Author: Casandra
Email:
rozwellrulz@aol.com Since my Fanforum account isn't working at the moment.
Disclaimer:
Well even though the show isn't still in its first run, syndication will probably go on for eons, so I guess all this is still necessary. I of course don't own them, because if I did, things would have been a lot more on the slashy side of things. Alas, Mutant Enemy, Fox and Joss don't seem to think the way I do. Oh well.
Rating:
PG-13 for now, just for the slash content. Minor swearing might be in here too, so be forewarned. I've been considering giving something a bit more naughty a try again, and if I do I'll give sufficient warning.
Warning:
If the thought of woman in love and having a relationship bothers you, you better tear your eyes away quickly, because that's all you'll find in my fanfics.
Distribution:
You can find my work at Realm of The Shadow (www.realmoftheshadow.com), Near Her Always (www.nearheralways.com) and I Kind of Love You as well. Plus my new site, No Other Way. Anybody else, you're welcome to it, just please let me know where it's going.
Feedback:
I, like every other author, adores it. So if you like my work, please drop me a line and let me know. It'd be much appreciated.
Spoilers:
I have this tendency to reference just about anything. So if you haven't seen all 7 seasons and all 144 episodes, you might use caution in reading this. Not saying I WILL reference something, but I just might, so be aware.
Pairing:
Buffy/Willow. But also probably a smidge of Willow/Kennedy too. Actually, I might have some Dawn/Faith in here as well, maybe as a backdrop couple. Who knows, I think I'm just making it up as I go along.. I'm such a UC ship ho! Might as well go for the gusto LOL
Summary:
Post series finale. At least 6 months down the road, where Willow has to make another life changing decision, very reminiscent of her decision to stay in SunnyD back in 'Choices'.
Author's Note:
Ok, I haven't written anything significant since Summer Confessions, and that one I started during the Summer of 2002. It's now June 2003 as I start this. So I am probably very rusty when it comes to fiction. All I've been writing is term papers for the last nine months. But I'm going to try my best here and see what I can come up with. It's also going to be mostly in Buffy's POV. I might switch over to Willow at some point, not sure yet. We'll see what happens I guess.

| Part 1 | Part 2 |

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Part 2

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Willow POV

"Ok, wait a second. So which ones are dead? Or are any of them dead? Or all they all dead?" I maybe should have re-thought popping in Kennedy's copy of Soul Survivors. It can get a bit confusing, especially for someone who's never seen it before. Of course I think Kennedy just bought it because the one character reminds her of Faith.

Yep, I'm well aware my girlfriend's had a bit of a crush on our resident ex convict. It honestly doesn't bother me, besides, who am I to be a judge. I've been lusting after my best friend for years. So to make an issue of Kennedy's little fascination with Faith's leather clad body would be completely hypocritical.

"Will, do you get this movie?" Oh right. Dead or not dead, that is the question. I've actually seen this movie twice now, and I'm still not completely sure. I just grabbed it off of the pile in my room, leftovers from the last DVD fest with my girlfriend.

"Umm, well I think the boyfriend is still alive, and the blonde's alive. But I think the other guy and the Faith look-alike, they I think were killed in the accident. It's one of those psychological thriller type movies. You never know what's what."

Buffy tilts her head up from where it's been laying in my lap for the last half hour of the movie, a curious expression crossing her face. Yep, I haven't been paying a whole lot of attention to the television, just stroking her blonde locks and massaging her shoulders a bit, trying to work out the tension from tonight's earlier excitement. She hasn't complained, so I wasn't going to worry about invading personal space, since she's the one who plopped her head where it is in the first place. "You noticed that too?" I cast her a quizzical glance, not entirely sure what it is she's talking about. We go from who's dead, to me noticing things? Color me lost. Once she catches the look on my face, she elaborates. "The fact that girl, the sort of gothic one, looked so much like Faith?" Oh right yes, that. I nod my head in the affirmative. She accepts that and puts her head back into what I assume is a comfy position, still in my lap. Nope, not complaining here at all. "This is nice."

"What is?" Yep, for as much of a brain I am, I can still be pretty thick sometimes.

"Being here, like this. With you. I've missed just having my Willow all to myself." Aww, now that was sweet. And hey, I'm still *her* Willow! I remember when she said that back in high school, and then slung her arm around me, I could have literally jumped tall buildings in a single bound, it made me that happy. I couldn't have cared less about the impending apocalypse, because I was hers. I probably shouldn't be so gung hoe about being possessed by someone I guess. But it's different with Buffy. I *want* to be hers, just like I want her to be mine. After that dance tonight, of which we seem to completely be avoiding discussion about, I thought it might actually be a conceivable notion. And during the time we were getting our groove on at Olympus, I had actually forgotten my conversation with Kennedy this afternoon.

Can't do that now though. It seems to be all I can think about, with Buffy in such close proximity to me. And with our physical closeness returning after such a long dry spell, it's right in the forefront of my mind. I think maybe I should tell Buffy about it. If anything, it will relieve some of the burden off of my shoulders. I can't just make this decision without talking with her first. I mean yes, I am an adult, but she factors into this so much right now. Twelve hours ago I might not have given her reaction quite as much thought as I am. But I can just feel that something changed tonight. I'm not exactly sure what it was, but there's something different between us. I feel closer to her in this very moment than I have with anyone. Ever. And really, we're just lying here on my bed. Sure we're curled up together a bit, one could almost say we were doing a bit of cuddling. But it's not just the physicality of it. There's something else there. Like something spiritual, something binding.

