"Elizabeth Anne Summers," Belial, the demon who wore the shape of former high school principal Roland Snyder hissed through gleaming teeth as he tossed Buffy body around like a rag doll, "you don�t know how much pleasure I�m deriving from this moment!" Buffy managed to roll as she landed to minimize any injury, but the force of the impact with the ground still knocked some of the wind out of her. "I thought that merely expelling you was the height of bliss for me, but actually killing you, oh, that�s the ultimate rush!"
Xander threw himself at the demon Belial, desperately trying to stop his assault on Buffy, only to be shrugged off like a spit wad. "Pathetic as always, Xander," Belial responded to the attack. "Don�t be impatient, I�ll get around to killing you soon enough!"
As Xander fell back, Spike took his turn. Sword in hand, he approached the demon almost casually, saying in a conversational voice, "�Ere now, gov, that�s no way to act. If you�re gonna take over this mudball, you�re going to have to get along with the local-UNGHH!"
"You shame your kind, whelp," Belial hissed, as he cracked Spike�s skull with one blow, knocking the vampire unconscious. "Hanging around with the cattle! That�s all they are, do you hear? Cattle!" He returned his attention to Buffy, who had managed to stand up and dodge his next blow. She was getting stronger, in part the result of the anti-toxin Willow had given her and in part the result of her confession of love for her. But Belial was a tough one, maybe even stronger than what Mayor Wilkins became after his Ascension. She didn�t know if she could hold out long against him.
"I remember conferencing with your mother, when I tried to enforce your expulsion," the demon continued, "and her pitiful efforts to have you reinstated. She asked me how I could be so caviler about your future." Buffy tried to duck his outstretched arm, but he proved too fast for her. He grabbed her by the hair, pulling her face up toward his. "Your future! Don�t you see? My sole purpose in being on your miserable dirtball of a planet is to insure that you and your entire species didn�t have a future! That fool Wilkins thought that he could eliminate me, but I showed him! This world is mine! MINE!" He laughed gleefully, assured that no one could stop his conquest.
As she struggled to release herself from Belial�s grip, Buffy was peripherally aware of Giles firing several bolts from his crossbow with point-blank accuracy, only to watch them bounce off the monster�s hide. She noticed Willow about to fire another crossbow at Belial, only to watch as the fiend raised his left fist and landed it on Willow with the force of a club.
Buffy screamed as she watched her newly discovered love fall, and managed to twist her body upwards to connect a high scissor kick to Belial�s jaw. The demon was sent reeling, briefly loosening his grip on Buffy�s hair, but with enough time for Buffy to gain her freedom. She immediately ran to Willow�s side, calling out to her; "C�mon, Willow, don�t die on me, not now!" Instinctively she checked for a pulse and breathing and was relieved to find both. "Will? Are you okay? How you feeling?"
Willow choked and wheezed as she tried to regain her composure. She looked at Buffy and said, gasping, "I--feel as though--a very large demon--used me for a punching bag. Other than that, not too many complaints. I think that the last of my herbal spell cushioned the blow, but my shields are down. I don�t think I can take another blow like that."
"Don�t try, love," Buffy murmured as she took her Willow into her arms. "I�m not going to lose you now that I found you." She kissed her on the forehead, and turned toward the battlefield. Belial had been suddenly occupied by the forces of the Initiative, who had concentrated their firepower on the demon. Electro-rifles and other energy discharging weapons fired heavily at Belial, but if they had any effect on him, he didn�t show it.
"Pour it on, men!" Riley shouted. "Everything you got! Fry that bastard!" Bolts of electricity, gouts of flame, beams of concentrated photons, all converged on their target. With each passing second, the demon Belial slowly shed his human guise, resembling his true form, or as close to his true nature as mere mortals can fathom. Willow thought he resembled the demon from the "Night On Bald Mountain" sequence from Disney�s "Fantasia". Buffy recalled the Tim Curry character from "Legend", while Xander saw it as an anime monster.
