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 48

I wake up and my head feels like it's going to roll off my body. Okay maybe it's not really that bad now that I'm upright but I know it will be quite sometime before I drink like that again. I look over but Giles isn't around. With as much strength as I can muster I pull myself to my feet. Slowly I go in search of Giles. When I walk into the living room I find him asleep on the sofa.

He must have heard me enter because he stirs and begins to open his eyes, reaching for his glasses on the table.

"You never came to bed?" I ask.

"I figured it was safer," Giles replies.

"I told you I won't do anything Giles. Not that I blame you for your lack of trust. I'm not exactly winning awards in that department lately."

"I do trust you Willow. Truth be known…I didn't trust myself. I didn't think I would do anything inappropriate but since I'd been drinking too...Let's just say, I didn't want to take the chance I might be wrong."

"Really?" I grin. Wow. I actually did turn Giles on.

"Please don't look so smug. Uncle figure or not…I'm still human."

"I didn't think I had that much sex appeal," I tell him honestly.

"There's appeal. But there's also guilt, anguish and as Buffy would say a whole 'eww' factor to consider."

"I gotta admit it would be pretty creepy and uncomfortable…well, afterward. Of course - the touching, the groping, the naughty school girl seducing the teacher slash mentor has a naughty appeal," I look over to see Giles cleaning his glasses and I realize I've rambled a bit too long. "But it would be bad," I add quickly, with loads of reassurance. "…Totally with the bad. Heavy with the bad. Not good at all…I think I'll be quiet now."

Giles blushes and starts to stammer. "Yes well, at least we're in agreement…I think I might regret asking but…what brought all that on last night."

My brain struggles to put together the last evening's events. Oh yeah!

"I got sick of being a good girl. As if that's been a real problem lately, huh?…I just felt…I don’t know - trapped…Always wanting to be perfect. Always having to do the right thing. I just wanted to throw caution to the wind, be outrageous. Of course the whole being drunk didn't hurt with losing the inhibitions and acting bold."

"You're very courageous Willow," he says, sitting up and patting the sofa.

"For coming on to you?"

"No," he chuckles but stops and considers it. "Well…yes actually, in a way…but that's not what I meant…I mean you're courageous in many aspects on a regular basis. And you don't need to be drunk to be bold."

I take a seat next to him, moving slowly as I go. My head is still swimming a little bit. "If that's true then why do I feel so scared?"

"Because you are. Your world has been turned upside down. Losing Tara, losing your moral compass…It's taken its toll…and it's not as if you'll wake up some morning and everything will suddenly be right with the world again. You just need to take life in moments but I believe in you. I think you can see it through." He slowly starts to grin and then chuckle.

"What's so funny?"

"You say you're not courageous but I remember the speech you gave Angel and myself when you thought we were working Buffy too hard...'She's 16 going on forty and you're gonna live forever. You don't have time for a cup of coffee?" he adds in a poor imitation of myself before starting to smile.

I grin too and start to nod. "Yeah well, you two really pissed me off that day."

"But don't you see? You stood up to a Watcher and a 200-year-old vampire. And after Buffy died," he says growing serious. "After Buffy died, you were the glue that kept everyone together. You were the one that convinced Spike to continue helping us in our fight. You and Tara tried to make the best home possible for Dawn who had lost so much that year…Don't think for a moment that you're not courageous Willow."

I consider his words before he continues.

"You're one of the bravest women I've ever met. Perhaps even braver than the Slayer because you did all of these things without Slayer speed or strength or insight. As I've said, you're exceptional and it's high time you started to see that for yourself. You don't need drugs. You don't need alcohol. And you don't need magic to be bold. You've been doing it for years on your own. You still do it today. Standing up to Mr. Travers – not letting him have his way, coming to terms that you need help. That makes you very brave."

I feel myself start to grin. "Thanks Giles."

"Keep practicing Willow," he adds. "Keep learning that magic is used as an extension to help the world and not just yourself. And, with time, you will get there dear."

"I will Giles," I tell him resolved in doing the right thing. "I'm scared but…I will. And about last night…"

"I'm just grateful that you came to me."

My eyebrows shoot up in surprise, although I'm pretty sure of what he really means.

