Told from Willow's POV.
Chapter 1 - Willow, weep for me Willow, weep for me
somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence;
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously)her first rose
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me this the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
E. E. Cummings
Nietzsche once wrote that when you gaze into an abyss, the abyss gazes back into you. While
I'm not one to take advise from someone who inspired Adolf Hitler, I can say that he was
right on the money with that observation. I have stared into my own abyss many times. Hell,
my hometown was built on an abyss. And only now can I tell others about it. And I have to
tell the world. It needs to know the truth about her. About Buffy.
Yeah, I remember when it all started. When we fought the greatest battle of our lives, against
the monster Adam. The battle that had cost the world its protector, its Slayer.
The one whom I loved more than anyone else in the world, Buffy Summers.
It was over a year ago, and only now do I have the courage to write about her. Who she was,
what it was like to lose her, and what I had to go through to find her again.
Before I get bogged down in angsty thoughts, let me just say that my story does have an upbeat
ending. Well not really an ending, per se, since it's not over yet, and I hope it won't be for
a long time. I went through Hell, both literally and figuratively, to get to where I am right
now, I'm not going to lose what I have now.
Geez, even when I write I babble.
I guess that the reason I'm telling you that there is a happy ending is because I don't want to
lose your interest right away. This is an important story I'm writing, even if it will never see
publication in my lifetime. It's about the most important person, IMHO("in my humble opinion" for
those who don't know cyberspeak), of the twentieth century. Her name is Buffy Summers, and you
who are reading this story owe her your life. She has literally saved you, not to mention the rest
of humanity, from the most terrible evils imaginable. And in the immortal words of Han Solo, "I can
imagine quite a bit!"
Reading that last paragraph, it looks like I'm overstating Buffy's life just a tad. I'm not.
Buffy Summers has quite literally saved the world at least six times that I know of. If you're
alive today, it's because she has busted her butt to protect the world from the things that go
'bump' in the night.
And I of all people can say that. My name is Willow Rosenberg, and I've been there beside Buffy
from shortly after Day One. She's been my friend, my confidante, my sparring partner, my college
roommate, and finally my lover.
How does Giles put it? "In every generation there is the Chosen One. She alone will stand against
the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer." That was Buffy's destiny;
the Slayer. Yes, virtually every myth, every creature of your nightmares, they all exist, or existed
at one time. And my hometown of Sunnydale was Ground Zero for these beasties. Sunnydale was built
over a Hellmouth, a portal to Hell which brought forth all manner of nasties. Really bad zoning,
right? Apparently these vampires and other demons existed for as long as humanity, if not longer.
And as long as humanity existed, a select handful of young women have had the capability to fight off
the forces of Hell. And Buffy, I figure, was the best.
How do I know this? Personal experience. I've seen her execute moves that would make Michele Yeoh
envious, turning whole platoons of vamps into piles of ash with a well placed spike or a volley of
crossbow bolts. I could tell you stories about the Master, Angelus, Mayor Wilkins and the Ascension,
Belial and Adam, that would freeze your blood. No one had ever faced evils like them before. But
Buffy did. She not only faced them, but at the end, she was the only one who walked away from any of them.
Except Adam. She didn't walk away from that one. But that's getting ahead of myself.
Goddess, it seems like a lifetime ago. Cordelia and her follower Harmony had been giving me grief about
my wardrobe again("the softer side of Sears", my pagan ass!), when a blond woman about my height shows up
and tells Cordy and Harmony off! Then she asks me for some help with her homework. That was how I met
Buffy. That was about six years ago. The day that my world, or at least my understand of the world,
Soon, I found myself hip-deep in horror-movie extras, watching this same blond girl make like the
Terminator, dusting them right and left. Not long after that, I, along with my childhood friend
Xander, my werewolf boyfriend Oz, and Xander's girlfriend Cordelia (yes, the same Cordy, go figure),
fought the good fight alongside her. I saw and learned so much then; I met the cursed Angel, Buffy's
first love, a vampire with a soul. I faced down the demonic Anya, the rogue slayer Faith, and my own
vampiric double. I learned from Giles' girlfriend, Jenny Calendar(may God give her peace) about my
own innate talent for magic, and began the long journey to becoming a true witch. All because a woman
named Buffy Summers became my best friend.
Things changed again when we attended college together. Xander didn't have the grades to make it into
college then, so he drifted from job to job. Oz and I had drifted apart, he met up with a female werewolf,
and even after she died, he decided to leave me. Losing him devastated me briefly, but Buffy was always
there. Always ready to give me a shoulder to cry on, even when I was giving off weapons-grade bitchiness.
