I�LL STAND BY YOU
Buffy reached across the bed, expecting to touch the warm smooth skin of her lover, but instead hit a warm indentation in the mattress. Buffy sat up suddenly, worried that something had happened to her beloved. In the town of Sunnydale, so close to the Hellmouth, those who walk alone at night literally take their souls into their own hands.
She looked around the bedroom, and saw her lover, her friend, her Willow, wearing a red negligee, leaning against the window sill, pondering the night sky beyond the window. She smiled, relieved that Willow was safe, then she stepped beside her, wrapped her arms around her and whispered into her ear; "C�mon, Sweetheart. Let�s go back to bed."
"In a minute, Buff," the redhead answered. Buffy could hear the resigned tension in her beloved�s voice, could feel the stiffness in her muscles. She turned her around and saw a tear making a thin rivulet down her cheek.
"Okay, Wills, spill," she said in a gentle voice. Buffy and Willow had been best friends for over three years, and lovers for nearly three months. They were now at what Buffy called the "when-she-smiles-I-smile-when-she-hurts-I-hurt" stage. She couldn�t stand by and watch Willow in pain, not if she could do something to assuage it.
Willow bowed her head, then began quietly; "You know a week ago last Saturday, when I was at my parents� for dinner?"
Buffy stood silently for a second, letting the redhead�s words sink in.
Buffy stroked her friend�s cheek, smoothing a lock of red hair from her
face. "And from the general mopeyness, it didn�t go well." When
Willow nodded, Buffy asked, "What did they say?"
"So you were at your folks� house and they didn�t nag you once? Check their basement for pods!" Buffy laughed lightly, but stopped once she caught Willow�s withering glance. "Sorry, Will. I�ll leave the jokes to Xander."
Willow managed a slight smile, and continued. "It�s just that it�s
been ten days since then, and they haven�t called me once. I tried to call
them, but they just said, �we�re fine�, �nothing new here�, �look, I
gotta go�, you know, that sort of thing. No support, no anger, no �keep away
from that Summers girl or you�ll no longer be welcome in our home,� no
nothing. I don�t know which would be worse; hearing them tell me I�m wrong,
or not hearing anything at all." She looked at Buffy again, apologizing,
"I�m sorry, I know, babble mode, but Geez, if I wanted the silent
treatment, I�d have stayed together with Oz!" She saw Buffy�s head turn
away at the mention of her old boyfriend, and realized that Oz was still a sore
spot with her. "Oh, Geez, Buffy, I�m sorry, I shouldn�t have mentioned
"You really think so?"
"In the arms of the woman I�m going to love for the rest of my life," Buffy answered, her voice carrying overtones of a growl. "The woman whom I want to make love to so bad..."
"Shut up, Jerry Maguire," Willow whispered huskily as she leaned in to her best friend�s lips for a kiss. "You had me at �hello�."
The two vampires prowling outside Stevenson Hall were newly risen, and their sire had left without properly educating them on the finer points of bloodsucking. However, in life they had gorged themselves on a steady diet of grade Z horror movies, from "Fright Night" to "Subspecies", so they had a general idea of how to stalk their victims for their blood.
And it was their lucky night; a middle-aged couple were walking alone on the campus. They �stalked� their prey with little grace, as the couple quickened their pace, hearing footsteps behind them. Suddenly, the newly-sired vampires jumped in front of the startled couple, fangs and claws bared.
"Hey, guys," a sweet voice called from the side of the causeway. "Fresh blood over here!" The two vampires turned to see two young women, one blonde and one redheaded.
"Those two don�t really have enough blood for the two of you," the redhead said in a sweetly soothing voice, as she waved her right hand in front of the two vampires.
One turned to the other, and said in a dazed voice, "Those two don�t really have enough blood for the two of us."
"You don�t want to drain them, do you?" the redhead asked.
"We don�t want to drain them," the vamps agreed.
"These are not the droids you�re looking for," the blonde piped in.
