Disclaimer: Joss and Fox own everything but the story. Direct passages taken from the episodes “Earshot” and “Grave” belong to their respective writers.
Pairings: B/G (sorta W/T, X/Anya too.)
Timeline: Right after “Grave” (Spoilers up thru that)
Author’s notes: Thanks to Karen for beta help.
Written: June 2002
Willow blinked for what seemed like the hundredth time. No matter how she turned her head, she couldn’t escape the harsh yellow glow of the light in her eyes.
“Fantasies are fun, aren't they Willow?” A disembodied male voice asked her.
”Uh... I guess,” she answered meekly. She raised her hand, trying to block out the light and see who she was talking to. The voice seemed so familiar.
”We all have fantasies that we're powerful, more respected. Where people pay attention to us.”
Suddenly the light grew brighter. Willow blinked to let her eyes adjust. When she opened them, it was no longer a concentration of light in front of her, but simply the bright daylight outside. She was tied down on the bed from her room at Buffy’s, but now the bed was stranded on Kingman's Bluff. Just to the side of her, the statue of the she-demon Proserpexa seemed to laugh at her silently from its vantage.
She felt the bed depress beneath the weight of someone sitting down on the opposite side. She turned to see Jonathan staring at her coldly.
“But sometimes the fantasy isn't enough, is it Willow? Sometimes we have to make it so people don't ignore us. Make them pay attention. You know what I'm talking about, don't you?”
Tears squeezed past her lashes and she looked away from him. “Please… please stop.”
“Sure, stop, please stop,” a new voice chimed in. She looked to the foot of her bed and observed Warren there, hands on his hips and as skinless as she had left him. “I seem to remember asking you something similar. And all it got me was air conditioning the hard way.”
“Sounds like whining to me.” Willow looked to the statue of Proserpexa to see Dawn leaned up against it, her arms crossed over her chest. She scrunched up her nose and made her voice more plaintive and mocking. “Dawnie I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. God Buffy I can’t stop. Help me. Wah wah wah.”
“At least you still have skin,” Warren complained.
A hand lightly touched the side of Willow’s face. She looked toward it and found Tara standing there. Blood stains soaked the front of her long white gown and tear tracks marred her smooth pale cheeks. “Look at what you’ve done Willow. How could you? How could you?”
“Tara?” She pulled against the ties on her wrists, trying to get at least one hand free so that she could touch her. “Baby I’m sorry. Please don’t go. Don’t leave me.”
“If you lose someone you love then the other people in your life who care about you become meaningless.” Giles stood beside Dawn.
“No… no that’s not true. Giles, I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Poor me, tried to end the world. Pity me. Wah wah wah,” Dawn taunted.
The next moment, her head was being wrenched to the side with brutal force. Buffy looked down on her in contempt. “So this is the new breed of Slayer? I’m so not impressed.”
“I don’t know,” someone said behind Buffy. The blonde moved aside to reveal Faith. She was wearing exactly what Willow had been when she went on her rampage. “Makes me feel kinda warm inside that I have someone carrying on the traditions I started.”
“I-I-I’m nothing like you,” Willow screamed.
“You’re right,” Buffy said.
“You’re worse,” Giles added.
“Faith and Willow sittin’ in a tree. K-I-L-L-I-N-G,” Dawn sang.
“Willow?” Xander had suddenly appeared at the end of the bed.
“Xander, get me out of here! Please?!”
“Sure Willow.” He started to come around the bed, wrinkling his nose when he saw Warren. “Scuse me Hellraiser. You’re spooging on my workboots.”
“Well gee, I’m so sorry. Here let me fix that. Let’s see, where did that pesky skin of mine get to? Anyone seen it? It’s about yea big.” He held his hand just over the top of his head. “Vaguely Warren looking!!” He walked a few feet away.
Xander methodically untied each of Willow’s limbs. Tara moved away and stood by Giles, using her sleeve to dab at the blood from the wound on his head.
“Tara!” Willow reached for her. She tried to stand as soon as she was free.
“Stay down.” Giles gestured toward her and she found herself pinned to the bed by an invisible force. Xander calmly sat beside her and stroked her hair.
“Giles please… I need her. I have to…”
“So what are we gonna do with the little wannabe bad?” Faith asked Buffy.
“Hmm… not sure. I mean, she decided what should happen to Warren because he took the person she loved most. And then she tried to do the exact same thing he did.”
“What?” Willow said. “No-no I didn’t.”
“Didn’t you?” Buffy asked. “You didn’t try to take Giles away from me? To take Dawn away from me? You didn’t try to take Anya away from Xander? You didn’t try to take yourself away from all of us?”
