'This is nuts. There has to be some sort of law or something against it. I can't stop thinking about her.' Willow was almost dressed when she felt two hands creep up along her sides. "Buffy....what are you doing?" She was beginning to get nervous.
'I can't stop thinking about you either, Will.' "I've missed you."
"I was only gone for two days." She saw Buffy frown in the mirror. "I missed you, too. I'm sorry I ran out like that." 'I didn't mean to hurt you. Did I hurt you?..I mean..I didn't mean to be mean...I just needed time to myself...I..'
'You know, you're cute when you babble.' "I understand, Will. We all need a breather sometimes." Buffy smiled at her.
Both of her hands rested on Willow's stomach. She squeezed a little tighter, rubbing just above her belly button with her thumbs. She saw Willow's eyes close and felt her breathing become irregular. Lightly, she kissed her shoulder, then the nape of her neck. Her breathing increased also. 'You feel so good.'
'So do you.' "Buffy, we can't. Neutral territory, remember?" She gave the blonde a wide-eyed look in the mirror.
"Your grandmother and Giles are out....more than likely for the rest of the day and half the night doing...watchery things. Technically..."
"It's still my grandmother's house. It feels weird." 'But still...'
Buffy got a hopeful look in her eyes then chuckled. "Man, talk about thoughts and actions contradicting."
"Yeah....score one for inner turmoil." Willow dead-panned.
Buffy turned her around so that they were facing each other. "I want to help you, Will. But I don't want to be the source of your inner turmoil. Am I?"
Willow didn't answer and her mind didn't give anything away.
"OK, then. Let me know when you're done so I can change too." Buffy retreated for the door and reached for the knob.
"Buffy, wait." 'Don't go.'
She turned around, only to come face to face with Willow. "How did you....?" Buffy gave her a questioning look.
"Yeah, well....I'm not THAT bad of a witch..." The comment was followed by her patented Willow-smile.
"Yes, I'm sure you're not a bad witch. More of a good witch, like Glenda." Buffy began to move away, only to be trapped by two hands placed firmly on the door. "Will, if you insist on looking at me like that you'd better have something to back it up with. There's no guarantee I can control myself much lonmrunph...."
Willow broke the sentence with a kiss. It was a tentative, not-sure-what-I'm-doing kiss. Light, lingering, soft. All of a sudden, Buffy's world consisted of kissing Willow, and becoming good at it. This was a great start. Buffy pulled her closer, to close the gap between them. Willow gasped a little and Buffy took it as an invitation to deepen the kiss. Both of her hands went to the redhead's face, cupping it gently. Willow's hands lingered down to Buffy's sides, feeling her soft skin before wrapping her arms around the slayer's waist. Before long, they found themselves on the floor, Buffy straddling her lover, her fingers intertwined in red hair, soft, velvety red hair. They slowed the kissing, each not wanting to stop...both knowing they had to.
'God, I thought I'd never be able to do this again....'
'Me either, I missed you so much....'
'Don't leave me again, Will....I couldn't take it....'
'I didn't want to...' "I just had some stuff I needed to work out. Things got all jumbley....and I didn't know how to handle them."
"Like....things with Tara?" Buffy was propped up on one elbow now, her right hand resting on Willows stomach.
"That....and Riley." Willow looked away and found a fascinating piece of fuzz on the carpet.
"So you heard."
"I heard." 'You kissed him.'
"He kissed me, Will. There's a difference. At least I'd like to think so."
"Do you...I mean...would you?"
"No, to both. I don't want to nor would I. I think I've finally found what I've been looking for......here." Buffy leaned down again and planted a light kiss on Willow's nose.
'You're so sweet.'
"Hey, I aim to please." Buffy gave her a grin.
"Hmm...this mind reading thing could turn out to be a problem. Don't you think it's a little...well...invasive." Willow posed the question.
"Yes, but we've both managed to effectively block the other out when we really wanted to. I just think it's something that's going to take some getting used to, that's all."
"Hey, I thought I was supposed to be the smart one?" Willow gave a little pout.
"Yeah, well if you're so smart, why did it take you so long to kiss me?"
Willow scrunched up her nose. "Buffy...I was scared....I....." 'You don't understand.'
"I do, Will, I'm sorry if that was harsh....I was only joking." She leaned down and put her head on Willow's shoulder.
'Come on, Will.'
"It's just that.....when Oz left it was like....like I was split down the center and half of me was lost....I.....I never thought it could hurt so much.....I don't know if I could do that to myself again....to risk the hurt.....to love..." 'again.....like that'
'That's what I thought, too.'
'Yeah.' "I'm sorry he left you. And I'm sorry I couldn't stop it....stop you from hurting....stop you from having to see them together in the crypt, but if you're gonna feel better, then..."
"I have to let him go. I know, Buffy." Willow shifted away and sat up to face her. "How did you do it? Get over Angel, I mean."
"Come on, Will, we all remember that one. I ran. I ran until I couldn't run anymore. I couldn't face it.....I couldn't face you guys. I felt like I'd failed." Buffy's face was stoic, she wasn't revealing any kind of expression. "But, I got over it. Actually, I came back to Sunnydale and got over it. That's when it started to feel better - the emptiness inside. It was because of you....everyone else helped too...but it was you, Will. You didn't leave my side. And I got through." She smiled. "Let me in, Will. Let me help you."
They sat there facing each other. Willow decided to try something she'd read on the internet. She put on her concentration face and focused on reaching out to Buffy mentally. She imagined her hand going out and tugging on the invisible string that was linking them together.
