Sundowning - Nova




Nnnnnggg...that _hurt_!
Where...where am I?
Oh.
Oh..God. Goddess.
I remember. ..I remember. Spike, the graveyard...what he did.
Why did he make me see? Why did I have to see? I didn't want to see, I was blind, happily blind and dead and dumb. He made me see, he made me...oh Goddess he made me see..she's gone! She's really, really gone and I'll never have her back and can't have, won't have never gonna stop gone and dust, meat, flesh, bone, loss..lonely..she's gone and I'm not and I'm going to be alone for ever, and ever and ever..why? Why did I have to SEE?
Where doesn't matter anymore. What is a close second in my mind of not caring. She's just..and I'm just ...she's gone and I tried to follow her. I tried so hard to follow her but I couldn't he wouldn't let me, wouldn't let me follow her.
I was alone before but at least I couldn't tell, couldn't see that I was alone and now I can and am and it's going to be that way forever 'cause Buffy is gone, my Buffy is dead and I'll never ever see her.. oh Goddess deliver me, let it stop, let it stop let it stop, let it stop, let it sto-
"YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE!"
Distraction! Ears ringing..loud. Very, very loud...ouch.
I..I guess I better see what's going on.
I reluctantly open my eyes and take a look at the...ground?


It's..it's white. Solid..blank white. Yet...soft. Soft white ground? Am I in a padded cell or something? Did I flip out? Try and hurt people?
I roll the thought around in my head. It's..strangely appealing, but..I couldn't have. Being blind meant ..not..admitting to what was wrong so..why would I bother? Now I might, but not before.
It's..warm too. White, warm and fuzzy solid looking ground.
Wow. It's...it's not fuzzy. It's..grass! White grass? Albino? But..it's so seamlessly white I can't ..I can't make out distinctions. Like..a solid carpet of white that I can only tell the difference of through touch.
Heh. It tickles my face.
No. No no no no..no laughing. We're miserable remember? Miserable and depressed and suicidal and we're in pain because that's all we'll ever be so we can't be tickled by grass even if it is of some weird mutant variety that is..really tickling my..bare feet? Where did my shoes go? I was sure I put them on this evening.
Evening? It's bright. I roll over onto my back.
WOW!
The..the sky. The whole sky..it's just..golden..golden orange glow thing type sky. It's so..soft looking. I think I could stretch out my hand and touch it. Okay..so I'm in the land of the Albino Grasslands with the PeachSkin Sky.
And someone just told me something...very loudly too what was it again?
"YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE!"
Oh yes, that's right.
I look over to where the voice came from.
Initial reaction. Big. He..it? Is very, very big.
Could be 'cause I'm lying down.
I pull myself to my feet. Yeah..I'm still dressed, white shirt, green slacks..but..no shoes. Odd.
So, I'm standing and look up at..him. And up and up and up. Nope. Still big.
That's about the only thing I can see. This is very strange, he's big, dressed in...something. It's..shimmering..changing. A tuxedo, toga, sweater and jeans, now a business suit. What the...?
His features..they're...they're right there but ..I can't..eyes too, nose and ears, yes hair as well..but..they're uh..not..and yet..crazy. I can't..really make them out like..here and not here.
I rub my eyes and look again. Nope, no change. Or constant change really. Am I drugged?
"YOU DO NOT BELON-"
"I heard you the first two times." I shut him up. "Where..where is here anyway?"
He..it crosses his arms. Big arms. "LEAVE." He bellows.
"Uh..no." I stammer out. Hey, I can handle some big..weird..clothing..indescribable..guy..big bad wiccan I am.
One hand reaches out for me and I instictivly give him a push with..magic. Nothing happens.
Uh..oh.
"Yes." Says another voice. " I'm afraid magic doesn't work here."
There behind the ..giant. What is he..seven feet tall?
A child?
Well, at least this makes sense..kinda. At least I can..understand the kid.
Except for the white hair. And golden eyes. White hair and golden eyes aside he's a perfectly normally..dressed...boy.. in a toga.
Where the hell am I? Village of the Damned?
Ah, that would makes sense. I'd fit right in.
The boy steps forward.
"Hello." He says.
I nod.
"SHE CANNOT BE HERE!" Bellows the giant.
"Why not?" The boy asks raising an eyebrow. Vulcan children with white hair, next on Jerry.