“Didn’t try to take the world away little sister?” Faith smiled menacingly. “Congrats there Red. Even I was never crazy enough to think that one up.” She looked to Jonathan and shrugged her shoulders. “I just tried to help a guy be a snake and eat a town. Really seeming not too bad considering the current situation.”
“So there’s still the matter of her punishment,” Buffy said, looking her up and down thoughtfully.
“There are consequences. There are always consequences. I tried to warn her but she wouldn’t listen to me,” Giles confided in Tara.
She nodded understandingly. “I know.” Tara looked at her with a mixture of pity and disappointment. “A rank, arrogant, amateur.”
“Oh shut up!” Dawn waved her hand. Willow’s lips fused together and her screams became muffled sounds. “Tara this, Tara that. I’m sick of all your whining.”
“Me too,” Tara said softly.
“What to do? What to do?” Buffy paced around the bed.
Faith pulled a knife. “I say we skin her.”
Warren stepped behind her. “I’m with Pain Princess here.”
“Too messy.” Buffy decided.
“We could kill her with magick?” Xander offered as he continued to stroke her hair lovingly.
“Bad example for the little one Xander,” Giles said, indicating Dawn.
“Oh right. Sorry.”
“We could torture her. Then pull out her guts right before her eyes and leave her to rot somewhere in the dark,” Dawn suggested brightly.
Giles smiled approvingly. “Nice show of creativity Dawn.”
Buffy shook her head. “No. Not certain enough.” Buffy turned her attentions back to Willow. “And we don’t want her to get away.”
“No, we don’t,” Giles said.
“Hmm…” Buffy pondered a moment more. “Well, I guess I should just stab her in the heart with a big pokie stick?” She looked around to the others. “I mean, that’s what I’m supposed to do with evil things isn’t it?” They all nodded in agreement.
Willow made a muffled sound. Buffy turned to her sister. “Dawnie, this isn’t going to be any good if she can’t scream.”
“Oh right.” She pointed her hand and Willow’s mouth re-formed into two lips again. “Sorry about that.”
“That’s okay Honey.” Buffy pulled Mr. Pointy from her pocket and stood over Willow. “Now this may sting a bit Will.”
“I-I’m not evil! I just… I was just…”
“What? Misunderstood?” Buffy said.
“Hurting?” Jonathan added.
“Justified?” Warren said.
Giles spoke next. “Blind?”
“Angry?” Xander said.
“Insane?” Faith smiled.
“Wrong?” Dawn said.
“Bitter?” Tara said, looking away.
“I was just in pain,” she said quietly. No matter how long she stared at Tara, the blonde would not turn to look at her.
The others all laughed. “Don’t worry Willow. It won’t hurt for very much longer. I promise.” Buffy raised the stake high and plunged it into her heart.
Willow woke up screaming. As she sat up, she was already untangling her feet from the covers and preparing to run. Yet again, she knew she wasn’t going to make it to the bathroom. As she stumbled to the ground, she lunged for the tall blue bucket a few feet away and emptied the contents of her stomach into it.
Xander approached her from behind and held her hair. He was now thankful that after the first mess he’d had to clean off the floor of his apartment he’d thought to put a bucket out to either side of the bed. When Willow’s heaving quieted, he gathered her limp body into his arms and put her back in the bed.
She lay there, still and blinking wearily up at the ceiling as he went to the bathroom to empty out the bucket. When he re-emerged, he put it back on the floor and sat beside her on the bed. He held a cool, damp washcloth in his hands. After running it over her face a few times, he folded it double and lay it across her forehead.
Her green eyes were dull and sad, but full of gratitude, as they turned to meet his own. “Did you get the stuff?”
He nodded calmly. “Yeah. I did. Oh…also.” He moved away just for a moment. When he returned, he handed her a clear plastic bottle filled with red liquid. “I got you a Gatorade.”
She smiled at the utter Xanderness of that gesture and took the bottle. “Thank you.” She took a drink, more to humor him than anything else. “You got everything? Everything on the list I gave you?”
“Will, please don’t destroy the world or anything, but I gotta ask. Do you think you should be doing any more spells?”
“I’m not. You are.”
“Could you translate that for the insanity impaired? Me?”
“You Xand. This spell. It’s to take my ability to do magick away. For good. It’s the only way to be safe from… well… me. I have to be fixed. Like a bad dog,” she added ruefully under her breath.
Xander pretended not to hear. “And I can do this?”
“It’s a very simple spell. It could be preformed by anybody, so long as the person being affected by it agrees to it being done. That’s why we have to do it soon. I don’t know how much longer I can trust myself to agree to it.”
“And you’re okay with this? With it being forever I mean?”
“I always just wanted to be special. Wanted to be something more than just plain old Willow, you know? But I wasn’t meant to. I wasn’t meant to be anything more than myself. I can’t even bear to think about what my trying to be special caused.”
