kiss. Willow walked in moments after, back from her 3 o'clock class. She gave no sign that she'd heard what they were saying, but Buffy knew she did. She wouldn't have been acting so distant and awkward lately had she not.
The four days leading up to Willow leaving were filled with near misses and Tense undercurrents in their conversations. Buffy went to the Library, Giles' house, Xander's basement, the cafeteria . . missing Willow by mere minutes each time. Finally, having had enough of everything going unspoken, Buffy cornered her in their room. Willow knew she was supposed to be on patrol, and that's probably why she was there.....
"Buffy, I....I thought you were on patrol? Did something happen? Are you hurt?"
"No, I'm fine. Thought I'd skip patrol tonight to in lieu of more important things..."
"What's more important than patrol? Giles isn't going to like this..."
"Us. We're more important. What's going on, Will? Why have you been avoiding me?"
"Avoiding? I'm not avoiding you...see?...this is me not avoiding. We're here... together...in the same room...'cause, this is where we live...together...no avoiding going on here!" Her response was all too chipper and not very convincing.
"I think we need to talk about things. About us. What happened the other night was..."
"Buffy, I really don't want to talk about it, ok?"
Buffy looked at her for a moment. "No, it's not ok, Will." The hacker shot her a look of surprise. "I mean, I care about you...and I want the best for you...I hate that things are so weird between us....I want things back to the way they were..."
"We can't go back Buffy. Don't you see? What happened was.....it probably shouldn't have happened. We shouldn't have...." She moved out from behind her desk, silencing the slayer with a wave of her hand before she could interject, "Let me finish. I don't know what this is. I....I don't know who I am anymore. I was always the computer geek in high school, or Xander's unrequited crush, then I was your side-kick and Giles' research girl. Then to top it all off, I was the witch girlfriend of Sunnydale's resident werewolf. Now, I've lost myself somewhere between here and there. Everything's moving so fast and I can't....I won't get caught up in it. I need time...I have to think about everything. I just need you to leave me alone for now....please." With that she walked out the door.
Without even realizing it, Buffy had think-walked herself to the front porch of Willow's house. She would have chuckled at the irony of the situation had she not been so consumed with thought. 'Four hours. She's been gone four hours, two states away and you show up on her doorstep.' Trotting down from the porch, Buffy regrouped herself and set a new course for Giles' house. Since her mother was still away, she'd be spending Christmas with him. Her mother had tried to convince her to stay with her father for the holiday. It worked, but when she called her father, she found out that he'd be in New York for a conference the week of Christmas and New Year's Eve. He didn't even offer to have her go with him. She gave him Giles' number and hung up. Still, Christmas with Giles wouldn't be THAT bad. At least that's what she tried to convince herself of on the walk over.
When Buffy walked in, Giles was just hanging up the phone.
"Oh, Buffy. You just missed Willow, she called to wish me a good holiday."
"Really? Oh, well...I guess I can try to catch her some other time." Buffy flopped unceremoniously on the couch and flipped the TV on. Giles gave her a look of curiosity and was going to say something but thought better of it. 'She'll tell me when she's ready, I suppose.' The night went off without a hitch and dinner was unusually quiet.
"Buffy, is there something on your mind?"
"Hmm? Oh, no....not really. I, well....Willow and I kind of had words before she left and I'm feeling kind of icky about the whole thing. I wish I could have talked to her when she called."
"I see. Yes, well, that would explain her mood on the phone then. She was quite somber and distracted. Not herself really. Is it something you wish to talk about?"
Just then, Spike walked in, a mug of just-microwaved blood in his hand.
"What are you doing here, Slayer? Shouldn't you be out somewhere dusting my friends or fighting demons and the like?"
"Shut up, Spike."
"Well, someone's in a horrible mood toady, aren't they? What's wrong, luv, wake up on the wrong side of your stake?" He grinned.
"I wish you would wake up on the wrong side of a stake, bleach boy."
"That's quite enough, you two. Spike, Buffy is staying with me for the holidays. She'll be in the other spare room. I hope you two can, ah, amicably cohabitate. It won't be for long."
Spike gave a disgusted look at both of them and switched the channel on the TV.
"Living with a Slayer. Good thing Dru's not around to see this. She'd be so disappointed. What's become of me?"
Buffy helped Giles clean up after dinner, then went and sat at the other end of the couch. "Oh, great. Giles, I forgot all of my stuff! Now what am I supposed to do?"
Spike didn't miss a beat. "You could always sleep naked."
"Oh, you'd love that, wouldn't you, Fang." She glared at him.
"Ah, Buffy...it's still early. You could go and get it now, if you wish."
"Giles, I'm 18. Do you really think I'm only gonna bring an overnight bag? I'm staying here for a month!"
"Yes, well. That could be a problem. I'd offer you my car, but..."
"No, thanks but no thanks. Even if I did have my license, I wouldn't want to be caught dead in the watcher-mobile."