Of course I've always felt connected to Buffy, even from that very first day we met. There was something so captivating about her, even before I found out that she was the Slayer. I mean sure, she was the first person to be nice to me outside of Jesse and Xander in quite a long time. But still, it was more than that, I know it. Now. And that connection, *that's* what kept me in Sunnydale after we graduated. I tried to convince myself that entire summer that I wanted to stay because I needed to be able to help Buffy in the good fight. But who was I kidding? Besides myself? But I didn't go to a place where I thought a relationship with Buffy was a conceivable thing. That little realization was quite surprising, and I have no idea why. I knew I loved Buffy. Like, a whole lot. Really, no flowery poetic words would really do justice to how intense my feelings for her ran. Run. And I knew that I could have the lusty thoughts to go along with it, Faith proved that to me. So I really shouldn't have been shocked that it was an all encompassing type of deal.

So now, here we are, 4 years later, and I'm in the situation where I have to make another one of those choices. But this time I'm well aware of everything, every feeling that I have, and what it means. So should I really have to be sitting here pondering this? Should the decision already be made for me?

"Will?" I completely got lost in my own little monologue I forgot that she was probably waiting for a positive reply to her little confession. Might as well get this over with though. No time like the present I suppose. If living on the Hellmouth taught me anything, it was to cherish the time we do have. To not wait until tomorrow to do something that really could be done today. It might be a cynical view on things, but after you've seen everything I have in the last 8 or so years, it becomes a necessity.

"Buffy, there's something I need to talk to you about." I grudgingly sit up, forcing her to move her head out of my lap and face me, crossing her legs and sitting opposite of me on my bed indian style. I'm honestly not sure how to go about this. Do I bring up our little near miss back at the club first? Should that even be playing a role in this? Well yes, I suppose it should. Because if that was any indicator of things to come, or of things that *could* come, if I play my cards right, then absolutely that is an important factor into all of this.

Buffy takes my hand into her own warm palm after I fail to meet her inquisitive gaze. "Willow, you know, whatever it is, you can talk to me about it. I'm always going to be here for you." She blushes a little bit when I give her a small look. She knows what I'm referring to. Sure she'll always be there for me.

Now.

Not so much the last two years. And we both know that we're on the road to correcting that, but still, it's something we tease each other about. Because if we can't make light of the last couple of years, it gets awfully depressing, thinking about all the time we wasted being avoidy and non best friendly. In fact I need to stop thinking about it now or I'm going to go to the bad place and never get this conversation on the right track. I smile a bit in response to her blush, squeezing her hand and reassuring her that I know she feels guilty about the past. We both do.

"Buffy, I had a conversation with Kennedy today......." I trailed off, wondering if I should sugar coat it, or just be bluntly honest. Buffy doesn't give me a chance to finish though.

"Of course you did Will, I mean she�s your girlfriend, and as your girlfriend you�re entitled to have chats with her once in a while. I mean that's what people in relationships do right? Because otherwise feelings get bottled up, people don't tell the people they care about the truth and things get all messy." Ok, since when did Buffy inherit my tendency for run on sentences? I mean she sounds super nervous, and for the life of me I haven't a clue why. I'm the one that has the big dilemma here, not her.

Right?

"Um yeah, right Buff. Kennedy and I have conversations all the time. But this one was different." Yep, it had nothing to do with the power of her tongue ring. Or the fact that I made her wear socks to bed because her toes are like tiny little icebergs. Or her atrocious taste in movies. Nope, nothing mundane about this one.

"Different?" Again, what is with that tone of voice. She sounds anxious. Nervous and anxious. Huh.

"Yeah, well umm, see Buffy, Rona and Vi are heading to New York in a few weeks. And they asked Kennedy if she wanted to go along." Well, that's part of it.

"Oh." She pauses for a moment. "Oh! Well is she going?" Ok, anxious, nervous, and now, what? Excited?

"Well yeah, she told me she is. That's what she wanted to talk to me about." I'm really beating around the bush here, and honestly I don't know why. Something is keeping me from telling Buffy the whole truth. What, am I afraid that she'll be glad to get rid of me if I tell her the entire thing? No, that's completely irrational, especially since we're getting along so well now.

Buffy uncrosses her legs and scoots up towards the headboard, pulling me into a sideways hug, petting my hair gently. Ok, this was unexpected. Not unwelcomed by any means, just unexpected. "Oh Will, I'm so sorry. I know that must have been a shock to you. You guys have been really tight lately, I can't believe she'd just take off like that." Oh, so that's where the huggies came from. And geeze, could she sound any more contemptful towards Kennedy, she practically growled that last bit out. But now it's all that much more difficult. I should have just been blunt about it.

"Actually Buff, she's not just taking off on me." Again with the subtle, what is with me lately?

"I thought you just said that she was going to New York?" I just love the way Buffy's eyebrows get all scrunchy when she's confused. It's so adorable. I have to forcibly shove the urge back down to reach my hand up and trace the crease away from her forehead.