"SHE..." The giant seems flummoxed by that one.
"Yeah." I say. "Why not?"
He actually scratches his head.
"BECAUSE YOU ARE ALIVE." He finally decides.
I..I can't breath. I'm..alive? In a place where..I shouldn't...oh no, oh no no no way is this happening. I'm somewhere in a hospital, I've hit my head or I'm dying, maybe Spike killed me, yeah, that's it. Spike killed me and this is some sort of..
"So?" The boy asks looking honestly puzzled. "She's alive. Big deal."
"BUT..." The giant stammers. "BUT THE LIVING ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE!"
"Granted yes." The boy says calmly. "But as there are no actual rules against it we have no right to make her leave."
"HOW.."
"Would you please lower your voice?" The boy asks irritated.
The giant looks abashed.
"How did she get here then?" He mumbles.
"Beats me." The boy shrugs. "All the living were given the greatest gift to be created. Free Will, maybe she just wanted to be here badly enough. I've heard of stranger things."
"Like what?" The giant demands.
"Ask me some other time." The boy replies smiling.
I'm..actually beginning to believe. My other senses are kicking in. I..smell and hear and ...well, see and touch were already being used. Taste and smell tells me the air..it's so sweet! Everything is gold, orange, white..peaceful..soft.
Since when did the afterlife look like a cream and orange sherbert sundae?
"Is...Is this Hea-" I start to say.
"DON'T say that!" The boy interrupts me sharply.
"I'm sorry!" I squeak.
"No..no it's alright." The boy says more relaxed. "It's just..the spoken word here doesn't apply very well. There are things beyond...uh..them. This, everything here just happens to be one of them. Words ..names.. those things are used to simplify and contain that which isn't simple and shouldn't be contained. If you use the name here, it will be reflected and much will be lost...until you leave. I prefer to keep things...mmm..unlimited."
"Oh..that..makes sense." I stammer. "I guess."
"In answer to the unspoken question." The boy continues. "Let's just say, you're somewhere else."
"Very, very, else." The Giant grumbles.
But..but...if...if...that's..than..it..wha..whoa..no..way..but...yes..maybe..I..
"Take me to Buffy!" I say loudly.
The boy doesn't look very surprised. The giant's eye's are bulging like I kicked him in the balls. Does he have balls?
"Okay." The boy says with a small shrug. "Give me your hand."
I begin to reach out and instinct kicks in. I've been around far too many bad things to just blindly reach out anymore. Hurt too much, cautious too much.
The boy smiles at my hesitation. "It's alright." He says. "You can trust me. I am, after all, your guide. You can trust me."
Oddly enough..I believe him. Either he's telling the truth or..he's got some serious charm magic.
I reach out and take his hand. I don't understand, I don't understand lots right now and this is just the latest. How..the boy, the child, he seems to have such authority..yet..he doesn't even come up to my stomach.
"Let's go." The boy says.
"ARE YOU CRAZY?" The giant thunders again.
"Voice level, downsome a bit?" The boy says with a scowl. The giant looks abashed.
"ARE..you crazy?" He repeats. "We can't let her in! She's.."
"Alive, yes I know." Says the boy. "But she has Free Will and who are we to intercede in it's way?"
"But..but..but.." The giant sputters. "What about our free will?"
"We are here to serve." The boy says calmly. "So ours is not quite on the same level."
The giant crosses his arms and looks very upset. Like..a child that's been told it can't have a piece of candy.
"This way." The boy gestures with a hand.

****************************************************************************************************************************

I'm not sure how long we..travel? Walking doesn't quite seem to cover it. My legs move, my feet meet...ground. White ground still yet I have the impression that we're covering a lot of space, really, really fast.
Seven leagues with every step, and without boots too!
No! No jokes..no..peace, no easing of the pain. Right, I'm in..I'm there and I'm going to see Buffy. And their going to let me take her back. Uh-huh, sure. This isn't real. This isn't real and nothing is going to change. The new status quo is one of black pain, it's gonna stick around a while. I can feel it, right in ..right where my heart was supposed to be. This..rich, solid, dark sphere. It's ruined with deep cracks marring the surface and it swells with every heartbeat, blood red light creeping from the cracks in time with the growth. Like an infection, and I have no cure.
That's fine though. At least I know what to expect. I can handle any-
"There she is." The boy says pointing.