"No," he says quickly in explanation. "If it were someone else they might have taken advantage of the situation is all."

I shoot him a suspicious look but I can't hold it for long and start to grin. "I know what you meant," I told him before clearing my throat. "I was just having you on. A bit of fun you might say," I add in very fake, very poor British accent.

He grins and shakes his head.

"Say sod off," I tell him in my normal voice. "I wanna learn to say that one the proper way."

"No," he grins.

"Oh come on," I prod. "It's funny when you say it."

"Do you know what it means?"

I start to laugh, "Yeah which is why it's so funny when you say it."

He gives me a sigh and mutters, "Sod off….Happy now?"


It's good to see Giles finally relax around me again. I think we'll survive our little seduction fiasco.


Day 55

I'm sitting outside Giles cottage, practicing some meditations but failing miserable. I keep thinking about chicken. And Tara.

Odd combo to the outside observer I'm sure. But as I recall my lesson from earlier that week about finding inner peace and making peace for those around you, Tara comes to my mind blocking out the lesson I learned. I think of her because she had this skill. She didn't have my power but in truth she was always far more advanced in many areas as a Wiccan.

Buffy had been called away to see Angel in L.A and when she returned home she brought a bucket of chicken for us. But we'd just finished eating. Everyone was stuffed so when Giles confessed that we really weren't hungry a look of disappointment washed over Buffy. Of course she bragged it was okay and just meant there was more for her.

All of us at the table sense Buffy's mood but it was Tara who spoke up first. Not more than three minutes before she complained of not being able to eat another bite. But seeing Buffy's state of defeat, Tara held out the plate asking for a drumstick. Soon we all joined in and Buffy grinned warmly. Tara made Buffy smile. She made lots of people smile. Tara. And chicken.

I run my fingers throw my hair and for the first time since arriving I notice how long it's gotten. I haven't worn make up in nearly a month. Not that anyone would notice. Well, Tara would notice but she's not around. She noticed everything around her and she always looked for the good in everything. If she saw me right now I'm sure she'd tell me I looked beautiful although I feel like nothing special. She's tell me I was special and that the look was 'natural' and add that I never looked more beautiful than when I was just 'myself'. She would…but she can't. I lean against a tree and I remember yet another time at Buffy's dining room table.

Joyce, Giles and Buffy had just cleared the table from dinner on Christmas Eve. Somehow Xander, Anya and Dawn got into a discussion about Santa Claus. Dawn, being a teenager didn't believe in St. Nick but Anya went on to explain that there was in fact a Santa Clause. The flying reindeer and coming down the chimney were very real. Then she added the part that he doesn't bring present though. He just disembowels children. We all sat there a bit stunned but Tara was there for the save yet again.

In that shy voice of hers I adore, she said 'the reindeer part was cute' and I could feel my heart melt. She always looks for the best in everything; in everyone. I suddenly realize I'm doing it again – thinking and talking about her, even if it is only in my head, in the present tense. But she's not present. She gone.

I start to cry and bury my face in my hands. I feel like screaming out to any God or Goddess that will listen and ask 'Why her?'. She was such a good, honest person with a dear heart. Why couldn't it have been someone else that lost their life that day? A mugger, a rapist, a corporate raider. Why couldn't someone who did nothing but destroy, hurt or mame be the one to die that day? Why couldn't it be me? Why her? Why now?

I understood what Giles said about finding Jenny Calendar in his bed. And how he wished it could've been him. I understand it more now than I did when I first arrived. If I could trade my life for hers I would but I realize there is no bargaining here. What's done is done. I can't change it. Tara's gone. I'll never stop loving her. Ever. She was far too powerful a force for me to ever forget. And I don't want to forget. I want to remember but I want a day to come when I can think of her and smile without crying like this. She's not here but I can feel her.

I can feel her shushing me, whispering endearments, calling me Baby. I began to have a feeling of contentment start to wash over me. And like an epiphany - a moment of clarity - I realize just what it is that I live for. I really didn't live for Tara. I lived for what Tara stood for. That's why we came together to begin with. That's what bound us together even after our brief separation. It was about helping others, making sacrifices to see that the people I loved - that we loved - were healthy and happy.