"Well that wasn't very nice." Giles furrowed his brow.
"No offense, Giles."
"I'll take her." It came from Spike. They both looked at him like he had sprouted an extra head.
"What? I'm bored and there's nothing on the telly. I need to get out of here, all of this tweed and watcher dust is kicking up my allergies." They didn't look too convinced. "I'll be good, really."
"I must be insane to agree to this." Giles looked torn.
Spike gave Giles a hopeful look and put on his best puppy dog face.
"Go ahead Buffy. I'm sure it'll be fine."
"Fine. But if he acts up, I swear I'll put him on a leash." She crossed the living room and waited by the door. Spike followed suit.
"Aww, promise?" He smiled as they walked out the door.
Two hours later, Spike's car was weighted down with Buffy's things. It looked like it was ready to explode.
"I swear slayer. I never had THIS much....crap....when I was 18. What are you, some sort of a pack-rat? And what the bloody hell are you going to do with all those pictures albums? You're only staying there for a month. It's not like you're not going to see all of your bloody friends over the holiday anyway."
Buffy was putting the last box in the car. Either she didn't hear Spike's comments or didn't want to dignify them with an answer.
"Did you hear what I said?" He looked annoyed.
"Huh? Oh yeah Spike, sounds good..."
"Now I know something's REALLY wrong. I'm trading barbs with you and all you can say is 'yeah that sounds good.' You got a fever or something luv? Aww, is the Slayer feeling feverish? Did you catch the willies or something?" Spike put on his best sarcastic whiny voice and reached his hand to her forehead.
She slapped his hand away, "Did I catch the what? No, I'm fine. I'm just distracted."
"Well, a distracted Slayer is a dead Slayer. Got myself two slayers like that. Why don't you tell old Spike what wrong? Maybe I can help."
It looked like Spike, the voice was Spike's, but Buffy couldn't believe what she was hearing. She poked at him with her finger.
"Hey! Cut that out. Me being ticklish and all that." He swatted her hand away.
"Excuse me? I thought I just heard you offer to help. I must be feverish."
"Something's obviously bothering you, luv. I'm really not in any position to give you THAT hard of a time. Me being, well...."
"Neutered? Impotent?" Buffy offered.
"Temporarily incapacitated. Now, what is it? Tell old Spike. You never know, I could be of some help. I'm not all soul-havin' and all that, but I am pretty sharp. Angel wasn't the only smart vamp in town." Spike's face brightened. "Hey, this has to do with the little witch, doesn't it? What happened, Slayer? Did she put frog entrails in your soup or something?"
"Remind me again why I should tell you anything?" Buffy gave him a skeptical look. She wasn't thoroughly convinced. Yet.
"I'm an outsider, an unbiased opinion. All of your little group is probably too close to it to give you an honest assessment. Plus, I won't charge ya' for the advice. Come on now, what's the dirt? What did the little tree do to work you up into such a lather?"
"Her name is Willow. Not little witch, or little tree. Willow. And she didn't do anything. I did. I think I totally messed up our friendship, and I don't think there's a way to get it back."
"Come on, Slayer. Don't go all dramatic on me. There isn't anything that can be THAT bad. Even Dru and I can make up after a scuffle of sorts. Heck, I even forgave her for kissing that chaos demon...." Just then, Spike's face lit up and a light bulb went on in his head. "Unless, of course...."
"What? WHAT? Unless what, Spike? Tell me or I'll stake you right here....."
"Well, unless you've, um, crossed some sort of a line. You didn't......did you?" The look on Buffy's face answered his question. "Didn't you learn your lesson with Angel? He was all souled-up till you gave him happiness, and as much as I liked him without the bleeding heart routine, he was a menace when he lost it."
"Willow didn't lose her soul, Spike...she's human." Buffy gave him a look of disgust.
"No, Slayer...she didn't. But if your implying what I think you are, then she's lost something just as valuable. She's lost her innocence. That damn wolf ran off and left her hangin' by a thread, and none of you bloody well saw it until it was too late. I don't think I have to remind you about the havoc she caused by that little will spell of hers. I still can't get your taste out of my mouth." He was pacing now, arms flying around in the air. "She's vulnerable now and you took advantage of it! I can't believe you. I'm disappointed, really. I thought you had more brains than that."
Buffy gave him an incredulous look. "Since when do you care so much about Willow? And what about your little speech in the magic shop, how'd it go? 'Love isn't brains children, it's blood. Blood screaming inside you to......"
"All right, all right. Enough with the posturing. I full well know what I said to you two. If I've learned anything in the century or so I've been around it's that love hurts. And if you give it the chance it'll hurt you..." Buffy was about to interrupt, but Spike waved his hand. "I'm not saying it's not worth it, Slayer, don't get me wrong. I'm saying that you have to be sure. You have know in your heart that it's real and worth all the sacrifices. And you also have to know that it's not easy. Do you think it's worth it, Slayer? Because if you don't, if you have even the smallest doubt in your mind, then all the love and fuzzy feelings in the world aren't gonna save your relationship with that girl. Any kind of relationship. If love is what's in the cards for you, then you'll know it, and so will she. If it screams through your blood, if you feel her touch even though she's not here, if it makes you quiver from head to toe, then you'll know it."