As the fiend transformed, however, he laughed. His unearthly laughter rolled across the battlefield like the thunder of doom. "You can�t stop me," he shouted, mocking the soldiers. "I�m eternal! I am the author of all misery! I will foul this planet with my seed! I will sear the mountains, I will boil the oceans, I will..."
"YOU WILL SHUT YOUR STINKING PIE-HOLE!" A swift flying kick to the jaw caught Belial off guard, as Alt-Buffy pressed her attack against the demon. The monster who destroyed her world wasn�t going to get his chance, not if she had anything to say about it. She kicked, gouged, bit, clawed, attacked with feral savagery. "I�ve spent the last years of my life fighting scum like you!" Foot to the ribs. "You think you�re so damn hot?" Fist to the jaw. "You�re just another demon with delusions of grandeur!" Heel to the groin. "And I�m just the girl to send you back to Hell!" She delivered another scissor kick, directly to his hideous head.
Belial grabbed her ankle in mid-flight, and her inertia tossed her flat on her back. "Fool," he grinned at Buffy. "A hundred Slayers cannot stop me now. Get the message yet, Summers? Invincible. Look it up." He stamped his cloven hoof down hard on Alt-Buffy�s torso, severing her spine. "I�d like to stay and chat, Summers, but I have a world to destroy. Sorry, I�m swamped." He turned away from the fallen slayer, and rose his muscular arms, the contract clutched tightly in his right hand. With his gesture, a maw opened in mid-air. The flaw in space widened further, casting a baleful light over the field. The two Buffies, Giles, Xander, Anya and Willow all knew what the maw was; the Hellmouth was opening, at Belial�s command. And soon, all that was foul would rush forth onto the world.
Riley rushed to the fallen Buffy, joined by her younger counterpart. "My god," he murmured as he looked at the wounded slayer�s face, and then back at younger Buffy. "How...how..."
"I�ll tell you later," Buffy answered as she tended to Alt-Buffy�s slashed face. "Assuming one, that there is a later, and two, that we�re still on speaking terms, considering that I�ve just dumped you for Willow."
"I�m still your friend, if you�ll have me," Riley answered, as he examined Alt-Buffy. "Oh, God, Belial did a number on you," he said to the older Buffy, as he took in her injuries. "I�m afraid you�re looking at permanent paralysis, friend. I�m sorry."
"Hey," Alt-Buffy half-smiled at Riley. "Right now, that�s the least of my problems. How do we stop Belial?"
"It�s the contract," Giles, who had emerged from his cover behind the bleachers and gathered around the two Slayers. "That�s the key; �As long as the contract is in my hand�, that�s what Belial said! The contract is the conduit by which he�s opening the Hellmouth!"
"So we destroy the contract, and then--" Buffy started, looking at Alt-Buffy.
Alt-Buffy took the young slayer�s hand in her own, and coughing, said, "Do it."
Buffy nodded at her other self, then said, cold determination in her voice; "Giles, take care of her, keep her as comfortable as you can. Riley? Do you have a spare flame-thrower?"
"Be patient, my brethren," Belial cried out to whatever unholy beings lurked on the other side of the opening Hellmouth, "our time of waiting is nigh at an end! Soon the world that once was ours will be ours again!" So absorbed with what he was doing was he that he didn�t notice four lone figures planning against him. Suddenly, a blast from a flame-thrower seared the demon�s back. He shrieked in brief pain and turned to the direction of the blast. "Summers?"
"Hey, Your Ugliness!" Buffy taunted the monster, waving her flame-thrower around like a sword, and shouting trash. "I�m the one you want, right? You want a piece of me? Here I am, Snydely Whiplash! C�mon, Creepo! Isn�t this what you wanted? You and me, the big throwdown?"
"You�re that impatient to die?" Belial howled. "I shall rend your flesh, I will use your skin for a drumhead, your bones as my mallets as I shout my victory march!"
"Yeah, yeah, I�m so shaking, your Skankyness!" She beckoned with her hands. "C�mon! You talk the talk, can you walk the walk? Hit me with your best shot!"
