Buffy woke up the next morning with a smile on her face. She had forgotten how good it felt to smile. She dipped her head down. Her arm was wrapped around Willow, and Willow�s head was on her shoulder. She was still asleep. Buffy smiled again.
Carefully she propped herself up and looked at the blanket that was covering them.
�That wasn�t there last night�mom! Does she know?�
She heard noise in the kitchen. Quietly, and reluctantly, she got untangled from her position on the couch. She stood up, and covered Willow again with the blanket. She kissed Willow�s hair, and walked into the kitchen.
Her mom was making breakfast.
"Hi honey. I didn�t wake you did I?"
"Nope. I was up."
"Do you want some breakfast?"
"Yeah. Smells good."
"How about Willow?"
"Still asleep. I didn�t want to wake her."
For a few seconds they didn�t speak.
"Did�did you cover us last night?"
"You two looked so peaceful."
Buffy didn�t know what to say.
"You care for her don�t you?"
"How�d you know?"
"I paid attention."
"So�what happens now?"
"It�s your life. At least this is something I can handle. I can be here for you. This is more normal than demons. "
"You�re not going to pass out on me?"
"Did you want me to?"
"Willow�s nice. And I�ve never seen you this happy before. Why would I not be okay?"
Buffy hugged her mom.
"Breakfast is ready."
"Okay. I�just remembered something. I�ll be right down."
Buffy ran upstairs to her room. She opened the top drawer of the bureau that was by her bed. She looked at the two Claddgah rings that were inside for a moment, and shut the drawer. She got an idea.
�I need to think.�
She walked into her mom�s room and saw the mask her mom got from the Gallery on the wall.
She left the room. As she was coming downstairs, she saw Willow walking towards the kitchen, yawning.
"Look who�s up."
"Morning, Buffy." She smiled.
"Mom�s got breakfast ready. Do you want?"
Willow nodded, and they went into the dining room. Later, while they were eating, Buffy brought up the mask.
"That mask is really creepy, mom."
"It�s priceless. I just wish I knew more about it."
"You could ask Giles."
"Yeah. He�s really good with artifacts and stuff," Willow said.
"Maybe I will."
Joyce looked at the two of them.
"You take good care of my daughter, Willow."
Willow looked at Buffy. She looked back, telling her, �It�s okay. She knows.� She looked at Joyce.
"Don�t worry, Mrs. Summers. We�re good at taking care of each other."
* * * * * *
The last week before school passed by uneventfully, and now Willow was walking through the halls of Sunnydale High starting her senior year. She was making her way to her chemistry class.
Everyone was staring at her. She could hear people snickering quietly.
�Well now I know the whole student body knows.�
She breathed a sigh of relief, when she reached the classroom. She made her way to a lab table, and sat next to Buffy. Cordelia and Xander were sitting behind them. Buffy saw the expression on her face.
"You too, huh?"
"Don�t listen to them."
Harmony and one of her friends were sitting the next aisle over.
"I don�t know why I�m surprised. They�re already weird. This is probably nothing to them." Harmony whispered.
Willow saw Buffy�s anger building.
"Don�t, Buffy," she said softly.
"So Willow, how long have you been keeping this a secret? I thought you just were too brainy to go out with guys. I had no idea you were, you know. So what�s it like? Having to kiss a girl cause no guy would ever go near you. " Harmony said with too much joy.
Cordelia leaned over to get closer to Harmony.
"Why are you asking, Harmony? You already know what it�s like," Cordelia said.
Harmony went wide-eyed.
"What are you talking about?"
"Don�t play dumb. Oh wait, you are. Eight grade, Jodie Keeler�s fourteenth �"
"You wouldn�t," Harmony whispered.
"Try me. In two minutes, nobody in the senior class will ever go near you again."
The teacher walked in, and Harmony pretended to be writing in her notebook.
"Way to go, Cordy," Xander said.
"Yeah, thanks," Buffy said.
Willow managed a weak smile for Cordelia�s benefit, and looked down at the table.
* * * * * *
After class, they all went to the library. Willow led the pack, and sat on the steps. Buffy followed closely behind, and sat next to her. Willow was crying softly, and Buffy wrapped her arms around her. Giles walked over.
"Is everything all right?" he asked.
Buffy looked up at him. "Word got around."
"Oh." He paused, unsure of what to say. "I�ll be�" Giles pointed to the office, and Buffy nodded.
"I�m sorry, Buffy. I got your shirt all wet," Willow said, sniffing.
Buffy chuckled softly.
"It�s okay, Will. They really got to you, didn�t they?"
"I�m used to being ignored, and now when people finally talk to me, all they do is hurt me."
"You wanna hear my other philosophy?"
"Besides �Life is Short�? Yeah, I do."
"Ignore anyone and everyone who tries to make you feel bad. Because they just like to hurt you because it makes them feel like a bigger person then they actually are."
"So basically, �Screw them�."
"Okay, so your term was a little more direct."
This got a laugh from Willow.
"But what if word gets around to Principal Snyder? He could tell my parents, and�"
"Snyder can�t do anything. And if he does somehow get word to your parents, I�ll be there to back you up."
Willow smiled, and they noticed the rest of the gang behind them.
"Oh, hi guys. Didn�t see you there," Buffy said.
They all grinned.
Buffy helped Willow stand up, and Giles came out of the office.
"Oh. I almost forgot. Mom invited everyone over for dinner tonight. You too, Giles. So it would make me extremely happy if you said there was no big evil I had to fight tonight."