After a few minutes, Buffy opened the passenger side door and gave Spike a look. With that, they both headed back to Giles' house, the conversation still playing in each of their minds.
"Hello? Um, yes. Oh, yes...how are you dear? I've heard so much about you. No, I'm sorry, she's had a long trip and is resting now. I'll let her know you called, though. Have a nice holiday. Bye."
Willow was sitting on the couch drinking tea when her Grandmother came in from the kitchen. She stood in the doorway and glanced at her granddaughter.
"I know, Nana. I'll call her soon." Willow replied to the gaze.
"But I don't understand it, dear. You've written me so many letters and we've had so many phone calls. You've told me all about Buffy, and it seems to me that she's your best friend. Why on earth would you not want to talk to her?"
"It's complicated, Nana."
"Seems that nothing should be that complicated, dear. If two people care for and love each other then that's the most uncomplicated thing we can wish for." She smiled down ather granddaughter. "Let me know if you need anything. I'll be in the sewing room."
Willow sat there for a while, taking in the scent of the familiar. She spent many holidays and vacations here. The house brought back comforting memories, the smell of baked cookies and vanilla and flowers. That's what her grandmother always smelled like. It was comfort she sought when she got on the plane, comfort in the familiar, the unchanged. Willow's thoughts were broken by the sound of the phone again. Knowing Nana wouldn't hear it in the sewing room, she went to pick it up.
"Hello? Mom! Hi. Yes, I'm fine. I just wanted to be with Nana for winter break. Yes, I know. I'm sorry you can't be here, too. No, we'll be fine. Nana always takes good care of me. You too, I'll see you at home after New Year's. Love you too, bye."
Willow was relieved that it was her mother on the other end of the line. Sheila and Ira Rosenberg were spending time with Ira's parents in between conferences. They'd go to the temple there, in Chicago, to worship. Anticipating the separation, Willow's mother sent her Hanukkah gifts to her with strict instructions to not open them until the right time, and they were even numbered.
Willow wandered into her bedroom, deciding that the plane trip had indeed wiped her out, and decided to take a nap. Curling up on her childhood bed, she soon found out that her mind was working overtime. Buffy. She'd been the reason Willow left. Right? Now she wasn't so sure. Oz? Giles? Xander? They could all be construed as contributing factors to her turning tail, but she knew that in the end, her own insecurities won out and forced her two states away from the people she loved.
Buffy didn't want her. Not really. It was a fluke. She was still missing Angel and Willow had to admit that she still loved Oz. That's why she did the spell. She did a love spell the night she ran from Buffy after their awkward meeting in the Psych building. After weaving her way through the throng of students she made her way home and went to the basement where the bulk of her supplies were stored. It was meant to be a harmless spell, designed to have true love reveal itself to her and Buffy. It was supposed to help them both get back together with the ones they loved. But she did it wrong, she must have. Right before the spell was to be completed, she heard footsteps on the porch outside the basement window. Her mind immediately shot to Buffy and she became distracted with the days' events. Instead of thinking of Oz, she thought of Buffy. In hindsight of everything that happened, she could see why she got caught in the spell too. With those thoughts, Willow finally began to drift off to sleep.
Willow strained to hear the conversation behind her door. She knew it was wrong but still, she couldn't help herself.
"I have.....duty too......choice......care about you.......get hurt......"
She could tell that it was Buffy and Riley. All she knew was that he helped Buffy defeat the Gentlemen and that he had a secret of his own.
"Want to try.......relationship......take it slow........kiss you again........please"
"Can't........kiss was good......too fast......need time......sacred duty."
From the pieces of conversation she heard, Willow surmised that Buffy and Riley kissed, Riley wanted a relationship with her and Buffy wanted one, too, but wanted to take it slow. Every word was like someone punching her in the gut. She couldn't take it anymore. Making sure she made plenty of noise with her keys, Willow walked into the room and over to her bed.
"Hi guys, how's it going?"
"Will, you're back from your 3 o'clock class." Buffy gave her a look of relief.
"Willow, hi." Riley grinned at her. "Well, I guess I should be going. Buffy, we'll talk again soon?" He gave her a hopeful look.
"Sure. Take care Riley."
Willow woke up snuggled under the covers. She guessed her grandmother came in and pulled them over her at some point in her slumber. Restless and no longer tired, she got up, went to the bathroom and decided to call Giles. If Buffy was there then so be it.
"Giles, hi....I'm with my grandmother in Wyoming....yeah....I just wanted to wish you a happy holiday....hmm...yeah, I'm ok. Just woke up from a nap....really?.....I guess you'll have your hands full with those two. You take care too...I'll see you after break...Yes, I'll be back a week before classes start. Bye."
