I Heard a Rumor
After Willow gives Giles a warm welcome after returning from England to Sunnydale, post-magic recovery, the gang believe the two had a love affair. Buffy is the only voice of reason until...(PG-13)
Making Sense
Set 10 years post finale, a brief encounter forces Willow and Buffy to look deeper into their relationship.(PG-13)
Making Plans
Spicier sequel to Making Sense with Buffy's thoughts on the 'morning after'. (NC-17)
Private Conversations
Set during season five, Willow and Tara do a little experimentation and magic in the bedroom, with unexpected results. (R) 
Anya's List
Convinced that D'Hoffryn is going to kill her, Anya makes a bucket list, but she needs Willow's help with number 8. (NC-17)
Tough Love
Tara becomes the victim of a gay hate crime and the scoobies get a glimpse into the not so rosy side of Willow and Tara's life. (R
Ice Cream Dreams
So what if Xander's dream didn't end when he crawled into the back of his ice cream truck in the season four ender. (NC-17; Pairing W/T/X)
Interview With A Vampire
Willow visits Angel after her 'black magic bender'. (PG)
You. Me. Formal Wear.
Xander is stuck for a date to his contractor's association so he turns to 'old reliable' with unexpected results (PG-13)
12 Weeks
Chronicle of Willow's collapse  in 'Grave' until her return back to Sunnydale in 'Same Time Same Place'. Warning contains difficult topics like death, suicide and other unpleasant feelings.  (R)
Virgin Sacrifice
Willow needs a virgin for a spell and Kennedy is more than happy to help. (NC-17
Karamel Sutra
Willow sends Kennedy on a mission for a little Ben and Jerry's. (NC-17)
It's What I Do
Set after season seven, 'Get it Done'. Willow and Buffy have a chat and Ole fashioned scoobie bonding. (PG)
Show Me
Tara's in a horny spurt and tries to convince Willow to blow off a class.  (NC-17)
Coming Out All Wrong
Will and Tara come out, stumbling, to one last person in the Scoobie circle. (PG)
Coming Out of the Bedroom
Tara decides her love life with Willow needs spicing up & smut ensues (NC-17)
To Those Who Wield 
Set during the season 6 breakup of Will and Tara, the two ex's must work together and do battle with their vampire alter egos who are threatening their existence. (NC-17)
Set after Chosen and before our virtual season, Watchers. (PG-13)

Title: 12 Weeks

Author: CN Winters

Fandom: Buffy fanfiction; Willow fanfiction

Disclaimer: Joss owns 'em. I'm just borrowing them.

Authors Note: For those squeamish with the thought of suicide you might want to skip this story.

Synopsis: Willow's life and thoughts after the season six ender 'Grave' and her time in England.

Feedback: Of course, cnwinters71@yahoo.com Let me know what you think.

Day 1

I wake with a start to find I've been sleeping in Xander's lap. His back's resting against the temple and his fingers absently stroke my hair. Everything comes back. At first I think maybe it was all a dream but then I see the cuts on his face and chest... It was all very real. I start to cry again and he pulls me into his arms, trying to hush me. The sun is low so I figure it must be late afternoon. It's an odd feeling – losing time and not being sure how long I've been in the same location. I hear thunder rolling in the distance but it hasn't started to rain yet. He tells me we have to get off the hill before the storm comes. I tell him to go and leave me there. At this altitude maybe I'll get lucky and get struck by lightening. He says that's not very funny. I tell him it wasn't mean to be. I'm being honest.

Reluctantly, I move to my feet with his help and we make our way down the hillside to Joyce's Jeep. Buffy never carried the keys. She walked everywhere she went and the key was always hanging on a hook inside the kitchen. Xander had the forethought to get home, get the car and race to the hill. He has doubts about his usefulness and his intelligence but as it turns out the guy is pretty damn smart when the chips are down.

He opens the door and helps me inside. As he starts to drive, I look out the window. I tell him that I hope she does it quick. He asks who does what quick; he's totally confused. I know what I am now even if he doesn't see it. I'm the 'big bad' and I know what the Slayer does to all the big bad's in the end.

"I hope Buffy kills me quick," I answer him.

He tries to reassure me that won't happen. It's not much of a reassurance because the only thing that would make me feel safe at this point is death. I welcome death more than the thought of going on. I never realized how much destruction I was capable of. I do now. And now…now everything is fucked up beyond repair. Including me. The world's a better place, a safer place, without me.

We stop out front of the Magic Box. He turns the ignition off and opens his door, walking around to mine. He offers his hand and helps me out. My body is sore and my spirit is worse. He closes the door after I exit and wraps his arm around me in an almost protective fashion as he leads me inside.

