By CN Winters


Disclaimers: Don’t own ‘em. Just borrowing them from Joss and the folks at various companies.

Author note: This story is a prelude to Watchers, a virtual season.

Feedback: Well yeah! Please post it on our forum or if you like you can email me privately at

Rating: PG-13 (just to be safe)

Pairing: Canon pairings

Setting: This story takes place right after ‘Chosen’ and offers a little insight into the virtual season Watchers.




Chapter One

Angel and his crew heard the door open at his hotel and they turned around. Buffy walked in and looked at the wreckage around them.


"Don’t tell me," she quipped, "Another hellmouth?"




Angel raced over and pulled her into a tight embrace. Relief at seeing her alive was an understatement. When the Slayer winced, Angel pulled back quickly and saw the wound that was hidden under her coat. "God I’m sorry. Are you-?"


"Healing as we speak but still tender."


"The First?"




"So no second front?"


"No second front."


Angel sighed and pulled Buffy back into his arms again but this time he made sure to hold her gently. From over her shoulder he saw the others begin to make their way in. Faith and Giles, who helped Wood inside, appeared first and once more Angel sighed in relief. The rest of Angel’s gang gathered around and began helping people inside. Angel couldn’t wait to see who else survived. He had to know.


He pulled back to look in Buffy’s eyes. "The Scoobies and Dawn?"


"Will, Xander and Dawn yes. But we lost Anya. Xander’s alive but in shock I think…We lost about two thirds of the girls and…Spike too."


At first, Angel wasn’t sure what to say. "Well…The amulet? Did it work?"


Buffy nodded. "Like a charm. It harnessed sunlight and brought it right to the ubervamps. Blasted them all along with the Hellmouth. Spike was wearing it and he…he started to combust but…he saw it through. Right to the end. Even you might have been proud."


"I’m sorry Buffy," Angel said sincerely.


"Note the sarcasm I’m about to use: Oh really?"


Angel nodded. "You said he was a part of your heart. I know you’ve lost lots of ‘parts’ over the years. So boyfriend or not…I’m sorry it happened and I do mean that."


Buffy gave a dismal grin. "Thanks…It’s just…I don’t think Xander’s the only one shocked here. Everyone is…"


"It’s understandable," Angel told her. "We been cleaning here – getting things in order. We heard the reports of an earthquake in Sunnydale on the radio…I’ve been worrying for the past two hours."


"I tried to call but we must have had some electrical disruption or something when the Hellmouth fell in. And that’s a literal ‘fell in’ – no more Sunnydale. Anyway, the cell phone wouldn’t work. Phone booths don’t take dollar bills and no one had a calling card. Nearly everything was at the house…well…what used to be the house."


"I’d offer you the chance to stay here but as you see…these aren’t the best living conditions. But I can put you up anywhere you like."


"I think it might be hard to explain the walking wounded to the check in clerk at the Ritz Carlton," Buffy grinned.


Lorne who was helping Vi tend to Rona overheard them and turned around.

"I can make a few calls," he told the pair. "Find someplace quiet, private. The troops could rest up there."


"Thanks Lorne. That’d be great," Angel told him.


"Yes thank you," Buffy added.


"I’m on it." The green skinned demon darted away quickly with a nod.

After he was gone Buffy looked around again. "Where’s Cordilia?"


"Long story," Angel told her.


"And the state of the hotel?"


"An even longer story. But we’ve got all night…Let’s sit down. Slayer healing or not you need to relax. Come on."


Too far away to hear Buffy and Angel’s conversation, Fred stood by the door and waited. Slayers and Scoobies started to file inside but no sign of Willow. When a few moments went by and no one else entered, she squared her shoulders and took a deep breath. Fred had to find out if Willow survived and she walked outside. She looked at the bus, seeing if anyone else was still aboard but no one was behind the windows.


"Oh Willow," she sighed softly with a feeling of dread.