"You will suffer as none before you," Belial promised. He advanced toward Buffy, not noticing Riley sneaking around behind him. Suddenly, Riley made his move; he grabbed Belial�s right wrist, and with adrenaline-fueled strength, managed to loosen his grip on the contract and snatch it from his hand.
Suddenly aware that he had lost the contract, Belial turned his concentration from Buffy toward Riley, who was running from him fast and furious. "Give me the contract, you fool!" he bellowed in rage, lunging at Riley, grabbing his legs.
As he fell, he held out the contract, calling out, "Xander! Catch!" Xander immediately grabbed the contract from Riley, and ran off in a zigzag pattern.
"Harris receives from Finn and is charging down the field," he shouted as he crumpled the contract into a ball, "looking for a long bomb!"
"Xander!" Willow shouted, waving her arms frantically. "I�m open!"
"Harris throws a bullet to Rosenburg!" he shouted as he tossed the crumpled contract to Willow.
Willow ran toward Buffy, crying out, "Rosenburg takes it to the offensive glass and slams it in for two points!"
As she took the contract from Willow, Buffy said, "That�s basketball! Xander was going for football metaphors!"
"So I don�t know sports!" Willow shouted. "What do you want me to do?"
"Oh, I�ll think of something later tonight!" Buffy promised, her smile turning into a leer. She strode toward Belial, who was still wrestling with Riley. "Yo, Snyder!" she called out, displaying the contract, which she had un-crumpled for display purposes. "Looking for this?"
Belial turned toward Buffy, letting go of Riley. Riley fell to the ground in an inglorious heap. "Give me that contract, girl!" Belial screamed as he stalked toward Buffy.
Buffy simply stood her ground, directly opposite of the wound in the sky behind Belial. She held the contract in one hand, the flame-thrower in the other.
"Snyder!" she called out, grinning from ear to ear, then waited a beat. "You�re expelled!"
She tossed the contract into the air, and as it started to drift lazily to the ground, she pointed the flame-thrower at the parchment and fired. The document was ash before it hit the ground.
Belial screamed in agony, as the aperture to Hell started to contract. A violent gust of some unholy wind blasted the battlefield, and Buffy and the others braced themselves for the blast. Belial however was pulled toward the vortex by the unearthly gusts. Frantically he clawed the ground with his hands, desperate to fight the pull, but the vortex would not be denied its catch. Within seconds, Belial lost his grip on the sod and was thrown, spiraling, tumbling, into the portal, which suddenly snapped shut behind him, like the iris aperture on a camera.
The wind and the lightshow ceased. A profound silence remained, as all those assembled processed what they saw. The calm after the storm was then shattered by the riotous cheering of the Initiative troops. Buffy and Willow led the rest of the Scooby Gang to where Alt-Buffy was lying. Giles, who had been looking after the brave young woman, turned toward Buffy and said to her, "It doesn�t look good, I�m afraid. Too many internal injuries."
"Hey, Buff?" the injured Slayer coughed, trying to smile. "You--did it--"
"We did it," Buffy smiled back, holding her hand firmly. "You gave us the time to come up with the plan. You saved us all."
"Yeah," she groaned, smiling through her agony. "But there�s still(ugh)--still one thing--I have to do. Behind the bleachers--" Buffy nodded, and ran to where she indicated. She fetched the tattered old duffel bag, and returned quickly to the fallen Slayer.
Willow had cradled Alt-Buffy�s head as she had done with her Buffy not long before, as Giles was trying to steady her, saying, "Please, Buffy, try to hold still, or it will only hurt more..."
"No, Giles," she stopped him. "You don�t understand. I need the staff--to finish--the spell--I�m not supposed to exist anymore--"
"No, Buffy!" Willow wailed. "You can�t die, not now!"
"But it�s not--not death, Wills," Alt-Buffy answered her dearest friend, lifting her hand with great effort to stroke her cheek. "The Buffy you love--is right here. She�s not going anywhere." Alt-Buffy took Willow�s hand, and placed it in Buffy�s, who reached around Willow with her other arm, holding her closely. "Please. Promise me--that you�ll love each other."