She loved me like no one else, and before long I realized that I loved her. We just were so used to being
best friends that it hadn't occurred to us that we were more. But we were. It was during the Belial fiasco
that we were able to confide our love for each other, and once the Belial threat was eliminated, Buffy and
I began our real relationship. She and I made love for the first time that night, reveling in the new
sensations, new pleasures, new emotions we were no longer ashamed to show. We were thick as thieves since
then. Inseparable. We made plans during spring quarter to pool our resources to rent an apartment together.
To live together.
As usual, however, the Hellmouth had other ideas.
When did it start to go downhill? When Buffy started to investigate the Initiative, a shadow-ops organization
that apparently was funded by the government to fight supernatural evils, kind of a vampire X-Files? When
Maggie Walsh, the Initiative's senior commander, set up Buffy to be taken by an army of zombies? When her
creation Adam, a cross between a demon and Locutus of Borg, broke free and killed her, then started recruiting
all the vampires and demons in Sunnydale to help him destroy humanity?
I think that the blackness really started when Oz returned. He claimed that he had gained control
of his werewolf side, and he wanted me back. By this time, Buffy and I were apartment hunting
together, so I told him that what we had was long gone, and that I loved Buffy. He smiled, said
simply that he understood, wished the two of us luck, and left. I remember Buffy looking at Oz as
he left, and the expression on her face was one of supreme doubt. I've seen that look before, when
what she called her spider-sense started going off. Something was wrong with Oz.
Then came that one day. One very bad day.
Buffy had gotten a hot tip from a mysterious demon named Whistler that Adam was planning something
big at the rim of the Hellmouth, just outside of Sunnydale. Naturally the Scooby Gang was with her
when she investigated, and Oz was with us. For a little while, it was just like old times; Xander,
Oz, Buffy and me. Along with Tara, a good friend of mine, who had helped me gain control and confidence
in my wiccan powers. Tara and I had just discovered a spell that would allow us to seal the Hellmouth
forever, so Buffy's plan was to push Cyber-creep into the Hellmouth and close it behind him.
Adam, apart from looking like he was cobbled together from a morgue's spare parts, possessed a
computer-like mind, complete with a disc-drive on his chest. He absorbed information by downloading
discs. I had used my computer hacking skills to encode a special computer virus onto a disc, which
Buffy would plant into Adam's drive. The virus would then play havoc with his memory, his motor skills,
you name it, giving Buffy the opportunity to send him through the Hellmouth.
Sure enough, there was the Frankenstein monster's uglier brother using some kind of spell to drain off
power from the Hellmouth, power that would make him invincible. We tried to stop him, but an army of
demons stood between us and Adam. We had tough going at first, but we managed to thin out the demon
horde(we of course meaning Buffy mainly, but the rest of us got our licks in). Finally Buffy confronted
Adam, and they traded blows.
Adam fought savagely, intent on the kill, while Buffy took a defensive stance, pacing herself, waiting
for Adam to do something stupid. He obliged us by letting his anger get the better of him. He lunged
repeatedly at Buffy, telegraphing his attacks enough for Buffy to evade them. Finally, she had enough
of this dodge-and-duck game, so she dove low toward Adam, who tried to block her path. She got under
him, then with lightning speed she body-checked him with her right shoulder. As he tumbled to the ground,
she whipped out the virus disc, and popped it into his drive.
The effect was not unlike microwaving a tin can. He spasmed and jerked around, trying to stand, but Buffy
kept kicking him, each blow sending him backward, toward the Hellmouth aperture he had erected. I clearly
remember seeing her smile and hearing her quip, "Tell the Master Buffy says 'hi'," before delivering the
final blow, the one that sent Adam back to Hell.
Once Adam was swallowed by the Hellmouth, Tara and I recited the spell. The spell was working, the
aperture was collapsing, and the Hellmouth was closing, when it happened.
Oz, who had been fighting off demons with Xander, suddenly assumed a transitional form, between human
and wolf, and jumped Buffy. "You shouldn't have taken what wasn't yours, Buff," he growled. "Don't
worry, little girl, I'll take good care of Willow!"
I stood there, thunderstruck, disbelieving what I was seeing. Oz, the sweetest, kindest, most gentle
man I had ever known, had gone all Hannibal Lechter on the woman I loved. "Oz!" I pleaded with him.
"What are you doing?"
"Adam and I cut a deal, Wills," he snarled evilly at me, grabbing Buffy by the throat. "I betray Buffy,
he'd give you to me as a gift. It seems that Adam lost, so Plan B. You're mine, Willow, and this dyke
whore won't take you away from me!"