That was interesting. Buffy was staying with Giles for Christmas. It was pretty ironic actually. A happy little family unit flashed in Willow's mind. Xander digging in the cabinets for something to eat, Anya pouting at the lack of attention, Giles rubbing the bridge of his nose because Buffy and Spike were trading insults back and forth in front of the fireplace. Yes, one little demented, dysfunctional family complete with a Slayer, an ex-watcher, a demon, a 200 plus year old vampire, a 1120 year old ex-demon turned teenager and Xander.
She found her by the window. Looking out on the snow, there was an expression of sadness on her face that made her look much older than her 18 years. She'd never be able to figure her granddaughter out. They say the eyes are the window to the soul. Willow's eyes had been empty from the moment she'd walked through the door. Something had happened to her granddaughter, something that took the fire out of her eyes, and Nana was determined to find out what it was.
"Why don't you come talk to me, dear? The snow will still be there when we're done."
The older woman's voice shook Willow out of her trance. How long had she been standing there?
"Sure, Nana. What's on your mind?" Willow walked over to the fireplace and put another log on the fire.
"That's exactly what I was thinking. What's on your mind? Something's happened to my granddaughter and I want to know what it is. Where has my Willow gone?"
Willow gave her a halfhearted smile. This was going to be a long night........
"....so then I went back to his room, and all of his stuff was gone. He left me Nana. How could he do that? Devon said he sent for the rest of his stuff. He's settled down somewhere....else....that's not with me." She was crying again. The tears turned on and off in the past fours hours, now they were making an appearance once again. She had told her grandmother everything. EVERYTHING. Graduation, Veruca, werewolf boyfriend and slayer best friend. She'd began to confide in her when she was in high school, when the fluke happened with Xander. Now everything came spilling out, and she held nothing back.
She looked at her, sobbing in the firelight. Such things to go through for someone so young. So much weight on her shoulders, weight she shouldn't have to bear alone. But she didn't, did she? Buffy was always there by her side. But now she wasn't. Her granddaughter ran from the comfort of her friends back home and she still didn't understand why.
"Oh, my beautiful Willow. Such pain and heartache. I wish I could make it all go away. But I can't. You have to allow yourself to grieve. Grieve for your lost love, your lost innocence. Only then will you be able to pick yourself off the ground and stand tall. There's no way around it. But, there is a way for it to be easier...."
Willow looked up from her hands. "What, Nana? Anything...I-I'd do anything to feel better....anything."
"You have friends that love you. Why did you come here when you have so many people to fall back on at home?" Willow began to shake her head, but Nana continued ... "You've confided in me, and to be a part of your life, to willingly make me a part of your life....I couldn't have received a better gift than that. But there are people more suited for the kind of comfort you're looking for. People like Mr. Giles, and Xander and Buffy. Why not sleep on it love, perhaps you'll see that the things you've run from are the things you need most." She got up and gave her granddaughter a hug and a kiss goodnight and left her to her thoughts. Willow followed soon after, crawled into bed and into sleep.
"Yes....Mr. Giles please......Mr. Giles? Yes, it's Margaret....Hmm, yes, it has been a long time...fine, fine...enjoying my retirement....Yes, I was sorry to hear that, we both know what they're missing.......Rupert, I need to ask a favor....It seems to me that we have something in common...or should I say someone.....Yes, it's very important, I wouldn't ask if it wasn't.....of course....I probably should have come to you sooner, I'm afraid it may have gotten out of hand.....Would you mind a little trip?.....I won't keep you long....no, only two days or so......really? Wonderful...I'll make the arrangements....no, no, don't be silly....the council can foot the bill for this one....I think they owe us both as much, don't you? Splendid....yes, one more thing....why don't you bring your Slayer....yes...I realize she's not taking council orders.....it's important Rupert, I wouldn't ask if it wasn't....wonderful! Tomorrow then? Ok, I'll make the arrangements and have the travel agent call you with the airline and times. Thank you, Rupert, I owe you one."
She realized that she may be overstepping her bounds. But this was her granddaughter's happiness at stake! In all her years as a watcher, all the prophesies, all the doom that was predicted, she was well prepared. The fate of the world rested on the Slayer's shoulders, and when she steered her daughter and son-in-law towards Sunnydale to begin their life together, it wasn't by chance, it was by choice. She only prayed that her granddaughter would be able to hone and perfect the powers she had within her. The choice had been the right one, and her Willow and the slayer worked together. It couldn't have been any better had she written the prophesy herself. Now other forces threatened to take over, forces that were unpredicted or over-looked. Well, there would be none of that. Not while she was around.
"We'll only be gone for a few days, Buffy. Xander has already agreed to watch Spike, I'm sure that he's more than capable...."
"And who is this woman again? A retired watcher or something? Why does she want me to go? Reliving old prophesies is so not what I had in mind for winter break, Giles." Buffy rolled her eyes, but the look she got from Giles told her that there was no way to get out of it.