"We will," they said in unison, and looked at each other as the words were spoken. For all intents and purposes, they realized, they had made a lifetime commitment of love and trust, as binding as a wedding vow. A commitment they both knew they would honor for the rest of their lives together.
No more words were said, as Buffy handed her time-lost other self the Staff of Hermes. The brass rod glistened in the dim streetlights around them, and then seemed to come alive in Alt-Buffy�s hand, with an incandescence of its own.
Alt-Buffy held the staff aloft, closed her eyes one last time, and said in as clear a voice as she could muster, "Mutatis Mutandis." Her arm gave out its last iota of strength, as she slumped in Willow�s arms. Her body then seemed to shimmer, to ripple, to fade, until only the memory of those whom she had met remained to testify that she existed.
Willow wept openly now, her face buried in Buffy�s shoulder, as Buffy stroked her lover�s red hair and whispered assurances to her. Her unconditional love for Willow kept the girl from crashing, from falling into the abyss. Watching the time traveler simply accept her fate and fade from reality was closer to seeing Buffy Summers die than she ever wanted to get.
Xander coughed an �ahem� to get their attention. "I hate to break this little lover�s moment up, girls," he said quietly, "which, incidentally, I�m entirely cool with, in case you were wondering," Anya nodded in silent agreement with her boyfriend. "But what happened to Spike?"
They turned around, and Buffy nodded, "He�s headed out, toward Wetherly Park. Let him go, Xander. He�s still got that chip. He won�t be putting the bite on anyone tonight." Her lame pun got a smile out of Willow, a smile which melted Buffy�s heart like ice-cream on a hot day.
"Giles," she turned to her mentor and asked, "Just what did Alt-me say just before--" she couldn�t finish.
" �Mutatis Mutandis�," Giles explained somberly. "Old Greek. Meaning, �The necessary changes have been made�." The others nodded
Riley Finn watched these events unfold, realizing two things; First, that there were truly some events that modern science could not begin to explain; and Second, that Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenburg were as much in love as any two people that he had ever known. And whatever he had hoped for in his relationship with Buffy, he had neither the right nor the desire to interfere. Buffy looked at Riley as he started to walk away, taking his men away from the field, and felt sympathy for him. She offered a silent prayer to any god in the vicinity, that Riley would find someone who could make him as happy as Willow Rosenburg made her.
Another thought took hold of Buffy at that point. "I don�t know about the rest of you, but I�m hungry enough to eat a sled dog team!"
"Omitted," Willow exclaimed, "the antitoxin. Giles said that it would cause you to become hungry!" She turned to the Watcher with a sinister grin, adding, "He also said something about springing for a post-world-savage pizza party."
"I did, didn�t I?" Giles laughed at the young wiccan. "I�d be delighted." Giles� announcement was greeted with cheers from all concerned. "So long as nobody orders anchovies!" he amended.
The pizza party was the social event of the season, Scooby-Gang-wise. A karaoke system was available at the pizzeria, and the gang were pleased to monopolize its use. Anya started things rolling, with a rousing chorus of the DiVinyl�s "I Touch Myself", amid catcalls from several other tables.
Xander requested Don McLean�s "American Pie" but true to form, sang the "Weird Al" Yankovic lyrics. Buffy, Willow and Anya gleefully sang along with the second chorus;
"My, my, this here Anakin guy May be Vader someday later, now he�s just a small fry, And he left his home, kissed his mommy goodbye, Saying, Soon I�m gonna be a Jedi, Soon I�m gonna be a Jedi!"
Even the normally reserved Giles got into the act, belting out a surprisingly decent version of David Bowie�s "Heroes", followed by "Take Me To The Pilot" by Elton John. On the second track, Buffy and Willow got on stage with Giles, dancing close together and singing backup vocals. Willow then took the stage, saying, "Okay guys, this is a John Hiatt song. Jewel sang it in the soundtrack for �Phenomenon�, that John Travolta thing. Here we go. This one�s for you, Buffy." Buffy smiled beatifically at the mention. The music started, Willow waited for her cue, and sang;
"When the road gets dark, You can no longer see, Let my love throw out a spark, baby, Have A Little Faith In Me.
