Disclaimer: All about Joss. He owns it. I own nada, zip, zilch. This story stems from the Twilight Zone episode "Nothing in the Dark" in a loose manner. The title of each chapter has a direct quote from the story. The line is also repeated by Buffy. It belongs to Rod Serling; certainly not me.
Distribution: I Kind of Love You 2 (IKOLY2) http://www.ikoly2.com/fanfiction/index.php
The Mystic Muse: http://mysticmuse.net
Spoilers: The whole show! AU after season seven. Just ignore the comic entirely.
Author's Note: My main objective of this story was to confuse you into thinking one thing, when things are different than they appear to be. If you read the story in its entirety, you'll see hints I placed along the way of what the true circumstances are. Plus, I really enjoyed this Twilight Zone episode and was delighted to think of a way to adapt for the B/W.
Pairing: B/W; Hints at the end of B/W/T.
Summary: The Slayer's yearly visit brings about surprising revelations.
Chapter 1 Chapter 2
Chapter One: What You Feared Would Come Like A Thunderstorm...
Willow appraised herself in her bedroom mirror; her new emerald green dress bought specifically for tonight's occasion.
Every year Willow was a nervous wreck, yet giddy with anticipation. Her hands shook as she nervously alternated between fumbling with her hair, smoothing her dress down, and fiddling with her jewelry. Willow bit her lip, twisting and turning, and no matter what she did, she still wasn't satisfied. The doorbell rang and Willow panicked, realizing that time had run away from her. Every second counted; after all, this time only came once a year and she was always determined to never lose a moment of it.
Willow's taxing efforts to answer the door vexed the woman, cursing herself for not being able to walk any faster. The only comfort came from the knowledge that the visitor on the other side of the door would be patient, understanding Willow's failings.
She sucked in a deep breath in anticipation, and opened the front door to reveal the only one who had ever truly held her heart: Buffy Anne Summers.
A goofy lopsided grin spread across Willow's features, her watery eyes sparkling with joy.
"Hi ya, Wills. Can I come in?" The beautiful blonde smirked, each one full well knowing the answer but enjoying the little game they played every year nonetheless.
Willow's now coy expression prompted the usual reply. "Hmmm. I don't know about that. I may have changed the invite clause. I'm a very in demand gal, you know."
The smirk stayed on the blonde's face only to be accompanied by an eyebrow quirking in apparent amusement. "Oh really?" She drawled. "I have competition, do I?"
Willow's cheeks flushed, relishing in their familiar banter. "Well there is a list of eligible women in line for my affections."
"A list, huh? I betcha I could take any of those women on that list without even breaking a sweat."
Willow waggled a finger in pretended admonishment. "There will be no violence, missy. Brute force will not endear yourself to me nor succeed in placing you at the top of the list." The Wiccan's head tilted upward in a gesture of pride. "A long list, I might add."
"Oh, violence wasn't on my agenda. I was thinking of a more subtle means of..." Buffy leaned forward every so slightly in a conspiratorial fashion, her voice dropping to a husky whisper, "...persuasion."
Willow's heart began to race, and despite her normal collected demeanor, she found herself becoming sexually aroused. Mustering her best resolve face, she set forth the challenge. "There is only one proven method to gain access to the top of the list, Buffy Summers, and frankly, I don't think you're up to the task."
"Oh, I'm up to the task all right. I am sooo up to the task." The tiny blonde's finger flicked in a come hither gesture. "Why don't you step outside, and I'll prove my point."
Willow's cool facade was a ruse now and just like always, Buffy was on the verge of winning their little game.
That of course didn't mean Willow wouldn't make her work for it.
Willow crossed the threshold, standing directly in the blonde's personal space, and breathed, "Prove your point."
Buffy's smirk widened, mischief dancing in her eyes.
A strong yet gentle grasp encircled Willow's slim frame, flushing their bodies together causing an involuntary gasp from the Wiccan. The Slayer held Willow's gaze, her free hand skimming Willow's side, passing the Wiccan's breast with the barest of touches as Buffy finally reached her final destination; Willow's heated cheek. The Slayer's touch was so soft Willow almost giggled at the tickling sensation from the tiny blonde's fingertips. Her lips mere inches away, Buffy whispered seductively, "Be ready to put me at the top of your list, Wills." And their lips met; the kiss as sublime as always, reminding Willow of what was stolen from them so long ago.
What began as a soft, sweet kiss soon deepened in intensity, and Willow's arms involuntarily slid up to enclose Buffy's figure, striving to draw the Slayer impossibly closer. After what seemed like a lifetime, the passionate kiss became languid and smooth, eventually slowing into a mutual release. Willow's eyes fluttered open only to be greeted by a very pleased-with-herself Slayer bouncing on her toes. "So, Wills. Did I make it to the top of the list?"