Okay, focus! You're just going to have to tell her. Be honest. Don't drag her along with stupid half answers. "She wants me to go with her." There, I said it. And I really wish I hadn't. I can feel Buffy's shoulders tense, her arms tighten for a moment around me, but then she suddenly lets go completely. I try to gauge her reaction more thoroughly, looking into her hazel pools for some kind of indicator of what exactly it is she's feeling. She turns her head away from me though, so I'm lost as to how to continue. I was hoping for some kind of definitive reaction to this.

"Oh." One word.

She gets up off my bed and heads over to the DVD player, popping out the disk and replacing it back in it's box. Ok, huh? I thought she'd be a little upset at the thought of me leaving. I know we've had some rough patches, but I was pretty sure that was all behind us. So what the hell is this? Yep. This is exactly why I was so beat-around-the-bushy.

"Buffy?" That's about as far as I go. Because honestly, I'd give all my witchy powers in a heartbeat to know what it is she's thinking at this moment.

"Are you going?" It was said so quietly that I almost missed it.

"I'm not sure." That's a lie, and I have no clue why it just came popping out of my mouth like that. Maybe my subconscious is fishing, trying to force something from Buffy. Something I'm not even sure is really there. Bad Willow. But honestly, in the time it took for the movie to play I had made up my mind. I like Kennedy, I really do. We have fun together. And she can be really sweet and considerate when she's not being a brat. And the sex is phenomenal. I can't even express the wonders of that tongue ring of hers. But that's all. It's mostly just physical, with a genuine fondness for each other. But it's not love. I don't think it could ever progress to the point where I could fall in love with her. Most of the reason why is standing not ten feet away from me, playing with the ring on her finger.

The one I gave her for her last birthday.

And now that I think about it, I haven't seen her *without* that ring since we moved here to Ohio. In the midst of all the hectic planning and constant on edgeness with the First. Not to mention a whole entire brood of Slayers in training, Buffy's birthday kind of got lost in the whole mess. At least the celebrating part of it. I never forgot about it. So on a day I was out picking up some groceries for the entire gang I came across this silver ring in one of the shops along Main street. I had never been in the store before, which was odd because it was right around the corner from the Espresso Pump. And Buffy and I practically lived there during our senior year in high school.

For some reason the ring just caught my eye. It was silver, with sort of weaved little hearts around the entire band. I'm not even sure they are hearts, they're a bit cockeyed, but at the time I was sure that they were. In the center of the band were two small stones. They looked almost mystical when I first saw them. The colors were rather unusual. And the way they were set into the ring was strange as well. They were almost intertwined together, or so they gave off that appearance. It's rather impossible, at least to my knowledge, to meld two gems together into one piece. I felt compelled to buy it though, as strange is it seemed to be. Buffy and I still weren't on the best of terms, but that didn't mean I couldn't buy her a small birthday gift.

When I asked the shopkeeper to get it out of the display case I also inquired as to what type of gems were in the ring. The colors were fascinating. One was a greenish color. Not bright like an emerald, but not hinted blue like topaz or aquamarine. The man told me it was a rare form of green garnet. I've never seen any variation of garnet except for the normal red kind. Which happens to be Buffy's birthstone. So I figured the ring was an even better idea, having her birthstone in it as well, even if it wasn't the traditional red. The second stone was even harder to place though. It was a more olive green color, with a shade or two of brown mixed in with it. Almost making a hazel tone. It actually reminded me a lot of the shade of Buffy's eyes. When I inquired about *that* gem the shopkeeper looked a little flustered before he finally told me it was a form of sapphire. Which happens to be *my* birthstone. I had always thought that sapphires were a dark blue color, but he assured me that they come in many forms, all except in a red shade. Even though I still wasn't sure why he got all flustery when I asked him about it, I couldn't see any reason not to buy it. It was perfect.

I'll never forget the shocked expression on Buffy's face when I gave it to her. It was pretty soon after she had finally defeated the Turok Han, thus boosting the morale of the potentials that we already had with us at the time. That was before the real influx began. But still, things were pretty crazy already, making it almost impossible to catch a couple of free moments alone with her to give her my present. Xander and Andrew were always arguing about some crazy Star Wars factoid, Anya was nowhere to be found, Giles was off retrieving potentials left and right. So that left Buffy and myself to pretty much hold down the fort all by our lonesome.

I remember the night so well. I was getting frustrated up to my ears with the whining about not enough bathroom and shower time between all the girls. It was driving me insane, to the point where I actually contemplated shutting them up magically just to have some peace and quiet. I restrained myself enough to make it out to the backyard and park myself in one of the oversized wooden chairs. I figured gazing up at the stars for a few minutes would calm my nerves some so that I could venture back into the house for a couple hours of shut eye.

I had sort of lulled myself into a zone where I was concentrating on nothing but trying to pick out the constellations when I heard the back door softly close. I turned around to find Buffy sitting herself down on the top step of the porch, leaning back on her elbows, and moving her eyes up to the pitch January sky. The light of the crescent moon was reflecting off of her hazel eyes, and for that one moment, she actually looked at peace. For the first time I can remember seeing in almost forever. "Couldn't stand it either huh?" I'm startled out of my Buffy gazing by her softly spoken words. She didn't even turn her head to look at me, just continued her contemplation of the night sky.

