At loose Ends
by Kimber
Warning: This is a very dark piece, with character deaths. Do not read if you don't want to cry in the end.
Author's Note: A writers end product usually reflects how they feel when they write it. Angst abounds with my favorite couple. You 've seen it before, you know what it means. Tissue alert.

God I love her. With everything I am, everything I have the potential to be, I love her. She has become the reason for me. Somewhere down the line the definition of my existence changed, the rules changed, everything went topsy-turvy and I'm left here with a deer-in-headlights expression on my face and the most interesting tingle all over.

As I sit here and watch her sleep peacefully, probably for the first time in weeks, I wonder about the scheme of things. What would I have become had she not walked into my life so many years ago? That was rhetorical because I know the answer all too well. I would have become some demon's lunchable or a vampire's midnight snack. I would have died a few hundred times - a few of them flamey - had it not been for her. My love, my life.

She's restless now. Probably one of those damn Slayer dreams again. She's been having those a lot lately. She tosses and turns and wakes up with a thin layer of sweat all over her body, gasping for air. It breaks my heart into tiny little pieces to see her that way. What I wouldn't give to make it go away - I'd give anything just to see her-

"God no Will!" Buffy suddenly sits up and looks around the room terrified.

"Buffy I'm here. It's okay." I go to reach for her but she contracts into a Buffy-ball in the middle of the bed. "Tell me what to do. How can I help?"

Her head is resting on her knees. I can hear her sobbing softly. "It hurts Will. I never thought anything in my life could hurt so much." She whispers.

"What hurts Buffy? Why can't you tell me? You can't stay mad at me forever you know. We have to talk about this." I try to give her my best resolve face but she's not even looking at me. The resolve face doesn't work unless you can look at the other person.

I reach out for her again but she leans back against her pillows and snuggles down. She must be exhausted. If there were a spell I could do to get rid of the nightmares I'd do it in a heartbeat. I'd even sell my soul for it - just for her.

"Inside...I can't feel anything. It's just dead. I feel like I'll never see, never feel happy again. My world is all askew and my life...oh Will, my life is..." She trails off.

She's weeping softly now. God, who knew my heart could break for her any more than it already has. She's angry with me and we haven't talked about it yet. She dodges the subject anytime I bring it up.

About a month ago we were on a general patrol through one of the cemeteries. It had been very slow in the past few months so we had our guard down. Very big mistake. Six or seven vamps looking to party ambushed us. Buffy was handling it pretty well but there were too many of them. She was goin to town on two of them quite effectively when another one snuck up behind her and jumped on her back.

I freaked. Of course she's the Slayer and I know she can handle just about any situation thrown at her but it didn't register in my brain right at that moment. So I did the only thing I could think of at the time. I jumped on his back, which of course, made for a very unhappy vampire.

So he growled and tried to shake me off. It was like some crazy amusement park ride you pay four bucks to get on - all whirly twirly but only lasts for about two minutes. No wait, scratch that, getting a piggy back ride from a hungry vampire is definitely something I wouldn't pay four of my hard earned dollars to do.

So I was getting a free ride and Buffy was dusting the last of the undead and suddenly my ride gets a brain. He backs up into a mausoleum and poof! All the air in my lungs, and some I had in reserve gets whooshed out of me like a deflated balloon.

I don't remember much after that. Next thing I know, I wake up in my bed in the dorm in the middle of the night. Talk about time lossage. We partied with the vamps around ten and here it is, five o'clock in the morning. I must have passed out or got knocked unconscious or even a little bit of both, I'm not sure.

I can't sleep, I can't eat, and I can't function. Not with Buffy mad at me. I only tried to help. Granted she swooped in and saved my butt yet again, but I did distract him and she was able to finish them all off in no time.

Well, it looks like she's sleeping fine again so I think I'll go back to my bed and try to get some rest. We move out soon - and graduate. Me, a college graduate - I can hardly wait.

Finals. Blech. That's all I have to say about that. I've been sitting in the University Library for almost four hours now studying for finals. I was doing really well there for the first hour, then my mind began to drift off to Buffy and other parts of Buffy....Mmm. Oh, where was I? Right, Buffy. It's our senior year and we've been lovers now for two years.