That’s when she saw the witch and a dark-haired woman exit down the steps, carrying a host of duffle bags and backpacks. Willow put what she was carrying on the sidewalk and turned back to the woman to take the bags she held.


"Thank you Gaia," Fred whispered with a smile as she raced over.


Willow was talking to Kennedy and didn’t notice the petite woman racing toward her. At the sound of rushing footsteps, Willow turned around just in time to get locked in a bear hug. The impact pushed her back a foot or two and the witch started to giggle.


"It’s good to see you too." Willow smiled.


"Oh thank God," Fred sighed. "I waited and waited. Then everyone came in and then I thought ‘No Willow. Oh no’ and then I looked at the bus and-."


Willow put her finger over Fred’s lips. "You’re yammering," she said with a grin.

"Sorry," Fred muttered.


"That’s okay," Willow assured her. "Think you can give us a hand with the supplies?" Willow turned back to the bus and saw Kennedy examining them with a questioning look. "Oh I’m sorry. Kennedy this is Fred. Fred, Kennedy."


"Hi there," Fred said cheerfully. "Are you a potential?"


Kennedy thought for a moment and a small grin came to her face. "No…I’m a Slayer," Kennedy answered with a far amount of pride. "And Will’s girlfriend," she added for good measure. So this is Fred eh? Kinda scrawny.


Nervously, Fred took a step away from Willow but something else registered with what Kennedy said. "But Buffy and Faith are still alive," she replied. She then turned to Willow. "How can she-."


"Short version. Did a spell. Made all the potentials active. Kennedy was one of about 30 girls in our group."


"Oh," Fred replied. "I’m not sure what to say. Is congratulations proper?"


"That’ll do," Kennedy nodded and tossed the bag she was holding to Fred. The weight of it shook the smaller woman as she caught it. "Why don’t you give us a hand and start taking these in? That’s medical supplies the crew’ll need right away."


"Oh absolutely," Fred answered, juggling the bag. "I’ll take this and come back for the others."


"Thanks Fred," Willow said sincerely.


When the small woman was out of earshot, Willow turned back to Kennedy. "What’s with the butch?"


"I have no idea what you’re talking about." Kennedy grinned.


"I’m a Slayer. And Will’s girlfriend," Willow mimicked in a deep, manly voice.


"I did not say it that way," Kennedy countered with a laugh. "I just wanted to let her know…what’s what…Besides, you said she came on to you."


"No. No. No. I did NOT say that," Willow answered with a grin, pointing her finger. "I said and I quote ‘She took an interest in me’."


"Interest. Come on. Same diff."


"Oh jeez, why not just brand me while you’re at it? Property of Kennedy."


"I could," Kennedy smirked. "But you’d probably like it too much. I bet there a bit of kink under there that’s aching to get out."


"You’re impossible."


"You’re adorable."


They exchanged a brief smile before Willow began to pick up a couple of bags at her feet. "Come on. This stuff isn’t gonna move itself."


Kennedy followed suit and they began to make their way to the hotel. "Faith was right," she told Willow as they walked along.




"Slaying – I’m starving and I’m very…lusty."


"Lusty huh?" Willow felt a bashful grin come to her face but not able to look over at Kennedy.


"Very lusty," Kennedy corrected. Her hand snaked down to Willow’s backside and she grabbed a cheek. "Have I told you you’ve got a great ass?"


"Very lusty indeed," Willow chuckled.


"I can’t help it. It’s like my whole body is humming right now and it won’t go away."


"Well, let’s get everyone situated and then we’ll call it a night. Angel has spare bedrooms on the second level that…" Willow trailed off when she walked in and saw the damage, "I’m guessing are totally destroyed." She looked around taking it all in. "My goddess what happened here?"


"You want the long version or the short?" Gunn asked coming up behind her. "How ya doing Will?"


"I’m here. That’s all I really know."


"I can relate."


"No doubt. Look at this place," Willow said motioning around them.