"I was starting to approach the red zone. One more comment about buying the wrong kind of toothpaste and I was going to magic one of them out to the grocery store to get it themself." I winced a bit, the magic thing was still a bit of a sore subject with everyone. And honestly, I wouldn't have really done that. Well, I probably wouldn't have. But humor about magic, considering all the badness I caused with it after Tara was murdered, probably not the best thing to use. But surprisingly I heard Buffy chuckle a bit in response. Definitely not the reaction I had been expecting.

"I get you Will, if I had the power, I know I would have done it nights ago." I was shocked that she completely agreed with me. I mean I know we had cooked up the idea together to rally the 'troops' with the Uber Vamp, but really, we weren't at the point yet where idle chatter and actually relating occurred. I couldn't help thinking how nice it was. I had a piece, albeit a small one, but still, a piece of Buffy, my best friend, coming back to me.

I suddenly realized when she said 'nights ago' what the date was. Buffy's birthday! I reached into the pocket of my denim jacket to grab the not so carefully wrapped ring box. Buffy was like a kid in a candy store when it came to unwrapping things, so I knew that the outside packaging didn't matter all that much. Even for someone as detail oriented as myself. I had been carrying the ring around with me because I was worried with all the people in the house it would get misplaced. Not stolen, because as annoyed as I can get with the girls, I don't think they'd ever do anything like that. But still, I felt it was better to keep it with me for safe keeping anyway. I fingered the box for a moment before getting up out of my chair and crossing over to where Buffy was reclining, sitting down next to her on the step.

"I got you a little something." I reached out and handed her the small box, watching her expression become confused. She must have forgotten what day it was too. "Happy birthday." The look on her face when she understood that it was a birthday present I had given her is something I'll remember forever. It wasn't just shock. It's hard to explain really. Almost like for that one moment, she realized that someone was concerned with her, not with everyone else in the house. It was about *her* special day. And not even an impending disaster with the First Evil could make it be completely forgotten. It was in that moment when I thought we might just be heading back to what we used to have the first few years of our friendship. All of that in just one look.

She gingerly took the box out of my hand and examined it, holding it gently, almost delicately. Like it was something to be completely cherished and if she handled it too roughly it would poof into thin air. Strange really. "Willow, I can't believe you remembered."

Did she really think I'd forgot the day the love of my life was born? Of course she wasn't aware of all the factors that go into my good memory of that particular fact. But still...... "Of course I remembered. I know we usually celebrate and everything with a party, but with all the badness going on, I guess it just got postponed. But I promise, as soon as we deal with all of this hellmouthy stuff, we'll all go out for belated birthday goodness!"

She smiled a bit, a real Buffy smile. I hadn't seen one of those in ages. Gift still firmly tucked within her grip, she sat up to face me, and without any hesitation, pulled me into the first hug we had shared in what seemed like years. "Thank you Will. It means so much to me that you remembered." Her breath tickled my ear as she whispered her gratitude. I was beginning to like the sensation far too much for my own well-being.

"I'll always remember Buff. Now come on! Open it up, for all you know you might hate it. So thank you's can come after." Well I didn't think she'd hate it. But there is a certain stigma attached to buying someone a ring after all. I just hoped I wasn't crossing any invisible little line. Just when things had started to look up for us too.

She smiled at me again and then tore into the package with Slayer style gusto. Just as I knew she would. I carefully watched her face as she opened the tiny velvet box for the first time, catching sight of the ring encased within it. The moonlight sparkled off the garnet and sapphire gems, the silver band twinkling in the shadow of the stones. I had to admit, I did have great taste. The ring was gorgeous. Probably the best purchase I've ever made in my young life. "Oh god Will!" She looked back up to meet my anxious gaze, I wasn't sure how to take her holy exclamation. Tears started to pool in her eyes, their silver edges spilling over and running small trails down her alabaster cheeks. "It's absolutely gorgeous!" Well that relived my anxiety, she seemed to like it well enough. She leaned in to hug me once again, and I could feel the wetness of her tears against the sleeve of my jacket, enough so as to make it slightly damp. Not that I cared of course. As long as she liked her birthday present, then I was perfectly contented to have a wet jacket. We sat out there for a long while, holding each other, gazing up at the star filled winter sky. I'll always be glad that I had been voted to go get the groceries that day. Otherwise I never would have spotted the ring, and I probably wouldn't have had that night with Buffy either.

I'm brought out of my pleasant trip down memory lane by the not so pleasant reminder that I just blindsided Buffy with my little piece of news. She's still playing with the ring, so I'm wondering just how long I was lost in thought. "Did you ever notice that the garnet in my ring looks exactly like your eyes Will?" Actually, I hadn't. Or maybe I had, and that's one of the reasons I bought it. I always thought the two gems looked rather unusual. Not that my eye color is strange. But there was something almost familiar about the ring. Like I was connected to it somehow. That's what drew me into the shop that January afternoon.