Xander charged at Oz, but the werewolf brushed him aside easily, clawing him hard on the side. Xander
landed on the ground with all the grace of a wounded hippopotamus, rolling in pain. Seeing Buffy
struggling against Oz's grip, Xander wounded by Oz, and the look of madness in his eyes, finally
triggered me to act. With a scream of rage, I ran at Oz, intent on clawing his eyes out. His laughter
was like the baying of a mad dog at the moon. He knocked me aside with his free arm, and as I landed
on my butt, he lifted Buffy off the ground and hurled her into the closing Hellmouth. I ran to the
aperture, desperate to grab Buffy, to somehow pull her out, but the aperture closed behind her. And
Oz just stood there, proud of his betrayal.
He turned toward me, and grinned wickedly, his teeth sharp and glistening with his saliva. "You
belong to me, Willow," he barked, stalking closer to me. His eyes glowed with unearthly power,
with lust, with evil. The Oz I knew and once loved didn't live in that beast anymore. Laying on
the ground where I had landed, I grasped around me, looking for a weapon, anything to put down this
mad dog. There was nothing, not even a small stake. I tried to crawl away from him, but he pinned
me with his knees, and began to leer at me. In terror, I held on to the only thing I had left of
Buffy, my half of the Mizpah coin we shared, the piece of silver jewelry that signified our bond,
our love for each other. The bond that had been severed by Oz's treachery.
A piece of silver.
I yanked it off of my neck, and used the edge of the coin to slash at Oz's face. He reeled in pain,
jumping back away from me. "You slut!" he screamed, "I'll kill you for that!"
"You already killed me!" I shouted, wielding the coin like a knife in front of me. "You took Buffy
away from me! The Oz I knew wouldn't do that!"
"The Oz you know is dead," he growled, charging at me again.
"Well, why don't you join him?" I cried, throwing myself into a flying tackle. I pounded him back,
into the ground, then before he had the time to get back up, I dug into his neck with the coin. I
slashed deeply, hitting the carotid artery, and his lifeblood gushed out like a torrent. Within
seconds, he had died.
I was only vaguely aware of events after that. I knew that Tara was tending to Xander's wounds,
while Giles had pulled me away from the werewolf's corpse. They had taken me back to Giles' house,
tended to my scratches and tried to feed me. I remembered to bathe, to clean myself, to pee when I
had to, that was it. For two days, I existed in a hazy half-life state. Finally, the enormity of
what had happened hit me; Oz, the first person I truly loved, had betrayed us, only to die at my hands.
And Buffy Summers, the one I loved more than anyone else, was gone forever.
I was aware of Giles holding me as I cried. His support, his caring, were the only things keeping
me from falling into the abyss. Xander had been standing there beside him, offering what little
support he could, as was Tara. I just wept bitterly, not knowing what would happen tomorrow, and
not wanting to know. Sure, we had saved the world, once again, allowed humanity to sleep peacefully
as another demonic threat was eliminated.
None of it mattered.
All I knew was that I had lost the love of my life. I had lost Buffy.
To my knowledge, no one attended the burial of Daniel 'Oz' Ozbourne. I had visited his grave once,
since then, to spit on it.
Buffy's parents were together for her memorial service. It was the first time that I had met her
father. He wouldn't even look at me. I don't know if he simply disapproved of Buffy and I being
lovers, or whether he blamed me for her death. He didn't need to, I was blaming myself for it plenty.
I don't think that Joyce had said ten words to the man during the whole time he was here.
Giles delivered a eulogy for the fallen Slayer, and I could see the tear tracks on his face. He
hadn't been this distraught since Angelus killed his girlfriend Jenny. When I took the podium to
speak of my beloved, I recited a poem, 'Funeral Blues', by W. H. Auden, with some slight pronoun
changes for gender;
"Turn off the clocks and disconnect the phone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.
Silence the piano with a muffled drum;
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let airplanes circle mournfully overhead,
Scribbling in the sky the message, "She is dead".
Put crepe ribbons on the white necks of the public doves.
Tell the policeman to wear black cotton gloves.
She was my north, my south, my east, my west,
My working week, and my Sunday rest.
My noon, and my evening, my talk and my song.
I thought that love would last forever. I was wrong.
The stars are not needed, shut off every one.
Put away the moon and dismantle the sun.
Tear down the ocean and sweep away the wood,
For nothing now can ever come to any good."
Joyce Summers led me off the podium as I wept again. She invited me to stay with her if I needed
to, but I declined. I just wanted to be alone, and I couldn't take her sympathy, not when it was
my fault that she had lost her daughter.