"Buffy, there is no big evil you have to fight tonight," Giles said.
"Wow. I wasn�t expecting that answer. Yay!"
Willow walked over to Cordelia.
"Thanks for what you said in class, Cordy. You didn�t have to."
"I�m sorry you had to go through that. Don�t ever listen to what Harmony says, okay?"
Willow nodded. Cordelia really was one of them now.
"Was I really like her?"
They all nodded.
"Why didn�t you shoot me?"
"Believe me, we wanted to." Xander quipped.
He got a playful slap on the arm, and they settled into meaningless conversation.
* * * * * *
Buffy had been debating what to do for a little over a week now. She could see Willow�s uncertainty, and she knew that this would help both of them. She had a half an hour before her daily workout at the library, so she had to make this quick.
She made her way into the jewelry store, and spotted the item she wanted. In case Willow didn�t know how much she meant to her, this would create a bond between them, so that no matter what, they�d always stick together.
* * * * * *
Joyce had a chicken in the oven. It was four-thirty, so it would be done in another hour. Just in time for when everybody was going to show up. There was knock at the door. Checking the progress of dinner, she then made her way to the foyer.
�Probably one of the kids.�
Needless to say, she was surprised when she opened the door.
After several seconds of silence, she realized he was still standing outside.
He came in and shut the door behind him.
"Buffy�s okay, isn�t she?" Joyce asked, suddenly wondering why he was here so early.
"Yes, she�s fine. She�s with everyone in the library. She�s exercising, and she has time and time again told me it was unnecessary for me to be there during aerobics. Plus her taste in music while she works out is not exactly my style."
"I�ll agree with you on that."
"I figured if I came by early we could talk."
"That would help me get back in daughter�s life."
She didn�t say it directly, but he knew she meant, �You�ve been guiding my daughter for the past three years, and now I�d like a part of it.�
"Where would you like to start?"
"Well, that�s difficult question to answer. One girl in all the world, one born with �"
"Buffy gave me that already, and it doesn�t answer my question."
"Nobody truly knows how Slayers are chosen. I was taught that it was fate. If you believe in that sort of thing of course."
"Fate or not, she�s seventeen years old. How can you be okay with her risking her life every single night?"
"Believe me, Joyce. There are times that I wished that Buffy did not have to do her duty, and all I�ve wanted to do is protect her. But she is very capable, and very committed. However, like her, I did not have a choice in my career.
"I became a Watcher. And I have guided many Slayers, but Buffy is the most skilled by far. I can only promise you that I will do whatever I can, whenever possible, to make sure she comes back home safe to you every day."
Joyce took a deep breath. "Has she really saved the world?"
"Three times actually. And it pained her not to able to tell you all of this, but it�s a primary code that Slayers must follow. It�s for the parents� safety, and now that I think about it, it�s the only code she�s ever followed.
"She has kept you unaware of her situation not to push you away, but to keep you safe. I hope you realize that."
"I do, I just feel terrible. All those times I grounded her for fighting�yelled at her�"
"She doesn�t blame you. She has used the fact that she was grounded, many times, to get out of training. So in some cases, she was glad to be confined to her room."
This got a laugh out of Joyce. "Buffy tells me your somewhat of an expert on relics and things," Joyce said changing the subject, which meant she okay at the moment with everything.
"Somewhat, yes. Why?"
"I�d like to get your opinion on something."
Joyce started to walk upstairs, and Giles followed behind. They entered her bedroom, and Giles quickly found an odd looking mask hanging on the wall.
"We got a very exciting shipment in at the Gallery. I thought I'd hang this piece in here. It cheers up the room." She said.
"It's, striking�and Nigerian."
"Oh. Yes. I have this wonderful dealer who specializes in ancient artifacts, I don't know if you..."
"This seems awfully familiar. I think I�ll call Willow at the library. Oh, may use your phone?"
As Giles was dialing the number, they heard a shout from downstairs.
"We�re here!" Buffy yelled.
Giles placed the phone back down. "Figures."
He and Joyce went back downstairs.
"What are you doing back so early?" Giles asked Buffy.
"You can�t expect me to believe you got a workout after twenty minutes."
"Hey, I broke a sweat. In my book, that means I worked out. The guys can vouch for me."
They looked up at the gang.
"Can�t you?" Buffy asked, eyeing them.
"Oh yeah. She was�lots of sweat�real stinky�worked hard�" They all spoke together, jumbling their words.
"There, you see? Now if you�ll excuse me, I have to get a shower," Buffy said.
Buffy went upstairs, leaving Joyce and Giles sighing.
"Kids." They both said.
* * * * * *
Buffy dropped her bag to the floor, and then went and got a shower. Before she went downstairs, she grabbed the object she purchased off the top of her desk, and put it in her pants pocket. She knew what she was going to do.
* * * * * *
Dinner was nice and relaxing. The conversation was normal, and best of all, tension free.
"Mrs. Summers, this great. I haven�t eaten food this good since�well I�ve never eaten food this good," Xander said.
"Thank you, Xander."
"Yeah not even the cook at my house makes food this good," Cordelia said.
They all looked at her.
"Well, not everyone has their own cook," Oz said.
"He�s not my cook, he�s the family cook. And I wasn�t saying that to sound snotty, I was just stating a fact."
"Well, thank you for the compliment. Who wants to do the dishes?"
Nobody moved, and then Willow jumped up.
"Thank you, Willow."
Willow stared at Buffy. Buffy stood up.