I got up off of my bed and walked up behind her, looking over her shoulder a bit to glance at the piece of jewelry she seemed so fascinated by. I walk around to face Buffy, not liking the fact that I haven't once had the chance to meet her gaze since I told her I might be leaving. She hesitantly lifts her chin up to give me a clear view into her deep hazel orbs. I gaze intently for a moment before looking back down to her finger, something striking me as I do so. I always thought *both* gemstones seemed such a familiar color, and now I know why. The sapphire perfectly matches her eye shade. It's rather uncanny, and just a tad bit unsettling. The sapphire, my birth stone, matches her eye color, and the garnet, her birth stone, matches mine? Well that's just not possible...........

"You know, towards the end, when things were getting really rough, I'd sometimes sit out on the front porch and just look at my ring. The moon would sometimes shine off of the stones and I'd be mesmerized by it. And it always reminded me of you. Every time I looked down at my finger, I would think of you. It's almost like I've been carrying a small piece of you around with me these last 10 months."

Wow. Just wow. I mean, how do you respond to that? Really? After everything we've been through the last few years, that is probably the most touching thing anyone has ever shared with me. And that's putting it mildly. I can feel my eyes starting to mist over, but I'm determined not to cry. "Buffy, did you ever notice that the sapphire is the exact shade of *your* eyes?" She goggles a bit and then sharply turns to look down at her finger, not believing me, obviously. I gently smile at her and walk back to the bed, sitting on the edge and waiting. For what? I'm not exactly sure. The conversation about her birthday gift was unexpected to say the least. We're still not dealing with the fact that I just told her I might be moving to New York City in a few weeks.

I honestly could do it. I had acceptance to Columbia back when I graduated high school. I'm sure if I re-applied I could get in. It's a great school and I could finally finish up my Bachelor's Degree. Something else that got sucked into the hellmouth when Sunnydale did. I've never been to the city, but I'm sure I could make it work. The thing is though, I just can't go. But more than that, I just don't want to. Not with Buffy here. If it had been Buffy that asked me to move with her to New York this afternoon, I wouldn't have even thought twice about it. As she goes, so goes my nation. It's always been like that. But still, it'd be nice to know what she thought on the matter. She's been completely mum on the subject since I told her. And frankly, the suspense is starting to kill me here.

"Don't."

One word. But stated with such conviction. I raise my head up from where I was studying a particularly interesting patchwork of my bedspread when I hear her stark response.

"Don't?"

Buffy walks over and kneels in front of me. In all the time I've known her I don't think she's ever gotten down on her knees in front of anyone. At least in a voluntary situation. So to see it now is strange to say the least. She takes both of my hands in hers and looks up at me, so earnestly it's a bit unsettling. "Don't go to New York. Please."

"Why?" I can't help but ask. I mean I know *my* reasons for not going. She's kneeling not a foot away from me. Her palms are sweaty and I can see she's become a bit flushed in her cheeks too. Only something that happens when she's extremely nervous. But my curiosity is eating away at me something terrible. I need to know what has her crouched in front of me, clasping my hands so tightly that I'm wondering if I'll still have feeling in them when she lets go. She glances down at our clasped hands again, before once again returning her gaze to meet mine. She sets her jaw, preparing herself for something, what, I don't have any clue about.

"Because I can't live without you Willow."

 

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Buffy POV

I'm panicking, that's exactly why I'm down on my knees in front of my best friend, literally begging her not to leave me. And that's why I decided to lay all my chips down. I'm taking a huge chance here. Besides the fact that I'm coming off sounding beyond needy. But it's the God's honest truth. I don't know what I'd do without her here with me. Not now. I was so tempted last summer each and every day to call her, to hop on a plane for London to see her. Anything just to know that my Willow was still in that shell of a woman she had become. But I never once did. And I'm determined to never make that same mistake again.

Everything was going so well. I had parked myself in her lap somewhere around the same time the Faith look-alike started making out with her little girlfriend. I literally had to stop myself from purring like a cat when Willow started running her fingers through my blonde locks. It felt *that* good. So instead I just snuggled down, feeling truly content and safe in her arms. I didn't have a care in the world. Which for someone who spent her entire teen life trying to avert one earth ending crisis after another, it was a completely new feeling for me. As much as I cared for Angel, I never felt free, never felt completely at ease with him. After he lost his soul I always wondered afterward just how far his trigger was. Was it the peak of our lovemaking? Or was it before that? I was always walking a very fine line, because having a repeat performance of the second half of my junior year was certainly not on the top of my list of things to do in this lifetime.

But now everything has gone to hell again. So much for that feeling of security. I can't believe Willow would even think of leaving us to go to New York. For Kennedy. Oh, I definitely sound jealous. And I'm being completely unfair. I half heartedly tried to get Willow to leave back when we graduated high school. I thought the best thing for her would be to get away from me, away from the literal hell we lived above. And honestly, I was right. But I'm beyond that now, I'm beyond trying to fight against what my better judgment, my self sacrificing complex, has deprived me of all these years.

If I want her to stay here. With me. I'm going to have to fight for her.