To say the shop is a mess is an understatement. It's only lit by candlelight now but I can see the wreckage I left behind. Anya walks toward us. I'm unable to look at her as she approaches. She says something to Xander but I miss it. My eyes are focused on Giles who's still lying on the floor. It appears Anya has made him as comfortable as possible with blankets she found in the shop. As Xander and Anya talk I slowly make my way over, ignoring their conversation.

His eyes open. I prepare myself for the worst lecture of my life. But instead he smiles. Of all the things he could have done why did he have to smile? Something breaks inside me again and I fall to my knees, crying at his side. I'm sorry for everything - so sorry - and I don't think he'll ever realize just how sorry I am. I beat him within inches of his life. Giles. I hurt Giles. I hurt all of them. What's worse is not only did I physically harm them but I destroyed years of trust in a single day.

He moves to a sitting position and pulls me into his arms.

"Don't," I tell him.

But he doesn't listen.

I don't want his sympathy or his well-meaning platitudes. I want his wrath, his anger. He has no right to be this compassionate toward me. When I realize that he's not going to give up, I find myself apologizing in his embrace. I apologize over and over and he lets me ramble. He strokes my hair and kisses my temple slowly, repeatedly. He tells me he's going to see I get everything I deserve. Soon he starts apologizing for leaving months ago, for failing to see that I needed guidance he could have offered if he hadn't been so blind. Giles is apologizing to me? It just doesn't seem right but I'm crying too hard to say anything except I'm sorry. I flash back to the night I apologized to Buffy, falling to the ground as Spike led Dawn away. I was firm in my resolve to leave magic behind. But what changed? Suddenly, I remember…Warren took away my heaven in just three seconds time.

The place is a wreck but the bell on the door still works. I hear the jingle and I turn to see Buffy and Dawn enter. I look to Giles and he nods me toward them. Slowly I rise to my feet, wiping my eyes. In six years that I've known Buffy I could always read her pretty well – when she was sad, happy, angry, scared…but at this moment I'm not sure what the expression means. Dawn is now half hidden behind Xander, peeking around, watching me. She's the only one that seems to see me for what I am. A monster. Something to be feared.

"I know I don't deserve it but…do it fast," I tell Buffy as I begin to close the distance between us.

I'm hoping she accommodates my request. Silently, she walks over. She starts crying and pulls me close to her. Seconds later, I cry too. But I'm confused. I'm not sure if I'm crying because she loves me too much to kill me or I'm crying because she won't give me the exit I crave as we stand wrapped in each others arms.

The rest of the night seems to go by in a haze. I remember apologizing to Anya and her walking away without comment. I remember taking a shower at the Summer's house. I remember Buffy taking me upstairs to her bedroom. I remember Xander on the phone with the morgue. Buffy mentions something about decisions, next of kin. She has all kinds of questions I don't have answers to. I'm having a hard time focusing at the moment. When I can't answer she strokes my back and says 'I'll take care of it' as she leaves the room. The touch seemed reassuring but that look in her eyes...I still can't get a handle on it. Even hours later.

I lay in bed in a fetal position and wonder why I'm not dead yet. Why can't I be dead? Is that too much to ask? I see Giles peek his head inside the door. His wounds have been tended to and he sports a bandage on his head, thanks to one of the many gashes I put on his body. He tells me to try to get some rest. Seems we'll be leaving for England in the next day or so. He's making arrangements for me over there. I give a nod and as he leaves I finally feel a sense of calm pass over me. I know why I'm going to England. He's going to kill me there with the council's help. I'm going to get what I deserve like he said. I'm sure of it. Finally I'll be free of this life. With that thought I'm finally able to close my eyes.

Day 2

This waking up and not realizing where I am is getting old already. But at least this room looks familiar. It's Buffy's room and I see Giles lying next to me asleep. I struggle to piece together how long I've been in this bed. I honestly don't know. I'm burning up and I feel how damp my forehead and clothes feel from my sweat. My body starts convulsing and the jerks I can't control wake up Giles. He calls out to Buffy and suddenly she's standing in the doorway.

"It's starting," he tells her. Quickly, she darts away yelling for Dawn to get the ice.

It's starting? What's starting? Ice? What the hell is happening to me?

I try to speak but I can't make a sound. I can't even cry. Maybe this is it. Maybe I'll die now. That thought seems to calm me more than Giles who's gathered me in his arms to stroke my hair.

Buffy returns with a bucket and Dawn watches from the doorway until Buffy orders her to wait in the hall. Surprisingly, she does without argument. My head is swimming and it's getting difficult to breathe. I can't seem to swallow and instinctively I clutch my throat. Giles opens my mouth and points Buffy toward a bag that's sitting on her dresser. Without prompting she gives him something that looks like a tongue depressor before turning around again. Giles tries to keep my head still but he's not having much luck with the spasms and he calls out to Dawn. She peeks inside. He tells her to get behind me and keep my head still. She does as he asks and he opens my mouth and pushes on my tongue.