Isn't it funny how everyone goes out looking for love only to find that it was right under their nose the whole time? That's how I felt when Buffy kissed me the first time. We had just finished with some brutal slayage and I got a nasty cut on my arm. She was putting the bandage on and when she was done, she kissed it. She kissed my bruise! Her head shot up to gauge my reaction and I must have looked like the fat cat who swallowed the canary.

She gave me a sheepish little smile and I did the bravest thing I've ever done in my life - even braver than nightly slayage of coeds with fangs. She had a bruise on her forehead so I leaned over and kissed it. When I pulled back, she had much the same expression on her face that I had on mine before. That was it - that was the moment that everyone spends everyday of his or her lives searching for. I couldn't find it with Oz, she couldn't find it with Angel or Riley no matter how hard she tried and we had just found it here together.

That was the first of many amazing nights. I blush right down to my orange sneakers just thinking back on it now. We learned every curve, every nuance, and every spot that made the other shiver...and some other spots that made us scream.

There hasn't been much screaming lately. There hasn't been much of anything. I've never seen her so withdrawn before. What makes it worse is that she won't talk to me, won't let me in. I don't know what else I can do for her to make it go away. I want my Buffy back.

Patrol again. Graduation is tomorrow and I've got butterflies in my tummy just thinking about it. I've been rambling on about it for the past ten minutes but Buffy hasn't said a word. She's distracted, sad, removed from everything. I've been with her only this past month and we haven't gone to see Giles or Xander and Anya at all.

Two vamps rise from the graves we're standing at and she dusts them pretty quickly. I've noticed that she doesn't trade quips with them or play with them anymore. It's become a plunge and move on, plunge and move on kind of thing. I chuckle thinking that maybe she's gotten more efficient in her old age. No time to spar or dance - just do the job and get gone.

We stop in the middle of the cemetery and she sits down near a fresh grave. She takes the dead flowers out of the vase in front of it and opens her duffel bag. She removes a beautiful bouquet of spring flowers and puts them in the vase. I decide not to question her on it - she has done it every night on patrol and when I asked her about it the first time she just changed the subject

She was so efficient before, it might be an hour or so before this one rises, so there's plenty of time to kick back and relax. Well, get as relaxed as anyone can get hangin out in a cemetery in the middle of the night.

She gets that look in her eye. I've seen that look before a thousand times and I know what it means.

"I'm sorry Will."

I shake my head and sit down in front of her. "You shouldn't be sorry Buffy."

"I hate being mad at you." She wipes a fresh tear from her eye. "Especially for long periods of time."

"I hate it too. If you'd only talk to me I know we can get through this."

"Before I came to Sunnydale, my life at Hemrey was...pathetic. I was a cheerleader, had superficial friends, and dated only quarterbacks and point guards - God, I sound like a cheap knock off of Cordelia." She smiled.

I smiled back. "Yeah, I guess you do."

"I only ever thought of myself and no one else's feelings or needs mattered. But then I came here and I met you and Xander and my life changed - I changed. Especially after meeting you. You taught me how to...God, how to do everything the exact opposite of how I was doing it before. Ever since that night at the Bronze when I realized that a vamp had taken you away I turned myself into your protector. I always had this need, this urge to keep you safe."

"I remember that. You came crashing through the mausoleum and kicked some booty." She's finally talking to me. I can't believe it! This is just what we needed, a trip down memory lane. She leans back against a headstone and I can tell this is gonna be one of those conversations. The ones where you wish you had a tape recorder to capture every minute of it so you can play it over and over and over again when you're sad or hurt.

"When Angelus...hurt you I went crazy. It was horrible when he killed Miss Calendar but with you..."

She trailed off and shook her head. The memories of being held by my throat by her ex-lover flooded my head and I shivered a little. "I still can't imagine how you got through it."

"When I fought with him I did it for you. I did it for you Will. He hurt you and for that he had to pay. Nobody messes with my Willow."

I chuckle hearing her say that. I love it when she says that. I look at her patiently, waiting for her to continue. She kind of looks like she's on the verge of something - standing on the edge on her tippy toes and one step could yank everything into clarity.