A shy grin flickered at the inquiry before transforming into something more serious. "You know you never left."
Buffy's thumb traced Willow's soft slightly swollen lips as all traces of mirth disappeared, and the hazel eyes held only longing and love. "I've missed you, Willow," she whispered.
A misty-eyed Willow simply tugged the blonde into the fiercest embrace her fragile body was able to allow. Burying her face in the blonde's shoulder and golden hair, Willow mumbled, "I've missed you too, Buffy."
Buffy nuzzled Willow's hair, returning the hug with a gentle squeeze. "What do you say we go inside, hmmm?" Buffy nipped at Willow's neck. "Or is that de-invite clause still in effect?" Laughter rumbled throughout the Slayer's lithe body.
Willow released the embrace and wiped away any lingering tears, regaining her composure. Catching a glimpse of devilry glowing in Buffy's eyes, the impish Wiccan summoned enough strength to lightly smack the Slayer's butt. "Get your ass inside, Buffy."
The blonde's eyebrows shot up in surprise, rubbing her bum. Willow knew the act was more for show than actual pain. "Willow! Since when did you start using that kind of language? What would your mother say?"
"Buffy, I am more than old enough to say 'ass.' As for Mom, you see her more often than I do, Bunny."
The blond pouted. "Yeah and after all this time she still can't get my name right."
"And I have no doubt she ever will." Willow snickered and tilted her head slightly towards the entranceway in a gesture of welcome. "Let's get inside, Buff. My own derriere is feeling nippy."
Buffy snaked her arm around Willow with one devious hand slowly massaging the Wiccan's bum. "I'm sure I can remedy that for ya, Wills."
Buffy's stroke set fire to the Wiccan's butt cheeks, the heat rising rapidly up Willow's body causing a deep blush. With as much dignity as the flustered Willow could muster, she declared, "You just did." Deliberately glancing down, she added, "Now remove your naughty hand."
The Slayer complied, but not before she squeezed Willow's tush, and lazily relinquished her prize. The Wiccan's eyes shot up to the sight of a grinning unrepentant blonde. "Vixen!" Willow sent Buffy a withering stare, and set about shuffling in through the doorway.
Upon setting foot inside the foyer Willow paused, and turned to offer her hand to her yearly lover.
Buffy's small frame ducked out of sight for a moment before reappearing with a bouquet of roses in a vase hiding her face.
Willow's forehead ruffled. "I didn't see those out there. Where were you hiding them?"
"Willow! I'm surprised at you!" The tiny blonde's head peeked around the rather large arrangement. "How can one show up at a gorgeous woman's house without flowers in her hand?"
"It didn't seem to cross your mind when you came over to my house in high school to get help in--" Willow's fingers counted off. "English, Chemistry, Math, History--"
"Okay, okay, Wills." Buffy conceded, stepping leisurely into the foyer. "Let's just say I needed help in a grand multitude of all academic type stuff." Buffy presented the roses to the taller Willow. "After all, I'm just a Slayer." The blonde pouted, feigning humility. "You're the one with the giant brain."
"That's right, Slayer, and don't you forget it!" Willow set the vase on the side table, happily fiddling with the beautiful arrangement.
"How can I, 'Miss I graduated med school in two years, and number one in my class'?"
"Number two, Buffy." A distracted Willow corrected.
"Yeah, like that makes such a big difference," replied the sniggering blonde.
Willow finished her fussing with the plump roses, and contented herself instead to fiddle with the blonde's soft leather jacket lapels. "Well, it could..." Willow muttered, not breaking her gaze from her fingers playing with the black coat.
Buffy stole the opportunity to snag a surprised Willow, clasping both hands behind the Wiccan in a loose embrace. "Well, I certainly couldn't tell from all the 'doctoring' you did to me."
"Buffy!" Willow glowed a healthy shade of pink, and swatted the Slayer's arm in jest.
"I'm just sayin'." Buffy teased as Willow extracted herself from the cuddle, standing directly in front of the slayer resolutely.
"Take your coat off, and hand it over." Willow ordered, extending her hand in expected compliance.
"Ooh, command witch. I like it." The Slayer leered, and submissively removed the jacket.
Willow ignored the comment as she retrieved Buffy's coat, surveying her lover with a critical eye. "You know, with the black leather jacket and pants you insist on wearing, one would think you're a vampire."
"And would they be so wrong?" Buffy bared her teeth.