"The pump or the needle?" Buffy asks, looking through the bag.

The pump or the needle? What pump? What needle?

"Let's try the drugs first," he tells her. He looks back to me. "We're going to give you a muscle relaxer. Your throat is constricting Willow. You won't be able to breathe if we can't get your muscles to relax. You're coming down off the magic high."

Buffy turns back around with a syringe in her hand, testing it to make sure the air bubbles are gone. Once finished, she hands it to Giles.

"All set?" he asks to be sure.

"All set," she tells him.

He tells Dawn to steady my head as much as possible and I feel the needle puncture the skin of my neck and the burning sensation that follows. Within seconds my spasms subside but Giles still keeps my mouth open, my tongue depressed.

"Is she gonna be okay?" I hear Dawn call behind me. Buffy looks doubtful and avoids the question, going over to the bucket she brought in.

"She's going to be fine Dawn," Giles tells her. I've known Giles long enough to read him too. He isn't sure either.

"The towels?" Buffy asks.

"Yes," he tells her. "We need to lower her temperature."

Next, I feel an ice-cold towel draped over my legs. Then comes another that covers the top half of my body. Giles points back to the bag and Buffy goes over and brings a temperature strip which Giles places on my forehead.

After a few moments he takes it off and looks at it closely.

"Dawn, go run a cold bath. Start making another bucket of ice. Quick as you can – go!"

She sets me back down on the bed and dashes from the room. Buffy takes Dawn's place behind me and Giles looks up at her. "She's at 104.6. The towels aren't working."

104.6? 106 means brain damage. Sometimes it's a bitch being intelligent. Death I can handle but I'm not sure if brain damage is something I want to struggle with the rest of my miserable life. At this point I'd take jail for killing Warren than feeling this way for another minute. In the end I think maybe he got the better end of the bargain. He no longer has to deal with living and if I could trade roles right now at this moment I would. I remember coming down from Rack's highs but it was never as bad as this right now.

I feel Buffy and Giles lead me into the bathroom. Buffy asks if they should undress me but Giles says there's not time. It's only up to my shins and it's freezing. Buffy leans over me to make sure my back doesn't crash against the tub surround. Once I'm settled inside she tells Giles she's going to help Dawn. Giles gives her a nod and starts to pour some of the cold water over my shoulders and head. I shake as a result and he apologizes repeatedly, saying it needs to be done.

Buffy returns a few minutes later. The tub is nearly filled and just when I think it isn't possible to get any colder she dumps the ice into the tub. I'm convinced they are trying to kill me now from hypothermia. Dawn comes in next with a new strip for my forehead and Giles administers it. After a few moments he reads it and lets out a sigh.

"100.4" he tells them.

Dawn grins and Buffy runs her hands over her face in what appears to be relief. But in honesty I'm not sure. She's distant now. More distant with me than she's ever been. It's going to be a long night…and an even longer day. Tara's showing should be tomorrow if I'm counting my days right. For now I continue to sit in the cold water, shivering.

Day 3

Xander hands me a cup of coffee as he takes a seat next to me. Coffee. Earlier this week I drank coffee with Tara. She smiled. She flirted. And then she came home to me…And now she's gone again. This time forever.

"How you holding up?" he asks.

"I'm here…barely."

"I thought you should know…the guys at the site took up a collection to help with the costs here so don't worry about it. Giles and I got the rest covered."

Actually that hadn't entered my mind. How would I pay for all this?

"Thanks," I say softly. I play with the swizzle stick in my coffee before taking a small sip. Cappuccinos I can handle but coffee always made me jumpy. My nerves are shot as it is.

It took all the focus I had the night before to pick out one of Tara's dresses – her blue one. She always looked beautiful in blue. Buffy said she'd take it to the funeral director. It never occurred to me how I would pay him for the service. I was sure Mr. Maclay wouldn’t cover a dime of it. He disowned Tara or more to the point she disowned him by choosing her family over her kin. I didn't even have a way to contact him about what had happen. Tara never spoke of her family before they arrived in Sunnydale and she never spoke of them afterward.

She got a full scholarship to Sunnydale U without her family's approval. She applied, won and then sent them a note from campus telling them where she was and what she was doing, not bothering to add more. The more I got to know her the more I realized she was highly intelligent although extremely shy. Much like I was until Buffy came into my life…It seemed odd but the more time I spent with Tara the more she opened up to everyone around her. Those people were here now – professors and students - offering their condolences, hugging Buffy who stood vigil at Tara's coffin. I just sat in the corner, taking up space, nursing my coffee.