"These are not the--HEY!"
"Sorry, Willow, couldn�t resist," Buffy returned her gaze to the two vampires, and said, "Okay, hard way!"
She delivered a standing high kick to one vampire�s mandible, and as the fiend was sent reeling, she withdrew Mr. Pointy from her belt loop, and staked the vampire quickly and efficiently. Wiping some of the resulting dust off of her hands, she commented, "Newbies. Where�s the challenge?"
Willow ducked an attack from her sparring partner, and ducked behind a large fir tree. The vampire, thinking that he had his victim cornered, ran around the other side of the tree to capture her, only to find himself looking down the business end of a crossbow.
"It�s amazing how often that trick works," Willow smiled as she pulled the crossbow�s trigger, firing a wooden shaft directly into the heart of the beast. Within seconds, he was a pile of ash.
"She shoots, she scores," Willow announced as she walked back to the scene of the attack. "Das right, we bad!"
"Way to use the Force, Luke," Buffy greeted Willow as they high-fived.
"Hey, at least we know that my �Jedi Mind Trick� spell works. But what about them?" she asked, indicating the two near-victims.
"We�d better make sure they�re okay," Buffy agreed. "Hey, are you two all right -- Oh -- My -- God -- Mr. and Mrs. Rosenburg?"
At Buffy�s statement, Willow looked at the couple more closely, and gasped as she recognized them; "Mom? Dad?"
Ira Rosenburg had stood up, and was helping his wife get on her feet. "Come on, Sheila," he announced briskly. "We�re going home."
As Willow�s parents walked away, Buffy chased after them. "Please, Mr.
Rosenburg, I think that we should talk about this--"
The Rosenburgs stopped and turned to their daughter. Sheila hissed angrily at Willow; "How dare you speak to us in that tone of voice?"
"How dare you not speak to me at all?" Willow pleaded. "I know that you have issues about me and Buffy, but I�m not leaving her, not now, not ever. Please, Mom, we need to talk. Now." She set her jaw firmly, indicating that she would take no arguments.
Buffy looked back and forth between parents and daughter, not knowing what to say to ease the stand-off. Finally Sheila looked at Buffy, and said, "I�m sure that you�ve seen that expression before, right?"
"Eeeeyup-hah," Buffy exhaled. The two women looked at Willow for a second, and said in unison, "Resolve face."
Ira finally nodded his head, saying, "You are quite right, Willow, we do
need to talk. Perhaps the two of you know of some neutral territory where we may
continue this discussion more peacefully?"
"Sounds good," Willow agreed.
"Okay," the waitress at the Espresso Pump said cheerfully, "one French roast, black, two sugars for the gentleman, chamomile tea with lemon for his wife, and two tall mochas for the young ladies." She left the foursome with their drinks, quietly heading for the cash register. Buffy sipped her mocha pensively, waiting for a break in the stalemate between parents and daughter.
Finally, Ira Rosenburg spoke; "Willow, I wish first to apologize for not saying anything to you when you announced your...relationship with Miss Summers."
"Buffy," the blonde absently corrected. Ira glanced at her, making her feel self-conscious. "Please, Mr. Rosenburg, my friends call me Buffy. Hell, Mr. Snyder called me Buffy, and he hated my guts!"
Ira glared at her, saying, "All right, Buffy." Turning back to his daughter, he continued. "The reason we didn�t speak was because we didn�t want to say anything that we would both regret. Your announcement about Buffy shocked us. We simply didn�t wish to react out of that shock, and say anything that we couldn�t take back."
"I guess I understand, Daddy," Willow replied. "But ten days? I started to think you didn�t want to see me again."
"No, darling, that�s not true," Sheila said immediately. "It�s just that we still didn�t know what to say then. Personally, I wasn�t sure which scared me more, that you were in love with another woman, or that you were in love with a--well, a--" she couldn�t finish the thought.
Buffy took a stab at it; "A goy?" she said, smiling.