I had convinced Buffy that Oz was okay, that he was still one of us. I had no idea that he would
turn against us, that he would sell us out to claim me. He was obsessed with me, and had used our
old relationship to get close enough to Buffy to stab her in the back. I may as well have taken a
gun to her temple and pulled the trigger. I was as responsible for Buffy's death as anyone. And
all I could do was blame myself.
I had continued to blame myself for months after that, making myself more miserable with each passing
day. Eventually the numbness wore off, and I had managed to go on with some semblance of a life. I
returned to college, continuing my criminology major, but I dropped the wicca practice. I had given
up on the idea of using my witchcraft to help others, I knew that I was no good at it. All the magic
in the world couldn't save Buffy, could it?
It wasn't until nearly a year after Buffy's final battle that my battle had really begun. And what I
thought was the end, was just the beginning.
Chapter 2 - Bittersweet Symphony Bittersweet Symphony
"Cause it's a Bittersweet Symphony, this life;
Tryin' to make ends meet, you're a slave to your money, then you die.
I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down
You know the one that takes you to the places where all things meet, yeah.
I won't change that, never change that, can't change, I can't change,
Yeah I'm here in my mold, yeah I'm here in my mold,
But I'm a million different people from one day to the next,
I can't change my mold, Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
I had just moved in to the new place. I had decorated it myself; earth tones mostly, dark
greens and browns, warm and friendly colors, a mountain of paisley throw pillows on the couch,
Coca-Cola ad art in the kitchen, my computer in the bedroom, all the comforts of home. All in
all, I thought, the place was shaping up nicely.
There was just one element that was missing. One element that would always be missing. Buffy.
Just after the funeral, Joyce(it still feels weird calling her Joyce, after all these years.) gave
me a box containing some of Buffy's things, things she thought that Buffy would want me to have.
Her CD collection, some old books and movie videos, the sweater I had given her for her 19th
birthday (the only one we got to celebrate before Adam), and Mr. Gordo, her stuffed pig. I had
taken to sleeping with Mr. Gordo in my arms. A poor surrogate for his former owner, but he was all I had of her.
I hadn't actively sought companionship after losing Buffy, and I knew that I wouldn't. Buffy was
the one true love of my life, I realized that as I lost her. No one would ever touch my heart, my
soul, as deeply as she did. So I threw myself into college, into my work. I had taken an at-home
job with a small software company called Cybermancers Media, a company that specialized in applications
software and fantasy-themed computer games. I made a little bit as one of their regular beta-testers,
helping to work out the bugs in their new products. I also created a role-playing game based on the
movie "Buckaroo Bansai"(a guilty pleasure of my childhood), which, surprisingly enough, became the
company's biggest seller. I was paid handsomely for the game, and used the money to purchase the
townhouse where I now lived. I figured I'd better cover my nut, and living rent-free has its
advantages. Beta-testing doesn't pay a whole hell of a lot, but it's better than most 'joe jobs'.
Plus Cybermancers wanted me to design more software for them.
I had just placed a neon-blue lava lamp(Xander's housewarming gift)on a shelf in the living room,
when the doorbell chimed(a Westminster chime, came with the house). I answered the door, and was
greeted by a hug from Tara. "Beware of Wiccans bearing gifts," she announced cheerily, her voice
like a sleigh bell. She shoved a large gift box into my arms, saying, "Good to see you, friend."
"Tara," I said, pleased at her appearance. "How've you been?"
"Not bad, Willow," she answered. "So you gonna open the box or what?"
"Oh, yeah," I suddenly remembered the package. I tore off the bright wrapping paper and
lifted the lid off the box. Nestled within the Styrofoam peanuts was a clay statue of the
Earth Goddess, a rotund figure with huge round breasts. Glazed in a smooth chocolate brown
with beige highlights. "A good luck totem," Tara explained, "to bless this house."
"It's beautiful," I answered, touched by her thoughtfulness. "Here, let me find a suitable
place for it," I added, clearing away part of the coffee table, displaying the Goddess
prominently in the center of the living room. "How's that?"
"Perfect," Tara announced. "Even matches your color scheme. So, when do I get the fifty-cent tour?"
"Sure," I answered, taking her by the hand, and leading her through the house. I showed her
my bedroom, the computer station, the kitchen, all the basic stuff. I had told her about my
job as a beta-tester, about my college courses, my family. She told me about her folks, her
studies, the major events of her life.