He noticed the bags they were carrying. "Got more?" 


Willow nodded before dropping what she had. "Andrew?" she called out making the young man turn and walk over. "Start giving everyone their bags, okay? The ones that…don’t have owners – put in the corner over there."


"No problem Willow," he said, looking starting to look at the tags. "Uh Willow?" he asked sparing a look to Xander who was sitting in the corner alone with a blank expression. Andrew picked up the bag at his feet and asked, "What should I do with Anya’s bag?"


Willow sighed and looked to Xander for a brief moment. She knew he wasn’t ready to deal with it. Hell, a large part of her wasn’t ready either but as Giles said there was work to do – and not all of it pleasant. "I’ll take care of it," she told him. "See to the others."


He gave a nod as Willow took it and slung it on her shoulder.


"Come on," Gunn said motioning the women to the door. "We’ll unload and I’ll tell you our story if you tell me yours."


Willow mustered a grin. "Deal."

Chapter Two


"Hey B," Faith came over to Buffy and Angel. "Robin’s bleeding stopped but…he lost a lot of blood. We’ve gotta get him somewhere."


"I already called a medical team," Angel answered. "They should be here any minute but let me call again."


Faith nodded and headed back over to Robin as Angel went to the phone. She felt a smile tugging on her lips as he smiled up to her. She began to clean his stomach wound again, making sure that the bleeding really had stopped.


"I’m not a doctor but you’re gonna be fine. Angel’s guys are coming to fix you up," Faith grinned down at Robin.


"To think all that blood I gave away at various drives…could sure use it now huh?" Robin joked.


"Yep you sure could but Angel’s gonna set you up with some more. One of the perks of having a powerful vamp friend I guess."


"You’re pretty good at that – bedside manner stuff."


"What can I say? I’ve got experience."


"A nurse huh?"


"No just months of being in a hospital," she grinned. "Gotta finish college for that nurse gig…well finishing high school would help too I’m sure."


"You never finished?"


"No…Does that mean your not gonna surprise me now?"


"Not at all," Robin smiled. "You’re a pretty amazing woman Faith."


She finished and covered the gauze with a large latex bandage. "Sorry it doesn’t match. The box did say ‘flesh’ color," she quipped with a knowing grin.


Robin smiled down at the tan bandage that graced his dark skin and tried to suppress a chuckle.


"Don’t make me laugh just yet. Stomach’s not ready for that." Faith grinned and ran a hand over his face. Robin watched concern take hold over her features. "One way or another…" he told her in all seriousness. "I’m gonna keep my promise. I’m gonna surprise you Faith."


She mustered a grin and gave his arm a pat. "You better. You don’t wanna piss me off." She stood up and picked up the supplies she knew other people there might need. "Gotta get this to Will. I’ll be back."


"Don’t worry. I’ll be here. Not running any marathons just yet," he said with a smile. Faith smiled too before walking back over to the table, handing the items to Willow.


"You okay?" Willow asked.


"I’ll be better when the damn doctors get here."


"He’s gonna be okay," Willow said optimistically. "I think he’s too stubborn to give up yet," she grinned.


"Hope you’re right Will…He owes me."




"Finally!" Lorne said hanging up the phone. "Gotta guy in the Valley," he added walking over to Angel and Buffy with a piece of paper in his hand. "He’s a big shot independent producer. He’s on location in New York so the place is yours. He knows the situation and gives his blessing to use whatever you need. A friend of his should be here within the hour to bring you the key."


"Thanks Lorne. You’re a god," Buffy grinned.


"Now let’s not be too hasty Sweetcheeks. A demi-god…maybe." He grinned and handed her the paper.


Buffy reached up and stroked his face. "Well a sweetie for sure," she said with a grin.


"No wonder you fell for her," Lorne winked to Angel. "I’m gonna see if Willow and Dawn need any help organizing the…unclaimed bags." Lorne paused trying to find the right wording for the deceased belongings.