"Oh, please, they even aren't even that big. I have bigger fangs and you know it. My bite is much worse than yours. All you can do is suck."
"Really? That's not the word on the street. People see me at night and run right, left, and sideways to escape my evil, blood sucking ways. I could give Angel and Spike a run for their money, or in this case, blood." Buffy growled threateningly. "Come here, and I'll prove it."
"Maybe later. If you're good, I'll let you bite me." Willow smirked. "For now, let's just enjoy the evening."
"All right, fine, you win." Buffy gestured in surrender with little remorse, earning a mock glare from Willow.
"And stop pouting!"
Willow shuffled to the hall closet surprised at how heavy the jacket seemed and what an effort it was to carry it.
Suddenly, two swift hands grasped the jacket relieving Willow of the burden. "Hey!" Despite the protest, she was secretly glad for the help. The Wiccan had begun to entertain thoughts of using a spell, and though she was loath to admit, the strain on her body was too great.
"I got it, Willow," the Slayer softly replied, hanging up the jacket with ease.
Willow frowned, disgruntled, and crossed her arms. "I can still do things. I'm not an invalid you know." Willow glared at the offending jacket, and her mind drifted back to this morning; every morning.
Buffy smiled, and sweetly kissed the distressed woman. "I know. Just being Gentle Slayer for my Wills, that's all."
"Alright," Willow grudgingly allowed, still not happy with the situation, but relaxed her pose.
Buffy held out an arm in courtesy. "Come, my lady. Let us take in the wonderful sights of Willowland." Secretly, Willow loved Buffy's act of chivalry, grateful for the Slayer's love and acceptance of her limitations. Willow, however, was not so forgiving; and those who came to her aid routinely received the brunt of her frustrations.
The Wiccan muttered a "Grumble, grumble" but Willow gripped the Slayer's arm nonetheless.
Upon returning to the foyer, the mood seemed to turn serious and Willow's nervous anticipation returned.
Willow silently watched the Slayer's eyes settle on the romantic setting in the living room. Soft jazz playing in the background; a lick of flames from the fireplace cast shadows on the wall; pillows plumped on the hearth rug; the furnished coffee table sported a bottle of wine opened to breathe; two crystal wine glasses glistened; and a single candle glowed, its subtle fragrance wafting the air.
Willow had spent a majority of the day in preparation for tonight, being obsessive compulsive over every minor detail. Her roommate Melinda had done most of the work though while Willow had stood by driving the poor woman crazy with her constant nagging. Willow had been pleased with the end result, but the stereotypical scene left her feeling slightly ridiculous. She knew however that Buffy would appreciate it, and that was all that mattered.
And sure enough, the blonde's lips twitched in amusement. Willow noticed and cut her off at the pass. "I know, I know. Every year you thank god my art of seduction no longer includes Barry White. And every year I remind you that I was young, naive, and trying to prove that Xander was nothing more than a miniscule footnote in the sordid past of Willow Rosenberg." Willow paused with a ghost of a smile. "Poor Oz. He was such a gentleman about it, too." The Wiccan shook her head, bemused. "I used to wonder why he put up with me and my spazziness."
Sighing, Buffy rested one palm on Willow's cheek, caressing it with her thumb. "Oh Willow. I, for one, always find your art of seduction delightfully charming, which you should be fully be aware of by now." Buffy placed a sweet kiss on Willow's lips. "As for Oz, he loved all of you; from your fuzzy pink sweaters to your adorable babble to your brains that put the rest of us to shame. He also appreciated openly what should had never been questioned: shy, innocent, and sweet Willow Rosenberg was (and still is) sexy as hell." The Slayer's grin faded, and her expression grew soft and solemn. "And is one of the best people you'll ever meet."
Willow ducked her head, blushing. "Buffy, I was in no way of the sexy."
"Oh c'mon, Will!" The Slayer's fingers slid down to gently lift Willow's chin to meet her gaze. "I happen to recall a very sexy redhead in a leather mini skirt and halter top during the Halloween Special of 1997, courtesy of Ethan Rayne."
"Well, that was only coz you made me do it!" Willow pouted.
"Yeah, and then somebody went and put on a sheet with the word 'Boo' scrawled on it!" Buffy scolded as her hand freed the Wiccan's chin.
"You're darn tootin'!" Willow nodded, as if to emphasize her point. "But in my defense, the costume...and I use that word loosely... " Willow glowered, "can only be described as a 'Faith's non evil but still slutty twin' outfit...and it most definitely qualified in the spazz and shame category."
"Don't be giving me the Slayer 'shame on you' stare, either. The one, I might add, that is reserved for Xander and Spike alone."