Buffy saw it. Dawn saw it. That's why Tara was still a part of their lives even after she left mine. And Tara was right. I strayed from what brought us together. I quit helping people I loved and began to work my will as I saw fit - to make things the way I wanted, not necessarily to make them better for everyone as a whole. Sure, I told myself I was still helping but I was only lying to myself. I'm getting it now. All of it.

I wipe my eyes and take a deep breath. Yeah, Tara is gone but I wouldn't let her be forgotten. I'd keep her memory alive by going back to Sunnydale and finish what I originally started. I gave up Oxford, Harvard, Princeton and Yale to fight monsters. I gave up 'golden opportunities' to battle evil. I really did get the better end of the deal, truth be told. I had Tara, no matter how brief. And even though she wasn't beside me I'd keep her there for all time.

I figured it out Giles. I know why I'm still here.

Of course that doesn't mean that Buffy will want my help now. It doesn't mean that I'll fight by the Slayers side ever again. It also doesn't mean I'm not scared out of my wits thinking what a loss of control will do to the world. Okay yeah. Big doubts for sure but…It's still there. It's still in me – that light that Tara gave me as well as that purpose before I ever saw her face. The darkness, the black evil has made it's home inside me too but…I've gotta try. If not for everyone else then at least for Tara. She wanted to help heal the world and as long as I'm still alive I'm going to do everything in my power to see her goals become my realities. Not just for her but for me too. And for the world.

Day 60

"Miss Rosenberg. Good to see you again."

Yet again, Quentin Travers. He reminds of a snake as he smiles and shakes my hand. Creepy, crawly, slithering.

"So how goes your work with the coven? Mrs. Hagness tells me you're close to a break through with that Pleiadian spirit conjuring spell you've been working on."

I look around the room and I'm surprised to find only he's alone this time with Giles and I. There's a large table in the council's chambers and I take a seat across from him, looking at all the books around us. Too bad we didn't have this library in Sunnydale.

"Well she's being a bit premature," I tell him finally focusing my eyes on him. "We've got a long way to go I'm sure."

"Well finding a Pleiadian in this dimension would help our fight without a doubt."

"Since Pleiadians are a highly intelligent race of humans, I doubt they'd be fool enough to join our cause."

I can't help but be sarcastic with him but my slight grin softens the blow.

"Our cause?" he asks, raising his eyebrows optimistically. "So you've decided to return to Sunnydale?"

"At some point I have to go back. If nothing more than to try to make amends with the people I love," I tell him. "Just not anytime soon."

A silence falls between us until he clears his throat. "I think the Slay-Buffy…can be very forgiving."

I really don't want to get into a personal debate about my life with this man or a debate about my life with the Slay-Buffy as he now calls her. I grin with the knowledge that he remembered our last conversation and my utter distain for his casual attitude toward my best friend and the saver of his ass many times over. How many big bads did she's stop over the years. How many pats on the back did he get from the council for a job well done although he had absolutely nothing to do with it? To think about it just irritates me so I try to push it out of my head and move on.

"Care to explain why I'm sitting here again?" I ask him. "And why the private meeting?"

"I wanted to have more of a personal get-together. Less formal," he tells me.

I grin. He realized that bullying didn't work the first time so now he's going to try the friendship route. Goddess Athena above, this man is so fake sometimes. Does he realize I see right through him?

He wants me to say I'll do it; that I'll help the council. It was true that I was finally putting my life, or the tattered remains of it, together again. And the spells and knowledge I was gaining from the coven was mind blowing. Many times I sat in and listened, thinking how much Tara would have loved to be a part of something like this. These women were true Wiccans and not at all what I had expected. They were dedicated, diligent in their tasks and morally just. I admired all of them and I had to wonder how I managed to get a seat. Then I realized as I looked across the table – Travers.

He was the reason and the only reason I was now in the coven. Sure I had skills and I breezed through the standard spells and lectures. I was always good at picking things up quickly. But after seeing these women of the coven, understanding their power, their way of life…I just didn't fit in. Like I told Giles…high school all over again. I wish I could be like them but I honestly don't know if I'm strong enough. Would bad things happen again? Of course they would. That was a given. But when they did would I get all implodey like Giles mentioned? Or would I be able to ride it out? Would I be able to control that darkness; that evil? I didn't want to think about it anymore with Travers sitting across from me.