Before they boarded the bus to go to Sunnydale High, Buffy told everyone to pack one bag each. Anything that was important they should take with them as well as next of kin contacts on the inside and outside of the bag…just in case.


Right now, Willow and Dawn went through the bags that went unchecked. Willow was making a list from the luggage tags Dawn had already pulled from the bags, compiling names, address and numbers. They had some difficult calls to make. When Dawn hadn’t returned after a few moments of delivering the last tag, Willow looked over and saw her staring at one bag in particular.


"Dawnie," Willow called over. "You okay?"


Dawn cut the hangtag from the bag and brought it to Willow. The witch looked at the name – Amanda Matthews. Willow pursed her lips and looked up to Dawn. She could tell the teenager was trying to hold it together, her eyes glossy with unshed tears.


"It’s okay to let it out Dawn."


That was all Willow had to say and a cascade of tears fell down her face. The noise turned a few heads in their direction but Dawn was unable to control it any longer.


"I really thought she’d make it," Dawn sobbed. "She was my friend. Lots of ‘em were but she…"


Dawn couldn’t speak anymore. All she could do was cry.


Vi sat next to Rona who lay on the sofa behind them with 35 stitches that Angel’s medical team had given her. They looked at each other and silently grasped hands. They felt Dawn’s loss too but they were grateful that they were two who made it out. They looked at each other with a mix of silent camaraderie and quiet mourning.


Willow stood up and pulled the shaking girl into her arms as she kissed her temple. "I know. I understand," Willow said as she continued to hold her close and stroke her hair. Dawn quickly pulled herself together again and wiped her eyes. That’s when she saw Lorne lingering behind them, not sure if he should finish his approach or go away.


"Hey Lorne," Dawn said after clearing her throat.


Willow turned to see him standing uncomfortably behind them. "I’m sorry to intrude," he said sympathetically. "But I thought maybe I could lend a hand."

"Actually that’s not a bad idea," Willow said before turning back to Dawn. "Could you get me something to drink Dawnie? A-and Lorne and I can finish up here?."


"Sure thing Willow," she nodded.


After Dawn left Lorne approached closer. "I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean-."


"Tensions are high all around tonight. Lots of loss, ya know?" Lorne nodded sadly before Willow continued. "But it’s gonna be okay…She insisted on helping but…maybe it’s better that an outsider helps with this job. You know? Someone who wasn’t on a first name basis with the girls? I could use the help."


"Well then. Enough said," Lorne said solemnly, picking up where Dawn left off.




"Cleveland you say?" Wesley asked the older Watcher. Giles just nodded.


The group still continued in a holding pattern as they waited for the arrival of their guide to lead them to the safe haven. Many of the girls were now asleep in different areas of the lobby.


"You’re welcome to come," Giles offered. "We could use all the Watchers we can get."


Wesley stroked the stubble on his chin. "I would but…"


"You have prior commitments," Giles grinned. "I understand."


Wesley felt a sense of guilt for not being able to be a part of Giles plan. "But that’s not to say that I wouldn’t help if you need it," he offered. "Any resources or information you require…I’m just a phone call away. As I explained to Faith, the situation that Angel has with Wolfram and Hart could prove to be quite useful."


"Thank you Wesley. That’s good to know."


"So…Any idea where you might start? You mentioned Cleveland but as far as how you’ll rebuild the council-."


"With no funds and a limited library across the ocean that will take weeks to get here? Not a clue," Giles smiled before turning serious. "But there’s work that needs done. Slayers to oversee - many, many slayers from what Willow has sensed so far. Not to mention the Watchers themselves who require schooling," Giles gave a sigh. "It will be an uphill battle at best but we’ll get there…We’ve seen worse."


Wesley smiled. "If anyone can do it, it’s Rupert Giles."


At that moment a man walked into the hotel and Lorne smiled, making his way over. "Are you Daniel?" he asked.