"Buffy, Margaret is a very respected member of the council. Yes she is retired, but she still holds their favor, and mine. She's done so many things for me in the past I cannot even begin to repay her. If she's summoned both of us, there is a good reason, I assure you."
"I know Giles....When do we leave?"
"Tomorrow. Margaret has arranged for us to take a direct flight into Cheyenne and then a private plane..."
"Cheyenne? Wyoming? That's....that's where Willow is!"
"Yes, I know, but this is business and I don't think we'll have time to search the entire state of Wyoming for Willow..." Giles saw the look on Buffy's face, like someone had punched her in the face and she stood there and took it. "If we have time, we'll look her up."
With that, the slayer and the watcher prepared for the trip ahead of them.
"Willow, you've been in this house for two days......Why don't you go out and get some fresh air? Here, I'll give you some money and you can take a cab into town and go shopping, buy some gifts for your friends back home."
"I'd much rather stay here. I'm in the middle of something on my computer and I don't want to leave it..."
"You've been in the middle of your computer for two days, Willow, I'm sure whatever it is, it will keep. Come on now, get your jacket....or do I have to dress you myself?"
Willow knew she'd lost. She saved her document and put her computer on the bed. Grabbing her jacket and the envelope her grandmother gave her, she called for a cab and waited by the door.
"It'll be good for you to get out, dear. Look, the cab is here. I'll have dinner ready for you when you come back....now go...shoo!" With a kiss on her cheek, Willow was off to town.
An hour later, a black car pulled up the driveway. Giles and Buffy stepped out and the driver carried their bags to the door, where a woman stood to greet them.
"Rupert! Oh, it's so wonderful to see you again. You're still as handsome as ever. And this must be Buffy, I've heard so much about you dear....well, what are you waiting for? Come in, come in."
"Nice to meet you.....Mrs.?"
"Oh, please....call me Nana...everyone does. Now come on...I have tea on and I hear the water boiling."
After they settled in, the three of them sat down in the living room.
"You're probably wondering why I've asked you to come, Rupert."
"Yes, the thought had crossed my mind. You said we had something in common, someone...."
"Yes, well, I'll get to that. I've been retired for almost six years now. Retirement is such a bore you know." Giles nodded his head in agreement. She then turned her gaze to Buffy. "I was never an active watcher in the sense that Rupert was. I never had my own slayer. The council decided that I was better suited for books, prophesies and that sort of thing. It was quite mundane really. I was banished to the demon section of the card catalog more times than I can recall....."
"Hmm, prophesies.....we just love prophesies, don't we, Giles?" Buffy gave him a look and they both smiled.
"There was one prophesy in particular that I researched, and the council saw it fit not to, shall we say, advertise the information."
"Oh, dear." Giles gave Buffy a look of 'here we go again.'
"Yes well....I believe the year was 1979..." She got up and went to her bookcase. After some searching, she found what she'd been looking for. "I was researching hellmouths. Several of them had cropped up at once and the slayer at the time had quite an ordeal going from town to town trying to close them all...or at least inactivate them..."
"I seem to recall that they formed some path....." Giles offered.
"Quite right Rupert. You remember, very good. The path led straight to Los Angeles. That is where the last hellmouth opened and, unfortunately, the slayer met her demise."
They all took a moment, lost in their own separate thoughts. Giles and Buffy remembering the time Buffy had literally died trying to close the hellmouth.
"It's not a secret that most of the prophesies you and other watchers have dealt with have been predicted and researched by myself, along with a few others. I was given this duty because I am not only a watcher, I am a seer." Both sets of eyes were on her now.
"A seer? Well, yes...I suppose that would make the most sense, now wouldn't it? I always thought as much...." Giles trailed off.
"Oh, but that's only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, Rupert."
"Figured as much." Buffy offered.
"Yes, well, I came to find out that there was to be a slayer born. A slayer like no other we've ever seen. Her powers, combined with her intelligence and wit, would be like nothing we've ever seen before, or will see again. She would be THE Chosen One....the one to bring balance to the forces of good and evil. She is..."
"Buffy?" A little voice squeaked out from under an armful of packages. "Giles? What are you......Nana?.....Oh, man...." And with that, the petite redhead dropped her packages and fainted straight away.
"Oh, dear....she wasn't supposed to be back so soon."
Buffy and Giles were still staring in Willow's direction, mouths wide open.
"Rupert, if you would please?" She motioned in Willow's direction.
"Get her and bring her in here. We'll put her in her room for now. Oh, dear...I told her to stay out until supper."
Giles tenderly tried to pick Willow up, the strain and awkwardness on his face apparent. He couldn't figure out how to pick her up without being invasive about it.
"Giles, let me." Buffy stepped in thankfully. She gathered her best friend in her arms and carried her into the bedroom. She placed her on the bed, careful not to jostle her.
"Hmm, well. Someone in common, I see." Giles directed the comment to no one in particular.