Once Tara knew people she had no trouble telling them what she thought. The nervous stutter disappeared and she was quite eloquent. I grin as I think about the argument she and Anya had when Anya wanted me to use magic to release the spell that kept us all locked in Buffy's house. Tara was always mild mannered but she wasn't a push over. She'd fight for what she believed in and even though she had left me, she fought for me that day. Reason being, she still believed in me.

I wonder what she would say after this weekend. All the damage I've done. Would she believe in me again? Would she think I could regroup after all this? I'm really not sure. Giles had asked me during my rage if I considered what Tara might say about all this. At the time I didn't care. I wanted vengeance. Now, since all I have is an aching, hollow feeling, I find myself asking that question, scared to admit what she would say.

I overhear people asking if the police had caught the man that killed Tara. Each time Buffy replies the same way. She says, "No and I'm sure he's long gone at this point." I'm a bit surprised. I honestly didn't think she would 'hide' my deeds. I guess being a Slayerette has its privileges – like getting away with murder. Of course I'm not sure how much I really got away with. I've lost quite a bit. My friend's trust. My sanity. A big chunk of my soul. Buffy still doesn't make eye contact with me for more than two seconds. Neither does Dawn. Not that I can blame either one of them. I run my fingers through my hair, trying to clear my head. Xander must feel my mood shift because he wraps his arm around me.

"Now there's a blast from the past," I hear him say. I look up to see Rabbi Mershmen walk in. He gives me a gentle smile and I rise to my feet with Xander following.

"Mr. Harris," he nods to Xander as he comes over.

"It's good to see you Rabbi," he replies offer his hand. "It's been awhile."

"Yes it has. I wish it were under different circumstances." He then turns to me and opens his arms. I take the invitation and give him a hug. "Your mother called from France sweetheart so I thought I would stop by. You know my doors are always open if you need it."

I grin for the first time all night. "Thank you Rabbi Mershmen."

"Not a problem my dear. Is that your friend Buffy over there?" he points. I give him a nod.

"I'm going to offer my condolences… If you'll excuse me..." He lets me go and I watch him walk over to Buffy and they exchange a short conversation before he hugs her and walks over to see Tara. I watch him give a short prayer before making his way back over.

"I asked Buffy if you're set for services tomorrow and she said that a pastor will be stopping by. But if you need anything don't hesitate to contact me. Understand?" He takes me by the hand and gives a light squeeze.

"Thank you," I tell him sincerely.

"There are a few women from the temple that are bringing some dishes by tomorrow since you'll be holding a wake."

We are? That's news to me. But I'm not surprised. I'm a bit out of the loop. I'm a bit out of everything.

"That's sweet but I don’t want to inconvenience them."

"It's not an inconvenience," he assures me. "They're happy to help out anyway they can. Would you be kind enough to show me out?"

"Of course," I tell him as I lead him to the door. Once we're alone, he turns to me. "How are you doing sweetie? Really?"

"Really?" I ask. He just nods. "I wish I were dead. I wonder why it couldn't have been me in front of that window." Then I could have saved my friends all the grief I've caused. All the damage I've done wouldn’t have happened. And Tara would have the sense and grace to go on unlike me.

He runs a hand across my cheek. "It's not your time. God still has a plan for you. It might be hard to see that now but realize you still have a purpose here. And you still have family and friends that love you Willow. Don't lose faith."

"It's hard," I tell him.

"Yes it is," he agrees. "It might have been a few years since I've seen you but I remember," he grins. "You're a good person Willow. You need to go on, not just for you but for all of them. For Tara too."

"I didn't think the synagogue was into consoling lesbians," I grin.

"I'm consoling a good person with a good heart. It's not my place to judge anything beyond that…I don't want to intrude, which is why I'm leaving, but if you'd like me to stay-."

"Go on," I tell him with a playful shove, "Get outta here."

"Alright," he nods as he kisses me on the forehead. "Be strong little one."

"I'll try."

I watch him leave. After he's gone I turn around to see Giles.

"Your Rabbi?" he asks.

I walk back to him, nodding. "Yeah my mother called him." Quickly I realize my lack of manners. "I'm sorry I didn't introduce you Giles. I just-."

"Don't worry about it Willow. You've got a lot on your mind dear."

I nod and I feel him wrap his arms around me. He holds me and I just enjoy the safe feeling it gives me if only for a moment. "Do you want to go back inside?" he finally asks.

"No but I guess I have to huh?"

He strokes my cheek but I watch him look toward the door. Next, I hear him call over my shoulder.

"Mr. and Mrs. Rosenberg. We thought you were out of town."