'Ouch! What was that?'
'Wow...I read about it being done but....I touched you...mentally. That was cool.'
'Yeah, well...it felt like I just drank a slurpee too fast....can I try?'
Willow nodded her head in agreement. "Just concentrate on doing it and you will. It's not that hard."
Buffy reached out, seeking to follow the link into Willow's mind. Images flashed in front of her and she had to close her eyes to try and catch them all. Grave markers....grass...it was dark out....trees....a large stone building.....Willow's hand reaching out and grabbing the door....she had something in her hands....down the stairs...bars...Oz and Veruca...naked....the bag and thermos dropped and Oz jumped up....
"Willow..." He starts putting on his pants.
"Oh, my god. Oh, my god."
"I know what you saw. It wasn't..." Finishes putting on his pants. "I had to. I had to lock her in there with me."
"I bet." She hugs herself.
"She's like me. A wolf."
"Well, I knew you two had a lot in common, but..." Oz tries to touch her. "Don't touch me!" She jerks back.
"She was gonna hurt somebody. I didn't have a choice."
"But you did. You could've told somebody. Your solution... Just put you two together in a room all night?"
Having woken up, Veruca stands up bearing all. "Girl's got a point."
Oz turns to her angrily. "Leave."
Veruca puts her hands up in protest. "I'm just saying..."
Oz screams at her. "Now!" He turns back to Willow. "I'm sorry. I know."
"I knew, you jerk. And you sat there, and you told me everything was fine?" She was crying now. "And that's as bad as... As...."
"I know how it feels. I remember."
"Oh. So what, this is payback? I had this coming?"
"No. It's not...."
"Because I thought that was behind us. And you know, what happened with Xander, it doesn't compare. Not with what you and I had. Not with whatever you've been doing with her."
"I don't know what Veruca and I have done. When I change, it's like, it's like I'm gone and the wolf takes over."
"But before this, when you were regular Oz, you had feelings for her, didn't you?"
"No. I could sense something, but....."
"But you wanted her... Like in an animal way? Like...More than you wanted me?" She runs off crying....
Buffy opened her eyes....the tears streaming silently down her face. She felt it...felt everything Willow felt when she found Oz....the love in her heart as she opened the crypt...the shock at seeing him there naked with Veruca...the pain when she thought he was comparing it to Xander.....she felt all of it.
"Will....I didn't know...."
"Yeah.....it was pretty intense." Tears welled up in her eyes and threatened to spill over.
"I felt....God, I felt it all. Everything you were feeling...it's like...it's like I was you. Like it was happening to me...."
"I see you girls have been doing some research while we were gone." Nana was standing in the doorway.
"Nana..." Willow squeaked out. She got up from the floor and ran over to her. Nana enveloped her in her arms. She was sobbing now. Nana just stood there, holding her, smoothing her hair making grandmother comfort noises. Giles stood a few steps behind, taking in the scene before him. He took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose and looked over at Buffy as if to say 'are you alright?' Buffy gave him a smile, got up and walked over to him, leaving Nana and Willow alone. They walked down the hallway to the kitchen. Automatically, Buffy put some water on for tea.
"She's worse off than you thought, isn't she? Over Oz, I mean."
"She's broken, Giles. And I don't know how to fix her." Buffy let out the breath she wasn't aware of holding.
"Buffy, I'm afraid it has to do with a lot more than Oz. The prophesy Margaret was speaking of last night...well, Willow is an integral part of it. It's her destiny, I'm afraid, and yours."
"Pesky prophesies...." Buffy rolled her eyes.
"I'm afraid this is quite serious, Buffy."
"Sorry. So what are we facing this time?"
"Margaret and I went to visit an old friend of the council's. He's a shapeshifting demon that's worked with the council since its very early days. As a watcher in training, I actually studied with him extensively. This demon is the keeper of all the older, more fragile texts. It's amazing really, some of them are actually written on cured animal skin in a language that's long since forgotten, if I had the time...."
"Giles...the prophesy?" Buffy could see his tangent was headed into the realm of Watcher-Giles and his love of books.
"Yes, well....more specifically, he keeps watch over the older prophesies that haven't come to pass yet....the prophesies that were predicted over a millennia ago. This is, as it turns out, one of those prophesies. The research Margaret did pinpointed the Slayer to bring the balance, but the prophesy was written sometime in the year 876 by a man named Myrddin. He lived in what was then a Cymric borderland near the Solway Firth in Europe. This is where the council first began to take shape. Myrddin was, by all rights, the first Watcher." Giles could see Buffy's eyes begin to glaze over.
"If you translate the name Myrddin from it's traditional Latin you get, quite specifically, Merlin."
Buffy pereed up. "Merlin? As in King Arthur, Knights of the Roundtable and Excalibur Merlin?"
"Yes, quite right......You see, he predicted that Guinevere would betray Arthur and have an affair, but Arthur didn't listen and married her anyway. Arthur's brother found her and Sir Lancelot in the King's bedchambers and made the affair public knowledge, there in sealing the fate of Guinevere and Sir Lancelot. He called for her to be burned at the stake for adultery. Anyway, those events seem to shadow the events that now must come to pass. Had Arthur listened to Merlin, he would have never married Guinevere, she would have never had an affair that led to a war and consequently Arthur never would have been mortally wounded in that war. The prophesy we face is this: You are to come against a great demon, possibly Arthur reincarnate himself. In order to win the battle, you must face down the demon working along side your soul mate and equal. This is to be a person of great value when the battle commences. We are headed into a mystical convergence and the demon is coming to seek revenge on the friend that betrayed him and the love he lost. In essence, Margaret and I think that Arthur is coming to fight Sir Lancelot to the death. A sort of re-creation of what was supposed to be had he not been mortally wounded in battle."