"I've missed you, Willow," she said as we faced each other on the sofa while munching on a
vegetarian pizza. "Missed hanging out, doing spells with you. Hey, there's a new coven
opening up on campus, why don't you join?"
I turned away from her as she made her offer. "I'm not into the magic scene these days. I
kinda gave it up after Buffy..."
"Hey, Willow," Tara placed her hand on mine. "Buffy wouldn't want you to mourn forever. You've got to move on."
"I have, Tara," I said, semi-convincingly. "I'm still going to school, I've got a good job, I'm happy with my life."
I felt a hand on my shoulder. "Willow, look at me," she whispered. "I'm your friend, I know
you. You've seen so much in your life, such evil, such terror. But you've overcome it all,
and kept that special something that still makes you who you are. But I'm worried about you.
You've been growing apart from the rest of us. When's the last time you saw Giles? Or Xander?
They're your friends, don't shut them out now."
"I haven't shut them out!" I replied, maybe a little too loudly. I saw Tara flinch as I
shouted, so I lowered my voice. "I still see them. I just saw Xander two weeks ago. He
said he was fine, that he was doing well in community college. Hey, he just called yesterday,
and he wants me to meet him at the Bronze today."
"Any reason given?" Tara asked.
"No, he's gone all 'it's a surprise' on me."
"Well," Tara asked, "are you going?"
I stalled, not sure what to say. "I dunno, Tara," I finally admitted. "I haven't been there in months."
"I understand," she answered. I felt her hand gently massaging my shoulder, and sensed her lips
closer to mine. "But you should get out of your shell sometime. It isn't healthy to lock yourself
away from the world. Please, Willow, let me help you."
Moved by her genuine concern, I leaned forward into a friendly hug. "I'm glad you're my
friend, Tara," I whispered. She didn't say anything to me, she just held me, the way I
needed to be held. She leaned her head toward mine, and I could just barely feel her lips
pressing against my neck. I found myself leaning toward her face, and before I knew it,
her mouth was on mine.
I had never touched anyone since losing Buffy. I found that I missed that contact. And
it would have been so easy to surrender to Tara's ministrations. She was clearly eager
to continue. I had been aware of her attraction to me from the first time we met. And
once I even entertained returning her affection. But she knew, and I knew that my heart belonged to Buffy.
I guess it still did, even one year later.
Before the kiss could increase in intensity, I backed off. "I can't," I said feebly, as I
got off the couch. "It wouldn't be fair, not to you."
"Willow," she argued, "all we did was kiss."
"Yeah, all we did," I answered. "But if we had gone from there...I..." I stopped my train
of thought, before I could start babbling incoherently(always one of my greatest faults,
although Buffy had told me more than once that she found it endearing), and started over;
"Look, Tara, you're my friend, and yes, you're as sexy as all get out, but I can't and won't
use you as a substitute Buffy. Please, I'm sorry, just don't...just don't."
Tara said nothing for a few seconds, and I was afraid that I had hurt her. Finally, she just
smiled sadly at me and said, "I understand, Willow. And I'm glad that you think that I'm sexy.
The truth is that I have always been attracted to you. I would love nothing more than for you
to carry me off to your bedroom and have your way with me. But you're right. I wouldn't take
advantage of you that way. But maybe someday, when the hurt is less," she added, with just a
hint of pleading in her eyes, "you'll consider giving me a try?"
I looked at her, considering her offer. "Maybe," I sighed, "but I wouldn't get your hopes up."
"Hey," she half-laughed. "What are hopes for if not to be raised?" She patted me on the back,
just a friendly kind of touch, and said, "C'mon, Willow, I'm taking you to the Bronze, even if
I gotta hog-tie you to get you there. And before you say anything, no, I'm not into bondage!"
"Yeah right, 'Tara, Mistress of Pain'? I don't see it." I laughed at her comment, and was
grateful to be able to laugh. "Okay, let me get my jacket."
It had been over six months since I had last stepped into the Bronze, and nearly fifteen minutes
after I walked in, I was ready to get out. Six months ago, I had tried to put up a brave front
and go on with my life. As soon as I had entered the Bronze then, I noticed the band playing.
The former members of Oz's old band the Dingoes had regrouped under a new lead singer and a new
name, Evil Petting Zoo. Watching Oz's old friends brought Oz back to my mind, and I wanted to
vomit. To think that I had let him touch me, kiss me, make love to me. To remember how he hurt
me when he left, and then how he betrayed us all by killing Buffy. I had to run from the Bronze
immediately, and I couldn't set foot in it since.
I finally screwed my courage to the sticking-place, and entered the Bronze. At first it wasn't bad.