Buffy! BuffyBuffyBuffyBuffyBuffyBuffyBuffyBuffyBuffyBuffy!
Buffy?
Underneath a tree, which..strangely enough, isn't white, but a very, very brilliant..tree color a little girl is playing. She looks to be about six years old and her hair is in pigtails. I recognize her instantly. From..from when I was ..helping Buffy.
It's her. It's Buffy. She's right in front of me.
She's so...I can't even cry!
She's dressed in..dressed in..
"What is she wearing?" I ask.
The child looks likes he's thinking very hard. Eyebrows drawn together in severe concentration. "Again..the limitations of the spoken word you understand but..the closest I can think of is: Joy. She's dressed in Joy."
I take a moment to..try and wrap my mind around the concept.
"Dressed in Joy?" I ask myself. "Garbed in peace and held by love."
"Yes." The boy smiles at me. Beams really. "Exactly like that. You understand. Excellent."
"No I don't." I say frowning. "I'm just faking it."
She's playing with another child. She..looks familiar. Dark hair, cute smile..she's watching Buffy play jump rope.
"One potato, two potato, three potato, four.." Buffy counts while skipping. "Rock-A-Billy, Rock-A-Bolly, pony out the door!"
The other girls jumps up and down, clapping. "Can I have a turn?" She asks.
"Sure!" Buffy says with a smile, handing the rope to the other girl.
She takes the rope awkwardly, holds one end in each hand and gives it a few experimental spins.
"Okay." She says giving Buffy a nervous smile. "Here goes...One Pota-Aaahh!"
The rope swings over her head and snags her ankle sending her crashing to the earth..ground..whatever.
She starts to cry.
I move to sooth her but the Boy's grip on my hand holds me fast. I look at him and he shakes his head. 'Watch.' He mouths the word.
The giant, behind us, doesn't say anything.
Buffy is at the other girls side already and holding her. "Let me see." She commands. "Let me see the hurt. I won't add to it okay? Trust me."
Obediently the other girl stretches her leg.
I give a sympathetic hiss, her knee has a pretty nasty scrape.
"Aww..that's no so bad." Buffy says. "Here, I'll give it the magical, mystical, Summers healing kiss, that'll make it all better!"
Before her friend can react she bends over real quick and gives the kneecap a quick peck. "There." She says with a beaming smile. "Isn't that better Willow?"
I don't hear the response.
Willow? Willow? Who..what..but..I'm..Willow. Me, right here. Not that..not her. Buffy, Buffy it's me! I'm over here! Not..not that pretender!
I open my mouth to shout.
"It is Willow." The boy interrupts me. "Willow Rosenburg, Buffy's friend, confidant and one true love."
I glare at him.
"Someday." He hastily amends.
"But..but that's not possible!" I protest. "I'm Willow Rosenburg! Me! Buffy's friend, confidant and one true love...yesterday."
"Yes." The boy says. "That's right."
"H-h-how?" I stutter.
The Boy shrugs. "Don't ask me." He says. "I just work here."
"Can..can..can I take Buffy home?" I ask quietly. No drumroll, no fanfare, just straight out question. Moments of truth rarely have the buildup like in the movies.
"Don't see why not." The Boy says cocking his head to the left. He smiles a small smile. "Free Will and all that. But she has to want to go too."
"JUST..er..just a minute!" The Giant interceeds. "There has gotta be a rule about that!"
The boy looks behind me to address his..partner. "Well.." He says. "There is..sorta. But it never involved the living coming here before. We're on a whole new field here."
Neither of the two girls have noticed us. They're playing and laughing..it looks like ..uh..I..I'm trying to teach Buffy how to do a Cat's Cradle. I always was good at those.
"No..no no no Buffy." I hear..her..me..us.. say. "Your finger has to go through this loop or it all falls apart."
"Awww..." Buffy whines. "Lemme try it again."
"Sure Buffy." My younger self turns her head to look at us..slowly. She's looking at us. She see's us, she see's me. I know she knows who I am too.
"Try it again Buffy." She says still staring at me. "We have all the time in the world...I think."
I understand.
"If..if I take her..Buffy..she'll..I'll be left alone." I turn to face the boy. "Won't I."
For once he isn't looking at me, now his gaze is on the ground before him, like he's ashamed. Big, solid, seconds tick by as I wait for an answer. All we need is a little theme music and I'd feel like I was on 'Who Wants to Be A Millionaire'.