"There's gonna be a demon here in about five minutes." She glances down at her watch. "We don't have much time. Giles called before patrol and gave me the run down - said he was a real bad ass - only he used a lot of other words and kept referring to the rising of the tides." She shook her head and stood up. "I just...I need you to know that I love you. I love you with a ferocity that I never knew I had inside myself - never knew existed until I met you." She wiped a fresh batch of tears away.

"I know Buffy. I love you too." All I wanted to do was reach out and hug her but she stepped back a few paces. She ran her hands through her hair and picked up her duffle bag.

"I can't do this anymore Will. I can't be mad at you, can't be mad at myself for...well, that doesn't matter now. Nothing matters. When I'm done with this demon I'll come back here - for you. Then we can be together again like it was supposed to be all along. I can't not have you in my life." She sighed heavily and began to back away. She turned and walked off into the night.

"Be careful Buffy. Come back to me in one piece." I called after her.

It was a good fifteen minutes since she'd gone and I saw Xander and Giles running towards me. The panicked look on their faces was enough to tell me something terrible had happened or was about to happen. They stopped right in front of me gasping for breath. "Giles, Xander...what's going on?"

"Buffy!" Xander called out. "Buffy where are you?!"

"She went to fight the demon. Tell me what's wrong!" I was loosing my patience.

"She must have gone off alone." Giles finally said. "Damn it I told her to wait for backup."

They looked at each other and ran off in the direction Buffy went before. I was panicked now. She could be hurt or knocked out or even killed. I started off after them.


A voice from behind stopped me dead in my tracks. I whipped around and saw Buffy standing there. "Buffy? What's going on? Giles and Xander are as pale as sheets and they just went off after you. Didn't you see them?"

She smiled and walked up to me. She reached out slowly and touched my cheek with the back of her hand. "It's okay now Will. Everything is as it should be." Her other hand came up and cupped my face. "God I've missed you."

I was more confused now than I had ever been in my life. "Missed me? Buffy, I've been with you this whole time! For a month I've been trying to get you to talk to me. What's going on?"

A sadness suddenly crossed her features. It was a sadness unlike any I had ever seen on anyone before. "You don't you?" A tear escaped from her eye and her lower lip began to tremble. "I...tried to save you but...I wasn't fast enough. He...he was strong and I was tired from slaying the other six that jumped us. I...I just wasn't fast enough Will. Can you ever forgive me?"

"Forgive you? Buffy I love you. There's nothing for me to forgive, I thought you were mad at me, I thought you were never going to talk to me again." I was crying now too. My chest constricted as if I'd been staked myself. She was trying to tell me something and for the life of me I couldn't figure out what it was. It really didn't matter; nothing mattered now that she was talking to me again, touching me again. "Buffy I love you so much. Answer me please. What's going on?"

She smiled and leaned in to kiss me. Her lips brushed up against mine and I wrapped my arms around her waist. Had there been a tidal wave or a hurricane or even an earthquake I would have never known it, nor would I have cared. Buffy was in my arms kissing me gently and it was as if someone grabbed the remote control and pressed the pause button on everything else around us.

I needed to feel her, to touch her. My hands slowly made their way under her top and I caressed the small of her back. She must have liked it because she wrapped her arms around my shoulders tighter and began kissing my cheek, my forehead and finally settled on my neck. I could hear her breathing, and crying and I pulled her closer if that was at all possible and a thought suddenly struck me. She was cold, so very cold. I looked into her eyes. "Buffy, you're cold. Your skin feels like ice. Do you feel alright?"

She smiled sadly again. "I'm okay now Will. Better than I've been in a long time now that I have you again."

I stepped away from her. I couldn't think straight with her so close to me. I was about to bombard her with a thousand questions when we both noticed Giles and Xander walking back from where ever they'd run to. I gave Buffy my patented 'what's that all about' look. Her hand covered her mouth and a small gasp escaped from her lips.

It was an odd sight and one that I'll remember forever. Giles had his arm across Xander's shoulders and he was comforting him. As they got closer I could hear tiny sobs escaping from Xander's throat.