"I�ll help you."
"See? She�s a good influence on you," Joyce said.
"I know. Isn�t it horrible?" Buffy said playfully.
Willow swatted her, and they made their way to the kitchen.
* * * * * *
Upstairs, in Joyce�s bedroom, a red light was shining on the door. It was coming from the mask hanging on the opposite wall. Its eyes were glowing red.
* * * * * *
Buffy and Willow were washing dishes in the sink. Well actually, Buffy was washing and Willow was drying.
"See? This isn�t so bad, is it?"
"No, it�s just really dull."
"Okay, maybe it is." Willow laughed.
"You�re really okay, right?"
"It�ll take a little while to get used to everybody, but�"
"Hey, I�ve had years to deal with people saying things behind my back, I�ll help you deal too."
Willow kissed her.
"Listen, Will�there�s something I want to�"
"Buffy, I have�"
They were interrupted by a scream.
* * * * * *
They ran into the living room.
"Is everyone okay?"
"Yeah. It came from outside," Oz said.
Xander opened the door, and saw people running away from people who looked very dead. And a whole group of them, twenty or more were heading right for the house.
"We won�t be okay for long." He said.
"What are you talking about?" Cordelia asked. She looked out the door, and screamed.
The zombies started crashing right through the window.
"What do we do?" Joyce asked.
"Go out the back!" Buffy yelled.
Oz ran ahead. As the zombies came right through the back door, he ran back to the group.
"It�s no good. They�re back there too." He said.
Three zombies started to go upstairs, ignoring the group, and the rest started to surround them.
"Why are they going upstairs?" Buffy asked, kicking one in the chest. It staggered, but came forward still.
"The mask!" Giles yelled.
"I thought I recognized your mother�s mask. That�s what they�re after!"
"I didn�t know the undead were so into art," Xander said, knocking one off its feet momentarily. Willow was huddled over Joyce, trying to protect her.
"The mask holds the power of a... zombie demon, called Ovu Mobani -Evil Eye. I don't think we can get past them," Giles said.
"Well, what happens if they get the mask?" Oz asked.
"If one of them puts it on, they become the demon incarnate."
"Oz, help me clear a path to the stairs. Then you and Giles take everyone upstairs and stop them from getting the mask. Hurry! They�re almost up!"
Oz grabbed a potted plant against that was against the wall and smashed it over a zombie�s head. It fell. Buffy grabbed one by the neck, and pushed it into one of his buddies.
"Come on!" Xander yelled leading everyone to the stairs. They all followed, and saw two of the three zombies that went up, still on the stairs.
"Buff, I need a weapon!" Xander yelled.
Buffy ripped a post off the railing, and tossed it to him.
Xander and Oz charged up the stairs. Xander swung at one, making him tumble down the steps, and Oz elbowed the other one. They made it to the bedroom just as the zombie was putting on the mask.
"Oh dear," Giles said.
* * * * * *
The zombie turned around. The mask was on. Willow, who had her arm protectively around Joyce, caught the thing�s gaze.
"Willow, don�t look into it�s eyes!" Giles yelled.
But it was too late. There was a bright flash, and then Willow collapsed to the ground unconscious. Oz and Xander grabbed the zombie by its arms, and shoved it out the window. It rolled down the roof, and fell to the ground.
Giles and Joyce crouched around Willow.
"I�ll go get Buffy," Oz said running out the door.
"Tell Buffy Mobani's power lies in his eyes! She has to go for the eyes to defeat him!"
* * * * * *
Downstairs, Buffy heard the crash and thump of the thing outside. She knew something had happened to Willow. She could feel it. Stepping on the back of a zombie, she just knocked down, she jumped up on the coffee table, and over the group of zombies threatening to overtake her. She ran out the front door.
She got to her porch, and saw a shovel leaning against the front of the house. She grabbed it, and ran into the yard. The zombie�s back was to her.
"Hey, Buffy!" She heard Oz call.
The thing turned around. She saw his eyes glowing.
"Something tells me I don�t wanna look into those."
She lifted the shovel up, and the thing started to lock gazes with her. Shaking it off, she pulled her arm back.
"Hey you!" She tossed the shovel right into its eyes. It collapsed, and in a blinding light, vanished. "Made you look."
As she turned to go back into the house, she saw Oz.
"Never mind." He said.
* * * * * *
As Buffy and Oz came in, Giles was carrying Willow down the stairs. Buffy rushed over.
"Is she okay?" Buffy asked.
"She�ll be fine, honey," Joyce said.
They laid her on the sofa, and Cordelia came from the kitchen holding a cup. She splashed Willow�s face with water. Willow stirred, and started to cough. Buffy held her head. Buffy gave Cordelia a look.
"What? It worked didn�t it?" Cordelia asked.
"Yeah it did. Thanks."
"You okay, Will?" Buffy asked.
"I think I have a headache."
"I�m on aspirin duty," Oz said.
"Well I�d say, �This house is clear�," Xander said.
"That was the worst �" Willow said.
"Hey, I just got attacked by zombies. Give me a break!"
Oz came in with two aspirin and another cup of water. He handed them to Willow.
"So, is this a typical day at the office?" Joyce asked.
"No. This was nothing," Buffy responded.
* * * * * *
They cleaned up as best they could, and all said good night. Buffy asked Willow to stay a few extra minutes, and they went up to her room. When they sat on the floor, Buffy took a deep breath, and spoke.
"After what almost happened tonight, I don�t want to go another second without giving you one of these," Buffy said, pulling a golden Claddgah ring out of her pocket.