Xander moved the washcloth and kissed her forehead. “Plain old Willow was always pretty special to me. You don’t need to be anything more than yourself. You’re enough. You always have been.”
Tears came to her eyes and she smiled. “I love you, Xander Harris.”
He gingerly touched the healing slashes on his cheek, then smiled and tweaked her nose. “After all of this? You damn well better.”
Buffy and Dawn wearily crossed the threshold of their house. When the door closed behind them, Buffy turned and smiled at her sister, brushing a lock of her dark hair away from her face. The sound of footsteps approaching from upstairs caused them both to look up. The blonde stepped a little ahead of Dawn.
“Willow?” She relaxed a little more when she saw who it was. “Anya. Hey.”
“Hi Buffy, Dawn. Glad to see you’re both… not dead.”
Dawn nodded her head. “Good to be seen not dead.”
Anya smiled. “Not dead too. Thank goodness. But he’s still pretty banged up from the number Willow did on him. He just needs some rest though. I hope you don’t mind, I put him in your bed. The couch seemed too uncomfortable considering and Willow’s room…” She cast a furtive glance to Dawn and nervously toyed with the gold chain around her neck. “There’s still the blood and the outline…I didn’t…”
“No, no that’s fine Anya. Thank you for taking such good care of him.” Buffy looked to her sister again. “Dawn honey, I’m gonna go get some sleep. You should too, okay?”
She smiled. “In a few minutes.”
Buffy kissed her forehead before heading up the stairs.
“Are you really okay?” Anya asked.
“Yeah. I’m good. How ‘bout you?”
“Still alive. And so are all of you guys. And Giles…”
Anya looked wistful. “Giles said he saved everything. Literally. I was… so proud.” She could feel herself begin to tear up and quickly shook her head.
“You miss him?”
She nodded. “I guess I always will. I mean, he hurt me so badly that I couldn’t see straight. I was angry too… so angry… But now,” she smiled sadly at the younger girl. “Now it doesn’t matter any more. I made bad decisions because of it. But it’s done. I wish I hadn’t. I wish things were different, but they’re not. And they’re not going to be. That’s just all there is to it.”
“I’m sorry,” Dawn said.
She sighed. “Me too. I’m gonna get going. I think I need a lot of sleep after everything that happened, and possibly a generous amount of alcohol.” Anya turned and opened the door.
“Wait!” Dawn said.
Anya faced her again. Dawn threw her arms around Anya’s neck and hugged her tightly. “I’m glad you’re not dead too.”
She smiled and closed her arms around the girl. “Thanks. That’s very sweet of you Dawnie.”
They released each other then and Anya walked out. Dawn shut and locked the door, watching her leave through the small square windows. When she was all the way out of sight, Dawn opened her hand. An amulet with a green stone unfurled itself, dangling from a broken gold chain threaded between Dawn’s fingers. She smiled and went up to her room.
Buffy carefully opened the door to her room. She peeked her head in first. As she had hoped, Giles’ eyes were closed. Quietly, she slipped around the door and shut it as gently as she could.
She stepped out of her shoes and shoved them under the vanity with her foot. When she reached up and loosened her hair from the ponytail she wore, she let out a small sigh.
“I take it Dawn made it home safely too?” A male voice with a British accent spoke softly.
She turned toward him with a smile and made her way to sit on the bed beside him. “She did. She’s probably headed to bed herself.”
“Which reminds me.” He made a move to sit up.
Gently, but firmly, Buffy planted her hand in the middle of his chest and pushed him back down. “Settle in Giles. You’re not going anywhere tonight.” Their eyes met and she took his hand in hers. “So. You decided not to die on me?”
He smiled. “Not for the present moment at least.”
“I’m glad.” She blinked quickly and brought his hand up to rest her chin on it. “I’m so sorry.”
“That I had to leave you tonight.”
“Buffy, you had to. It wasn’t…”
“That I had to leave you last year. That… that I made you have to leave me.”
“Shh. It’s all right. What’s done is done. It’s okay to be sorry about things that can’t be changed. As long as you learn from it.”
“Yes, I suppose it is.”
“I have Giles. Learned. I’ve learned a lot just in the past couple days.” She interlaced their fingers and leaned her cheek against the back of his hand. “You have no idea how happy Willow and Tara were those last days. They’d had their problems, but they just loved each other so much… Things were good. Things were good again. Willow had stopped using the magick. She’d changed and was getting strong. And their love was powerful enough that everything could be put behind them so they could finally be together again. And then Tara was just gone. Taken away right in front of Will and there was nothing she could do about it.”