A deejay was handling the music that night, and the dance floor was packed with young people, singles,
couples and groups, all having fun. I tried to dance myself, and found that I liked it. "Smooth",
Santana's duet with Rob Thomas was playing, and I was starting to feel no pain. That was the ticket,
I thought, just shake and shimmy it off. For a few minutes, hearing Matchbox 20 and Lauren Hill, life
was good again.
Then they had to play that damn Pearl Jam song. Their cover of Wilson Frank's "Last Kiss". The
refrain stabbed at me like a knife to the heart;
"Oh where, oh where, can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me.
She's gone to heaven, so I gotta be good,
So I can see my baby when I leave this world."
It had occurred to me then that I didn't even have that option. Buffy wouldn't be
waiting for me in Heaven, thanks to Oz. She was in Hell, because of his actions.
I could only hope that she had a good view of his suffering in Hell as well. Maybe
if I became evil--oh Goddess, what was I thinking?
Tara noticed my face when the Pearl Jam song played. She took my arm and led me to a
table, saying, "Oh no you don't, Wills. You're not bailing out now. We'll wait for
Xander here." She sat me down on a pile of cushions, and signaled for a waiter. "Two
spring waters, please," she ordered, and the waiter left.
Trying to ignore the song, I glanced around the room, taking in the time-honored occupation
of people-watching. Several couples hit the floor, most hetero, one consisting of two girls.
I remembered fondly how Buffy and I would burn up the dance floor together, not caring what
people thought of us. We occasionally had to deal with some mean-spirited homophobe or
pervert who wanted to make it a threesome, but never any threats of violence or truly hateful
gestures. I smiled as I saw the two girls gyrated on the floor, oblivious to all but each
other. Me and Buffy, we were like that. So in tune with each other's moods, each other's
thoughts, each other's bodies. When we danced together, when we held each other, when we
made love, it was like a symphony. Each movement orchestrated, yet we were always able to
ad-lib, to improvise, and to pick up from each other's improvisations. It was like unto a work of art.
The memory of her love would still sustain me. It had to. It was all I had left.
"Hey, Willow, look," Tara pointed excitedly. "Giles." I followed the path of her finger,
and sure enough, there was our favorite Watcher(that is to say, the only member of the
Watcher's Council that we Scoobs didn't despise!), looking quite out of place amid the younger,
and more casually dressed, clientele. He still had his genetic disposition for tweed, his old
jacket with the leather patches at the elbows must have been hot under the bright lights of the
Bronze. He looked around nervously, found us, and moved toward our seats.
"Giles?" I asked, amazed to see him here.
"Yes, I received a message from Xander to meet him here," he admitted, sliding his finger
under the collar of his shirt. "So," he added, looking around. "This is the Bronze? So
named, no doubt, because you could smelt bronze in this heat."
"Hey," Tara teased him, "you see anyone else wearing tweed?"
"Take the jacket off," I suggested, "you'll be a lot more comfortable."
"I'll take the jacket off," Giles said, "but I don't think I'll be any more comfortable."
He removed his jacket, placed it on the back of a chair, and sat down. "Believe me, this
doesn't change my opinion of your generation's approach to music," he added, having to
raise his voice to be heard, even out of the way of the amplifiers as we were.
"Is it not the duty of each generation to annoy the previous generation with their style
of music, dress and other tastes?" someone asked behind us. Tara and I turned toward the
familiar voice, and that's when we saw him.
Xander, wearing a pale blue short-sleeved shirt.
And a badge.
And an empty gun holster.
Giles' jaw was hanging freely from his face, while Tara's eyes were bugging out of their
sockets. "Oh my goddess," she whispered. She stood up, appraised Xander's uniform, and
smiled gleefully. "Xander! You joined the Village People!" She laughed loudly, and
started waving her hands above her head, singing; "It's fun to stay at the Y---M, C, A!"
"Funny, Tara," Xander answered, smiling. "Seriously, people, as of today, I am Officer Alexander
Harris of the Sunnydale PD!"
"You serious?" I asked. "You're not pulling our legs?"
"Not even a slight tug," Xander answered. "I'm now a cop. I entered the police academy six months
ago, just after I passed my high school equivalency tests. Whaddya think?"
Tara, Giles and I just glanced at each other, appraising each other's looks. Giles then stood up,
and grasped Xander's hand firmly. "Congratulations, boy," he announced. "I want you to know that
I am inordinately proud of you."