Willow looked at it, and smiled. She pulled out a ring as well.
"When did you �"
"After we dropped you off after getting my haircut, I asked Cordy to run by the jewelry store. I picked it out. Looks like you did the same thing."
"I wanted to give you something special�" Buffy took the silver Claddgah rings out of her bureau. "�And move on from these."
"Those are the rings you and Angel shared."
Buffy nodded. "When he turned, I was sure he would have crushed his, but after destroying the Judge, I went back to his apartment. He had cleared all his stuff out, but his ring was still sitting on top of the dresser. I took it, and I�ve had it ever since."
Buffy set the silver rings down between them, and started to slip her gold ring on Willow�s finger.
"It�s time I stopped holding on to the past. I�m committing myself to you for as long as you�ll have me."
Tears were rolling down both their faces, as Willow started to put her ring on Buffy�s finger.
"The hands represent friendship," Willow started.
"The crown represents loyalty," Buffy continued.
Finishing the final symbol together, "And the heart, represents love."
As the ring was situated on Buffy�s finger, the rings seemed to glow. And the silver ones vanished in the gold light.
"I�m here for you forever," Willow said.
She crushed Buffy in a hug. They kissed softly, and with that, an unbreakable bond was created.
It finally happened. Things had been going great for almost two weeks, and then a couple students told Principal Snyder about her and Buffy. She didn�t know who told him, but that wasn�t really important to her right now. Because now, they were sitting in his office getting a speech about how it was inappropriate, or something like that. At some point, she and Buffy had grasped hands.
Buffy had told her that he talked for a long time, so Willow let her thoughts wander. She knew where Snyder was coming from, although she completely disagreed with him. He was a man who believed in order. He liked a well-structured society. And in society gays and lesbians just didn�t seem to mix with straight people, so that carried over to school.
But she didn�t consider herself lesbian, although she knew technically she was. It wasn�t that she was in denial, or that she was ashamed to be in love with Buffy. She just thought it was wrong having to be labeled and stuck into a group. To lose herself. She was Willow Rosenberg. That was her name, her identity, but everybody who looked at her thought and saw one thing: �lesbian�.
It bothered her to say the least. She had learned to slowly deal with other kids remarks, but the thing was, she knew it didn�t stop when school was over. Adults acted the same way as their kids. Maybe they didn�t approach you and make comments, but they stared at you. She dreaded that day. The day when she was more afraid of people in daylight, then the vampires at night. It�s not like she shouted out over the rooftops that she was in love with her best friend, but she would always look over her shoulder.
The whole categorizing thing was wrong to her. Very wrong. She was pretty sure that before gays were that widely talked about people who were in a male/female relationship weren�t called straight. It was all a big mess. Because gays were just as responsible for the categorizing as the straight people. Like they wanted to separate. Well, Willow told herself she wasn�t going to be sucked in by either group. She would be her, and that�s it. It had gotten her this far.
Gay, straight, or bisexual, they were all people first, right? To make friends now, she didn�t want to have to go up to someone and warn them, �I�m a lesbian�. Of course if she didn�t, then she got to know the person, and then told, it would create a problem. She just didn�t get it. What was so wrong? People should be happy for anybody who�s found love, no matter what the couple is like. It was just frustrating.
�Oh well. I think too much anyway.�
She focused her attention back on Snyder.
"You can�t do anything. That would be discrimination, and we can sue you for it," Buffy said.
"Unfortunately, you�re correct. But in case you don�t know the rules, in my school, you�re not allowed to show any physical affection."
"We haven�t done anything like that."
Willow saw the look in Buffy�s eyes. She wished they could. But again, even though society had no specific law against it, they were pressured by the masses to not show affection in public. Willow sighed.
Snyder pointed to their held hands.
"That�s a sign of friendly support. It�s for when you�re �" Buffy had a remark all set to go, but thought better of it.
"It�s an easy to follow rule."
Buffy glared at him, and started to pull her hand out of Willow�s. Willow decided to make a decision then and there. She gripped Buffy�s hand tighter.
"No." She said simply.
Snyder and Buffy both looked at her like she had grown an extra head. Willow grinned inwardly.
"Buffy�s right. It�s just a gesture of support. It�s not like were kissing in the hallways."
Snyder grinned. "Well, Miss Summers, I didn�t think it possible, but you finally corrupted our best student. Such a shame."
"She didn�t corrupt �"
"Miss Rosenberg, normally I would take great pleasure in discipline, but because this is your first offense I�ll be lenient, and leave that to your parents. In this case, I think they could do a much better job than I ever could."
* * * * * *
Buffy and Willow came out of Snyder�s office, and started making their way to the cafeteria.
"He kept us in there for a whole hour? I missed two classes!" Willow said, fuming.
Buffy chuckled. "You can get the notes from somebody."
"No I can�t. I�m the only one who takes notes. I�m the one people come to for the notes."
"I think you�re just avoiding what he said." Buffy told her gently.
"About him telling my parents? I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. It�ll be okay."
"Willow I can see your face. It�s not an okay face. It�s a �I�m pretty sure my parents will blow up and probably disown me� face."
"You can tell? I thought I was hiding it pretty well."
"I can tell you were trying real hard, though."
Willow smiled weakly.
"Do you want me to come home with you after school?"
"I don�t think you want to do that. You may be super strong and all, but when my father gets mad�"
"If you�re sure that�s what you want."