"Yes." He says finally. "She..she may not leave."
"Sorry?" I ask. "Sorry? For creating the most..the most.." I think I'll swear. I'm suddenly that angry. "The most fucked up Catch-22 in the history of..whatever? No matter what I do..no matter what I choose, I get hurt. Well..we..I mean..oh...YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!!" I scream at him
"Yes." He says again. "I know. But there are rules and then there are rules. For what it's worth, I'm sorry."
"Sorry?" I choke out. Surprise surprise, there _are_ tears in 'Somewhere else'. "Worth? It's worth nothing! This whole place..everything.." I stamp the ground in anger. "It's all worth nothing, there's supposed to be happy endings here! It's..it's not supposed to be this way! It's not supposed to be that..no matter what happens..I get hurt!!"
The Black Sphere inside me bloats in agreement, feeding off ..pain, rage..whatever. I know it'll destroy me, it's so heavy, I can tell..but I can't care.
"You're alive." The boy says as if that explains everything. "It is a place of happy ending, but not for the living. It is a perfect place for them." He nudges his head in the direction of Buffy and..Willow. "There are no tears, no grief. There never will be. Greater and greater amounts of Joy and it will never end. They've earned it. She's earned it."
How? How can I do that? Oh..fuck! I'm living out the ultimate Hollywood cliché. The big 'Choice'. How does this happen to me? It's like some twisted nightmare..if I take Buffy ..I'm..pretty lousy but if I don't I'll be the one hurting and..
I sigh. Seeing all those movies sure does cut down on inner diatribes. I know who I am, I know what I can do and I know what I can't do. Why can't I..just this once..be selfish? Just one little teeny time that really matters? Not something stupid like..like..not sharing the cheetoes?
I don't even have the strength to weep.
"You know what I'm going to do..don't you." I turn a full powered Glare on the boy. I've been told, under the right circumstances, they're quite effective but not in this case it seems. The boy doesn't flinch.
"Yes." He says quietly, no longer looking at me. "I do. It's why I like you Willow."
"If you try to pat me in some reassuring manner I will kick you in the head." I can barely get the words out my jaw is clenched so tight.
"Well..I'll still like you." The boy smiles at me, oh sure, he thinks I'm kidding. "But I won't touch you then."
"So." I say. "I come all this way, somehow, get to see her but can't have her." I shake my head. "How biblical can you get?"
"Excuse me?" The boy asks.
"Forbidden fruit." I explain. "She's even underneath a damn tree." I wave my hand in Buffy's direction.
"Ah.. Yes. I see." The boy says in understanding. Understanding..ri..ri..oh Goddess not again.
I really appreciate the softness of the ground when I can't stand up anymore. I've been doing that a lot. Collapsing. Maybe I should have my circulatory system checked.
I'm holding my face in my hands, I can feel tears sliding between my fingers like..like slime. When I get back I'll never cry again. I hate crying, I hate it because it's..it's..it's something to hate!
I'm strangely ashamed that the boy is seeing me like this. It's..wrong somehow. An instinct, a scratching at the back of my head tells me so.
But..it takes some effort..A real focusing of the mind on my grief..I don't care. He doesn't, nobody does it seems, so it's just me and whatever part of creation that assigns pain to the living. At least that part cares to do a good job. It's doing an outstanding job. Why, I've become such a ..a..I've gotten to become so familiar with pain I know it..well not by name, that's just pain..and lots of synonyms. Agony, despair..yaddayadda blobladopflipflopfleep.
I'll never do it again. Aid the powers, they don't need me, they can't afford to care. Sure, now I'll be selfish and y'know what? Just because I can't understand the 'Big' picture they think that's good enough! Sure, hell can just drop truckloads of ..of..baddies on us but those that could really help are all 'no we can't interfere. It's 'not right'. Bite me!
Ah. Heavy footsteps coming up behind me, perfect interruption for monologues and pain. I think..yeah..I'm gonna.. I'm so tired. Tired of extremes of being yinged back and forth I just want to rest, when do I get to rest.. I just..want..Buffy. Is that so much? Is it?
"YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE!" The giant thunders.
"I though I asked you to tone your voice down." I hear the boy say.