The Slayer snorted. "Willow, do not compare the look I just gave you to the one specially saved for those two." Buffy grinned, teasing. "It is the special guilt look reserved only for you."
Willow sighed, trying to shrug it off. "It's just residual Cordelia and Faith issues." The conversation was fast heading a direction left best alone. Willow only wanted the easy banter back, not to discuss unresolved issues. Which of course is what Buffy decided to do...
"Yeah but Queen C and Faith both came back, from what would be termed in Xander speak as "the dark side of the force", to kick much in the way of demon ass. Well, I guess in Cordelia's case," Buffy smirked, "if you can count bitchiness, then she definitely qualified as a member of the Darth Vader sidekick club."
Willow scowled, greeting the quip in silence. Was it too much to ask that Buffy let this go?
"Now, Will..." Buffy cajoled, grasping the Wiccan's sides tugging her close. Damn it, Willow's resolve faltered. Grrr. Darn sexy slayers.
"Aren't those issues really referring to Xander?"
The arousal vanished, and Willow found her body stiffening immediately.
Too many years and the Slayer still knew her like a book.
"And you too!" Something broke deep inside and the accusation just burst out. The opportunity to voice long hidden resentments was too tempting. "What, you think no one noticed your fling with Faith?" Willow snorted sarcastically.
The Slayer abruptly drew back, releasing Willow who experienced a brief pang of guilt at the pain and anger in her lover's eyes. Willow felt irrational, and knew she was being unfair, but at the moment Willow found she just didn't care. At that time in high school, Faith's hold on Buffy had seemed like the rejection of Xander all over again.
The initial surprise over, the Slayer's features hardened. "Willow. First off, there was no fling." The Wiccan's eyes widened in disbelief, and Buffy threw her arms in the air with a dramatic roll of her eyes. "Okay, if it bothers you this much, we did kiss one night."
The spark of triumph at the admission was short lived, and not nearly as satisfying as Willow had believed it would be. Instead, the affirmation only served to re-kindle the lingering resentments, and she was surprised to discover how much she really didn't want to know the truth.
"Faith wanted more but I didn't. I wasn't ready for anything. I was still dealing with my trauma and guilt over that 'one moment of true happiness.' And then Angel returns from the hell I sent him to..." The Slayer laughed derisively. "Not to mention my confused feelings regarding you."
Willow didn't know what to think. There was still a part of her that didn't, or couldn't, let it slide. Her muddled emotions certainly provided no help, so the infamous babble accompanied by a healthy dose of insecurity came out instead.
"So it was just the H&H thing-y? You really did want me over her? I mean...she was so sexual...sexy sexual...and you could slay vampires and demons together...and my pencil floating sucked so how could I slay demons too? Plus I wore sweaters with flowers--"
"Willow!" Buffy sighed in exasperation. "Despite my history of bad boy lusting (although in Faith's case I suppose that would be bad girl lusting), I really only wanted a sweet redhead who was the best friend anyone could ask for." The Slayer tugged Willow flush against her, soothing Willow in a tight and loving embrace. "Why do you think Faith wanted to hurt you so bad? She knew how I felt about you." Buffy breathed into Willow's ear. "I hope you realize I never meant to hurt you, baby." Willow sniffed, and burrowed her head into the blonde's shoulder, muttering a muffled "Sorry" into the blonde's long locks.
"That was a very long time ago, Willow." Concern colored the Slayer's voice. "Where is this coming from?"
Buffy's grip eased and Willow reluctantly withdrew from her source of comfort, sucking in a deep breath. "I don't know. It's just...I mean...you're still so beautiful and...well... look at me..."
"Stop it right now, Willow. I love you no matter how you look. That includes now and forever." Buffy tucked at stray wisp of hair behind the Wiccan's ear and gently kissed her. "As for still being in deep, deep smit, I would have to say with no false modesty that I made myself more than list worthy on your porch. " She smirked.
Just like that the insecurities vanished.
Her Slayer loved her.
Willow shook her head internally at her idiocy. Why was it so hard to believe? She was a doctor, beautiful, well respected. She knew this, she really did; consciously at least.
But inside still lurked a shy frequently tormented girl who had never felt worthy of the beautiful Slayer's love or friendship. Those old subconscious fears had resurfaced with their voices growing louder as time went by. As of late, they had become deafening.
But once again her slayer's love eased Willow's mind and heart. Her spirits renewed, she smiled.
And then she suddenly staggered, nearly collapsing out of the Slayer's comforting embrace.
Chapter 2: Came With A Whisper
One minute the world was tilting and the next the world was warm and comforting enfolded in a slayer cocoon.