Xander walked up next to me and collapsed to his knees. His face was buried in his hands and he was sobbing openly. Giles walked up and knelt down next to him. "Xander."

"No Giles. No! Not again. It can't be happening again..." He managed to get out. "First Will now Buffy. It's been a month Giles, a month! I can't do this, I can't"

The sight of him losing control - sobbing like that - was killing me. I felt knots beginning to form in my stomach and my chest was constricting for the second time that night. Not a good feeling I'll tell you. I knelt down on the other side of him and reached my hand out to place it on his shoulder.

In that moment, everything became clear. A veil was lifted from my eyes and I could see and feel and know everything there was to know ever in life and even before life existed. My hand - the hand I used to hack into computer systems, the hand I used to cast spells and write notes in class and bring my lover to the most amazing orgasm's she'd ever known in her entire life - my hand went right through him...and I knew.

I closed my eyes and it all came rushing back like a tidal wave. In my minds eye I could see Buffy fighting the vampires, could see her in trouble and feel myself vault forward and hang on to the vampire as if my life depended on it. But my life didn't depend on it; hers did, so I held on even tighter. I felt the backward motion and the crash into the wall of the mausoleum - felt the air leaving my lungs and the sudden crack of what might have been a ringleader's whip. Had it not been my spine shattering, I would have sworn that the circus was in town and the lions were doing tricks. What I wouldn't give to see them standing on the drums begging for treats. I was pulled from my trip down memory lane by a hand on my shoulder. I looked up to find Buffy standing over me. Even when it's tear streaked, her face is the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen in my life - or out of it.

"I couldn't tell you. You had to figure it out on your own."

I stood to face her and could only imagine the dumbstruck look on my face. "My hand." I held it out as if she didn't know what a hand was. "It went right through him."

She made a sweeping motion with her own and passed right through Giles. "And so does mine."

"We're dead." I've noticed that I have this annoying little tendency to state the absolute obvious.

"Yeah. Looks like we are." Buffy entwined her fingers with mine and gave a little squeeze. "I couldn't live without you Will. I've lost so much in my life but the one thing I refuse to live you. And now I don't have to."

"The demon." I stated.

"Shredded me."

She winced. Either it was because she suddenly felt it again or she saw the expression on my face - or it could have been a combination of both, I wasn't sure. "Oh Buffy."

Giles gathered Xander up into his arms and got him to stand. I quirked my head to the side and noted the total devastation on his face. He was staring off at the ground and I followed his gaze. He couldn't tear his eyes away from the headstone and when I saw what was written there, neither could I.

'Willow Rosenberg'
'1981 - 2003'
'Lover, teacher, fighter, friend'

There was a carving below the words I'd just read - words that punctured my heart and tore apart my soul. It was an etching of a Willow tree. I turned to Buffy with what must have been the saddest expression I could muster up at that moment. No one ever thinks they'll see their own headstone, but I just did.

"A month ago today." She stated in answer to my unvoiced question. "The longest month of my entire life." She touched my face lovingly. "No more. We're done here. We've done our duty, fought the good fight and now it's time to go home."

"Home? What about Giles and Xander? And our parents?"

"They all have each other. They'll make it through this, I promise."

I was a getting a little angry now. "Buffy, you had them too! You could have turned to them, they could have helped you through my...death." I practically choked on the last word.

She shook her head. "No one could help me Will. No one but you and you were gone. But we're together now and nothing is ever going to come between us again. Not even death."

Before I could respond, a light suddenly appeared across the street. It was the brightest light I'd ever seen. I looked to Buffy. I knew what it was, I just needed confirmation.

"Time to go, we're being called."

A protest formed in the back of my mind but it disappeared suddenly when she placed her hand in mine. I felt calm suddenly, and at peace for the first time in a very long time. Maybe she was right. Maybe nothing could have kept her from doing this and nothing could have kept me from being killed. I've always believed deep down that there was a grand design to things - that we were destined to do what ever it is we did in life, and maybe, just maybe death is a part of that plan too.

No more words were needed. I nodded to her and we walked off towards the light together. Whatever lay beyond that beacon - neither of us could say for certain. The one thing we could say was that we'd face it together and now nothing could keep us apart ever again.

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