And the only way I can do that is to tell her the truth. Give her all her options, let her make an accurate and informed decision. The one thing that scares me though, more than anything I can ever remember being frightened of before, is that she'll still go, knowing everything. But I'll probably lose her anyway if I don't speak up. So that's why I told her I couldn't live without her. Honestly? At this point in my life, when everything is finally starting to fall into place, where I might actually be able to live the rest of my life out in relative normality, I don't think I could survive without Willow here next to me. But that�s not really a new thing. I�ve always needed her. First as a friend, then as my best friend and confidante, and then as a witch, casting one spell after another, doing her best even when she was worried about the consequences of her casts. And the funny thing is, now that things are as normal for me as they have been in the last 8 years, I think I need her more than ever.

I glance up at her again, taking in every feature of her gorgeous face. Her sparkling emerald green eyes, that are misting over with unshed tears. Her cute, finely boned nose. Her flawless porcelain skin, dotted with faint freckles here and there. And her pink, pouty lips that just have me begging to taste them. She still hasn't said anything, which is rather odd, given her tendency to run off at the mouth when she's nervous. And I think this would definitely qualify as that type of situation. Unless it's just me of course. She seems to be staring off at something over my shoulder, her gaze focused on the bureau across from her bed. What could be so fascinating that she'd rather be concentrating on that then her best friend's rather large revelation?

I turn around, finally getting too curious not to. She's looking at a photo of us! I stare a little more intently at it, trying to place just where it came from. We both look so young, Willow still has her really long hair. She hasn't worn it like that since we were in high school. Then it hits me, where I remember the picture from.

It's from the time Xander, Willow and I went roller skating. We were trying to cheer her up after the whole internet demon fiasco a couple months after I had moved to Sunnydale. I hadn't realized Willow couldn't skate, and by the time I was clued into the fact, both of us had ended up on the hard wooden floor. To be more accurate, I was on the floor, and Willow was sprawled across my lap, I guess even back then I knew I'd rather be hurt myself then ever see harm come to her. I don't know where Xander had been hiding the camera though, because before Slayer sense kicked back in, he had already snapped off the picture.

And somehow Willow has it. I don't know how long, because this is the first I've seen it. And I had been in her room back in Sunnydale more times than I can count. Plus we lived together for a whole year in a small confined dorm room. So whether she just got it from Xander now, or she was just too embarrassed to display it, I don't know. I can't imagine why she would be embarrassed though. Ever since I can remember I've kept pictures of her and Xander around me. On my nightstand, on my bulletin board. I even have a blown up one of the three of us hanging on my wall here in Cleveland. I was so glad that I kept one of the wallet sized with me at all times, otherwise it would have been sucked down into the hellmouth right along with everything else that we all owned. Which of course begs the question of how Willow still has the one she's transfixed by. She must have been doing the same thing I've been. Which warms my heart by leaps and bounds.

I turn back around to find her still gazing at the picture, a very small smile starting to edge its way onto her lips. Squeezing her hands gently, I try and get her to focus back on me. Back on the huge conversation I think we really need to have now. "How long have you had that?" When she finally meets my gaze I gesture with my head over to the picture.

She startles a bit, looking back and forth between my still kneeling form in front of her and her mahogany bureau. Finally she focuses back on me, a very subdued version of her infamous Resolve Face forming across her features. "About a week after it was taken I went with Xander to get his film developed. I don't think he even realized that one was missing."

"That long!?" Ok, I couldn't help it. The question came right out before I had a chance to censor myself. But my god, that's at least 6 years, probably more, if I really take the time to add the numbers in my head. Willow blushes a bit and looks down, to our entwined fingers, fiddling a bit with my ring. Our ring. Or that's at least how I see it, how I've always seen it. I wasn't lying when I told her that it made me feel connected to her, it did. She was the only one that remembered my birthday this past year. And it's not even the fact that she remembered that warms my heart. It's that she took the time to buy me a present, a gorgeous one at that, wrap it, and give it to me. When I was being an uber bitch to just about everybody. I would have deserved something more along the lines of road kill stuffed in a box and handed to me. But no, not my Willow. Just when I think I couldn't possibly love her more, she goes and does something like that. Always full of surprises, my red head is. Of course she's not exactly MY red head. Yet. I'm trying to correct that right here and now. "Will?"

"That long." She pauses a bit to look up and gauge my reaction. Did she think I'd be upset or something? "The day we went to fight The First I pulled it out of the photo album I kept it in and stuffed it into my back pocket. I honestly thought we were going to die. Actually, I thought *I* would die." She never told me that. She never once told me that she was *that* worried. Of course not that I made myself readily available for her to do so. "I knew that if I could manage to pull off the spell that I'd probably be dead. Either from the overload of magic, or from Kennedy having to kill me."

"What!!!??" Now wait just one damn minute here. Kennedy was going to kill her? Oh I knew I disliked that girl, but now I have a legitimate reason besides mad raving jealousy.

"Buffy, I asked her to....."

"What!!!??" Why in the hell would Willow ask her girlfriend to kill her?

She pulls one hand out of my grasp and gently cups my cheek, wiping away moisture in the process. Damn, I must have started to cry. But really, just the thought of Willow being hurt gets to me like nothing else ever has. "Buffy, I thought I'd go all big bad again. Doing a spell of that magnitude. And I didn't want to be a danger to you or anyone else. There was no way I was going to repeat my run for hell on earth." She never said she couldn't do it. She never once said anything about being afraid of letting go and giving herself over to the dark magic again. No, instead, she just did what I asked her. No hesitation except for a few nervous comments when I first suggested the idea. She went right to it, studying, making sure she had the spell completely memorized. And now, 6 months later, I find out I could have lost her, by my own doing. Yet again. "And I figured even if I didn't go Black Magic Mama all over again, that it would probably overload me anyway. So either way I was dead. And I just wanted to be close to you in that moment, in some way, even if it only was a picture." So she does understand. She had my picture, and I had her ring. So, does that mean what I think it means? Did we have the same reasons for cherishing those things? God I hope so!