I turn around to see my parents standing there. "We just got in from the airport. We came straight here," my mother tells him.

"Well, I'll leave you alone. I'm going to check on Dawn," he announces. As he slips away I walk over to them.

"Mom; Dad," I nod toward them. "I'm glad you could make it."

My mom starts to cry and it feels contagious. She pulls me into a hug and kisses my temple. "I'm so sorry sweetie."

I'm surprised she cares. She didn't like Tara very much. She was such a backwards girl she told me once. Plus the fact she was a girl too. That didn't help much. She always managed to work in a 'sin' factor when she could. We'd grown a bit distance since I came out but to be honest there wasn't much of a closeness there to start. My parents always had a busy life that I was never a part of. I found as the years went by that Giles felt more like my father and Joyce like my mother. Buffy's family had become my own much like we had all become Tara's. And I wonder, when my mother dies will I take it as hard as I did Joyce's death. And when it does happen who will console me now that Tara's gone.

I pull back and wipe my eyes.

"How you holding up Sport?" my father asks.

"I don't know. If mom died how do you think you'd feel?" The sarcastic words are out before I can pull them back in. "I'm sorry," I tell him. "As you can see…not very well."

"It's okay," he says. "It's natural to lash out. It's part of the grieving process."

Natural to lash out. If he only knew the half of it.

Dad – always the psychologist. It's ironic in that irony is a pain in the ass kinda way. He spends so much time fixing other people but his own daughter becomes a homicidal maniac. I wonder if it's his lack of skills as a psychologist or lack of skills as a father that could bring me to this point. I don't dwell on it though. It bothers me to think about it. Besides, my parents aren't that bad. It could be worse. I could have Xander's parents. And in the end it's not his fault at all. It's my own.

"Come on," I tell them as I motion toward the parlor room. Xander see us enter and he comes over to greet my folks. They always liked Xander. They even wished I'd 'settle down' with him someday. Even if he wasn't a 'nice Jewish boy' he was still better than the Baptist woman I lived in sin with.

We make our way over to Buffy and she excuses herself from a conversation to finish the journey over.

"I see you made it," Buffy nods approvingly.

"Yes, well the 'Get your ass home and visit your grieving daughter' comment didn't go unheard," my mother tells her.

Buffy looks over at me briefly. "Sometimes Anya isn't the only one lacking in tact," she tells me. "My bad."

Speaking of which, I look around and see that Anya is now talking with Xander and Giles. I grin for just a few seconds when I think about her condolence speech of, "I'm sorry that Tara got shot and died. She was a nice person. Would you like some orange juice?" Out of all the well-wishers it's actually Anya that brought a smile to my face, even though the real reason was unintentional on her part I'm sure. Yet again I think…the irony…


Day 4

The morning went by in a blur. I remember getting into Xander's rental car but I don't remember walking into the funeral home. I don't remember meeting the pastor. I don't remember his sermon. I don't remember even seeing Tara's body in the parlor room. Suddenly I'm standing at an open grave, looking at a cherry casket. Perched behind is a gray headstone with black letters – 'Tara Maclay – October 16th 1980 to May 7th, 2001'.

I feel a hand on my shoulder and look back to see Giles standing behind me. "We need to go home now," he tells me.

That's great. But I don’t have a home anymore. Tara was my home. My everything. I feel like jumping inside and letting them bury me too. Maybe that way we'd be together. With a heavy sigh I turn and follow him. Tomorrow we leave for England. Tomorrow I die. It's comforting in a way.


Day 5

Giles opens the door of his Westbury cottage and motions me to step inside. Tentatively I pass the threshold. It's not a large home. It's quaint, charming – totally Giles. It's a scholarly bachelor pad with tons of books and records lining the far wall. He sets his suitcase down and takes mine from me. Any doubts I had about dying were realized when he told me to pack enough clothes for two days. At least I know how long my stay of execution will be.

Sure he could have let me die when the withdrawals were at their worst but I figure the council probably has to have a hand in it somehow, someway. Maybe I'm too powerful now. Maybe they'll lock me up in some magical dungeon instead as a form of punishment. I'm really not sure and a large part of me doesn't care. The only one to see us off at the airport was Xander. Buffy, Dawn or Anya weren't there. Not that I blame them.

He leads me through the house showing me where everything is. He jokes that he wishes he'd rented a place with two bedrooms but he didn't expect company so I'll be bunking with him. His sofa is far too lumpy for any human to sleep on, he adds. He shows me the bedroom and puts my suitcase on the bed. He points out a drawer and says when I'm finished unpacking to join him in the kitchen and we'll go out to do some clothes shopping.

"Clothes shopping?" I ask.

"Well yes, you'll be here for at least the next three months. You'll need more than what's inside your suitcase. It's May I know but it's also England. Something warmer will be in order I assure you…We'll go after you're settled in."