"Well here I am, informal and all," I tell him. "What did you want to discuss?"

Travers looks to Giles first. I'm surprised when Giles speaks.

"Two slayers in training have been killed – one in Turkey; one in Germany. We're researching to see if it was perhaps random attacks - a coincidence as it were. We do have fears however it might mean something deeper. We've been unable to contact their Watchers."

"So what does that mean to me? I'm not being flippant Giles. I'm asking honestly. I'm not sure what I could do to help."

Travers clears his throat before he speaks, "We think these events might be tied to the visions you've had as well as visions of the coven. But at this time we have nothing to support that theory. As a precaution we'd like to send you back to Sunnydale to…keep tabs on the Hellmouth and it's activities."

"I told you I don’t know if Buffy will even speak to me."

"Regardless of Buffy, we'd like you in Sunnydale observing and reporting any unusual activity."

Okay. That made me laugh.

"Everything in Sunnydale is unusual." I chuckle. "I'd have a better chance spotting something consider 'normal'."

Travers lets the comment go and continues, "Did you realize that Sunnydale is building a new high school?"

"Yeah Xander mentioned it this spring but he didn't have all the details then."

"Right on the Hellmouth."

"Over the old school?"

He nods. "They've been doing work on it the last two months with 5 different construction crews – one of which your friend Mr. Harris is a supervisor. They've been working in three shifts to see it's completed before the fall semester starts. It's my understanding that Dawn Summers is a freshman this year. Is that correct?"

My sigh is deep. "I see your point Mr. Travers. I do…But I'm not sure how I can help them right now. You don't seem to realize what it's like to live with this power. A-and I live in fear of feeling too much of anything. I'm unsure of what reaction it might bring on as a result. It-It's still in me Travers. That darkness. T-That magic…A-and I don't want to hurt them anymore than I already have…I don't think you understand that," I confess hanging my head.

"Miss Rosenberg," he begins getting my attention.

His voice is soft and careful. For once the man doesn't sound like a drill sergeant and his tone pulls my eyes up to meet his.

"I don't have the kind of power that you have. But I do have the responsibilities of power. I'm responsible for countless lives, my own included," he says with a grin. "It's very weighing. And yes I come off very stern at times but I need to be in order to maintain some assembly of control over this organization. My father oversaw the council and his father before him…Now from what Mr. Giles tells me you're making great strides here."

"It doesn't feel like it's enough," I tell him honestly.

"Of course it doesn't. You've had terrible losses. But you're quickly approaching a time when all the lessons will be finished and the rest of your growth depends on putting those lessons into practice and making amends, or in the worse case, finding closure with the relationships you've damaged."

"And you think Sunnydale is the next step?"

"I do," he says decidedly.

I don't reply but I do consider his words when I hear Giles speak.

"We're not talking about putting you on a plane to the States next week Willow…But we would like to do it soon. Especially if our assumptions regarding these potential slayers deaths mean something far more dastardly."

"Do you think I'm ready Giles? Because you've been telling me to listen to that little voice in my head a-and it hasn't always been right. I mean butcher knife a-and a tub of hot water. Far from my brightest move we both agree. But that's what the voice told me to do."

"You've come a long way since then Willow."

I sigh again. I just can't be sure. At this point, my voice is torn. Yes I want to be there for Xander and Dawn who's sitting right on the Hellmouth but…

"If something evil is going down I don't…I don't want to loose it again Giles."

"I have faith in you Willow…And as I said I'm not putting you on a plane this week. Go to the coven. Learn what you'll need but realize that your family…our family…needs you."

I give a small grin. Yet again, I can't tell him no.

"Alright Giles, I'll do it. But I just want some warning, okay?"

"Absolutely," he nods with a supportive grin. "You have my word. No surprise plane tickets or teleportations. I promise."

In spite of my fear and reluctance, his grin calms me.

Day 61

Giles is in his living room talking to a 'Watcher type' guy when I enter from my day's lesson.

"Hi," I say tentatively.

"Willow this is Mr. Jacobs, a fellow Watcher," Giles tells me.