"Stay here Willow. Don't go to New York. Stay here. With me." I made my sentences very short and precise, no misunderstandings allowed now.

"What you said before......." Her anxiety makes her trail off uncertainly.

"I meant every word I said. I don�t want you to go. I rely on you too much Willow. You�re my best friend, we�ve been together so long that I can�t even remember what my life was like before I met you. And Will, I don�t want to remember." I pause to catch my breath. I�m not used to wearing my heart on my sleeve like this, even with Willow. But surprisingly, the words are coming with relative ease. "I need you here with me. It�s as simple as that. I need you." Ok, well I left out one very important fact. Sure, I need her. Like the air I breathe. But I love her too. That�s what�s behind the whole needing her factor. I hope she realizes that. But really, I should have said it.

"Ok."

Huh?

"Ok what?" Well lets just see if I have more to offer than that brat. I guess I�ll soon find out.

"Ok, I�ll stay here. I actually wasn�t really going to............" I don�t let her finish. Because I just don�t care about the rest. She�s staying! That�s all I need to know right now! I jump out of my still kneeling position and tackle her into a massive hug, knocking her back onto her bed and burying my nose in her silken auburn tresses. She wraps her arms around me and tightens our collective hold. For endless moments I'm nestled into her warmth, my nose tucked tightly into the crook of her neck, inhaling that scent completely unique to Willow. It's intoxicating to say the least, and I fight against every urge I have not to just extend the tip of my tongue out and lightly caress the tender skin in front of me.

"Thank you." I mumble into her neck, where my entire face is still buried. I hear her giggle a bit, I must have ticklish breath or something. She runs her hands up and down my back in soothing circles, prolonging the contact between the two of us for as long as possible, I hope relishing it as much as I am.

"You know, I have a bit of a confession to make." Oh please let it be what I hope it is!

"What's that?" I finally manage to pull myself up into a sitting position again, not letting go of her hand though, I just need to be in physical contact with her right now. She just gave me the scare of a lifetime.

Willow fidgets a bit under my gaze, breaking it and finally settling her eyes on the tiniest piece of lint she could have found on her bed. "Well I wasn't really planning on going anyway. I was just curious how you would react." That little rat!

"So Kennedy's not going to New York then?"

She focuses back on me immediately. I guess I did sound a bit more harsh than I intended. "No! I mean Yes! Ugh, what I mean is, yes, Kennedy is moving. And no, it's not what you're thinking!" She *has* always been able to read me pretty well. "She DID ask me to go with her. But I told her no."

"You didn't even consider it?" Ok, so much for my self sacrificing complex not kicking in anymore. I mean why don't I just tell her to get the hell out of my life, it'd have the same effect. God, what is wrong with me!?

Willow rolls her eyes a bit and smiles. That cute Willow smile that seems to be reserved especially for me. "Of course not! Why would I go to New York when you're here?" The smile has slipped into something more shy, more nervous. Something reminiscent of when I first met her.

I reach up and gently brush back a stray strand of delicate red hair and tuck it behind her cute little ear. "Will, you can't live your life based on where my crazy mood takes all of us. You have to live it the way you want to." Say hello to Miss Dumbass. Ugh.

"But Buffy, don't you get it? You ARE my life!" Um, what? I know I must be hearing things. I mean, she did not just say that. "I stayed in Sunnydale to help you. I could have gone anywhere in the world, but I didn't." She takes a deep breath, preparing herself for something. What it is I don't know. I mean I have high hopes for sure, but still. "I lied." I look up sharply at that. Willow is NOT a liar, I don't think I've caught her in even one small lie that I can remember. "That day out under the tree. I told you that I wasn't staying because of you, that it wasn't about you. I lied."

"Will........" I'm getting choked up. And so is she. I can't stand to see Willow cry. And she always takes me right along with her. This time is certainly no different. Her gorgeous eyes shimmering with silver teardrops, just moments away from cascading down her porcelain cheeks. I can't take it anymore, I just have to reach up, do anything to comfort her. Just before my palm makes contact with her cheek the first tear escapes, leaving a wet salty trail in it's wake.

She leans into my hand, closing her eyes briefly, just savoring the contact I suppose. "Buffy, I need to be with you. It's just that simple." I know how she feels. It really IS just that simple. We need to be together. We need each other. "I love you." I barely heard it, her voice was but a mere whisper. But I DID hear it. And that makes my tears release from their confines as well. We're staring into each other's eyes. No. We're looking into each other's souls. I can see right down into the very essence of who Willow is. The love she has within her is enough to take my breath away. But when I realize that it's almost entirely directed at me, well, words fail me. The revelation of knowing that the person you love, love beyond measure, beyond reason, beyond anything else in this universe and any other. Knowing that they love you back the exact same way? It's the most unbelievable thing I could ever possibly imagine. And then some. To infinity and then some.