"Yes, well you see Rupert, Willow is my granddaughter. And my granddaughter has been more distressed in the past two days than I've ever seen in her in her short life. I'm afraid it has to do with the prophesy I was beginning to tell you about."
"She's a witch." The comment came from Buffy.
"I know, dear. It's in her blood."
"Well, that makes sense. She's harnessed some real power in the past few years, but it's quite difficult at times for her to control it. If she has even the smallest amount of your power in her, then....." Giles added.
"Yes, well. Shall we, Rupert? I'd like to finish the story."
"Giles, if it's all the same to you, I think I'll..."
"Of course, Buffy. Stay here with Willow. I'll fill you in later."
Buffy offered them both a smile as they walked out and shut the door. Her attention was then drawn to the now-stirring form beside her. Willow. Their parting words back at the dorm were now pushing their way forward, as were other images......silky hair... the sunrise they shared.....her face in the moonlight.....her back as she walked out the door.
"Again Will, almost, but not quite human." Buffy smiled down at her friend.
"Buffy......what are you.....where's Nana?" Willow reached up and rubbed the back of her head.
"She's in the other room with Giles." Buffy began to get up off the bed, "I'll go get her if you want..." Willow reached out and stopped her.
"No, that's ok....I.....Buffy, why are you and Giles here?"
"Your grandmother and Giles apparently know each other....She called Giles and asked him if we'd come here....she said that we all had someone in common that she was concerned about."
"Oh...that would be me. I told Nana not to worry, she shouldn't have called you here."
"Oh yes I should have dear." The voice came from the now opened bedroom door. "There were a few things I had to discuss with Rupert....and I thought Buffy could keep you company. Seems to me like you needed it."
"Nana, how do you know Giles and Buffy?"
Buffy looked at the woman. Willow didn't know she was a watcher. That much was apparent by the expression on her face.
"I'll explain everything over dinner, Willow. For now, why don't you take Buffy downstairs to the den? Rupert and I aren't quite done yet."
"Ok, Nana...but I want to know everything later. Promise?"
Nana agreed and Willow got up and led Buffy downstairs to the den. After getting a few sodas, Buffy settled down on the couch and Willow sat in the overstuffed chair...at the other end of the room. They sat in awkward silence until Buffy decided to speak up.
"So, Will, I....."
"I don't want to talk about it, Buffy."
Buffy shot her a look. "Why not, Will? What's going on with you? You are the last person I thought would run away from their problems. And this is my problem, too...whatever it is...I don't even know if there is a problem....'cause you won't talk to me."
Willow sat there...studying her hands intently. She didn't know what to say, or how to say it. She was afraid that Buffy would never forgive her.
"I'm scared, Buffy......I can't....I don't want to lose you as my friend...I did something.. it goes wrong....I just missed Oz so much......and I know you miss Angel....I can't do anything right....I did a spell..."
"And you think it didn't work, but it did." Nana was on the stairs, listening.
"It was a spell to have your true love reveal itself to you? A few devotions, some well placed motherwort....am I close?"
"Yes, but how?"
"Come on, you two....looks like I have a lot of explaining to do.."
Two hours later, they were eating dessert and Nana was completing her story. "So I never told you I was a watcher, I thought it would be for the best. Especially since I knew how close I'd put you to the active slayer, on purpose. I sent your mother and father, newly married, to Sunnydale...and let fate take it's course at that point. I knew the slayer was a long time coming, and so were you. Two years later, you were born. You had a little patch of red hair on your head, the mark of a natural witch in our family, and I knew the prophesy was coming true. Didn't you ever wonder why you looked more like me than your mother? It skips a generation, the power we possess."
She got up to refill her cup and left them to absorb all of the information she'd just given them.
"Buffy was born several months before you, in L.A, two years after the Hellmouth there had been closed. She wasn't chosen yet, as I remember it, she was called while she was a freshman in High School and the watcher...."
"Was Merrick," Buffy remembered.
"Yes, good man he was. Now, the prophesy was this: A Slayer would be born unto this world, a Slayer like no other. She would bring balance to the forces of good and evil. She is, as we know now, Buffy. Don't get me wrong, I didn't know who Buffy was, I only knew she would be called late, without any formal training, and that she'd wind up in Sunnydale....just as a new Hellmouth was forming."
"Nana, how could you keep all of this from me? I told you everything about us...I always wondered why you believed me so easily...you never questioned me about the vampires or demons or the research I did for Giles...."
"It simply wasn't time yet, dear. And as to your next question, yes, your parents are well aware of what goes on in that town, and how involved you are. They knew since you were born that you were meant for bigger things than they could ever imagine. They're away at the most convenient times, aren't they?" She looked at her granddaughter and smiled a knowing smile. "When you two became friends, I couldn't have been happier. I thought the Slayer would have a better chance at fulfilling the prophesy if she had a natural-born witch as her sidekick..."