"BE QUIET!" The giant roars. "YOU'VE HAD YOUR CHANCE AND NOW IT IS MY TERRITORY. THE RULES ARE QUITE CLEAR. SHE SHALL NOT STAY AND I shall.." He coughs. They have ticklish throats here too? "Excuse me..I SHALL ENFORCE THOSE LAWS!"
"You're being quite unpleasant." The boy says.
"I DON'T CARE." The giant replies. "SHE ISN'T EVEN WORTH IT ANYWAY."
"Who?" The boy asks.
"THIS..THIS LIVING PERSON." I can hear the giant's disgust. I hear it, but don't pay it any attention. I have my own problems..boy do I ever. It's black, and round, bleeding red light and getting bigger in my chest. I feel like I'm going to throw up. What color would that look like here?
"Worth what?" The boy asks again.
"THE BLONDE. THIS LIVING GIRL IS UNWORTHY OF THE SLAYER. SHE IS WEAK AND STUPID."
His foot shoves me over. I let it. What does it matter, crashing into this ground doesn't hurt, it's too soft. The white grass doesn't tickle me any more though. Guess I finally got thick skinned enough.
"I SHALL TAKE HER BEYOND THE BOUNDRIES OF THIS RELM AND HURL HER BACK FROM WHENCE SHE CAME. WELL WE WILL BE TO BE RID OF-"
"Excuse me." A small voice pipes up.
I raise my head and my gaze is met by two beautiful blue eyes that were lost forever two months ago.
Buffy is standing in front of me, hands clasped behind her back. A huge smile on her face.
"He-he-hello Buffy." I manage a mangled version of a smile. Because I'm ..I've fallen down she's a little taller than me.
"Hi Willow." She says.
"You..you know me?" I croak, I can feel my eyes widen.
"Sure!" She chirips and gives a little hop. "I love you don't I?"
"Yes." I say nodding, barely able to speak. "Yes you do."
"Do you..." She smiles mischievously. "Do you want a magical, mystical, Summers healing kiss?"
"Oh.." I can barely whisper. "Oh yes. More than anything."
"Kay." She smiles even more. "Just wait a second okay?"
It takes a moment but I remember how to nod. "Sure."
She turns to the giant who's standing beside us.
"Did you hurt my friend?" She politely asks.
"WELL..I.."
"Did you push her over?" Buffy interrupts. She's poking his knee with her finger, it's about as high as she can reach. "Did you?" She demands.
"THAT IS..." The giant stutters.
"I think you did." Buffy speaks forcefully, with the finality of a child that's made up it's mind. A force too be reckoned with. "And I think that makes you a mean person. Picking on my friends."
She spins slowly, hands behind her back again looking around. This close her 'Joy' clothing looks like a sundress.
"I don't think I like being around mean people." She declares. "We're leaving!"
"We?" The boy asks politely.
"Yep!" She declares proudly. "Me n'Willow."
She turns from us and shouts. "Willoowwww...hey Willoowww!! C'mon let's go!"
My...I..whatever..comes running. By the time she gets to us she's out of breathe.
"Where..where...are..we..going Lizzy?" She gasps.
"I told you to call me Buffy!" Buffy admonishes her with a wagging finger.
Willow blushes. "Sorry...sorry..where.." She takes a deep breath. "Where are we going Buffy?"
Buffy has a gleam in her eye. "Somewhere _fun_!"
Willow shrugs. "Okay. Where you go, I go. Right? I..mean if that's okay with you. Cause I don't wanna be a tag along. Kids always called me a tag along and even though I'm not sure what that means I'm pretty sure I don't want to be one. No way, uh-uh..not a tag along. Not me."
This..this is what I look like when I babble? Oh Goddess I'm so embarrassed!
"Always Willow." She holds out one hand with her pinkie extended. "Pinkie promise see?"
"What?" Willow says, she looks confused.
"A pinkie promise!" Buffy says. She gives out a real put upon sigh. "Just take my pinkie with your pinkie and shake. It means forever and ever, a pinkie promise can never, ever be broken."
Willow hesitatingly does so. Her hands tremble just a bit. Their pinkies lock.
"I, Buffy Summers, promise that wherever I go, Willow can come with me. Because she's my bestest friend and I love her all to Reeses Peeces!"
"Do you have Reeses Peeces?" Willow gasps in awe.
"Uh..no." Buffy reluctantly says. "But where we're going we can get some!"