This sudden outburst helped ease the tension some more. Ira chuckled, amending her statement; "Let�s just say, a gentile. Not to mention that you always did have a reputation for being a troublemaker. I seem to recall at least once when you were accused of murder."
Buffy gulped hard at that memory; when the soulless Angelus killed her fellow slayer Kendra, and Buffy was framed for the crime. Snyder had her expelled summarily, her mother didn�t believe her, and when she learned about her being a Slayer, that�s when the organic material hit the ventilation device.
Willow was quick to defend her lover. "That charge was bogus, Mom. And it was dropped quickly, too." She held Buffy�s hand tightly as she spoke. "I know that I am safer with Buffy than with anyone else."
"We understand, darling," answered Sheila. "The truth is that we came to a consensus last night; it is your life, and if Buffy was who you want, who you love, we would support you. That is why we came to the campus tonight; I felt that we owed it to you, Willow, to speak in person, to tell you that we had accepted your relationship with Buffy."
"But then you saw--" Willow started, "those guys attacking you--and we--" she felt herself sinking deeper with every word.
Ira took another sip of coffee, and continued. "What those two thugs did to us was unnatural. Their speed, their strength, they weren�t human. And what the two of you did to them..." He left the sentence hanging, and Buffy and Willow knew that they had a greater secret to explain than their merely being lovers.
Buffy stared at her mocha for five seconds, then looked at Willow. Willow regarded Buffy with a look that clearly said, Tell them, they deserve to know the truth. Buffy took Willow�s hand in her own and smiled at her.
"Mr. Rosenburg," Buffy announced quietly, "those two punks weren�t human. They were vampires. I�m a vampire slayer."
"And I�m a witch," Willow added sheepishly. In for a dime, in for a dollar.
The Rosenburgs stared at their daughter for a long moment. Ira then exhaled quietly through pursed lips. "That would explain your candle collection."
"And I have this dim memory," Sheila added hesitantly, "of trying to burn the two of you at the stake." She shuddered as she said the words. "And your mother was with me, Buffy, and there was that girl Amy, and we never did see her after that..."
"So babbling is genetic, Wills?" Buffy quipped. Willow gave her a sour look, and Buffy relented.
"You weren�t yourself, Mom," Willow quickly consoled her mother. "You were controlled by a demon."
"Uh-huh," Sheila replied quietly. Another dense silence took over the table.
"Look, Mom, Dad," Willow broke the silence, "There�s a lot of bad stuff going on in this town. Surely you�ve been aware of it; you think it�s natural for everyone in an entire town to lose their voices all at once? For the entire swim team to turn into sea monsters? For hundreds of people to turn up dead from blood loss, while the police force does nothing about it? For a demon to try to eat the entire graduating class?
"I know that Judaism has some strong words against both witchcraft and homosexuality, but that doesn�t change who and what I am. I�m still Willow Rosenburg, the babbling computer hacker, I still light the menorah every Chanukah, I still attend the synagogue. And I also cast spells, and help fight vampires. And I love Buffy Summers. I�m sorry if that�s not what you expected from a daughter, but that�s who I am."
Ira shook his head, and asked Willow, sadness and compassion in his voice, "What ever happened to the little girl whom I could convince everything was all right by shining a flashlight under the bed and scaring out any monsters?"
"She grew up, Daddy," Willow said, her voice catching. "She found out that the monsters were real. And she discovered that she could fight them herself." She looked as though she was going to break down and cry, and Buffy instinctively put her arm around her beloved�s shoulder.
After a final profound silence, Ira Rosenburg spoke, quietly and clearly; "When I was six years old, I sat on my father�s lap, and asked him why he had a string of numbers written on his arm. He said that he would tell me when he was older. Shortly after my bar mitzvah, he told me about those numbers. How bad men in Germany tattooed those numbers on his arm when he was just a child. How the Nazis routed him and his family from their poor home in Poland, and forced them into the Warsaw ghettos, and then into the camps at Dachau, Buchenwald, and Auschwitz-Birkenau. I trust these names are familiar to you."