Not that she really minded that part.
"Welcome back." A voice greeted with a gentle kiss.
The world returning to focus she currently had a ringside seat to the Slayer's breast. "Buffy, what happened?" Willow withdrew from cushiness, angling her face ever so slightly to stare into beautiful hazel eyes. "The last thing I remember was standing in the hallway with you holding me and now I'm over here?"
"Apparently, you decided to play damsel in distress and fainted." Buffy wryly commented, with an undertone of concern.
Choosing to turn a deaf ear to Buffy's quip, Willow twisted in strong arms, trying to wiggle out of the Slayer's secure grasp. Buffy only tightened her grip. "Oh, no you don't Wills."
"Dammit, Buffy! Just because I fainted, or slipped on a...a...stray..." Willow protest died on her lips.
The house was spotless.
Buffy only smirked while her head swiveled slightly, eyes flickering about the living room, "You were saying?"
Willow scowled knowing the jig was up but pursuing it nonetheless. "I don't know...a stray dust bunny or something! Now let me up!"
"All right, Miss Impatience." Buffy chuckled. "How 'bout I make you a deal?"
Willow's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "What kind of a deal?"
"I release you..." Buffy's voice was soft and beguiling "and you stay lying down on these plump pillows you lovingly arranged, and I'll pour us a glass of wine."
"Fine." Willow relented, knowing the battle to be a lost cause.
Buffy effortlessly settled the Wiccan onto the soft rug and said plump pillows. Willow watched her slayer rise gracefully, leisurely making her way to the coffee table just out of reach. The blonde picked up the bottle examining it. "1997 huh?"
"Well, it's a good age!" Willow pouted. "Besides, wine is always better when it's aged."
The Slayer poured the Merlot into two wine glasses feigning innocence. "I'm just saying that's all."
"Well, you can quit saying. Besides," Willow mumbled, flushing slightly, "I'm rather partial to that year."
"So am I, Wills, so am I." Buffy set the bottle down grasping the two wine glasses in turn. "It's nice to see your circulation returning. Even without the aid of alcohol. But tonight I think it's a good idea for me to skip any of the suck and bite of your tempting neck."
"There used to be a time when you sucked and nibbled on my neck all night long." Willow sighed wistfully. It all seemed like yesterday when it was really so long ago.
The Slayer padded over, carefully setting each glass down upon the brick hearth. "Love bites, Wills, they're called love bites."
Willow snorted. "Whatever Slayer." A ghost of a smile hinted at the corners of her lips. "Now I'm going to have to sit up in order to drink that wine you know. I just bought this dress; there will be no wine dripping onto Willow's new dress." Willow smoothed and patted her dress for emphasis.
"Not to worry, Wills," Buffy scooted over and slipped her hands underneath the Wiccan. "Ready?"
"Yes." Buffy eased Willow into a sitting position, arranging the pillows for support. "All good?"
"Yes, I'm fine." The Wiccan glanced at the inviting wine. "Hand me one of those glasses, Slayer." Willow flashed Buffy her signature very-pleased-sticking-her-tongue-between-her-teeth grin.
Buffy carefully handed the Wiccan her wine with Willow answering the question in the Slayer's eyes. "Yes, I have it secure. Now," Willow nodded towards the tiny blonde's glass, "grab yours."
"Here's to my favorite Wiccan." Buffy raised her glass in a toast.
"Here's to my favorite Slayer." They clinked glasses and sipped, the Merlot slightly on the fruity side but with the nice balance of sweet and tart Willow preferred. "So how's Giles?"
Buffy relaxed into the familiar pose, stretching out in her tight leather pant legs that Willow so admired. Kicking off her stylish yet affordable boots and propping her head up with one hand, Buffy settled in for a long conversation.
"Oh the same as always. He's in heaven. Books galore."
Willow smiled around her wine glass at the apt portrayal of the Watcher she sorely missed.
"Xander?" Buffy countered.
"Oh, he doesn't recognize me anymore. I think he's worse than I am." Willow smiled forlornly. "I really miss him, Buffy." The Wiccan blinked away a start of tears.
The blonde Slayer bent over to tenderly kiss each eyelid, and leaned back. "I know, Willow."
"I still don't understand why you're not allowed to know what's happening with him." Willow grumbled at what she perceived as one of the ridiculous rules set forth beyond their control.
"It's just the way it is, Will." Buffy shrugged. "Someday I'll see him and it will be just like yesterday."
Buffy's nonchalant answer did nothing to appease the Wiccan nor did the Slayer's attempt at whimsy. Willow found herself conjuring a brood that would make Angel proud.