"Yeah, Michael called said you needed his key…If you don’t mind me saying, I can see why you need a place."


"It’s not for Angel Investigations. It’s for these girls."


"Well I’m ready when you are," he said.


"Mind giving us a few minutes? Well lots of minutes actually?" Willow asked. "We’ve got a few more things to organize."


"Sure, take your time. I’ve got no where special to be tonight," the stranger grinned.


Chapter Three


"Damn," Rona sighed as Vi helped her walk into the foyer of their makeshift home. "Think this guy would be willing to adopt me?"


"Only if he takes me too," Vi added with a grin.


A gigantic chandelier hung from the large vaulted ceiling. Off to the right sat a grand room and to their left was a wide staircase.


Daniel, their ‘tour guide,’ filtered everyone to the grand room. "Okay I’ll keep this brief since I know you’ve had a long day. You’re standing in the east wing of the house. Straight through the back is the kitchen and dining area. Off that way," he pointed further down, "is the west wing of the house. There’re other living areas and game rooms inside. There’s four baths in various areas. Downstairs has one by the kitchen. Upstairs one is adjoined to the master suite. There is another in the hallway up there and one by the game room to the west. You’ve got 6 bedrooms upstairs.


"Michael said use whatever you need. His staff’s been informed of your arrival and when they get here tomorrow at 8 am they’ll await Buffy’s instruction on meals and such. If you require anything from the store they’ll take care of it. Just make your requests with Buffy…any questions?"


"Yeah," Willow said and then turned to Kennedy. "Was your house this big?"


Kennedy shrugged casually. "Mine was a little bigger…But this is nice, don’t get me wrong."


"Yes, way nice and very much appreciated," Buffy told Daniel.


"Any other questions?" Daniel asked. When no one spoke up he walked over and handed the keys to Buffy along with a piece of paper. "I don’t think you’ll need a security code after the story Lorne told me – this place will be guarded better than Ft. Knox with you gals here. But if you do, here’s the code."


"Thanks Daniel and if you get the chance, thank Michael too."


"Not a problem. You guys rest up. If you need me, my numbers there at the bottom."


"Thanks again," Buffy replied.


"You folks take care," he nodded to the group.


Buffy walked him to the door and once more thanked him for his time and trouble.

"I call dibs on the master bedroom," Kennedy announced.


"Sorry Brat. You’ll have to rough it in one of the other five spacious rooms," Faith told her.




"I need a bathroom nearby for Robin. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for Rona to stay with us too. That way I can keep tabs on both of them during the night."


"Agreed," Buffy answered. "You’ll need water access and this way they don’t have to walk far to the bathroom."


"I’ll be okay," Rona told them. "I’m feeling better already. Slayer healing remember?"


"Yeah but that spell might not hold up." Faith told her. "If that happens you might be in for a world of hurt so let’s play it safe for tonight, okay?" She added in afterthought, "No offense Will. You did great but-."


"None taken," she replied and looked to Rona. "Faith’s right. Better safe than sorry."


Buffy looked over and saw Xander leaning against the door frame staring – just staring without looking at anything in particular.


"Xander will room with me tonight," she told the group. "Giles? You and Andrew will stay together. And Vi, go upstairs and check to see what kind of beds we’ve got. If they’re kings we’ll try to fit three Slayers into the two remaining beds. Draw straws if you like. Anyone that gets the shortest straws will have to bunk on the furniture."


Vi gave a quick nod and headed upstairs.




Everyone filtered into the bedrooms ready to call it a night. Buffy, even despite Slayer stamina, felt exhausted and was ready for a little sleep if only a few hours. She looked into the grand room and found Xander sitting on the sofa with two duffle bags at his feet. She took a deep breath and walked inside.


"Hey," she said softly. "Why don’t you come up with me? Catch a few winks?"


He mustered a grin for her, "I don’t think I can sleep."


"You could try," Buffy answered.


"Nah, but thanks anyway."