"Yes, sir," Buffy nodded somberly.
"My father spent seven years at these camps, imprisoned for the simple offense of being Jewish. His parents, my grandparents, were killed in those camps. He and his sister, my aunt, survived. Call it luck of the draw, call it the will of God, call it what you will. He never forgot those years of trial, of torture. And he vowed never to allow his blood to become guilty of the crimes he had witnessed. The greatest sin of all, he often told me, is intolerance." He stopped and sipped his coffee. "That was the lesson I took with me from my father�s relating to me the story of the Holocaust. And I would be a poor son to him if I forgot that lesson in regards to my own daughter."
Willow nodded to her father, relieved at his understanding. "I remember Grandpa telling me about the holocaust. And I too took a lesson from his story; evil cannot be ignored, or it will grow. Evil has to be opposed. Like the Nazis were finally opposed and beaten. That�s what I�m doing, what Buffy and I are doing together. She showed me the way, but I chose to walk down that path." She turned to Buffy and repeated the vow she made a year ago; "It�s a good fight, and I want in."
Buffy smiled in remembrance of her words, tears flowing freely from her eyes. "I kinda love you, Wills." And she hugged her fiercely.
Ira smiled at the two women. Sheila said to them, "All that I need to know is that you are happy, Willow. And that Buffy will protect you from whatever evils you oppose."
"I am, Mom," Willow said, and Buffy added, "And I will."
"Then there�s only one more question to ask," Sheila announced. "Buffy, do you have plans for a week from Wednesday?"
"Not that I know of, why?"
"Then would you join us for the Seder meal?" Sheila asked. Willow
piqued when she heard her mother make the invitation. "Passover begins that
night, and we would like you to join us."
Willow said, "I�ll help her find something. That�ll work."
The four of them laughed more easily together as they finished their drinks. Buffy chatted about her interest in skating, and her mishaps as Willow tried to teach her the finer points of computers. Suddenly Willow stood up, and announced, "Before I forget, I have an early Passover gift for Buffy." She fished through her ever-present backpack, and pulled out a small jewelry case, and handed it to Buffy.
Buffy excitedly opened the box, and looked at the charm. She looked
quizzically at Willow, asking, "A half of a necklace?"
"See," Willow demonstrated, taking Buffy�s pendant, and placing it next to her own, "The two pieces form one whole coin. They symbolize how you and I are two halves of the same entity." Buffy smiled as she looked at the coin, and noticed the engraving on it. "It�s from the Book of Genesis," Willow explained.
Buffy looked at the inscription and read it aloud; "�The Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent, one from another.� Oh, Willow, that�s beautiful." She fought back a tear at her lover�s gift. "Thank you." And she hugged her again.
"I remember the Claddagh rings you and Angel shared," Willow observed. I just wanted some symbol for us to share." They embraced again, as Ira and Sheila applauded.
Ira turned to Buffy and offered his hand to her. As they shook hands warmly, Ira commented, "You�re not quite the son-in-law I had in mind for Willow, but you�ll do." Sheila nodded in agreement with her husband, and Willow grinned broadly. Buffy smiled at his easy-going charm, and was glad to be accepted into Willow�s family.
"See," Buffy said to Willow later, after the Rosenburgs left for
their house, "that wasn�t so bad, was it?"
" You want I should mess up their faces for youse?" Buffy offered in a lame Humphry Bogart accent.
"No, not really," Willow said, as she leaned into Buffy�s body. "I�m just glad that my folks are cool with us. Between gay-bashers and vampires, I�ve got enough aggravation."
"Hey, just remember, I�m here for you, and I�m not going away," Buffy answered. "I do love you, Willow."
As their lips touched, two hearts sang anew and yearned toward oneness again. Whatever new challenges the next day would bring, with the support of their families and closest friends, Buffy and Willow would make it through.