"For now it is. I have to deal with my parents. It�s gonna be hard, and it probably won�t go very well, considering how religious my family is and stuff, but I need to do this solo."
They entered the cafeteria and went in the line.
"Just remember that if you need me, I�ll rush right over." Buffy smiled at her.
"I will." Willow smiled back.
* * * * * *
Willow flung the duffel bag over her shoulder, looked back at her house, and then walked away. It was just starting to get dark, so she sped up a little. She knew it would go bad, but she never thought it would go this far.
Her father kicked her out. She didn�t think it was possible to hurt as much as she was. The one time she did something they didn�t agree with�she couldn�t believe her father would do that to her.
She kept playing the �argument� back in her mind. She came home, and as soon as she was through the door, the first question was, �Is it true?� Of course, she answered truthfully. She figured if she was honest with them, it would go better. It didn�t.
Her mother, in her infinite knowledge, immediately suggested that she would get her some help. That�s when Willow started yelling defensively, surprising both herself and her mother. Her mother responded by calling Buffy a �bad influence� and �trouble�, and that Willow was not to have any more contact with her.
Up until that point, her father had been silent. Calmly, he sat her down, and said he understood what was going on. She was confused, and it was natural for girl her age to be unsure. Then he brought up what she knew was coming all along. Their religion.
Ahead of her on the sidewalk, a vampire jumped out in front of her. Too busy with her own thoughts, she stood there a minute, then spoke.
In an angry voice she said, "Not now." She shoved the vampire as hard as she could off to the side. Not realizing that there was a wooden fence there, she just walked right on, as the vampire turned to dust.
Thinking back again, when her father brought up religion, she froze. He thought that would immediately change her mind, and he started to smile. But she didn�t back down, she said she didn�t agree with him. That�s when he lost it.
Her father was dedicated to their religion. He spent many hours in the local synagogue, and believed staunchly in its teachings. He believed, well to him he knew, that Judaism was against homosexuality. However, she could have pointed out a few passages where it contradicted what he believed, but she was in enough trouble already.
While her father was trying to refrain from screaming, her mother had entered back into the argument. She told Willow that they knew what was best for her. She loved her parents very much, but over the last three years, she had learned a thing or two.
She remembered when she was five, and she thought she saw a monster under her bed. Her parents had rushed into her room, and assured her that monsters weren�t real, and nothing would hurt her. She knew the truth now.
Monsters were real, and they had hurt her. And it wasn�t her parents� fault, but with monsters, and everything else, she learned to follow her instincts, to believe in herself to make the right decisions. She just wished her parents would believe in her.
Then, her father offered her an ultimatum. Stay away from Buffy Summers or leave the house. She and her mother stood there shocked for a minute. Willow couldn�t stay away from Buffy. It wouldn�t just end �them�, but it would end their friendship as well. She couldn�t and wouldn�t do that.
So, she went upstairs gathered some clothes, and her possessions, and then left the house. Her mother begged her to reconsider, and Willow simply told her, "I�m in love. You may not agree with it, but I do. You�ve told me to always follow my heart, and that�s what I�m doing. When you can accept that, well, you probably know where I�ll be."
Knocking on Buffy�s front door, she waited.
* * * * * *
Buffy opened the door, and looked her friend up and down. When she saw the duffel bag, she gasped.
"Oh no�" She said quietly.
She moved out of the way, and Willow walked in and shut the door. Dropping the bag to the ground, she fell to her knees, and started to sob.
"Oh Willow�come on, let�s get you to the couch." Wrapping her arm around Willow, she helped her up and over to the couch. Slowly, Willow stopped crying, and looked at Buffy.
"Can I stay here?"
"You know you can but�what happened?"
"I told them I was in love�they didn�t agree�told me to stay away from you, and I couldn�t lose your friendship Buffy. I could deal with losing �us� but never my best friend. They gave me a choice�you or them�and�"
"You chose me?"
"You shouldn�t have done that."
"I�m not worth it. I took you away from your family."
"First, you are worth it, and second, you didn�t take me away from anything. It was my choice. Okay?"
"Okay," Buffy said reluctantly. "I�m sure it�s only temporary, anyway."
"This is a big deal for them. You just need to give them time to realize the big mistake they made. You�re Willow. You�re the greatest person in world, and they may have lost sight of it, but it won�t last long. "
"Because you�re you."
Willow smiled weakly.
"Why�d your mom take it so easy?"
"Look at it this way. If you found out your daughter was fighting the forces of darkness every night, anything you found out afterwards, would be nothing compared to that. Not to mention a relief."
"Yeah, I guess it would be."
"Listen. Everything is going to be fine. You�ll see."
"Um�were you going to patrol?"
"Can I come?"
"I don�t know if �"
"I need to not think about this right now. If I stay here, I will."
Buffy nodded, and they got up. She left her mom a note, and they left.
* * * * * *
Willow was watching Buffy slay, but at the same time, she didn�t see a thing. She didn�t even register the vampire that turned to dust a mere foot away from her face. Buffy saw this, and knew Willow didn�t hear the vampire behind her.
Buffy pulled Willow out of the way, and staked it. Turning back to Willow, she spoke.
"Okay, you�re scaring me, Will."
At Buffy�s words, she seemed to snap back to reality.
"What? Oh. I�m fine." She smiled.
Buffy tried to hide her worry.
�Okay. That was a fake smile. She never does that.�
They started to walk home.
�This is bad, and I don�t know what to do.�
* * * * * *
When they got in, Joyce was sitting in the living room.