"Oh, c'mon, now! There will be none of that, Doctor Rosenberg. I can't have you stealing the crown of broodiness from Mr. Dark and Glower-y himself." The blonde lightly kicked her foot playfully against Willow's leg.
The good-natured teasing did its job, Willow's spirits lifted. "How is Angel? Is he happy? I mean it took him so long to get to you."
"Actually, he didn't get to me Wills, just my locale. Cordy was the one he got to." Buffy smirked.
Willow paused, sipping her wine thoughtfully. "It really doesn't bother you, does it," Spoken like a statement, yet a hint of a question lingered in Willow's voice, really searching more for an answer to her lover's well being.
Angel was one topic the Wiccan's insecurities made no appearance. She respected their love and despite Buffy's flippancy Willow knew there would always be something there between them. Willow had come to terms with this a long time ago; after all, for her Tara held the same special place in her heart, which Buffy respected as well with no fear of threat to their relationship.
"Oh, God, Will, that was eons ago." The Slayer smiled, swirling her wine. "I'm glad he's finally happy." Buffy paused, placing her glass onto the hearth. The tiny blonde stared down, picking at the rug strands. "No one moment of happiness. A soul intact guarantee," Buffy mumbled.
Raising her palm to the slayer's face, Willow caressed it with her thumb. The Wiccan smiled indulgently, deciding a change of topic was in order. Willow dropped her hand to cover Buffy's, striving to halt the blonde's anxiety before Slayer strength ripped the rug strands to bits. Willow's brief squeeze brought the return of Buffy's gaze with the famous resolve face demanding attention.
"All right, missy," Willow waggled a finger at the slayer imperiously. "Oh, c'mon now! There will be none of that, Miss Summers." Willow's echo of Buffy's earlier good-natured admonishment brought laughter on both fronts, helping to ease the tension. It felt good, Willow recognized. This reversal of roles during the evening, this time Willow being the one to provide comfort for her love.
The atmosphere lightened, Willow returned her hand to her lap. She tilted her wine glass, gesturing to the slayer in expectation. "Okay you know the drill. So spill." Willows sipped her wine in contentment.
The Slayer arched an eyebrow. "Alphabetical order as always?"
Willow nodded. "I know how you are and how you like the skipping around method, but this is the only way my tired brain can handle. So many updates put a strain on Willow's brain."
"Don't give me the old 'my mind is too weak and feeble' routine Wills. We both know that's not the case."
Willow stuck her tongue out at Buffy who in a burst of slayer speed captured it in a sweet kiss. "Mmmm," hummed Willow, in happy appreciation. "Fine. But humor me anyways." Willow swirled her wine a bit, bringing the glass to her lips to taste the smooth Merlot.
Buffy raised her wine glass in acknowledgement to the command. "As you wish, my lady."
"And as per usual, top of the alphabet begins with nerd turning into amazingly enough a very good Watcher Andrew." Willow savored a longer drink this time, pointedly ignoring the warnings not to drink alcohol on all of her pill bottles.
"I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say very good but let's just say some things never change. Every time I see him it's Star Wars, Lara Croft, or Red Dwarf. You would think he would be sick of them by now."
Another gulp had Willow feeling very warm inside, not entirely in control of her faculties. "I suppose that is his perfect idea of heaven, huh?"
"We all have our ideal places in mind for heaven." Buffy shrugged, sipping at her wine.
Willow set her wine glass on the hearth, suddenly finding a particular piece of fabric on her dress very interesting. "What about you? What is your ideal?"
"Well, I would say this would have to qualify," humor threaded the Slayer's voice.
"Yeah, but you're not here all the time you know," The Wiccan mumbled, the wine's effects now bringing about a slight headache and rumble-y stomach.
Or maybe that was from the current heading of this conversation.
"Well, mochas are a must. Can't survive without everyday mochas."
"Mochas? You're body gets nothing from mochas." Willow's eyes flickered to catch the sight of a smirking slayer, the ambience of the evening changing by the Wiccan's own hand.
"Yes, but they are still very tasty."
Willow sighed heavily, her gaze fully returning to the Slayer. "What else? There must be more than that."
"I don't know what you want me to say here, Willow." Buffy's tone serious, even a tad reproachful. "I think you already know the answer to this question."
Why did she ask? Buffy came once a year, and here her shifting moods spoiled it with feelings of inadequacies and self-hatred. "I just meant...you know, the same as when I..."
Not responding for a moment, the Slayer swirled the wine in her glass. "I'm not going to lie to you, Willow. Yes, my ideal is exactly the same. Peaceful. Warm. In the blink an eye, I can see everyone I love and feel that love returned. Complete in every way."