"So Guinevere was Sir Lancelot's soul mate?"
"Yes, yes she was. Merlin alluded to as much when he cautioned Arthur against marrying her. The prophesy is to be fulfilled exactly 1123 years after the death of Arthur, on the night of the full moon. Before the dawn of a new Millennia."
"But Giles, that's.....that's...wait a second.....1123 plus 876...carry the 1...."
"The night of the full moon is two days before Christmas. A week from today, to be exact."
"Quite right, Rupert. Looks like you have your work cut out for you." Nana and Willow were standing in the doorway. "This is as far as I go on this journey, I'm afraid. I'm old and would only be a hindrance. I've filled Willow in on the prophesy and she is, as always, going to help Buffy in any way she can. Now, what do you say we leave this alone for tonight, hmm? It's still early and I think we could all use some fun." They all agreed and decided to go out to dinner and a movie. The rest of the night was uneventful and they all turned in early.
"Morning, Giles." Willow walked into the kitchen where Giles was reading the morning paper and having tea.
"Good morning, Willow. I trust you slept well?" Giles gave her a smile.
"As well as I could considering that Buffy stole the covers....again."
"I did not. You're the cover-hog, missy. I woke up in the middle of the night and I thought my toes were gonna break off from frost-bite!" Buffy joined them in the kitchen.
"As much as I'd love to bear witness to your silent battle of wills, I believe we have more pressing matters ahead of us. We need to leave this afternoon and meet with Myrddin. He met us at a little bed and breakfast just outside of town yesterday, but today we will be traveling to his estate."
"Oh goody, road trip!" Buffy bounced up and down.
"Yes, well. I took the liberty of getting you both passports. We should be there by nightfall if all goes according to plan."
Buffy gave him a questioning look. "Where's there, Giles?"
"Canada, Medicine Hat to be exact. We'll take a private plane this afternoon and land at Myrddin's chalet around dinner time."
"Medicine Hat? You've got to be kidding." Buffy gave him a look of disbelief.
"I assure you, Buffy, it's a real place." Giles looked at her through the top of his glasses.
They arrived at the chalet before seven. Giles, Buffy, and Willow stood at the doors of an old magnificent castle.
"Ooh, Giles...I forgot my computer...be right back!" Willow ran off back to the car.
"Welcome, Ripper. I trust your journey was a good one." An old man with a white beard stood before them. Dressed in a sort of royal blue gown, he gave the appearance of Merlin himself.
"Yes, it was fine, just fine. Myrddin, this is Buffy, the current Slayer."
Myrddin extended his hand and Buffy took it. As soon as she touched him, she felt a sort of energy course through her. "The pleasure is mine, dear."
"Nice to meet you." She stared at him, wide-eyed like a deer caught in headlights.
"The courage in this one is strong, Ripper. Strong indeed. She is the one we've waited for." He let go of Buffy's hand. "Please, come in. I'm sure your young friend will find her way."
He led them through the foyer. It was decorated in old, worn tapestries depicting the adventures of the Knights of the Roundtable. Each one telling a story. Buffy lingered a bit, awed by the beauty the offered. They rounded a corridor and entered what had to be the biggest library either of them had ever seen. There were books from floor to ceiling. Some parchments lay on the table in the far corner and scrolls could be seen poking out of one of the highest shelves. They were both awed at the sight.
"Please, come in. You may browse, of course, when we are through. I'm sure my collection is one that you've never quiet laid your eyes on before....or will again."
After the three of them settled in at the table, Myrddin began to speak. "Now, the prophesy at hand. Arthur is to come and try to win back the love he lost all those years ago. But, I am afraid, it was a love that was not mean to be. Lancelot and Guinevere were soul mates....destined to be together." He looked up. "Dear, God....it can't be."
Willow had walked in, her laptop case swung over her shoulder. She raised her hand and gave a little wave. "Hi...I, uh...forgot my computer in the car.....sorry." With an impish grin, she walked over to join them.
Myrddin seemed to be in a trance. His eyes followed her as she walked over to the table and took a seat next to Buffy.
"Myrddin, are you alright old chap?" Giles gave him a look of concern.
After a few moments, he spoke. "Hmm, yes. I just....it's uncanny." He continued to stare at Willow and she started to squirm under his gaze.
"Ripper, would you follow me please? I must show you something. Please excuse us ladies...it will only take a moment."
Myrddin led Giles over to one of the bookcases and instructed him to retrieve a book. He got it and handed it to Myrddin. Laying it down on a table, he began to flip through the pages until he came to what he was looking for. Pointing at something on the page, Giles leaned over and looked. He straightened up again, took off his glasses and cleaned them, and leaned in again. He and Myrddin exchanged a few words then looked over to where Buffy and Willow were sitting.
Buff finally cracked. "What? Giles, you're driving us nuts! Why are you two looking at Willow like she's gonna' sprout wings and fly away or something? What's the sitch?"
The two men walked back over to where the girls were sitting. Myrddin began to explain. "You see, Buffy, the Slayer was, from the beginning of time, suppose to be male. He would be the chosen one to fight the darkness and the forces of evil. In the early days, the council even began training males. That's where you get most of your dragon-slaying lore from these days. But on a fluke I'm afraid, the Slayer's essence was transferred to a woman at her birth. Her father's kin had been dragon-slayers. And so began the legend of the Slayer....female form, of course."