"Hey you two."
"Hi Mrs. Summers."
"Oh, Willow, I cleared a space for you in Buffy�s closet. All your clothes are in there."
"Thanks. I�m gonna�" Willow said, pointing to the stairs.
"I�ll be up in a minute."
They watched her go, silent.
"I don�t know what to do, mom."
"I�m sure her parents just need time to adjust. Just be careful."
"Mom, I�m not gonna�"
"No, I mean she needs you. Comfort her, be careful with her."
"And if that doesn�t work?"
They were both silent.
* * * * * *
Buffy climbed into her bed, where Willow was already asleep. She could practically feel the tension radiating off Willow�s body. Shifting closer, and wrapping her arms around her, Buffy felt her relax. Thinking Willow was going to be okay for the night, she drifted off to sleep.
Several hours later, she was awoken by the sound of gentle crying. They had shifted positions during the course of the night, because when Buffy opened her eyes, she was face to face with Willow. Wiping the tears off her face, Buffy sat up.
Willow laid her head down in Buffy�s lap, still crying softly. Stroking Willow�s hair, she spoke soothingly.
"It�ll be okay�" She repeated over and over.
Buffy didn�t know how long it took, but eventually Willow fell asleep, her head still in Buffy�s lap. Buffy stayed sitting all night, and tried to make sure she slept peacefully. And Willow did.
In the dark of night, a black stretch-limousine pulled into the parking lot of a Happy Burger restaurant and went to the drive-through lane. The car stopped at a statue of a fat boy holding a burger. The back window lowered.
"Welcome to Happy Burger. May I take your order, please?" said a voice through the speaker.
"Diet soda. Medium." Responded a well-dressed black man.
"That'll be eighty-nine cents at the window, sir."
He raises the car window, and the car moved forward. Inside, he started speaking to someone hidden in the shadows next to him.
"Sunnydale. Town's got quaint. And the people? He called me 'sir'. Don't you just miss that? I mean, admittedly, it's not a haven for the brothers, you know, strictly the Caucasian Persuasion here in the Dale.
"But, you know, you just gotta stand up and salute their death rate. I ran a statistical analysis, and hello darkness. It makes D.C. look... like Mayberry, and ain't nobody saying boo about it. We could fit right in here. Have us some fun."
The person he was talking to growled and stuck a cloven hand on his knee.
"We're here for one thing." Said the man in the shadows.
"Kill the Slayer, yeah. Still, big picture..."
"I�m afraid our boy Kakistos here is right. It�s the boss� orders." Said a female voice.
The window lowered again, and the man looked out. He gave the kid at the drive-through window a dollar, and the kid handed him a drink, a straw, and change.
"Have a nice night, sir."
"Right back at ya."
"The Slayer. I'm going to rip her spine from her body, and I'm going to eat her heart and suck the marrow from her bones." Kakistos said.
From inside, the female voice spoke again.
"Why don�t you follow our cloven friend�s example? Big picture�s a waste of time. Kill something, and you won�t give a damn about what picture you�re looking at."
"Now I'm hungry." The man said.
He lunged out of the window, vamped out. He grabbed the boy by his shirt, and pulled him inside. As the car pulled away, screaming was coming from inside, and the boy�s legs hung out the window.
"Attaboy, Trick. It�s about time you remembered you were a vampire." The female said.
Trick, still vamped out, growled at her.
"Save that energy."
The girl looked out her window, and saw a redhead enter a synagogue.
"Tell him to stop the car."
"What is it?" Kakistos snarled.
"Just stop the car."
Trick pushed the intercom button.
"Pull over." He said.
The female opened her door, and stepped out.
"I�m gonna go gather some info. Might be useful."
"Such a go-getter." Trick said.
"I love my work. Don�t forget the plan."
Trick grinned at her and the limousine pulled away. She turned around and faced the entrance to the synagogue. Grinning, the brown-haired girl walked in.
* * * * * *
Buffy sat at a table at the Bronze. Xander and Cordelia were dancing, and Oz was playing on stage. She sighed. Willow had been getting worse. Her parents hadn�t called, and Willow was getting more and more depressed. It wasn�t like her at all.
Buffy tried to do whatever she could, but it just wasn�t good enough. She tried to talk to her, tried to get her to go to the Bronze, and she even tried to get her to go bowling.
�And she loves bowling.�
She did anything to make her feel better. Ice cream, movies, anything to get her mind off it. It frustrated Buffy that she couldn�t do more. She knew Willow was hurting, but she couldn�t make it go away. She had even tried to call Willow�s mom, but not surprisingly, all she got was a busy signal.
The band finished its last set, and Oz came over to the table.
"Will�s a no show again, huh?"
"She said she�d come by later. She had something she wanted to do first. Am I doing everything I can?"
"I�m sure you are."
"I�ve never seen her like this. God, I wish my being the Slayer allowed me to grant wishes. I�d make everything better for her."
"Just the fact that you wanna do that means your heart�s in the right place. It�s a bummer that some adults are so close-minded, and I know you hate to hear this, but whatever you do, it won�t be enough. There�s only two people who can make it better, and unfortunately, they happen to be part of the close-minded group."
Buffy smirked. Xander and Cordelia walked over.
"Not here either." Cordelia stated.
Buffy shook her head.
"We were just at the door. We didn�t see her," Xander said.
"Where would she go?" Cordelia asked.
* * * * * *
She hung back in the shadows as she watched the redhead sit in a pew.