When the tears you cry, You can no longer believe, Give these loving arms a try, Have A Little Faith In Me.
Have A Little Faith In Me, Have A Little Faith In Me. Have A Little Faith In Me, Have A Little Faith In Me.
When your secret heart Cannot speak so easily, Come here darling, whisper a start, Have A Little Faith In Me.
When your back�s against the wall, Turn around, you will see, I will catch your when you fall, Have A Little Faith In Me.
Have A Little Faith In Me, Have A Little Faith In Me. Have A Little Faith In Me, Have A Little Faith In Me.
I�ve been loving you for such a long time, darling, I expect nothing in the world but for you to have a little faith in me. You see time is our friend, for you and me there is no end, All you gotta do is Have A Little Faith In Me!"
She sang with full throat and diaphragm, and from the heart. Any doubt that Buffy had concerning the emotions they shared was eliminated by her heartfelt display. At the close of the song, Willow bowed deeply, smiling broadly. Buffy met her at the stage, and hugged her close, kissing her cheek. "I love you, Wills," she whispered into her ear.
"I love you back, Buffy," Willow answered.
"Y�know," Xander quipped, his mouth full of Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza, "It seems to me that we�ve heard from everyone at this party, except a certain Vampire Slayer we all know and love," he leered at Willow, "some more than others." Willow threw a straw at Xander, as Anya chuckled.
"Yeah, Buffy, let�s see you humiliate yourself in this cultural display of vanity," Anya purred.
"Oh no," Buffy protested. "You don�t want to hear me sing, really." But her protests were drowned out by Xander and Anya chanting, "Buffy, Buffy, Buffy!" She turned to Giles for support, but he merely shrugged, "I�m sorry Buffy, but you�re on your own."
"Please, Buffy?" Willow entreated, giving a deadly combination of her Resolve face and Big Puppy Dog Eyes face. Buffy looked at her amazed.
"You play dirty, you know that, don�t you?"
"Wait until I get you alone, Slayer," Willow grinned, winking. Anya whooped with glee at Willow�s efforts at seduction.
Buffy threw her hands up, saying, "Okay, okay, before this conversation gets aired on late night Cinemax, I�ll do it!" The Scoobs applauded as Buffy looked at the playlist. Selecting a song she thought appropriate, she took the stage, announcing, "This one�s for you, Willow. A little Natalie Merchant. You have been warned." The song started, and Buffy sang out a surprisingly clear string of �la-la-las� leading up to the song;
"You�ve been so Kind and Generous, I don�t know how you keep on giving, For your kindness, I�m in debt to you. For your selflessness, my admiration, For everything you�ve done, you know I�m bound, I�m bound to thank you for it,
La-la-la, la la la la, la-la-la, la-la-la, la la la la---
You�ve been so Kind and Generous, I don�t know how you keep on giving, For your kindness, I�m in debt to you. And I never could have gone this far without you, For everything you�ve done, you know I�m bound, I�m bound to thank you for it!
La-la-la, la la la la, la-la-la, la-la-la, la la la la---
I want to thank you for the many gifts you gave, For the love and tenderness, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for your generosity, For the love and the honesty that you gave me. I want to thank you, show my gratitude, My love and my respect for you, I want to thank you, I want to thank you, thank you, Thank you, thank you, Thank you, thank you, Thank you, thank you..."
The song ended, friends cheered, and the party went on for several hours after. When the party wound down, the two girls went back to their dorm to finish packing for winter break, a task they started just that afternoon, a lifetime ago.
Buffy took Willow in her arms again, and kissed her soundly. Willow reciprocated, and their mouths and tongues sought to taste, to feel each other. Breaking away reluctantly from the kiss, Buffy smiled to the love of her life, saying, "You know, I never quite felt like this before."
"I�ll bet you say that to all the girls," Willow said, trying to sound sultry. Buffy had to admit she was getting close.