I give a polite nod in his direction.

"Nice to meet you Miss Rosenberg," he nods to be before turning back to Giles. "So do you really think it's best to sit tight?"

"Well it doesn't seem like there's any place one can run at the moment."

"Run? Who's running? A-and what are they running from?" I ask.

"We've learned that the Watcher's of the murdered potentials were also killed," Giles explains. "Seems it wasn't just a random act. But we're double-checking to be sure that it isn't truly a coincidence. Past history, perhaps personal enemies that would do these Watchers and their S.I.T harm."

"Are you in danger Giles?" I ask.

"It looks like we're all in danger," Jacobs speaks up, "but hopefully the council gets to the bottom of this soon."

"I'm sure they will. It will just take time."

"If someone is killing potentials time might be something in short supply. Perhaps I'm lucky my S.I.T is older than most. She's less likely to be called."

"Well she's still younger than the current Slayer so just be on your guard."

Jacobs grins. "You know when I first heard the news that you were the Watcher Giles, the one overseeing the slayer, I was a bit envious. But I realized something soon after…If I wanted to be the Slayer's Watcher that would mean Buffy would have been my charge. Not to say that Buffy isn't a fine young woman," he adds quickly. "She's done an outstanding job and your work with her shows but…I'd keep my potential. She's a bit hard to manage at times but…she's bright, resourceful, dedicated. I wouldn't trade her for anything. Even a Slayer," he adds with a grin. "I know it's not very professional of me and if the council ever knew-."

"It makes perfect sense," Giles says grinning, cutting him off. "I do understand. You work with them. You train them. You teach them everything you can. You laugh. You cry. You argue some days until you're blue in the face," he says with a grin. "But I understand…It's worth it. And if you share so much with them it becomes personal regardless of how the council thinks it should be."

"Well she's considered a trip back to the States. Her cousin is about to marry. But I think it's best if she stay here just to be sure. At least until we learn more."

"Hopefully she'll understand."

"No she won't," Jacobs says with a grin. "She'll fight. She'll argue. Then she'll realize that going back for the wedding means facing the rest of the family. At which time she'll then thank me for giving her an excuse not to attend." He laughs as he moves to his feet.

Giles rises to his feet too and they walk toward the door. Jacobs nods to me politely. "Good day to you Miss Rosenberg."

I nod back with a slight grin.

"Take care," Giles tells him. "And give Kennedy my regards."

"Will do," Jacobs nods again.

Once we're alone, I turn to Giles.

"If someone is out to kill the slayers in training…is someone trying to eliminate the line do you think?"

"Someone or something," he tells me. "Unfortunately, it appears so."

"Are they going to go after Buffy? After you?"

"Well if my assumptions are correct - and they are just assumptions at this time…I would say not immediately, no. They want to rid the world of as many potentials as possible. They know who the active slayer is so in the interest of time it would be to their advantage to see that the line is broken first."

"Kill all the potentials and then kill the only remaining Slayer - Buffy."

"And Faith," Giles points out. "She is still a Slayer too after all. But that would be my theory without knowing more."

"Damn Giles," I say shaking my head. "So all these girls are like knocking on deaths door without having the perk of being a Slayer, like super speed, strength, so on and so forth?"

"Well all potentials have dormant traits. That's what makes them potentials. Uncovering those traits is a Watchers job like Mr. Jacobs. When it came to Buffy I had to train her to realize all her full potentials. She has many more skills than what an S.I.T would have as you can imagine."

"You did have a really tough job," I tell him.

He starts to laugh. "Some days, you have no idea."

"I have to admit Giles I respect you. I mean I always respected you," I add quickly. "I just never realized how deep your job really went. I thought you just…you know…watched…did a little sparing…looked through a bunch of books. A-and not that any of that isn't important. It's just…" Why do I feel like I keep putting my foot in my mouth?

"I understand," Giles tells me. "My duties were just far more reaching than you imagined is all."

"Exactly!" I tell him, pleased he could say it much better than me. "Plus, you know, act now and you get to oversee taking care of the Slayers dysfunctional friends too. You're life seems full of burdens."