The boss had sent her files on all the Slayer�s friends. There really wasn�t anything remarkable about them, except this one. She was an all around computer whiz. She was a brain, young, and an innocent. If she wanted to she could get rid of the redhead at any time, but the boss made her promise.
He said the best way to destroy your enemies is to know them first. So, that�s what she was doing. She listened as Willow spoke.
"I�I really don�t have anywhere else to turn. I need to talk and I was hoping you would listen. Maybe I�m not looking hard enough, but I can�t figure out what I�ve done wrong.
"I�ve always done everything my parents asked of me. Tried to please them and be what they wanted me to be. But I�ve grown, and I�m just started to find out who I am. My parents have been less than supportive.
"My father thinks I�m going against you and the teachings in the Torah. I�m not. I read from it, I come here for services, I light the candles on Hanukkah. If it�s about having crosses and stuff, I need them for protection.
"I know you know about the bad things here, and you have to want them gone too, right? I hope you�re watching over this town, well, because the person I love gets rid of them, and sometimes she needs help. She not only saves my life, but everyone in Sunnydale. My parents think she�s a bad person, but she�s not. Really."
"She? The redhead likes the ladies? Interesting." The girl said quietly.
"I�m a shy person, and a lot of times I keep quiet when I should speak out. For eighteen years I kept my mouth shut, and my parents and I were happy. The one time I follow my heart and do what I think is right, they punish me in the worst way.
"Buffy�s tried to help me, but it just isn�t enough. I hate feeling like this. Did I do something to deserve this? If I did, I wish you�d let me know, because I feel empty right now. I just want my parents� love and support.
"Is that too much to ask?" She started crying softly.
�Buffy, Buffy. Where have I ��no way. Her and the Slayer? Buffy Summers?�
"This is too good." The girl said, grinning.
Willow got up and walked out, and the girl followed her. Back inside the synagogue, a man was sitting in the front pew. He turned around, and looked at the door, guilt on his face.
* * * * * *
Back at the Bronze, Buffy and others are watched two people dance. The girl was dancing along with the beat of the music, but the guy was dancing faster. More like disco dancing.
"What was the last thing that guy danced to, K.C. and the Sunshine Band?" Cordelia asked.
The couple stopped dancing when the girl pointed to the door. The guy nodded, and they started to walk out.
"I don't think that guy thrives on sunshine," Buffy said.
Buffy got up, and they all started to follow her. They got outside, and looked around. They didn�t see the couple, but they did see Willow walking up. Buffy turned to smile at her, and then put her finger to her lips.
Buffy walked forward.
"Where'd she go?" Buffy asked.
"I bet it's nothing. They're probably just making out," Cordelia said.
They hear a girl scream and some loud noises. Xander gave Buffy a stake.
"That's not what making out sounds like, unless I'm doing it wrong," Willow said.
Buffy grinned at her, and started making her way to the noise, the gang following her.
* * * * * *
The girl who had been following Willow had heard Buffy and her gang coming. She was closer to the couple, and was trying to decide what to do.
"Well, this looks like a good time for an introduction."
The guy in the couple vamped out, and moved in to bite his �date�. The brown-haired girl grabbed the guy by his neck, pushed him away, and elbowed him in the face. He staggered back and regained his balance as she jumped onto a crate. She did a jumping roundhouse kick to his face, knocking him to the pavement.
Buffy arrived with the gang. The girl noticed her and approached, smiling.
"It's okay, I got it. You're, uh, Buffy, right?"
Buffy was speechless. The vampire came up behind the girl and grabbed her by the shoulders. She snapped her head back, head butting him in the face. She grabbed onto his arm.
She twisted the vampire around and shoved him into the section of chain link fence.
"I'm gonna go out on a limb and say there's a new Slayer in town," Oz said.
Faith kneed him in the gut from behind. The vamp whirled around trying to backhand her, but she ducked. She then punched him in the gut and then again in the face. Everyone just watched her fight.
She did a high kick to the vampire's jaw, grabbed onto his shirt and neck and threw him to the ground. The vampire did a no-hand front roll to control his fall while
Faith reached over to Buffy for the stake and took it from her.
"Can I borrow that?"
The vampire used the momentum of his roll to get back to his feet and ran at Faith, throwing a punch. She ducked, hooked her hand on his shoulder, turned him around, and pushed him back into the fence. She raised the stake and jammed it into his chest and took it back out.
The vampire turned to into dust. Buffy just stared. Faith faced her, handing back the stake.
"Thanks, B. Couldn't have done it without you."
* * * * * *
They all entered the Bronze once more, and Faith told everyone about how her Watcher was at a retreat in England, and how she had come to Sunnydale to meet �the legend that is Buffy Summers�. Immediately after that quick explanation, she started telling the gang tales of her exploits.
"And all of a sudden, I hear this screaming from outside. So I go tearing out, stark nude and this church bus has broke down, and there's these three vamps feasting on half the Baptists in South Boston. So I waste the vamps, and the preacher comes up, and he's hugging me like there's no tomorrow, when all of a sudden, the cops pull up and they arrested us both."
"Wow. They should film that story and show it every Christmas," Xander said, salivating.
Cordelia slapped him. Faith took a bite of a muffin that the waitress brought over.
"Isn't it crazy how slaying just always makes you hungry and horny?" Faith asked Buffy.
Willow cleared her throat, and Buffy looked down at her lap.
"Um, Buffy? Could I talk to you a minute?" Willow asked.
Buffy nodded quickly and practically jumped off the couch. They both headed to the bathroom.