"I still don't understand...." Willow chimed in.
"Yes, well. It has to do also with soul mates, you see. Legend leads us to believe that the soul in each of us is only one part of a whole. We spend our entire lives searching for the other half, we cannot be complete until then. Several Western Religions believe that when we die, it is not forever. They believe that the soul is reincarnated, and we are destined to live many lives until we learn all the lessons life has to teach us. Unseen forces are at work in us...forces I couldn't even begin to explain...and it is those forces which draw us towards our soul mates. As part of the council, I have studied this theory endlessly and I have come to find a pattern. There are two souls in particular that keep making the journey. Simply put, they can't seem to get it quite right. Each life in turn, they are fated to love each other, and each time they do, an outside force bears down on them, thus dooming their love and sometimes costing them their lives."
"Kind of like a romantic tragedy...like Romeo and Juliet?" Buffy asked
"Yes, yes....that was one reincarnation. Then we have Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Anna Leonowens and King Mongkut of Siam..."
"Oooh, I know that one....'The King and I'." Willow piped in.
"Very good, Willow." Giles congratulated her.
"Yes. Then we come to Sir Lancelot and Guinevere. Had it all gone according to plan, Arthur was to marry someone else and die of old age. Having never been able to produce children, Sir Lancelot's child with Guinevere, was to succeed the throne by Arthur's passing, thus creating a new line of royalty....and with myself as tutor and mage, bring about the balance of good and evil." He paused to allow them to digest all the information.
"This not happening, of course, set the two souls in motion again. We don't see any accounts of male Slayers because the council simply chose to ignore it. Sir Lancelot was a slayer....a slayer of dragons. Having been banished from the kingdom, he set his course for a monestary and died there of old age. But not before impregnating a village woman. And there we have the first recorded Slayer, by council accounts anyway."
He crossed the room and retrieved the book he and Giles had been looking at earlier. "Modern storytellers would have us believe that Sir Lancelot was a man with long flowing black hair and a beard, and Gwenevere a small, but striking blonde. This, however, is not the case. Sir Lancelot was fair skinned and blonde and Gwenevere, well...look for yourself." He lifted the book and turned it to them. There on the page was a beautiful woman, and an equally beautiful man. You could tell she had a striking figure, even through the garments she wore.....along her shoulders lay a mane of silky red hair.....and her eyes were a piercing green.
"It can't be." Buffy said mostly to herself.
"Yes, child, I'm afraid it is. Guinevere was a redhead....the mark of a witch in those days, and these I'll assume. She stripped her hair of it's color with natural bleaching agents. All the portraits you see of her will show you as much....but I had this drawing done before she met Arthur. She was betrothed to the Heir Apparent, and in order for him to fully accept her, he father thought she should get rid of the red hair. Towns people were very superstitious in those days."
"But she looks like....." Buffy couldn't finish the sentence.
"Yes...yes she does. As I said, it's quiet uncanny." Myrddin paused. "I believe that we've had enough of a history lesson for tonight. Why don't we retire for the evening? I'm sure you're all quite exhausted from the trip. There are bedchambers on the second floor. You may all chose which one you wish to stay in, of course. My room is just down the hall if you need anything. Goodnight." With that, he disappeared through the door.
"Yes, well....come along." Giles snapped them out of their thoughts. "Myrddin is quite right. I'm exhausted, and if we're going to accomplish anything tomorrow, I'd say a good night's rest is in order."
Silently, they followed Giles to the second floor. Having chosen the room closest to the stairs, he said good night to the girls and went into his room.
"Will....do you want to...I mean...."
"Yeah....I don't feel like being alone....this place, as beautiful as it is...it's creeping me out."
Buffy let out a thankful sigh and they chose the room at the other end of the hall. After some exploring, they found the bathroom and got ready for bed. For an old castle, it had every modern convenience. After setting the alarm, Willow left the radio on for some background noise. Both of them crawled in, the night's discussion still playing over in their minds.
"You OK, Will?" Buffy asked after some time. Her friend hadn't said a word since they entered the room.
"Yeah...it's just, weird.....that picture I mean...I felt like I was looking in a mirror."
"I know, I saw it too. So this is what your grandmother meant by you being an important part of the prophesy."
"I guess so...but what was all that stuff about soul mates?....he sure did jump around a lot in the story....I couldn't quite follow exactly what he was talking about a few times..."
"Me either.....maybe he was confused......I don't know." 'You don't think?'
'Nothing....I'm probably wrong anyway.'
Willow turned her head to face Buffy. "What is it?"
"Well, you don't think that....I mean he couldn't be.....was he talking about us?" Buffy offered the last part barely above a whisper. Afraid to form the words she'd been thinking about the whole time.
"No...no way. It's crazy...I mean, we're not even in any kind of relationship." Willow's hand flew up, wishing she'd engage her brain before her mouth sometimes.
"Oh. I see." Buffy's face was all the confirmation she needed to know that she'd struck her. Hard.
"Buffy, I'm sorry...I just..."
"Don't worry about it, Will, it's fine." She rolled over and presented Willow with her back.
"I don't think before I speak sometimes, Buffy....you know that....I didn't mean to hurt your feelings...."
'Come on, don't be like that.....do I have to beg?'
Buffy rolled over and looked at her friend. "Seem to me that I've been the one to do most of the begging around here. I've had to beg you to talk to me, beg you to let me help you....I've even begged you to kiss me. Is it ever not going to be an uphill struggle with you?" Tears began to well in her eyes. "God, Will....I tried everything to get you to stay and not go to your grandmother's....I even told you I loved you and what did you do? You walked out the door! Well, I'm done....understand? I can't do this anymore...can't play games with you...can't try and predict your moods or be careful of what I say so as not to hurt YOUR feelings. Well, I have feelings too you know." Again she rolled over and faced the door.