"Natural-born.....Nana...you're a witch?" Willow had just picked up on what she was getting to.
"Yes dear, natural-born. As I said, it skips a generation, which explains why your mother doesn't have any viable power. She has some....but it's not as fine tuned as ours is." She gave her granddaughter a chance to swallow this last bit of information. "In fulfillment of the prophesy, the Slayer was to join forces with her true love, and together they were to close the Hellmouth for good."
"Angel." Buffy's voice was barely above a whisper, yet they all heard it.
"Angelus? Hmm...one would think so. When I had the Codex placed in his hands, he was supposed to deliver it immediately, yet he hesitated." She was looking at Buffy. "That hesitation cost you your life, literally." Her gaze shifted to Giles. "And your hesitation also. Not telling her came at a very high price. But, as for being your true love, only you can answer that Buffy. The Hellmouth is closed, yes.....but is it for good?"
"I can assure you, Margaret, we did everything we were supposed to. She faced the master, and she died. As far as we know, the Hellmouth hasn't seen any activity since."
"As far as you know, Rupert...as far as we all know. But can you be sure?"
"Then Angel wasn't her true love?" Willow spoke the words Buffy was afraid to form.
"As I said before, only Buffy can answer that."
They were all lost in thought. Each reliving the time the Hellmouth opened and Buffy died at the hands of the Master. After a few minutes, Nana cut the silence.
"What do you say we all retire for the evening? We can continue our talk tomorrow morning. I'm sure it'll keep." They all agreed. "Rupert, of course, can have the other spare room. I'm sure you two wouldn't mind staying in the same room." Before anyone could object, Nana went off to retrieve some extra blankets, taking Willow's hand in the process.
"Nana, I don't think..."
"Why do you think the spell didn't work, Willow?" Nana cut in.
"I...well....Oz didn't come back...and neither did Angel.....I have a hard time with getting my spells right....and....well, they don't always go exactly as planned." Willow gave her an impish grin. "Just last week I made Giles blind and Xander a demon magnet." She gave a shrug of her shoulders.
Nana gave a little chuckle. "You'll get the hang of it dear. Practice makes perfect you know. As for your love spell...it was meant to have your true love reveal itself to you, wasn't it?" Willow nodded her head in agreement. "Well, seems to me that you just need to look for a sign that it worked. As witches, we're always aware of nature and all the beauty it holds. A bird singing in a tree, a crashing ocean, a magnificent sunrise...."
"A sunrise?....I...uh...." Willow gasped.
"Yes, most times, you'll find that nature will answer your questions, but you have to have your ears open and be ready for the answer, even if it's the one you weren't quite expecting. Now go, off to bed with you....I'm sure your friend is quite exhausted from her trip." Nana kissed her good night and sent Willow on her way.
This was a lot of information for Willow to digest all at once. She made her way to her bedroom, unsure of what she was going to say to Buffy. She walked in and realized that the conversation would have to keep for now. The Slayer was fast asleep in bed. Silently, she walked over to where she was laying and sat down next to her.
'Buffy. Now what are we gonna do?'
"Hmm? Don't know, Will. What?"
'What?' "What?" Willow squeaked.
"Will? What happened? What's wrong?" Buffy sat up.
'Buffy....say green. Green, green, green, green, green....'
"Green! What? Wait......what the hell?"
They both looked at each other. It couldn't be, could it? Buffy could read her mind. This little trip to Nana's was getting more and more interesting.
"Buffy...you...you read my mind...I don't understand.....it takes years to....I've read about it but...."
"Well, this is certainly an interesting twist to our already twisted relationship." The words rolled off Buffy's tongue. She didn't even think about what she'd said before it was too late. "Oh, Will, I'm sorry, I didn't mean...."
"No, it's alright. I deserved it, I guess. I haven't exactly been Miss Fun-to-be-Around."
No, Will....you don't deserve it.....I've been so worried about you. I.."
"Don't be silly Buffy, of course I would have come back, I just needed time to.." She saw the look of shock on Buffy's face, "...uh, yeah....I just read your mind and this is REALLY starting to freak me out!"
They didn't know what to do. Willow supposed that this had something to do with the prophesy, but what, she wasn't sure. "Ok, there's only one way to approach this..."
"Research." Buffy added.
"Ugh....this mind reading thing is gonna take a lot of getting used to. Let's research for a while and see where it takes us. It's only 11 o'clock. If we don't find anything by 12:30, I say we hit the sack and talk to Nana tomorrow."
"Why don't we skip the research and go straight to the source tomorrow, Will? I mean why spend hours trying to find something that your grandmother might already know about?" 'I can think of other ways to spend our time...'
"Buffy! You said that on purpose, didn't you?"
"Just checking to see if you're on your toes." Buffy gave her an all-too-innocent smile. 'This mind reading thing might not be such a bad thing after all...'
"Yes it is, Buffy. Don't you remember what happened the last time you were able to read minds? You almost went crazy...." Willow gave her a reprimanding look.