"Yeah, so am I," I added, my mouth finally catching up with my brain. Tara also shook his hand,
saying, "You'll make a fine officer, Xander."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Tara," Xander said, smiling. I could see it in his eyes, his
stance, his posture. He hadn't just decided two weeks ago that he was going to be a cop, this was
something that he was determined to make happen, and it did. Ever since his demon-girlfriend Anya
disappeared after the final battle with Adam ('Good Riddance' I thought), I was afraid that Xander
would be even more directionless than I was. But instead, apparently, he used her departure as the
impetus to finally change his life. I had been aware that he was attending the community college to
achieve his GURs (General Undergraduate Requirements), but I had no idea that he was attending the
police academy as well. I guess if you get kicked in the butt enough times, you start to get moving.
"I'm not on duty now, so I left my service revolver in a safe at home. I just kept the uniform on to
show you guys. Yeah, I'm walking the beat at nights right now," Xander explained as we sat down and
talked further. "No glamour, but after dealing with vampires on a regular basis, it's the proverbial
walk in the park. Besides, now that the Hellmouth's closed for good, I needed to feel useful again.
And wearing this uniform somehow does that for me. It's hard to explain, really. It's like I finally
feel like I belong on this planet, like I'm not just visiting. You know what I mean?"
"Yeah," I answered ruefully. Ever since losing Buffy, I thought much the same thing about
myself. When was I going to finally feel like my being here was justified?
A crash of glass from the skylight shattered my latest go-round of self pity, as a figure
plunged down from the roof onto the dance floor. The figure stood up, glared at the dancers,
and morphed into its game face. A vampire. Even though the Hellmouth was no longer a going
concern, there were still a few odd vampires around. I knew that Giles was taking care of most
of them, mostly inexperienced newbies, or weakened by lack of blood. This one, however, looked
like a veteran. Obviously one who knew its business. It grabbed at one of the girls on the
floor, and held her in a hammerlock. "Nobody moves, nobody dies!" it shouted. "I'm just gonna
take my girlfriend out for a walk, nobody follows me. Got it?"
The girl, a young(I guessed 18) Asian featured young woman, smiled at her assailant, and said,
"Got it!" She then threw the beast over her, and into the wall. She then withdrew a wooden
stake and easily impaled the monster. The vampire was quickly reduced to ash, and the crowd
looked aghast at what they had seen.
The young woman turned toward us, and smiled at us. Walking toward our seats, she nodded,
saying, "You must be the Scooby Gang. My watcher's told me so much about you. Oh, I'm Sandra
Ogawa. The new Slayer. My watcher should be around here somewhere, she wanted to observe me in action."
"Indeed," a rich, chocolate voice rang out behind Sandra. Emerging from the crowd was a svelte
black woman, mid-thirties I guessed. Her voice was lightly accented in British, and her walk was
confident. She regarded us with a look of amusement, and then turned toward Giles. "Hello, Ripper,"
she greeted the surprised ex-Watcher.
Giles blinked as he recognized the new Watcher. "Denise! My word, it's good to see you."
"Surprisingly enough, Rupert," she smiled sweetly, "the feeling's mutual."
We all stood around, looking at the two Watchers, until finally Xander, in his unique style,
said, "I'm going out on a limb here; you two know each other."
"Indeed we do," Giles answered, slightly flustered as he realized that we were in the room
with him. He started to introduce us; "Willow, Tara, Xander, this formidable woman is Denise
Parkinson, the youngest person ever named to the Watcher's Council."
"And," she added, "the first to leave it voluntarily. But by no means the last." This
revelation surprised Giles even further. "Oh yes, Giles. The Watcher's Council is in disarray.
That's one of the reasons I came here. But perhaps we could talk somewhere where the decibel
level is below that of a jet engine at full throttle."
"A capital idea," he answered. "Let us adjourn to my townhouse."
"...So the Watcher's Council renounced Quentin's actions in the Belial Incident, as they
called it," Denise explained. "They told the rest of the Watchers and Slayers in training
that Quentin acted independently of the Council, and that they would never condone one of
their own making a pact with a demon." We all shivered at the thought; Xander, Giles and
myself were present when Quentin and the demon Belial hammered out the contract that would
have given Sunnydale over to the Hellmouth. If it weren't for a time-traveling Buffy from
the future, Belial would have unleashed the forces of the Hellmouth on the world.
"You believe them?" Giles asked, his voice tinged with skepticism.