I lean in, not caring that my face is damp with my own tears, just focusing solely on those luscious pink lips not inches away from my own. "I love you too." I seal my pledge by closing the remaining distance between us and joining our lips together in the most sensual, passionate, wonderful, mind blowing kiss I've ever participated in. I feel like I'm about to climax right here and now. And we're just kissing. Not even with tongues! I'm sitting here, on Willow's bed, my arms wrapped firmly around her waist, her hands cupping both my cheeks, and I'm about to reach my release. She's that amazing.

Wow. Just wow.

Unfortunately, even with Slayer special powers, I'm losing my breath all too quickly in our embrace. And if I'm this breathless, I know Willow's probably close to suffocating. With extreme reluctance I break our kiss, running the tip of my tongue over Willow's now slightly swollen lips, trying to prolong our contact for as long as I possibly can. I rest my forehead against hers, trying to drag in some much needed air, but doing my damndest to keep eye contact with her. It's funny, I don't even think of pulling away and apologizing for making the first move. Because I know she wanted it just as much as I did. I didn't force her, I didn't initiate anything that she didn't want. And knowing that leaves me feeling so very content. One of the few times in my life, and interestingly enough, every time I've felt that way, it's always been because of Willow.

"Well, we've never done that before." Willow giggles a bit, shifting against me to lay her head down on my shoulder.

"Nope, that was new." I turn my head and place a delicate kiss against the top of her auburn head. "But I'm certainly not complaining."

"Nope, neither am I. New is good. Well of course not all new, but this new is good. Very very good." Oh, I love it when she babbles, it's just the most adorable thing in the world.

I pull her down into a reclining position on her bed, nestling her into my side, with her head still buried into the crook between my neck and shoulder. She huddles down a bit, making herself more comfy, and giving me even more to sigh contentedly about. I find myself startled out of the peaceful trance that I had slipped into with Willow nestled in my arms by the feel of soft gentle lips touching the pulse point right below my ear. "So what now?"

Now? Well I can think of a couple things I'd like to do. But something tells me she's talking in the long run sense, not in the horny Slayer sense. But that's ok, because thinking about the future is actually a luxury I have now. And there's no one on this earth I'd rather spend it with than the woman in my arms. "Now we live happily ever after Will. Just like it was always meant to be."

~~~~~~

-Epilogue-

Little did she know that it IS supposed to be like this. In fact, it shouldn't have taken this long. But sometimes The Powers don't get their timing right and everything goes to hell. Even when yours truly uses his matchmaking skills to move things along. There was a reason Miss Rosenberg never noticed that small little jewelry store before. I was actually quite worried that she would sense the glamour I had erected. But I think she was so entranced by the ring that she didn't stop and let her senses kick in. Lucky for me.

The original plan was supposed to work right away though. We knew that the Slayer's birthday was coming up, so it was the perfect plant. What we didn't count on was both of their stubborn wills getting in the way of what they both knew would be utter happiness. Gotta let those mortals have their free will, but it always makes things even more complicated for the rest of us. When I was given this assignment I didn't know what I was in for, what I was about to experience. And even for a coldhearted half demon such as myself, who's life for centuries has revolved around keeping the precious balance between heaven and hell, even I thawed a bit watching and waiting for them to finally figure it all out. The connection those two have is the strongest thing I've ever been a witness to.

Centuries upon centuries, they've come and gone, never getting it just right. The way it needed to be to finally cement the scales of Good and Evil in their place. I'm glad I read up on my history about the Slayer and her Sorceress. In this life at least, Slayer and Sorceress. It's never been quite the same situation twice, in dozens of lifetimes before. Romeo and Juliet had nothing on these two. A love blessed by Aphrodite herself two millennia ago. I've lost track of just how many times they've come so close to finally sealing their pledge for eternity, but something always stopped them. A warrior and a bard, fighting the good fight. Getting the blessing of more than just Aphrodite in the ancient Greek pantheon of gods. An emperess and a playwright, torn apart by the jealousy and greed of a Roman emperor. The heart of the Egyptian people and her heroic Roman lover, conquered not by love, but by the outside world coming down upon them. France's first couple, one driven mad by the loss of the other, doomed to spend the rest of his life in exile. Two lost souls, who found each other, only to have an even greater passion that ultimately led them to their own self destruction, going out in a blaze of misguided glory.

So I found out that history has known Buffy and Willow for centuries, just as they've known each other. In different lifetimes, in different bodies. But always their souls, destined only for one another. And now, after all this waiting the time has come for them to finally make it eternal, to stop the never ending cycles of pain and loss. That is, if I do my job right. In a few months the dear Slayer will come across the matching ring to hers. Courtesy of another little glamour of mine, one that I hope is just as hidden, this time by Willow's blissful euphoria of coupledom with her Slayer. I can see them running off to Las Vegas, or traveling over to the UK to give that father of theirs the news in person. And by that time all the elements will be in place. No stupid laws telling them otherwise. Supportive friends and family. And The Powers That Be at their back. And for the first time in 2 thousand years, things will be as perfect as they can ever be.

And I just know I won't get any credit for it.

Finis.

 

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