She took a seat beside him and took his hand. "I said you were my strength Xander and I meant it…Just remember, I can be your strength too if you let me."


Xander squeezed her hand but couldn’t look at her. He knew if he did he might lose the reserve he’d been holding since his shock began to merge into denial. "That’s good to know but really…Go on up to bed. I’ll get there eventually."


Buffy knew that Xander needed time and moved to her feet. "I love you Xander. If you need me…"


"I know where to find you," he said finally looking at her again. She nodded and began her journey up the stairs.


From inside the third bedroom, Kennedy watched from the bed as Willow slipped out of her pants and into a pair of boxers she brought.


"Alone at last," Kennedy said, wiggling her eyebrows for emphasis. "I don’t think you need to put those on just yet."


"Yeah," Willow answered, devoid of emotion, and unable to move to the bed.


"You okay?"


"Yes. No. Absolutely. Absolutely not…I just…I’m not a Slayer so I don’t have the slayer hormones at the moment. That’s all."


Kennedy got off the bed and came over and ran her fingers through her hair. "What’s the matter Sweetie?"


"Everything. Nothing," she sighed, shaking her head.


"I sense a mass of contradictions here."


"Well that would be accurate," Willow replied. "I just…I feel guilty. I’ve got a beautiful woman who wants to take me to bed and ravish me."


"Well that’s true but why the guilt?"


"Buffy and Xander. Or more like Anya and Spike…They lost so much," Willow sighed. "But I…"


"You didn’t. You’re alive and I’m alive. Is that it?"


"Kinda. Sorta…I’m grateful – beyond grateful actually but…"


Kennedy kissed Willow softly on the lips. "Go on," she said nodding toward the door. "I’ll be here when you get back."


"No I shouldn’t. You’ve been waiting all night to be alone and I need -."


"You need to speak to them," Kennedy interrupted.


"Are you sure? I mean you’ve got the ‘humming’ thing going on and I’d like to help you take away the hum but-."


"Willow," Kennedy said making her stop. "I’ll be here," she grinned. "I’m not gonna push you if your heart’s not in it. Go on and check on them."


Willow smiled before nuzzling into Kennedy’s neck. "You’re pretty understanding for a brat," she told her.


"I have my moments," she said with a grin that went unseen by Willow. The redhead felt so soft and so firm. And the smell of the recent shampoo and body lotion began to assault Kennedy’s senses. "Okay, you better go now before I blow my understanding all to Hell. I’ve got Slayer strength now and it’s telling me to throw you on the bed."


Willow chuckled and pulled away. "Point taken," she said holding Kennedy’s hands. "I’ll be back soon. Okay?"


"Take your time."


Kennedy nodded to the door again and she watched Willow slip quietly from their room.




Buffy had on her yummy sushi pajamas and was about to climb into bed when she heard a knock.




"It’s me. Can I come in?"


"Me who?" Buffy answered with a grin, recognizing the voice.


Willow opened the door, grinning since she was sure Buffy knew it was her on the other side. "I just wanted to check on you and Xander but I see our Xander shaped friend is missing."


"He’s downstairs. I tried to get him to come up and get some rest but…"


"No go?"


"Not an inch."


"Well what about you? How are you taking it all?"


"I knew we’d have losses. Heavy losses but…" Buffy sighed and took a seat on the bed and Willow joined soon after.




"I feel bad."


"It’s understandable."


"Is it? Because on the other hand, I don’t feel bad. You know what I mean?"

"You’re sad we lost them but you’re happy you’re still here?"


"Yeah, I think that’s it. Plus I’m not the only one anymore – the Chosen One. It’s freeing and I have you to thank."


"Awww, just doin’ my part is all," Willow told her with a grin.


"Well I’m not an outcast. I belong to a ‘family’ or I don’t know ‘a race’ maybe? I know that doesn’t make sense. All I know is I don’t feel so freakish anymore."