Willow squeezed her eyes shut, the intense guilt re-emerging upon opening this particular Pandora's box. Silence fell and the seduction scene suddenly felt stifling. Hollow inside, Willow opened her eyes, and turned back around. Not looking at Buffy, she stared at her lap covered by the beautiful dress, stained nonetheless with self-accusations. Placing her palms on floor, Willow concentrated on putting all of her effort into leaving the ruined night behind and in her mind the ruined relationship as well.
Powerful arms stopped her effort, wrapping her in an embrace. "Buffy, please, just let me go."
"Willow, look at me."
"I can't. I can't stand this. All I do is wreck everything. How can you stand me? Not only do I rip you out of heaven, but I try to kill you as well after Tara's death."
"Yes, you did, but..." The Wiccan struggled to twist away from Buffy who wouldn't let go, "but there is something I didn't tell you." Willow still refused to look at the Slayer. "Dammit, Willow! Stop. I need you to look at me while I say this." Ceasing the struggle, Willow however reluctant, frightfully switched her regard to the Slayer. "During the summer you were in England, well, I did a lot of soul searching. Okay, maybe not the best choice of words. At any rate, as the healing began, those buried feelings of love for you surfaced. The entire time that was all I could think about; my love for you and our deep friendship."
"When you brought me back, I couldn't feel anything. Why Spike made me feel anything is still a mystery to me-even after all of these years. I knew I wanted more than anything to go back." Struggling, Willow wanted nothing more than to leave the Slayer's grip. "Willow! Quit it!" Buffy's hand on the distraught woman's chin, forcing her attention back to the Slayer. "As for you...I instinctively knew that you were safe and loved, so I was content with that knowledge that someday you would join me forever. And when you, the missing piece, came I would be complete. Absolutely complete. That's my ideal."
Willow blinked, bewildered. "Really?"
"Yes. Really." Buffy whispered; releasing her hold of Willow's chin tucked a stray white hair behind Willow's ear.
Suddenly confusion cleared morphing into the familiar petulance. "But the fact remains: it's too late for me." Buffy opened her mouth to speak but Willow cut her off.
"No, Buffy, I mean it. When I finally...well...die...there will be no heaven for me." A tear trickled down Willow's cheek, turning into a stifled sob.
"Willow!" The Slayer rolled her eyes, in obvious aggravation. "When are you going to let go of that guilt?"
"Probably never." Willow glanced down, fiddling with her hands. "What I did...to Warren..."
"Stop. You have paid for that over and over and over again." Buffy cradled the fragile woman in her strong arms, so soothing to the Wiccan. "You have done so much good, Will. You have risked your life 100 times over and then some. This world wouldn't be here if it weren't for you. Not to mention the lives you saved and people you helped as a doctor. When it's your time, I guarantee a place in heaven."
"You can't know that, Buffy."
The Slayer smiled. "Hey, I have the inside track, remember?"
Willow sniffled, burrowing even farther into the Slayer's embrace. Despite Willow's attempt to stop it, her eyes felt heavy, and her body wanted to sleep.
"Are you tired, Wills?" Buffy softly stroked the white mane.
"No." A childish sulky Willow cursed herself as her eyes grew heavier and heavier. The same scenario played out year after year.
Buffy gingerly laid the exhausted woman onto the rug, her head on the fluffy pillows. Scooting behind, the Slayer spooned her. "That better?" Buffy's arm held her securely, Willow's weak struggles in vain.
"No. I can't...I won't..."
"It's alright, Willow. I'll wake you up when it's time to go."
Unable to fight any longer Willow's eyes closed, a single tear sliding down her cheek.
"No..." ...and Buffy faded away into darkness.
The Wiccan slowly woke to soft lips kissing her ear, and the Slayer's whisper, "Will, it's time to go."
At this, Willow jerked awake. "What?"
"It's time, baby."
Willow scooted upright, panicking. "No, no. It's not time yet. A big no to the time to go time. I only closed my eyes for a second. I--"
Buffy placed a gentle finger on Willow's lips. "Look at the window."
A sliver of sun peeked through slit in the curtain. "But...but..." Willow abruptly turned away to stare into the fireplace, and no matter how hard she tried to stop them a few tears leaked out. "I miss you so much. I know...I know you have, well, special permission and all to do this once a year, but don't you think they might be okay with you know extending it?"
Without answering, the Slayer kissed the woman's wrinkled neck and Willow heard her slip into her boots and then stand. Willow's eyes opened to just stare at the fire in a haze.