Both of them laid there for sometime. Each lost in their own thoughts and regrets. Tears streamed silently down each of their faces, not knowing what to do next. A song began to play on the radio:
/ / / We were all wounded in some domestic war / I found you to settle my score / You look like father you felt like mother / My mind told my heart there is no other / And I gave you my soul / And every ounce of control / And I gave you my skin / And my original sin / And I gave you my pride and my side oh my pride / Ain't that enough? / I turned your dreams into lightening / Ain't that enough? / I held the world back for you / Ain't that enough? / I loved you past the point of dying / Ain't that enough of me for you? / / /
'Buffy...I'm sorry...please talk to me.' Nothing...not even movement 'Buffy, come on....I told you I was scared.' Still nothing. 'I know it's a lame excuse.....but it's the truth.'
/ / / Ain't that enough? / I turned your dreams into lightening / Ain't that enough? / I held the world back for you / Ain't that enough? / I loved you past the point of dying / Ain't that enough of me for you? / / /
The words of the song began to permeate Willow's consciousness. She settled down somewhat and began to hear them for what they were. Suddenly, she felt like if she didn't do something to fix this now....it would all slip away from her. Slowly, she reached out in the dark for Buffy's shoulder.....and was shrugged away.
'Don't, Will....just don't.'
'No, Will...not this time.....I've given you enough of me......I've tried so hard.....' Apparently, the song had invaded Buffy's mind too.
"God, Buffy, I can't take this mind reading thing. I need to hear your voice. Won't you talk to me, please?"
After some time, Willow could protest no longer. She and Buffy both fell into a deep sleep, the effects of their conversation reaching out and touching them deeply.
'Oh, God, Oh, God, Oh, God......what have I done?' "Giles! GILES! Come quick!" Willow screamed out in the early hours of dawn.
He heard her, and was up the stairs two at a time. "Willow....what is it, what's....Dear, God...what's happened."
The scene before him was this: Willow was kneeling at the bedside, holding Buffy's hand. Ordinary in every way, except that Buffy was stark white...her eyes shadowed deep within her face....her hand lifeless in Willow's. Giles walked over to the bed.
"What's happened, Willow? How has this happened?" He couldn't believe his eyes.
A voice, barely above a whisper, spoke from the door. "She tried to sever the link."
"What?" Came from both Giles and Willow.
"Your Slayer, Ripper...she tried to sever the link that binds them.....whatever happened in this room last night, she must have felt it was her only choice." He stood there for a moment, taking in the scene before him before he turned his conversation to Willow. "You have a bond between you, a link to each other's minds. I alluded to as much last night, but apparently, one of you was unable to accept it, and the other has suffered the consequence.....you ARE soul mates, that is a fact.....and meant to fight Arthur together, side by side."
There was no denying it now....no way to talk or reason her way out of it. The implications hit her like a ton of bricks. What had she done? Had she been so harsh last night that she drove Buffy to do something so drastic that the price might very well be her life?
"No child, it wasn't just last night. I'm afraid it was the entire situation. The girl must have felt for a very long time that she wasn't good enough for you in order to damage the link the way she has."
"Myrddin, you needn't make her feel bad. The situation is dire enough already." Giles jumped in to defend her.
"Quite right Ripper, but it is the truth of the situation. I can tell you this, young one, there is only one way to fix this...one way to rectify the situation.....and you know what it is....you just have to look deep enough inside yourself." He paused for a moment and let out a sigh. "Come, Ripper....we have research to do......and your two girls here have a long uphill battle ahead of them."
Giles looked at Willow again. With sadness and resignation in his eyes, he followed the old demon out of the room.
A protest began to form on her lips, but she knew it wouldn't do her any good. She'd done this, and she'd have to fix it. Myrddin was right....the problem was that she didn't know where to begin.
Being, of course, Willow, she made her way over to her bags and fished out her computer. For the next hour, she researched everything she could on telepathic and psychic links between people. She would have eventually figured out all of the information she found, it was all quite logical...but right now she was running on pure emotion.
'So in order to repair the link, I have to get into her mind and see with MY mind's eye the damage and fix it....kind of like rebuilding a brick wall.' "Well, that doesn't seem too difficult." She had no idea.
"We can't just leave them up there...I need to do something, I feel quite useless, Myrddin." Giles was protesting for the umpteenth time.
"I understand, Rupert....I really do. But the damage is done. You would only prove to be a distraction to her. There is nothing we can do but wait." The words came out in a sympathetic tone, meant to soothe, but all they did was strike more fear in the watcher's heart. "If the girl lives up to all the expectations you have of her, it shouldn't take too long. She's very smart." Giles could do nothing but agree.
Willow had been arranging the room to suite her needs. Pulling the curtains closed, she pulled out all the red and black candles she'd brought, red to signify love and black for protection. She figured it couldn't hurt. She had also set up a censer and her own personal mix of incense was burning in it. Carefully, so as not to disturb her, Willow got into bed with Buffy and gathered her into her arms.