"No, Wills, really," she tried to explain her thoughts, despite the distraction of Willow�s blowing on her ear. "It�s like I finally know what my life is all about. Sure, I�m the Slayer, the one girl who can stand against the vampires, the demons, yadda yadda, but now there something more. Being here with you, holding, touching, kissing..." she couldn�t resist taking another sip from Willow�s lips before continuing, "it�s like I�m renewed. Like this is what it�s all about. The reason I keep fighting the nasties. Why I keep saving the world. Because you�re a part of that world. You�re my world, Willow. I don�t know how to explain it any better than that."
"I understand, Buffy," Willow answered, moved by Buffy�s confession. "It�s like Oz, Xander, anyone I thought I was in love with before, that was all just a rehearsal for loving you. I do love you so much, Buffy." She kissed her again, and this time, the kiss grew in tempo and in heat. Willow�s hands felt around Buffy�s back, reaching under her tee-shirt, slowly tugging at it. Buffy backed away just enough for Willow to slip the shirt off, revealing a black sports bra. Buffy started to unbutton Willow�s shirt, and within two minutes, their passion began in earnest.
For the rest of the night, two lovers explored each other�s bodies, memorizing every curve, every nuance, every sensation they could elicit from each other. After their initial frantic lovemaking, and the first fiery orgasms, they still cuddled, still touched, still groped, until the erotic cycle started again, and again for hours.
They were fully aware that the world would crash in on them later on, and there would be challenges to face in the cold light of day. There was still the Initiative to deal with. Despite their assistance in the final battle with Belial, Buffy still didn�t know what to make of them. There was the problem of how others on campus would take their newly defined relationship, once it became public knowledge("And it will" teased Buffy, "because you�re such a screamer!"). And there was the constant parade of demons, vampires and assorted monsters to deal with on a nightly basis.
But for this one night, none of that mattered. There were only two young women, who had been burnt by first loves before, only to find in each other the love that they had been searching for all along.
And for one beautiful night, there wasn�t a thing wrong in Sunnydale, California.
Los Angeles, New Year�s Eve, 1999
"Hey, Boss," Cordelia Chase greeted the youthful looking man who walked into the office that night. "How�s life--uh, so to speak."
"Fine, Cordy," Angel answered. "Any plans for tonight?"
"Oh, not really," Cordelia answered. "Just me and a bottle of cheap champagne, waiting for the computer to crash. Oh, speaking of which, I got an e-mail from Willow."
"Hey, that�s good," Angel perked up. "How�s our favorite hacker?"
"Still hacking," Cordy started. "Uh, you may want to sit down for this," she added nervously.
"What�s the what, Cordy?"
"Well," she started, "Willow�s found someone new."
"That�s all?" Angel asked, puzzled. "I knew about her and Oz splitting, but if she�s found someone else, isn�t that good news?"
"Uh, it�s who that someone else is that�s problematic," Cordy started.
Angel looked directly into her eyes, and asked, "Is it Buffy?"
Cordelia sat slack-jawed at the vampire�s observation. "How-how did--"
"Hey, I�ve been around for more than a few years," Angel smiled. "A couple hundred years of people-watching, you pick up a few things. Buffy and Willow have always had this connection, I�ve been aware of it from day one. That�s why Angelus kept threatening Willow when he was out to get back at Buffy. He knew that Buffy would die before letting anything happen to Willow."
"And this doesn�t bother you?" Cordelia asked.
"Not at all," Angel replied. "I knew that Buffy and I had no future, that�s why I left, to give her the chance to find someone who could give her what I couldn�t. If she has, I�m happy for her." Grabbing his duster jacket, he announced, "Come on, Cordy, I am taking you dancing. We�ll celebrate Buffy and Willow�s happiness, and ring in the new year right."
"What the hell," Cordy answered. "Can we swing by my apartment first, so I can find a dress?"
"Sure," Angel quipped, "Then we�ll have just enough time to ring in the year 2001."
"Hey!" Cordy complained as they left his office, "That�s why I left Xander..."