"Yeah, but on the plus side, I saved Jonathan. Besides, this is different. And if I go crazy, at least I'll have someone along for company."
"You are incorrigible, you know that?" Willow smiled at her friend.
"God, Will, I thought I'd never be able to do that again."
Willow cocked her head to the side, trying to figure out what Buffy meant, but her mind wasn't giving any hints this time. "What?"
"Make you smile." Buffy looked at her seriously.
"Oh. You could always do that Buffy. Even when things were so bad with Oz...and Xander with the fluke....you managed to make me smile." Willow fell into a contemplative silence.
'I could again, you know. Make you smile. If you'd just let me in and give me the chance.'
She looked up at the Slayer who had now put her hand on Willow's.
'I know. It's like I'm on the edge of something and I'm afraid that if I make the wrong choice then we'll never be the same again. Any of us.' Willow squeezed her hand.
'Don't I get a choice in this, Will? It's my life too you know.'
"Mmm, I know Buffy, it's just that...."
Buffy edged closer to her...slowly, tentatively. Not sure what her reaction would be.
'I can't think with her this close to me.'
"I know, Will. That's the point." Buffy offered a seductive smile.
"Ack, no...we can't...I mean..this is my grandmother's house, Buffy. Isn't it like illegal or something to have sex in your grandmother's house?"
"What I'm thinking about is probably illegal in at least thirteen states....does that mean you'd do it if we weren't in your grandmother's house, Will?"
"Yes..No! I mean....ugh, I can't think straight."
'Well, that's one way of putting it.'
"Ok, I'll be good. On the premise that we're at your grandmother's house. Neutral territory. Now, if we were anywhere else..."
"Don't finish that thought." Willow put her finger on the Slayer's lips. "I'm beat. Let's get some sleep and tackle the world-saving stuff tomorrow."
"I'm kinda beat myself...ok, sleepy time! And if you steal the covers this time I'll....have to do something horribly wrong to you." They snuggled down into the bed.
~~You know what to do.~~
~~What? Who are you? Where are you?~~
~~It's not important. What's important is this: You know what to do. All you have to do is listen to your heart, and you'll know.~~
~~Know what? Who are you talking about?~~
~~You love her, don't you?~~
~~ But I'm scared. I'm not exactly an expert on matters of the heart.~~
~~But do you love her? Do you love her with everything you have to offer, and then more besides?~~
~~Yes. Yes I do.~~
~~Then you know what to do, you know how to heal her and make her whole again.~~
~~But I don't. I don't have the first clue about what she needs...~~
~~That's nonsense. It's all there inside of you. You both made a good start, now you've been sidetracked. Break it down to basics. Show her..give her...everything.~~
~~But she deserves so much more. I feel like I just can't give her enough. Am I enough for her? Hello? Hello? Where'd you go?~~
"Wake up sleepy head." Willow was gently tugging on Buffy shirt, trying for the past ten minutes to get her up. "God, Buffy, you sleep like the dead. I'm glad I don't have to get you up for classes every morning."
"And you said I didn't sound human in the morning. Come on, get up. Nana made pancakes and left them in the microwave. She and Giles went out early this morning and left a note." The Slayer wasn't budging. "Come on, Buffy....I'm starving!"
"All right, all right. Take it easy there, Red. Geez, you'd think I'd be able to sleep in on winter break at least." 'You are way too chipper in the morning, Will.'
"I'm not way too chipper, and it's noon. You've slept practically the whole day away. Now come on, or I'll eat all the pancakes myself." With that, Willow walked out the door.
Buffy hardly thought she was kidding. After a quick trip to the bathroom, Buffy padded her way into the kitchen. Willow's back was to her and she was pouring two mugs of coffee. Buffy snuck up behind her and wrapped her arms around the redhead's waist.
"Good afternoon, you mean. Do you always sleep that sound? It took me ten minutes to get any kind of sound out of you." Willow glanced behind her. 'God, she's thisclose.'
'You smell good.' "Yeah, mom swore she was gonna hire the school band to wake me up in the morning. I told her I'd just buy earmuffs." 'I'd probably be more inclined to wake up every morning if I could wake up next to you...'
'It's true, Will. I think the last time I slept so well was about a week ago....'
"Ok, how about some coffee?" Willow wiggled away from Buffy's grasp and set the two mugs on the kitchen table.
"Oooh, pancakes. Even better, grandmother pancakes. If these are anything like my grandmother's pancakes then you'd better dig in before I finish them all."
Willow threw Buffy a questioning glance. 'Now that was too easy.'
Buffy looked up and smiled. 'I'm not through with you yet, Red.'
They ate breakfast in comfortable silence. Except for the little scuffle over the day's comics, things went smoothly. The note Nana left said that she and Giles would be gone most of the day and would be back after supper. She left some money and advised the girls to order out and then maybe rent some movies. Buffy hadn't finished eating yet, so Willow excused herself and went back to her room to change.