"What�s with them?" Faith asked.
"Oh they�re �" Cordelia started.
"Close friends," Oz said, putting a hand over Cordelia�s mouth.
"Yeah they�ll be fine. So got anymore stories?" Xander asked.
�This is too easy.�Faith started thinking to herself.
"Well, I was wrestling this alligator �"
* * * * * *
In the bathroom, Buffy breathed a sigh of relief.
"Thanks for bailing me out. Something�s up with her."
"You mean you saw too? I mean come on, slaying doesn�t do that."
Buffy started to stutter.
"Right. Not at all. I just mean that her story seems a little shady."
"She doesn�t seem like the type to come all this way with an excuse to�"
"Worship my flawless slaying technique? Yeah, I caught that too."
"Well, she doesn�t seem the type to follow orders either. Maybe she did come here just like she said."
"Something still seems off. Anyway, what about you? Are you okay?"
"You�ll be able to tell if I lie, right?"
"Well, then no."
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Just be here when I want to vent."
"I�m gonna go�maybe my parents have called."
"Okay. I should really take Faith to see Giles, and then I�ll be home."
"I�ll tell your mom to keep a plate warm."
They kissed quickly, and headed back out.
* * * * * *
Buffy came back to the table.
"Willow went home. She said she�ll she everyone tomorrow."
"Is everything okay?" Faith asked.
"Yeah. She was just tired. But I should take you to see Giles."
"Awww! I wanna hear more. She was just about to �" Xander started to whine.
"I�d be careful, Xander. The hole that you�re in just keeps getting bigger and bigger," Oz said.
"What hole?" Xander asked, oblivious.
Cordelia glared at him.
"Oh. That hole."
Turning their attention back to Faith, they saw her confusion, and just a hint of worry.
"Your Watcher? Didn�t he go to England too?"
* * * * * *
"Hey G, can I use your phone?" Faith asked.
"Of course. It�s in my office."
Faith walked into the office, and shut the door.
Buffy turned to Giles.
"Well�the retreat is every year in the Cotswolds. It's a lovely spot. It's very serene. There's horse riding and hiking and punting and lectures and discussions. It's... it's a great honor to be invited. Or so I'm told."
Buffy frowned, showing her sympathy for him.
"So, she�s telling the truth?"
"As far as I can tell."
"Something just isn�t�right."
"Are you sure you�re not reading too much into this?"
"Excuse me for being cautious. You know that thing you�ve been trying to get me to be for the last three years? And what happens when I finally do what you say? You turn it against me." Buffy huffed.
"I�m sorry. I could get in touch with the Council if you like."
"Thanks, Giles." Buffy replied sweetly.
* * * * * *
In the office, Faith was yelling at the person on the other end of the phone.
"You promised me that the story was airtight�no he didn�t go. He�s here. Well, fire them then�No, I�ll be okay. I�ll improvise."
"Sorry boss. Didn�t mean to blow off my steam at you. I�ll check in later."
She hung up, just as Buffy opened the door.
"Who�d ya call?" Buffy asked.
"Oh," Buffy said suspiciously.
"Speaking of friends, you and, what was her name?"
"Yeah. You seem pretty tight."
"Yep. Good friends."
"Did you mow her lawn yet?" Faith asked wickedly.
Buffy swallowed hard.
"What I meant �"
"I know what you meant. That�s a little personal, don�t you think?"
"We�re slayers. We have a bond. We�re supposed to share."
"We do? Guess I didn�t learn that."
Buffy walked out of the office.
�She�s gonna be tougher than I thought. Might have to try a different angle.�
* * * * * *
"Faith, do you have a place to stay?" Giles asked.
"I was able to score a room at this motel at the edge of town."
"Perhaps you would �"
Buffy shook her head at Giles, eyeing him.
"What was that?" Faith asked.
"Oh, nothing. I don�t think patrol is necessary tonight. Both of you should try and get a good night�s rest."
"Great! Thanks, Giles!" Buffy bolted toward the door.
* * * * * *
Buffy got home, and walked into the kitchen. Her mom was standing over the counter.
"Willow�s here, right?"
"She took dinner up to your room. It should still be warm."
"Thanks. Did Willow�s �"
"They did? What �"
"I didn�t tell her. It was her mom. She said her and her husband had thought it over, and they wanted to talk to me tomorrow."
"Are you gonna go?"
"They�ll want to ask me about you. And I don�t think it�s my place. I think you should go."
Buffy nodded in understanding.
"Willow told me about this new girl in town who is also�a Slayer?"
"If you�re gonna ask me what�s going on, you�re wasting your time cause I don�t have a clue."
"Does she seem capable enough to�take over?"
"The vote�s not in yet. I�m hungry so I�m �"
Buffy smiled and headed upstairs.
* * * * * *
"So what�s going to happen with Faith?" Willow asked.
"I don�t know yet. Giles thinks I�m overreacting."
"You�re not, though."
"I�m glad you agree."
"Did your mom say anything about �"
"Nope." She hated lying to her, but she didn�t want to get Willow�s hopes up. "But don�t worry. I have a feeling things are going to get better."
"How do you know?"
"Just call it�a slayer thing."
* * * * * *
"Tomorrow night�s the first round, fellas. Don�t screw up." Faith said.
In the corner, Kakistos smiled.
"Twenty-four hours from now, the Slayer�s blood will flowing through my body."
"Just make sure you pick the right slayer."
Off in the far corner, Trick watched, and sighed.