"I wouldn't believe them if they said that water was wet," Denise barked. "Increasingly,
I've been finding evidence that the Council has been more interested in controlling their
Slayers, not aiding them. Take the case of Sandra here. A year and a half ago, they tried
to force me to inject her with muscle relaxant, to weaken her for some rite of passage. The
muscle relaxant would probably have killed her. That's when I decided to leave the council,
and take Sandra with me. Too many lies, half-truths, cover-ups. And judging from what I've
heard, I'm not the only one who feels that way. Indeed many Watchers have defected, to strike
out on their own. I have no wish for the Council to undermine Sandra's efforts. Sandra has
proven to be an effective Slayer, one of whom I am quite proud..."
"Please, Ms. Parkinson," Sandra blushed. "Not in front of the Scooby Gang."
Denise snickered at Sandra's embarrassment. "Anyway, one of the reasons that I came here was
to speak with you, Rupert. I wish to discuss rebuilding the Watcher's Council. You are one
of the few senior watchers I can respect, even if you no longer hold that title personally.
The Council needs to be reorganized."
Giles seemed genuinely moved by her entreaty. "I appreciate your thinking of me in that regard,"
Giles stated. "I have no desire to return to England, however..."
"Who said the Council has to be located in England?" Denise asked. "It's that blind devotion
to tradition and ritual that has kept the Council grounded in the Dark Ages. With modern
communications, with the Internet, there wouldn't be the need for the senior Watchers to be
away from the action, so to speak."
"Watch it, Parkinson," Xander quipped. "You're talking to the last of the red hot Luddites over here."
"Yes, his hatred of modern technology has become the stuff of legends," Denise joked. I started
to like her immediately, which surprised me, considering my opinions about the Watcher's Council in general.
"Actually," she continued, "Giles has become something of a legend among the rank and file himself,
him and Buffy. The senior Watchers may have had little use for you, but you are much admired among
your peers. That's why I hope that you'll consider my proposal. If you were to be instrumental in
reconstructing the Council, many of the other Watchers would follow your lead."
Giles pursed his lips and hummed thoughtfully. "An intriguing offer, Denise. I will have to consider it."
"That's all I ask, Rupert."
"So, how about you, Sandra?" Tara asked, leaning in closer. "When did you become a slayer?"
"About two years ago," Sandra answered. She hadn't spoken much before now. A bit of a quiet one,
she was. "All I knew was that some--thing was attacking my mother, then I'm making like
Keanu Reeves from 'The Matrix'."
"Okay," Xander figured it out. "She must have become the next slayer when Buffy sent Faith into a
coma." Giles nodded in agreement, recalling Buffy's battle with the psycho- slayer.
"Do you enjoy being a slayer?" Tara asked. I could sense that she was starting to like this new slayer.
"I'll admit, it's not the life I signed on for," Sandra said. "But once I got started, I began
to feel a responsibility. And from what Denise has told me, reading me the reports on Buffy
Summers, I've kind of taken to her as a role model. I was sorry to hear of her passing, but I
can only hope that I can follow in her footsteps."
"Just remember to brush up on your jokes," Xander offered. "It ain't enough to slay vampires,
you gotta humiliate 'em."
"And don't forget to name your favorite stake," Tara offered. "Buffy called hers Mr. Pointy."
I sat there silently, watching as my friends slipped effortlessly into their old roles. Like
they hadn't gotten out of high school.
"And you, Mr. Giles," Sandra asked, "what would you advise?"
"Me? Well," Giles pondered the question. "Listen to your Watcher. But first, listen to
your instincts. Buffy was never afraid to let me know when she thought that I was wrong.
Trust your instincts. They're you're greatest asset as a Slayer. They'll never let you down."
"Thank you Mr. Giles," Sandra then turned to me. "And you, Willow? I understand that you were
closer to Buffy than anyone else. Would you have any advice for me?"
I looked at her, amazed that she would ask me, the one who got Buffy killed in the first place,
for advice. I just kept looking at her, until I started to chuckle. My chuckle quickly turned
into a maniacal laugh, as everything I've kept bottled up for the last year just spilled over like bad yeast.
"You want my advice?" I said, my voice rising with every word. "I'll give you some advice.
Go home. Go back to where you came from. Get the hell out of Dodge. Forget you ever met us,
forget you ever heard of Watchers, or Slayers, or vampires or any of that crap because all it'll
get you is an early grave! It doesn't matter, none of it does! You'll get killed by some random
vamp or werewolf or something, then another slayer will show up, and it all starts over again!
IT DOESN'T MATTER!"
It wasn't until I noticed Tara removing her hands from her ears that I realized that I was shouting
at the top of my lungs. I looked around at the others, seeing shock, hurt, concern and pity in
their eyes. I couldn't take it, not the pity. I had to get out. Not saying a word, I grabbed my
coat, and rushed out the door. I didn't know where I was going, nor did I care.
I just had to get away.