He turns and leaves, allowing me some private time. I suddenly realize he's really not going to kill me. Nor will the council. Sure he let me go to the funeral. Sure he consoled me as I grieved. But deep down had the feeling he was acting on council orders to see I was returned and 'taken care of'. It appears that's not the case. Chances are there's no magical dungeon either.

Quickly, I check my pocket. I have the $1000 Xander offered and I reluctantly took. I planned to have it sent back to him but now I wonder if it will be enough over here. My brain computes the currency exchange and I grin for just a moment. Badass black magic bitch who's still a major geek under all the Goth. I know the funds I have won't take me very far but I'll stretch it as far as I can. I wonder if it will be enough. Xander offered to wire over more if I needed it but I couldn't ask him for more. He's already given me so much and not just the money.

I realize however the biggest question I have is will Tara understand? Will she know why I'm not there in Sunnydale? And would she hold all of it against me? It feels like weeks since it all happened but it's just been a few days. God, how long is the rest of my life going to feel since Giles isn't going to kill me now? How am I going to handle it? Will I be able to handle it? I don't think I can.

I begin to wonder if Giles has any weapons in the house; something that I could use on myself. He was never a 'gun' nut so I'm sure that's not an option but a cross bow perhaps. A short sword to fall on maybe. Hell, even a Swiss army knife and a warm bath would work. Okay. I need to regroup and think about what I'm considering here. I mean, do I want to give up? Would Tara want me to give up? If the situation were reversed I know I would want her to go on. I decide she would too and I realize I don't want to spend anymore time alone with my thoughts. It's too dangerous.

I go to the kitchen to see Giles making tea. Always the Englishmen. I find myself grin in spite of my melancholy. He's another reason that I can't give up. He turns around and sees my slight smile and cocks his head in wonder.

"I didn't know it was four o'clock yet," I tease him.

He smiles and motions me to sit down. "Anytime is tea time to a real Englishman," he adds as he pours two cups.

I raise the cup in toast. "When in Rome," I tell him.

"Rome is farther east I'm afraid." His smile is infectious. "It's nice to see you grin Willow. I've been worried about you. We all have."

"I don't know about that. Seems Xander's the only one that can look me in the eye for any length of time. But I understand why. I do…I'm treading lightly here Giles. I don't know if something might 'set me off'." I shake my head. "I just…I don’t know anything right now except that they've put Tara in the ground and I'm too much of a fucking mess to be there for her."

"Staying in Sunnydale wouldn't have helped you or her right now. As harsh as it sounds, she's gone…Besides, you were there for her when it truly mattered."

I grin. He's always been good at that. Trying to make us all feel better. But the grin doesn't stay long. "Thanks but that's hard to believe."

"How so?"

"If that were the case she'd still be alive."

A small silence passes between us as we drink our tea until Giles speaks again. "Remember Miss Calendar?"

I remember Miss Calendar. Jenny. Computer teacher. Techno-pagan. One in a line of generational witches… much like Tara…

Giles was crazy about her and when Angel had gone bad and killed her, Giles went out for revenge, nearly getting himself killed in the process. I remember getting the phone call at Buffy's, the two of us collapsing in each other's arms in a puddle of tears when we learned she was dead.

"Yes I remember."

Giles took a deep breath. "God, I loved that woman. I truly did. Grant it our relationship wasn't as cemented or as long as yours and Tara's but…to have her taken away like that…to hold her dead body in my arms. I would have traded places with her at that moment…There's no pain quite like it, is there?"

"No, there isn't." I feel my eyes tear up and my finger plays with the rim of my cup.

"I won't lie to you Willow. It hurts…even today it still lingers…But you do move on. You have to find what it is you truly live for and that helps."

"Well there's my dilemma Giles. I lived for Tara. And now that's gone."

"But you didn't always live for Tara, did you?…Look, you don't have to have the answers right now or even this week for that matter. Just consider who you are Willow. Think about what inspires you, deep down, and that will pull you through."

"So how did you do it? What got you through?"

He takes my hands and looks deep into my eyes. "You did…And Buffy. And Xander…I knew you still needed me and that helped me face each day. The work I did was important and the people that helped me with that work were important as well."

"Yeah but you're forgetting one thing Giles."


"They don't need me. They're better off without me. All I bring them is pain and destruction."

"Don't you realize the only true pain here is the fact they hurt because you hurt? Physical wounds heal and with time so do the emotional ones. I won't lie to you and say that they don't feel betrayed. They do. But they understand your grief. On some levels they feel as responsible as you do for everything that's happened."

"How so?"