“I told Willow earlier that I couldn’t possibly know how she felt. But that’s not true any more. I do know. When she sent that fireball…when I had to leave you. I thought she would kill you. I thought I was going to lose you when I had just got you back. If she had… I don’t know. I think I might have actually been able to kill her myself.”
He smiled humorlessly. “You don’t mean that.”
She gave his hand a squeeze and released it. “I don’t know if I do or not. I’m happy I never had to find out.” Her hand reached out and gently stroked down the side of his face. “I can’t imagine my world without you in it,” she smiled lopsidedly, “somewhere.”
Without asking, her hand came to the front of his shirt and began undoing the buttons.
“What are you doing?” His voice was calm in tone but a little shaky.
“You can’t sleep in your clothes.”
“Ah,” he said simply and continued to watch her.
When she had finished the buttons, she tugged his shirt free of his waistband. “Sit up for me?” Gingerly, he did as requested. She pushed his shirt off of him, then pulled his undershirt off over his head. Taking both garments in hand, she tossed them across the room. They landed perfectly in her hamper near the far wall. “Swish.” She turned her attentions back to the half-naked man now sitting in her bed. “Lay down now.” Again, he lowered himself to the pillows, watching her intently, wondering what she would do next.
His breath caught as what she did next was slowly run her hand across the soft dusting of hair on his chest, fingertips skimming the warm skin beneath. She drew her hands down his front until she came to his belt. Soon, that was unbuckled and she was working on the fastenings of his pants.
Giles remained calm, passive, allowing her to take this where she wanted. Only the pattern of his breathing hinted at his true state of excitement. When his fly was open, her hands curled over the waistband and gripped the material. Her eyes met his again.
“Lift your hips for me Giles.” Almost imperceptibly, Giles pushed his heels into the mattress and used the leverage to raise his bottom off of the bed. With a quick tug, she had moved both his pants and the boxers beneath to his upper thigh. “Okay, you can relax again.”
Easy enough for her to say, he thought to himself as she worked the clothes the rest of the way down his long legs and threw them into the hamper as well. He brought his gaze to her face again, trying to determine exactly what was passing between them.
She locked eyes with him and smiled as her hands idly wandered his upper thighs. She reached over, took hold of the folded back bedcovers and placed them over him. Before he had a chance to wonder if she’d simply been engaging in some kind of erotically sadistic nursemaiding, she had gotten to her feet and pulled her shirt up over her head. Her bra soon followed, as did the rest of her clothing.
Once she was finally as naked as he was, she pulled up the covers on the other side of the bed and slid in until she was flush against him. A little unsure, Giles moved his arm out and curled it loosely around her back. She pressed herself to him tightly, molding herself to his side.
Her soft hands came to his jawline, turning him to face her. She smiled and leaned forward, capturing his lips. The kiss was leisurely as uncertain hands began tentative explorations. When their mouths parted, Giles rubbed his forehead against her own.
“I love you Giles.”
“All of a sudden?” he asked, genuinely curious.
“No… and yes.”
“Buffy,” he said, drawing in a ragged breath. “It’s not as simple as…”
“Yes. It is.”
“It is. It’s just that simple. Problems and logic and nine hundred million other things come in and try to get in the way. But only if you let them. The truth is, it really is as simple as I love you and you love me. It just is. The only thing that’s hard is letting it be just that simple. And… I’m ready to.”
His expression was one of bewilderment, and hope. “I’m tired of misery. I’m ready to be happy.” She wove their fingers together. “This is the happiest I can ever remember being. Right here with you, just existing. The naked is actually helping that too.” They both laughed, nervously. “Course, I’m looking to be a whole lot happier when all your owies have healed up there.”
“And right now?”
Buffy looked at him, bathed in orange-tinted darkness as the sun battered against the outside of her window shades. “Right now, just be alive. And hold me. And tell me that you love me.”
He smiled and kissed her forehead. “I do Buffy. I love you.” She grinned contentedly and rested her head on his chest. Her arm snaked over his bare stomach as his hand came to perch on her hip. Moments later, she was almost asleep when she heard him whisper. “Buffy?”
“Mmm?” She responded, not opening her eyes.
“If you wanted to be happier right now, I think I’m feeling better.”
Her eyes snapped open to look at him. She giggled until he covered her mouth with a kiss.
Dawn held Anya’s necklace up to her chest, admiring the way it looked in her full-length mirror. She noted for the first time that the stone was not just green, but had little flecks of gold in it as well. She set it on her dresser and walked to her desk. She had to move a few books until she found what she was looking for.
She walked back to the dresser and stood before the necklace. Appraising it one last time, she raised high the paperweight she held in her hand and brought it down as hard as she could on the pendant. It shattered, releasing a flash of green light. When Dawn looked again, the necklace lay in jagged pieces across her dresser top. She smiled and set the paperweight down. “Wish granted.”
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