"Cool!" Willow cheers jumping up and down. "We're there!"
She spots me. Finally. This should be fun.
"Who..who's she Buffy?" She asks.
Buffy grabs Willow's hand and pulls her closer. "Willow..this is Willow."
"Oh." Willow says looking at me. "Hug?" She holds her arms open.
Yes. Oh sweet goddess yes.
"Yes." I say. "Please a hug would be wonderful!" And I hold my arms open.
Willow steps into the embraces and as I wrap my arms around her it begins.
A tingle at my fingertips..they dance and buzz. Like...like..golden light..alive.. The sensation eases it's way down my arms.. my heart catches, I know what's going to happen..I know..I know what's going to happen..I know it.
Something wonderful.
The..sensation meets in the center of my chest, clean...pure. The black sphere is erased..like..swept away..it's gone and it's all so bright and shiny, I'm bright and shiny, inside outside..I'm..
Laughter. I'm laughing, sweet, sweet laughter it bubbles and chortles around me, within me..I'm bubbly, I'm full of joyous wonderful bubbly goodness!
I'm whole.
I open my eyes. Of course.
Buffy is bending over me, my Buffy. Grown up, beautiful Buffy. Her eyes are still an amazing blue. She's still smiling too.
"Hey." She whispers.
"Hey yourself." I whisper back.
She reaches out to me. "Give me your hands." She whispers.
I don't hesitate. She pulls me to my feet.
"Let's go." She says.
"Yes." I nod. I'm going to burst into flames any second now.
"Oh..wait." She says. "One last thing."
She turns to the giant who's standing there looking very nervous. His hands are by his side and he's hanging his head, one foot is toeing the ground.
"If you _ever_ touch my Willow.." She pauses.
"Hell with it." She mutters. Turns half away then spins around suddenly and wallops the guy across the jaw.
He falls over.
The boy watches him fall with a raised eyebrow and a small smile.
I myself, want to jump and down. I, being a good Jewish girl, settle for a smile too. It's not a nice smile but..hey...it's been a long day.
"Ladies." He bows to us. "See you again."
"Not soon." Buffy mutters. She grabs my hand in her own again. "Let's jet girlfriend!"
"What about my kiss?" I whine as she pulls me after her.
"Soon enough, right now I wanna get HOME!"
"Home sounds good." I say.
We're going home.

*****************************************************************************************************************************

I watch them leave. They disappear rapidly from my site. They just to want to go home and they went. My companion groans slightly.
"Are you alright?" I ask.
"No." He moans. "Are they gone?"
"Yes." I say.
"Thank..uh...great." His voice changes as his form shifts, melts away to that of another.
She slowly gets to her feet. "Wow." She says holding her jaw. "Now I know why she's called the slayer."
"Yes..well..it's a deserved title." I reply.
She smiles down at me. "You're going to catch a lot of trouble for this stunt. You know that don't you?"
I give her a innocent look, something I've been practicing for millennia. "I obey the letter of the law, if not the spirit."
"Right." She shakes her head and winces.
"That was a gutsy move." I say. "Pushing Willow over like that."
"Yes I know." She says still holding her face. "But I had to get Buffy angry. She always was so protective of Willow. That's what we needed. Or else, all this, would have been for nothing."
"Yes. But it was still good work." I say.
"If somewhat painful." She reminds me.
"Risks." I shrug.
"Was this really a good idea?" She asks. I've been expecting the question. "I mean the other powers are really going to be annoyed."
"Maybe." I say. "Sometimes though, things have to happen. These, more often than not, cause incredible pain and get in the way of things that want to happen, or should happen. The others think this is the price that must be paid for the sake of the 'Big Picture.' I disagree, if we lose sight of the little picture, what good is the big one?"
"So you interfere." She says.
"No." I shake my head. "We interfere. I like to think of it is..not exactly interfering but..just giving things a little nudge now and again."
"Sure." She says with a laugh. "Ow!"
"Are you alright with this?" I ask. Suddenly concerned.
"Yes." She says. "I am. I'll see her again. I'll see them both again."
"You love your daughter very much, don't you Joyce?"
She just shakes her head. "I love my daughters." She says and looks off in the direction Willow and Buffy left in. "All three of them."