"Buffy feels she could have found Warren sooner and had him arrested before firing a single shot. Xander feels he should have charged Warren as soon as he saw the gun but he froze. They both have a sense of responsibility to this although there's nothing anyone could have done…Even Anya in her misguided way wishes she'd convince you somehow to let her deal out the vengeance on Warren. And Dawn…Dawn wishes she had contacted me when you reached out for help. She, like Buffy, thought quitting cold turkey would be best for you because lord knows that what all the 12 steppers will tell you. But magic is different. And she has a sense of guilt in this too. So they know more than you realize. And I think they're trying to help you the best they can."

"Unless you're going to kill me, I'm not sure how being here is going to help them."

"Don't talk that way. As I said I'm making arrangements. There's a coven here that's part of the watchers council. I'm in the process of getting you a seat."

Did I just hear him correctly?

"Wait a second. You're going to train me to be a witch? After everything I did?"

"I'm going to train you to be a Wiccan. A true Wiccan and not an evil incarnate you're capable of becoming. That's the first step."


"Absolutely. That power will always be with you Willow. You'll never lose it and it's far worse for you to stop altogether. You must learn to be the master of that power. If you do suddenly stop and denounce the magic I'm afraid you'll, how should I say… 'implode' at some point…And the results of which might be far more deadly the second time around. You may even kill someone you love. So one of the keys to your recovery isn't avoidance. It's discipline…I should have seen it," Giles sighs. "I should have stayed after you brought Buffy back and worked with you then but…I underestimated your powers. It was my error and I apologize."

I harrumph. "You're apologizing for my explosion in black magic? That's my fault Giles, not yours."

"Yes you're right. It is your fault. Don't forget that. Ever…But as a friend I should have seen it's progression. And knowing you the way I do, I should have…"

"Formed an intervention?"

"Of sorts…yes."

"Well what's this coven all about?"

"It's a group of witches basically," he shrugs. "They do exercises, training, spell casting, spell reversals…many things actually."

"So the watcher's council has like…a Hogswart school?"

Giles grins. "Well I-I'm not sure if I'd go with the Harry Potter pop culture reference but…y-yes they do. And I think it would be good for you." He pats my hand and rises from the table. "But as I said, we'll worry about that later. First we need to see to your wardrobe."

"I don't have much money Giles. Xander gave me-."

"Don't worry. The council is paying for it."

"The council? How'd ya swing that?"

"I have connections," he grins again. "Besides, the council knows how powerful you are. Helping you now could be a great asset to them later. So nothing is ever free," he teases. "But let's not question it too much. Let's just take advantage of their generosity while they're giving it."


I wake up from a dream. It seemed so real. So vivid. We were at the park. I was standing at our bridge, the place where she sang to me. I watched as she walked toward me with a warm smile on her face. My girl. My Tara.

But suddenly her expression changed. 'Your shirt' she said with a cock of her head. I look down to see it covered in blood. Not just a few splotches. It's soaked red and when I look up I see the crimson spot growing on her chest. I screamed in the dream and I must have screamed aloud too because Giles is now sitting up with me in bed, stroking my back.

"Nightmare?" he asks softly. "They'll be frequent for awhile. We've talked about this."

I nod. "Tara…She…She got s-shot at the park."

But I know she didn't get shot at the park. She got shot in the bedroom. The place we made love just hours before. She was still gone though. She died in my arms. Limp. Expressionless. Just…dead.

I start to cry. It's too much. I can't take it anymore. All of it. Knowing I hurt my friends and might hurt them again, losing Tara who was everything. The guilt of killing Warren and even Rack for that matter…It's too much. I'm done. It's over. I just can't take it. The dreams, the pain…I'm never going to get better. I'm always going to be haunted. And I'll never be normal again. I know I have to end it. It has to stop. I can't take the chance of hurting someone I love and I can't go on hurting like this anymore. It's just too much. They'll be better off without me. All of them. Even Giles.

I calm down, resigning myself to my fate. I pull away from Giles embrace and wipe my eyes as I steady my breathing. This has to end. All of it. It has to end. This is actually a good thing in the long run.

I rise from the bed and tell Giles I'm going to take a bath. Maybe it will help me go to sleep. He gives me a nod and I walk past the kitchen before heading to the bathroom. I take one of the knives from the wood block and finish my journey.

I turn the water on making it as warm as possible without being scalding. I place a washcloth in my mouth and I bite as hard as I can as I make an incision in my arm vein. I'm gonna do it the right way. This isn't a plea for help. It's a plan to leave. No wrists slashes for me. I know better. It's east to west, not north to south. The blood begins to trickle slowly but that will change. Once the warm water does its job it will flow more freely. I turn the water off and climb into the tub submerging my arm. I'm not there but a few seconds when I hear the banging on the door. My eyes dart open.