When she was sufficiently comfortable, she closed her eyes and began to visualize the task before her. Slowly, the link came into focus. It wasn't severed on the outside, so she'd have to get inside Buffy's head deeper. Carefully, she reached out and touched it, and sent a reverberation through both of them. 'Have to be careful with that....don't want Buffy to feel like she drank a slurpee again.' Guided by intuition, she followed the linkas far as she could....she literally dove into the recesses of her mind....and hit a wall. 'What the......' She shook off the feeling and began to really look around. Opening her mind's eye, she saw before her a large wall, literally. And the link went right through it. 'This is going to be a lot harder than I thought.' Thinking she could go through it, Willow began to feel around, checking the solidity of it. 'Solid as rock.....now what do I do?' Her hand was resting on the wall. 'Oh, Buffy...why won't you let me in? I care for you so much...you're my best friend.' Just then, the wall began to change. Almost immediately it went from solid to an almost Jell-O consistency....then right before her eyes, it disappeared and the link fell just above the ground. 'Cool.'
She followed the link for sometime....she wasn't sure how much time had passed or how many corners she turned. She came upon a large dark corridor. Afraid of falling, she reached out and felt for the wall next to her. Before her eyes, a bright white light formed and she quickly pulled her hand away. 'That was weird.' She noticed figures in the light before she pulled her hand away, so she decided to try again. Cautiously, she reached her hand out and placed only two feather-light fingers on the wall. A scene began to form before her......
Buffy raises her sword to dispatch Angelus, but stays herself when he suddenly gasps loudly and groans in pain. She sees his eyes glow bright red for an instant and go back dark. He looks up at her, but quickly collapses to the floor, crying. Buffy stares down at him, but still holds her sword raised behind her. Angel raises himself back up, his eyes heavy with tears, and looks into her eyes.
Softly, "Buffy?" Sobs. "What's going on?"
She just looks at him, confused but not yet ready to lower the sword. He looks around a bit and gets to his feet.
Looks at her. "Where are we? I-I don't remember."
Finally Buffy realizes that the curse has worked, and she slowly lowers her sword.
Buffy speaks softly. " Angel?"
"You're hurt." He looks at her wound and embraces her tightly. "Oh, Buffy... God." She still isn't completely sure that it's true, but accepts the hug. "I... I feel like I haven't seen you in months." Finally she accepts it, closes her eyes and breathes out a deep sigh. "Oh, my God, everything's so muddled. I..." He holds her even more closely.
She cries into his shoulder and hugs him back. Behind him Acathla lets out a low rumble. Buffy opens her eyes and stares in shock as Acathla's face contorts. His brows angle down, his eyes glow red, his mouth opens grotesquely and the swirling vortex to Hell opens, small at first, but growing steadily in size and emanating a deep, red glow. Buffy lets go of Angel and looks up into his face.
Angel holds her at a short distance. "What's happening?"
She whispers reassuringly to him. "Shh. Don't worry about it."
She brushes her fingers over his lips and across his cheek. She lays her hand on his cheek and kisses him softly. He returns the kiss, and it becomes more passionate. Behind them the vortex has grown to about five feet across and continues to get larger. Buffy breaks off the kiss and looks deeply into Angel's eyes. "I love you."
He whispers back, "I love you."
She touches his lips with her fingers again. "Close your eyes."
She nods reassuringly, and he closes his eyes. She tries hard not to start crying, and kisses him again gently. She steps back, draws back her sword and thrusts it into his chest. His eyes whip open in surprise and pain, and a bright light emanates from the sword. She steps away from him. He reaches out to her and looks down at the sword thrust completely through him. He looks at her imploringly, completely bewildered by this turn of events. She can only stare at the sword protruding from his chest, and slowly steps further back.
Behind him the power of the sword begins to swirl into the vortex. Buffy steps further back, still looking only at the sword in his chest and not into his face. The vortex has enlarged to about twelve feet across, and the two energies begin to interact. Angel still holds out his hand to Buffy. When the vortex finally meets him it suddenly closes into Acathla's mouth without so much as a spark, taking him with it. Buffy stares at the stone demon for a long moment, a light of awareness dawning in her eyes as she truly realizes what she has done, what she has lost.
Willow's hand jerks back, as if in pain. 'Oh, God Buffy...I didn't know....it's was Angel....not Angelus.' Tears form in her eyes. 'I was too late....I didn't know...I'm sorry, Buffy...Oh, God....I'm so sorry.' Just then the corridor lit up to a brilliant purple and Willow had to shade her eyes. As quickly as it came, it subsided and she could see the link trailing through the darkness in front of her.
Gathering her composure, she began her journey again....the image of Angel being sucked into Acathla dancing on the edges of her mind. After what seemed like forever, she came upon a large hall. In the middle was a large dark mass, suspended in the air, and that's where she saw the link end. She got closer to it and realized that this is where the link had been formed....bound directly to her soul. But something was wrong...upon closer inspection, she realized that the link had been attached to the soul by a thread...and the other pieces of it were dangling precariously, sort of like a frayed string.
'Oh, Buffy...you've almost completely cut it.' She reached out to touch it, only to reconsider, remembering the reverberations she'd felt earlier. 'If I can't touch it, I can't fix it...now what?' She fell to her knees, worn out by all that had taken place. The tears began to resurface again....witness to all that had happened.
"Buffy...I need you here...I-I'm sorry I hurt you. You know...after everything I've seen I realize that I can't do this alone..I need you by my side.." She took in a much needed deep breath. "Remember when Angelus held me at the school...I knew you'd come, I knew you'd save me.....I knew you wouldn't let me down.....you've been my link to the outside world...being friends with you has brought me out of my shell...made me come into my own. It wasn't Xander...or Oz....Buffy, it was you, and if I lose you now, I'll lose a part of myself." She wrapped her arms around herself, sure of the words, but not sure how to form them. "You were right, you know. You have given me enough of you...now it's time I gave something in return...no more fear, no more questioning myself and my feelings...my feelings for you...It's been on the edge of my mind for so long it's become as automatic as breathing....and I took it, and you, for granted." She sniffled a little, trying hard to hold herself together. "Buffy, I love you...I love you with all that I have...because you showed me...you taught me how to do it...not to love the man or the woman...but the person inside...the soul."