*****************************************************************************************************************************

My eyes are very, very reluctant to open. I'm lying in Buffy's bed. In Buffy's room. The same place I've been staying for weeks now. I can see the light of dawn on the horizon even though the sun is still not there.
I roll over.
Expecting to encounter a warm body. Expecting to find her next to me, expecting to awaken in joy and laughter. Together again at last.
The bed's empty.
It was a dream.
Just a dream.
I'm not surprised. Not even hurt. I start crying. Many, many cries. The darkness is not in me anymore though, my heart isn't in it. It's just quiet sobs..quiet..quiet..quiet..eternal. But quiet.
So quiet.
'Run.'
I look up. A breeze is rustling some branches from outside and sending the curtains billowing into the room. Hearing things..great.
'Run.'
What? What's.."Who's..who's there?" I say aloud.
'Run.'
It's a whisper..from..outside..somewhere...doesn't matter..it says run. I run.


I just realized..my shoes are back.
I'm out of breathe, panting, gasping..ugh..feel sick..gotta keep running, keep moving..where? I know ..I know where I have to be..gotta get there.
There! Her grave..it's there...why am I running? Of course it's there. It'll always _BE_ there. I'm losing my mind, that's it. That's the answer..dreams..insanity..voices on the wind telling me to run. Aha! I've got it, otherworldly spirits want me to get in shape! Aerobics Through The Afterlife!!
Yaayy!
Wha..? Where? Where did..her...NO! GIVE IT BACK!! GIVE IT BACK TO ME!!
No no..no....bring her grave back! Don't..don't take the only thing I have left!
'Run.'
'Run now!'
I force my feet to move.
Over the rise, past the tree we buried Buffy under is a pond. It's big, about fifty feet diameter and ten feet deep in the middle. Buffy and I used to have night picnics while on patrol. Once..once under the full moon we even made-
Flash of WHITE!! Can't..can't see...
Something splashed into the pond, something LANDED in the pond!
I blink the spots from my eyes...hair. I saw a shock of blond hair..slipping beneath the surface.
"NO!!" I scream. "BUFFY!!" I dive into the water.
It's dark, the sun isn't up what with the skies being a murky grey color ..have to move..move..move ..where is she? I can't see her! She's..she came back! I found her, she came with me and..they're going to take her away again? I don't _THINK_ so!!
I reach the point..I think she landed here.. deep breath..deep, deep breath!
I dive..can't see a thing..all this algae and silt. Oh man, my allergies are gonna kick in hard. Where is she? I want to shout, scream..but..I'm underwater, not a good idea.
She has to be here..she just has to..if I can't finder her..if I don't find her..I'll..I'll...let out all my breath and drown! You hear that? Do you hear me you damnable powers! DO YOU?
I see her!
C'mon..c'mon..get up..get up..kick..KICK!!
Air! Get her chip, hold her head up above the water. Gotta get to the shore..gotta get to the shore. Hold on Buffy, I'll save you..I will...I promise..pinkie promise remember? Well that goes both ways, wherever I go, you come along and I'm going back to life and SO ..ARE..YOU!!
Hhaaaa...haaa...made it...we made it...I gather her into my arms..
Her head flops back, onto my shoulder.
"Buffy?" I say quietly. "Buffy can you hear me?"
Breathe..please..answer..blink, laugh, kick..hit me even but WAKE UP!!
"Buffy." I shake her slightly. "Buffy wake up, ya have to wake up..you promised me..you gotta keep your promises..promises are important and when you make an important promise they're even more important than just a promise..which is also important but you made me and important promise..which..takes precedence over normal promises..but I said that already. Please keep your promise Buffy, please keep your very important promise..please..please..please.."
"Willow."
OHGODDESSTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU!!
"You're babbling."
Her eyes flutter open.
"Hey."
Speaking requires a substantial part of your awareness. Mine is caught between joy, tears, shock, and pure dumbfounded numbness yet at the same time being incredibly aware.
Like..how I'm very, very cold.
And Buffy is very, very naked.
And looking at me.
"Hey yourself." I say back.
"How..." She swallows. "How would you like a magical, mystical Summers Healing kiss?" She asks.
"Oh yes." I smile and cry and speak. I want to dance and faint, and love and eat..eat? Gosh..I AM hungry. "Oh yes." I say again. "More than anything."
She g ives me one.
And one more,
and one more
and one more and
one more
and....


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