"Willow open the door!"

"I'm in the tub Giles," I tell him calmly. "Go back to bed."

Next comes the pounding.

"Open the door this instant!"

"I said go away!"

He's not going to give up but I know I'm not leaving the tub. Maybe the lock will hold him long enough. Just as the thought leaves my head I see a battle-ax slice through the wood. Goddamn it! He's gonna get inside! Why can't I just fucking die in peace?

He makes a hole big enough to fit his hand through and unlocks the door.

"Bloody Hell," he whispers as he races over. He unplugs the tub and tries to pull me out.

But I won't leave without a fight and I kick and punch, trying to stop him but it soon becomes useless. He's stronger than I am and he overpowers me. For a brief moment I consider calling on the magics but I remember the last time that I used the magics against him and I feel all the more worse for even thinking about it. I collapse on tile floor - dripping, bleeding and crying. Giles is soaked with water and covered in my blood too from my flailing arms from moments before. He grabs a towel and ties it as tight as he can around my wound. Quickly he starts to chant and I feel my arm grow incredibly hot before instantly cooling as he finishes. He lets out a long sigh before his disapproving eyes meet mine.

"You are not giving up!" he shouts, making me jump. "You are stronger than this and you will beat it! How dare you?! How dare you do this and leave me to find your body?! We've lost Tara but we're not going to lose you too. Do you understand me?" I can't answer him. I'm crying too hard. When I don't say anything, I feel him shake my body. "I said do you understand me?!"

"I understand," I sob.

He rears back to hit me and I flinch. Instead of releasing the blow he moves to his feet, frustrated. "I would knock some sense into you if I thought it would help," he mutters. He then opens up his medicine cabinet and I watch as he starts to pull items out. Bottles of aspirin, sinus medicine, things I don't recognize…anything I might use to try to overdose. I watch as he flushes it down the toilet.

He leaves the room and returns with a dry set of clothes, tossing them in the sink. He pulls down some bandages, gauze and surgical tape. Next, he goes to work mending my arm. I look down after he removes the towel to see the wound is now shut, a result of the magics he called upon, but it still looks raw. The alcohol stings but I don't issue a protest. Next, he wraps the bandage so tight I'm not sure what hurts more – the bandage or the cut itself. He stands up and points to the new clothes in the sink.

"Get undressed and put them on," he orders. I look at him for a moment wondering if I'll get any privacy. He answers my unspoken question. "You're not leaving my sight so stop being modest and get dressed."

Quickly, I turn around and switch my pajama bottoms; then my top.

"Back to bed," he orders. I follow him without response.

Once inside he motions me to the bed. "I went to make you some tea when I noticed one of the knives was missing." He starts to tear up and takes a seat on the bed. "If I had found you in the morning do you have any idea how I would feel?" I can't answer him. I can't even look at him. "You were sorry for hurting me in Sunnydale but did you realize that the pain at finding you would have been a million times worse? Do you?"

"I don't want to hurt you," I tell him. I can't look at him. I can only look at the bandage on my arm as my fingers absently play with it.

"Then lose the death wish and focus on living," he orders.

I give a nod. "I will but…"

"But what?" he replies sarcastically. "You must understand there are no 'buts' when it comes to this Willow. Either you will or you won't. It's that simple."

"It's so hard," I tell him, still unable to look at him. "You don't know what it's like Giles."

"I know more than you realize. I did some major damage in my youth too with a body count higher than yours I should add. I've delved head first into the black arts. I've lost lovers unexpectedly…I realize more than you think. So instead of taking matters stupidly in your own hands, come to me!" He pauses and takes a deep breath, his voice becoming much softer and gentler. "Talk to me Willow and we'll ride it out together."

"Why are you doing this?" I ask. "Why are you subjecting yourself to all this grief?"

"Because I love you."

Finally I look up and meet his eyes. "I love you too Giles."

"Then promise me you won't harm yourself again."

I give him a nod.

"Now, I'm going to take all the weapons out of the house tonight just in case. I don't want to have to restrain you at night while we sleep but I will if I have to."

I make a decision at that point. I wasn't going to bring him any more pain or inconvenience him. It's obvious that what I did moments before was completely stupid and self-centered. "I promise Giles. I won't hurt myself again. And I won't hurt you. You won't have to do that."

"I'm doing it anyway," he says rising to his feet and moving to the door. "I just want your word it won't happen again."

I nod and give a sigh, reaching deep for a confident voice that conveys my determination. "You have my word. I promise. It won't happen again."

"Very well," he nods. "Lay down and get some rest. I'll be back shortly."

I watch him leave the room and I pull the covers up over my body, grateful that he has enough strength for both of us at the moment.


Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV |



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