Suddenly, there was a great tremor.....Willow scrambled to her feet and reached back for the wall, afraid to lose her footing. Instead of the wall, she felt a hand and saw a glimmer of blonde hair before everything went to brilliant white, and then black again.
She wasn't sure how long she'd been laying there. Slowly, she became aware of each part of her body, and her arms wrapped around a slender figure. Cautiously, she peered down at the girl next to her and was met with a lopsided grin.
"Hey." Buffy whispered.
"Hey, yourself." Willow managed to squeeze out as a lone tear fell from her eye.
"Don't cry, Will. I think we've done enough of that to last us a very long time. Don't you?" She smiled at her again.
"I could have lost you...it's my fault....and Angel..I didn't know..."
"I know, Will...but it doesn't matter now. I heard you, you know....every word..it was like I was on the edge of a cliff, and it was your voice that kept me from taking another step."
"Don't leave me again, Buffy...please...." She was crying openly now...her body becoming wracked with sobs.
"Shh....OK...I won't.....Don't cry, Will.....I love you too." 'More than you know.'
'I think I DO know, Buffy.....now.' "The link.....it works....that means I fixed it!.....Yay me!" Willow gave her a little squeeze.
"As much as I'd love to celebrate your victory, Will....I think I'm kinda' hungry."
'Mmmm, hungry for what?'
She gave a little shrug. "Sorry....can't help myself." She planted a tender kiss on Buffy's lips. "Come on...let's go get something to eat.....I wonder how long we've been up here...." Both girls got out of bed and made their way downstairs, arm in arm.
"What? Giles, that's impossible..." Buffy gave her watcher a look of shock.
"I'm afraid it's not, Buffy. You've been up there for five days. It was all I could do not to come up there and see what was going on." He looked at her with concern. "Are you sure you're alright? You both must still be very weak."
"For the last time, Giles, we're fine. But this only leaves us with three days before the prophesy begins." Will looked at him with a mix of reassurance and concern.
"Yes, yes indeed. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and little time to prepare." Myrddin was standing behind Giles. "I suggest we get started right away if you're all up to it." The three of them nodded in agreement. "Very well then. Ripper, I'm sure you'll find the training room sufficient to your needs....you've already set everything up for when Buffy was ready?"
"Yes, quite sufficient I must say. All the modern and archaic weapons I can think of. It'll be a pleasure training with such a supply."
"Good, then Willow and I will be in the tower training." Without another word, he ushered Willow out of the room and up the stairs, and Giles led Buffy down to the basement.
"Come on...you can do it...I know you have it in you. You just have to harness the power..."
"I'm trying Myrddin, I really am."
"You must try to effectively block my attacks with the magic you posses inside of you. Come on now...try again."
For what was probably the tenth time, Myrddin attacked her and she tried to deflect. Suddenly, Buffy appeared before her and Myrddin was aiming a ball of light in her direction.
"Oh no you don't!" Willow pulled her hands together as if to catch the ball and successfully deflected it, sending careening into a wall where it made a nice big black mark. Then Buffy disappeared. "What the?" Willow shook her head as if to get rid of the cobwebs.
"It was an illusion, Willow...Buffy wasn't really standing there. But, the illusion worked, and you successfully deflected the energy ball. Well done." Myrddin gave her a congratulatory look.
'Go me....yeah, I'm bad!' She stood there with a self-satisfied look on her face.
Buffy was battling one of the many demons that had manifested itself in the basement. She was effectively blocking all the punches and defending herself, but she wasn't on the offensive. Suddenly, Willow appeared at the other side of the room and looked around in confusion. Buffy looked over to her and the demon followed her gaze. Immediately he was bearing down on Willow.
"No way, you big green oaf....get away from her!"
The demon didn't listen and was upon Willow almost instantly. Buffy ran over and jumped on his back, pounding into him with the mallet she held in her hand.
"I said..." Smash "Get away" Crash "From her." Pound, pound, "NOW!"
Now drawing it's attention to the leach on it's back, the demon swung around and backed into a wall, smashing Buffy into it. She recovered quickly and with a well placed roundhouse kick, she sent the demon flying to the other side of the room. Not wasting any time, she grabbed a nearby sword and cut it's head off in one swoop. The demon melted away into the cracks of the floor and, you guessed it, Willow disappeared.
"What? Where'd she go? Will?" Buffy turned around in a circle, not sure what to do next.
"Yes, well...I believe that's what Myrddin meant by incentive." Giles pointed out to her. "It was an illusion, Buffy....incentive to put you on the offensive." He smiled at her.
"Oh, I see.....hey, that was sneaky, Giles." She furrowed her brow and gave him her best reprimanding look.
"I can assure you I had nothing to do with it." He removed his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose, chuckling softly to himself.
She crossed her chest with her arms. "I'm sure."
Their training commenced much in the same way over the course of the next three days, each learning and perfecting new techniques. Willow becoming a sort of expert in magical healing, deflection, energy ball formation and so on. Buffy becoming a master of the sword, scathe, crossbow, ball and chain, and perfecting her staking technique with stakes as small as three inches long up to three feet across. They had been so apt, there was still a full day left before the demon's awakening.