She didn't think she could stand this anymore. Every year Willow's heart broke just a little bit more.
"Willow. Look at me."
Willow's head turned to see Buffy's outstretched hand.
The Slayer smiled tenderly. "It's time, Willow."
Willow stared, wondering if she should take the proffered hand yet somehow knowing that this hand held the promise something more.
Willow edged slightly back, shaking. "I'm afraid."
Bending down, Buffy extended her reach. "Don't be. It won't hurt." The Slayer wiggled her fingers. "C'mon, Wills. It's easy. I promise."
Taking a deep breath, Willow stretched out her withered hand. Her fingertips touched Buffy's and it was warm and comforting like a spring day.
The Slayer lifted her with ease and smiled. "Look." Willow turned to see the old woman's body lying peacefully on the hearth, the emerald dress still sparkling from the firelight. Buffy caressed the freckled smooth cheek. "What you feared would come like a thunderstorm, came with a whisper."
"Is it really true?" Willow raised her youthful hand, gazing in wonder.
"You know it is. You can feel it." And Willow could. She felt like she could run and run, jump and laugh with free abandon.
Buffy tucked a fiery red errant lock of hair behind Willow's ear. "You're coming with me this time."
A wide grin spread across the redhead's face. "You and me? Together? Forever?"
"Forever." Came the soft reply.
Willow smashed their bodies together in a fierce hug, puling back only to give the Slayer the deepest most intense kiss they had experienced in a long time. Releasing the passionate kiss, the redhead glanced down, scrutinizing her wardrobe peevishly. "If you think I'm wearing one of the dresses my mother picked out for eternity, you've got another thing coming."
The Slayer chuckled. "That's only for the moment. I think the PTB wanted to have a little fun with you before you came with me." Buffy grasped Willow's hand, interlocking their fingers as she led Willow to the door.
Buffy held them upon reaching the doorway, subdued. "You can get so close...intimate... with your loved ones." Buffy stared deliberately into the redhead's emerald green eyes. "Past lovers can especially be intense."
Willow swallowed hard, nodding. How could she face Tara? After everything she had done...panic began to set in, a practically inaudible whimper escaping.
Tender fingertips traced Willow's brow, easing the anxiety. "Shh, it's okay, Wills," Buffy hushed, "Tara can't wait to see you."
"Honest?" Willow's trepidation began to subside. "She can't wait to see me?"
"On Slayer's honor." Buffy released Willow's hand, and made a motion across her chest. "Cross my heart, and hope to die." And pretended to spit down at the floor.
Willow leveled Buffy an exasperated look. "Buffy, your heart doesn't beat anymore. You're dead, remember?"
"Well, then see! In that case, it's proof of honor. You know, honor proof!" The blonde grinned.
The redhead rolled her eyes, but Buffy logic produced a smile (albeit sardonic) as Willow suspected Buffy already knew.
"Okay, I'll let it go." And Willow did feel better until a sudden thought hit. "Oh! Is she going to be okay with me and you and her and me...you know, us together and me and her together and..."
"Not to worry Wills. She is absolutely 100% of the fine with it."
"What about you? You won't mind sharing me?" Willow voiced her last anxiety.
"It's all of the good, Will," The Slayer waved her hand dismissively and winked. "Besides, Tara and I have grown quite close."
"Oh, really?" Willow's eyebrows rose, wondering at the implications of Buffy's words.
"Yeah, we hang out." Buffy grabbed Willow's hand, swinging them back and forth. "I think we're forming a deeper bond and stuff. Whether you know it or not, I always had an attraction towards Tara."
A glimmer of surprise flashed across the redhead's features. "Wow. I never knew."
"Yeah. She really was one of the sweetest person I ever knew." Buffy leaned into Willow's personal space. "Next to you, of course."
Willow's eyes twinkled. Now with the relief of Tara welcoming her, not to mention the acceptance of Buffy and Tara sharing her, Willow began to feel quite giddy. And now? The promise of all three together? Willow was actually beginning to feel her own snoopy dance coming on.
"You're such a sweet talker, Slayer. Are you that way with Tara?"
"Oh you know, now and again." Buffy opened the door. "It's mostly reserved for you though."
"Hmm." The redhead gave Buffy a sweet short kiss and tugged on the blonde's hand. "Well let's go. You can sweet talk us both."
"Yes ma'am!" As they crossed the threshold, Buffy asked, "Anywhere but here, Wills?"
Willow grinned like a Cheshire cat. "You? Me? Tara? Heaven?" Willow sobered a bit, knowing without a doubt her answer.
"Nowhere but here, Buffy, nowhere but here."
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