"But it does," Willow said sympathetically. "And I feel it too…Well not the Slayer thing but the loss/happy part. Kennedy’s got those come and get me eyes but…I keep seeing Xander’s face after we got back on the bus."


"Your girlfriend’s hoping to woo you and you think of Xander? Something you’re not telling me?" she teased.


"Not like that," Willow answered, grinning. "I mean, I know how he feels and there’s no pain in the world like it. Things were getting good again for him and Anya. It’s like he finally won her back and then…Let’s just say I can relate."


"You should talk to him Will."


"I plan to but I came to check on you too…I realize that you and Spike broke things off but still…it’s gotta hurt."


"Yeah…but I’ll be okay."


"That’s not just tough Slayer talk is it? Because I know how you get all stoic-y."


Buffy grinned and took Willow’s hand. "You know why I’ll be okay? And no stoic slayerness involved…He died achieving the redemption he wanted…I told him I loved him before I left. He said I didn’t but thanks for saying it…And he was right. I mean I do-did…love him but it’s not the love he had for me. I told Angel when he came to Sunnydale that I’m not the me I should be yet. I’ve got more growing to do as a person…I think Spike recognized that. And in some twisted way he knew me better than anyone – even better than myself at times…So that I’ll miss but mourning the way he died…I can’t do it. He went out the way he should have, with a big, glowy finish."


Buffy grinned but it wasn’t wholehearted. Willow nodded and rose to her feet. 


"Well I’m gonna try to get Xander up here to get some sleep. We’ll be back shortly."


"Good luck," Buffy told her.


"Thanks. I’m gonna need it."


Willow made her way from the bedroom and down the stairs. Xander heard the noise and looked over.


"Hey you," Willow said making her way over. "Is this seat taken?"


"Not you too," Xander answered shaking his head.


"I’ll take that as a no," Willow said sitting down. An uncomfortable silence passed between them until Willow spoke again. "You realize, this is one of those rare moments when someone can tritely say ‘I know how you feel’ but actually mean it."


Xander didn’t say anything. Instead, he reached beside him and handed Willow a photo. She turned it over to find a picture of her, him, Tara and Anya.


"It was in with her bag o’ most precious things…That, her favorite shirt and pants, some business cards for the Magic Box and a package of Twinkies," Xander chuckled although he sounded like he was on the verge of tears. "That’s all she had in the world that was important."


"Well Anya always did have simple needs. Of course she loved money which is rather odd if you consider it," Willow said trying to grin.


"Yeah but here’s the thing…that favorite outfit was my favorite outfit – she didn’t care for it and as for the Twinkies she hated them. She packed ‘em for me…And I’ve been sitting here, looking at that picture and asking why half the people in it are gone now. And are they really gone? Because a part of me keeps saying if I sit here long enough she’s gonna walk through that door and apologize for being late as usual…Is that crazy or what?"


Xander began to cry quietly and at that point Willow pursed her lips to try to stop herself from doing the same but it was useless. She started to cry too. She’d looked at her bedroom door many times expecting the same with Tara. She took Xander in her arms. Instead of pulling away, which she thought might happen, he tightened his hold and cried into her shoulder.


"Did it hurt like this?" he asked with a sob.




It was all she could say. Beside, she didn’t need to add more. Sadly they both knew how it felt. After a few moments he cleared his throat and wiped his eyes.


"Then what I said on the bluff was true. I really couldn't imagine what you were going through." He began to tear up again and Willow wiped her eyes. "The way this feels, it’s…unbearable…and I’m sorry you lost Tara – truly sorry you had to feel this way too."


"Oh Xander," Willow told him pulling him into another hug and stroked the back of his head. "For what it's worth, I'm gonna miss Anya…but don't you dare tell anyone I said that…I’ve got a reputation to uphold after all."


She pulled back and looked at him with a grin even though the tears still stained her face. He smiled too at the comment.