"So what now?" Buffy asked
"Well, there really isn't anything left to teach either of you. I suggest you pack your things and prepare for the journey ahead." Both Willow and Buffy gave Myrddin a questioning look. "You will meet the demon on the active Hellmouth." He said in a-matter-of-fact way.
They both looked at Giles and he guiltily looked out the window. "Yes, well." He straightened up and removed his glasses to clean them. "Shall we?"
The trip back to Sunnydale was, thankfully, made in Myrddin's private plane. It took about four hours, which left them all plenty of time to unpack and rest up for tomorrow's events.
"Giles, I don't think it would be such a hot idea if we went back to your place. I mean, if Xander finds out about this, then...." Buffy offered.
"Yes, yes, you're quite right. As much as he can be a help sometimes, well..."
"We could stay at my house. My parents are still in Chicago." Willow responded.
"Yes, good idea. Let's go then, I'll call for a car." Giles was off to the closest payphone at the airport.
They arrived at the Rosenberg residence and settled in. After ordering a pizza theysettled down in the den for some TV.
"Well, I for one am entirely wiped out. I think I'll retire and leave you two to watch that mind-sucking machine." He rose to go.
"Giles, do I have to remind you that you OWN one of those mind-sucking machines?" Buffy chided.
"Yes, um, well....goodnight, ladies." He smiled and ascended the stairs for a much-needed slumber.
"So," Willow looked down at her hands.
"Yeah, so." Buffy responded.
"I'm kinda' beat, too. Why don't we head upstairs to sleep?" She looked up at Buffy.
Buffy considered saying something else, but thought the better of it. "OK."
Willow rose first and put her hand out to the blond perched on her couch. It was a harmless gesture, but when their hands connected, they both shuddered a bit from the contact. As they ascended the stairs, Buffy recalled a hundred different times they'd done this....gone to Willow's room. But this time it was different.
They walked in and began to dig through their bags, each searching for pajamas. Willow looked over at her, preoccupied with thoughts that didn't involve clothing. As if her feet had a mind of their own, she crept over to the Slayer and wrapped her arms around her waist from behind. Buffy jumped a little from the sudden contact then let out the breath she wasn't aware she was holding.
"Hey." Willow whispered.
Buffy chuckled a bit. "Hey yourself."
Willow's arms came up in front of Buffy and began to unbutton her blouse slowly, methodically, as if she were peeling away the final layers of what was between them. Finally down to the last button, Willow reached up and pulled the shirt off of her. She wrapped her arms around her again, running her hands over the smooth tight skin of Buffy's stomach and lightly across her chest. Buffy let out a little shudder and leaned back a little more, aware of the other girl's body pressing against hers.
Buffy took Willow's hands in her own and turned around to face her. Slowly she reached for the sweater she was wearing and, realizing it was the one she gave her for her last birthday, smiled. She pulled the sweater off of her and stepped in for more contact. Her hands trailed slowly down the redhead's arms to her shoulders, sending another shiver through both of them.
"Wow." Willow breathed.
"Mmm...I'd have to emphatically agree." She smiled back at her.
Without any other words, Buffy leaned in for a kiss. Upon contact she exhaled, then inhaled again...realizing maybe for the first time, exactly what Willow smelled like. Willow let out a little moan and took the initiative to deepen the kiss. Soon they were exploring each other's bodies as if for the first time. Somehow they wound up on the bed....Buffy trailing kisses down the middle of her chest and to her stomach, stopping only to unhook the thin piece of cloth barring her access. She reached over and began to unbutton Willow's jeans...with each button undone, she planted a kiss on the newly exposed skin.
Unable to contain herself any longer, Willow reached out for her and switched positions. Now on top of a very confused slayer, she leaned in and kissed the nape of her neck, with some force...nipping at her pulse point. Buffy couldn't believe how good it felt and pulled her in closer. Breaking contact, Willow was propped up on her knees in front of her, drinking in the sight of her lover....her soul mate. She reached for the waistband of Buffy's pants and pulled them off in one motion.....and smiled that seductive smile.
Buffy reached up and hooked her hand behind Willows neck and pulled her in for a kiss. Before long, each kiss grew more passionate, their tongues reaching out and dancing with each other in the darkness. The Slayer lay completely covered by the body on top of her, unable to remember ever having this much desire inside of her for anyone or anything.
Willow shifted and ground down against her as if by instinct and Buffy growled a little at the newly discovered sensation. Both opened their eyes at the same time, noticing each other's erratic breathing and how their eyes had darkened in shade. Reaching down to remove the last bits of fabric that separated them, Willow allowed her hand to linger and then brought it up slowly.
'Mmmmm, feels good?' She looked down at the woman beneath her. 'I love you, Buffy....so much.'
'I love you too Will, more than anything...but....there was this hip thing happening a second ago...' She blushed.
'Oh, yeah.' She wriggled a little bit again. 'Like this?'
'Almost coherent, Buffy....almost.' Willow grinned.
Buffy's hands reached up and pulled her into another passionate kiss. Her hands trailed down to the hackers waist and pulled her down as her own hips rose up to meet her. Willow moaned a little bit, shocked as well at the feelings inside of her. Their breathing increase with each movement...not wanting to let it end, yet each knowing they were drawing closer.
In unison, they let out a groan, peppered with both pleasure and a much needed release. They lay there trying to catch their breath. Finally, Willow rolled off of her, breaking just enough contact so she could gather her up in her arms. Soon, from sheer exhaustion, they both fell into a blissful sleep.
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