"I know. And she liked you too Willow. She told me once and I quote ‘Against my better judgment yes I like Willow. There. I said it. Are you happy now?’" Xander began to chuckle lightly at the memory. "But that was Anya."


Willow began to chuckle a bit harder as if she remembered something and Xander’s expression begged for an explanation.


"Remember that Halloween, the night Dawn went missing and you dressed up like a pirate?"


"Yeah," he grinned.


"Tara told me while we were out searching for Dawn that Anya came up and asked her if she ever played ‘shiver me timbers’ because that’s what you two were gonna play that night," Willow explained.


"Oh you’re kidding? She didn’t."


"Of course she did."


"And Tara’s response?"


"Something along the lines of not needing any timber or something like that," Willow answered. "But like you said, that was Anya. She was never afraid to say what she felt."


Willow watched the smile begin to leave Xander’s face and she spoke up. "And even though it doesn’t seem like it now…There’s gonna come a day when you think about her, remember her…and you can smile without turning on the water works."


"Promise?" Xander asked with a sigh.


Willow nodded. Then she stood up and reached out her hand. "Come on. You’re gonna come up stairs and go to bed. You don’t have to sleep - just promise me you’ll lay down for awhile with your eyes closed."


"Ah, I see. You’re gonna trick me into getting rest?"


"Well if I told you it wouldn’t be a trick, now would it?" she replied with a smile. "Come on," she nodded.


Xander took her hand and stood up but she wouldn’t let go. She walked hand in hand with him and led him into Buffy’s room.


The Slayer was laying in the bed with a box of Cheez-Nips and the remote control for the TV, watching a 1950’s B-movie horror flick. She patted the bed. "Have a lay. Lots of room."


Xander grinned and climbed on the king size bed and took the box from Buffy.


"Hey! Those are mine," she teased.


"Share share alike," he told her.


"Fine. Come on in Will. There’s lots of space."


"I would but…" She knew Kennedy was waiting for her but she knew this was important. She climbed into bed too, stealing the box from Xander. "Oh what the Hell."


"What are we watching?" Xander asked, popping a few snacks in his mouth.


"‘The Curse of something or other’ I’m sure. All these ‘classics’ start with the phrase ‘The Curse of’. I think the movie is more cheesier than the crackers."


The three of them smiled at each other and although not a single one mentioned it, it felt like home. It was like the old days when Buffy would pop in a movie and the three of them would snack on the goodies that Joyce brought to her bedroom. Laying there and doing nothing but making snide, sarcastic comments about the film and junk fooding themselves into oblivion, the trio was happy. Yes they had terrible losses…but they still had each other.




Willow woke up and looked around. An infomercial was on TV and the clock read 4 am. Oh jeez, she thought as she untangled herself from Xander’s hold. Once she was free he rolled over and decided to snuggle into Buffy. She grinned as she watched them. We managed to get him to sleep – yay us! Tiptoeing out, as not to wake them she headed back to her bedroom.


She crept inside to find Kennedy asleep, naked, in the mix of sheets and pillows. Guess she started without me, Willow grinned. She too disrobed and slipped under the covers snuggling next to her lover. True, they lost loved ones but they still had each other. They were both alive. They were going to be okay. And Willow felt the need and desire to fulfill her promise.


She began to kiss Kennedy’s neck and the raven-haired woman stirred slightly before opening her eyes.


"You’re back."


"MmHm," Willow murmured against Kennedy’s earlobe. The sensation woke the Slayer up even more and that’s when she looked down.


"And you’re naked."


"That I am," Willow responded.


The next sensation the witch felt was herself being rolled over and her lover on top of her.


"Now you’re mine," Kennedy said with a lecherous grin.


"I am," Willow told her sincerely. "So show me."


"Show you what Sweetie?"


"Show me how great it is to be alive."


Kennedy grinned and planted a soft kiss on Willow’s lips before pulling back to look in her eyes. "Anything you wish."


Go to Part II