"You're not a burden Willow. None of Buffy's friends are. Like Jacobs said, the council would like Watchers to remain detached but…These people that surround my Slayer are just as important to me as the Slayer…Did I ever tell you what happened when Faith had kidnapped you and wanted to make that trade to help the Mayor fulfill the Ritual of Gavrock?"

"You mean the spider box?" I shake my head. "I don't think so."

Giles goes back to his sofa, patting it for me to sit down which I do.

"Buffy wanted to make the trade immediately. Wesley didn't. He wanted to look into other options and in his eyes your life wasn't worth thousands we could save by destroying the box. As far as I was concerned…We would make the trade and look into other possibilities. As Wesley pressed his point Oz shattered the urn we needed for the destroying ritual. Whether we had the box became a moot point then. At which time I made the call to the mayor…But the point to this story is that I believed in you Willow. I knew that this was one of many fights we faced. You wouldn't have turned your back on Buffy or anyone else. We certainly couldn't do the same to you. And I was more pleased than surprised when you handed me the pages regarding the mayor's ascension from his sacred book. You found a way to stop the mayor…But truth be known it wasn't just your abilities to help the Slayer that made us realize we only had one option – only one thing we could do. It was our love for you. We were, and still are, a family in the truest sense of the word."

"Yeah well now I'm the black sheep Giles."

"Even black sheep can find redemption Willow…And Jacobs is right. It's not all black and white when you love people."

"So…do you really think we're still a family Giles? I mean after everything I've done?"

"Yes I do Willow. It will take time…I know you're getting tired of hearing it but look at where you were when you first got here. Look at where you are now."

"I'm still scared Giles."

"I understand your fear. When I decided to turn my life around in my youth…I was frightened too. But I overcame it. You will overcome it too Willow. Give it time."

"I will Giles. I promise."

Day 75

I'm sitting in the coven's secret, not so secret, chambers reading a spell book. It's a private room reserved only for the coven but everyone knows where it is. I'm still trying, after all these years, to get that harnessing of the sunlight under control so it will help Buffy when she goes nest hunting. One ball of energy and bam! Instant vamp dust! My latest attempt looks like a firefly, which is far from what I hoped. Suddenly, I feel a tap on my shoulder.

I turn around to see Althenea standing there with a broad grin.

"Hey!" I grin softly. "Not that I'm complaining but what brings you by."

She looks like she's ready to burst as she takes a seat beside me. "They're moving me up," she whispers excitedly. "I'm becoming an official part of the coven."

"Wow! That's great news!" I tell her. I realize that for just a moment I felt sheer joy. Something I hadn't felt in ages. It had little to do with me but still I figure it counts for something. I didn't spontaneously combust or something horrible like that. So that's good.

I continue to grin as she explains how Mrs. Hagness wanted to move her up and have her do work with the coven on matters of 'research and such'. It's not a huge role she admits but it is a step in the right direction for her.

"My mum is so thrilled," she tells me with a grin. "She's trained for years herself but she was never a part of something like this. I think she's living vicariously through her daughter but that's fine by me."

"Well congratulations," I nod supportively.

"Seems now we'll be able to speak for more than just a few minutes a week. I mean…I hope you don't mind. I do enjoy talking to you but I hate to be a pest."

"You're not a pest," I assure her. "But to be honest, I'm not sure how much longer I'll be here. The council is making arrangements for my return to Sunnydale. Probably in the next few weeks."

She cocks her head and looks at me. "You don't feel you're ready, do you?"

I give a brief grin. "I don't know Althenea. I mean…yes a part of me is ready. I know that the people I love might need my help and I want to be there for them. But then there's this other part…"

"What part?"

"The part that says the people I love don't love me anymore and maybe I'm just wasting my time. A-and maybe just being around will do nothing but bring up bad memories. The part that asks what happens if they do accept me b-but something bad happens to them too a-and I get all veiny and on go on another vengeance rampage. Or-Or how about the part that says-."

She smiles and puts a finger over my lips just for a moment to stop my babbling.

"You've got lots of parts." She grins at me and I feel a lopsided grin come to my face for just a moment. "But you won't know anything until you get there…I've heard talk. You are one powerful Wiccan."

"I doubt that," I tell her. "My sunlight spell I've been doing for 4 years now is still dimmer than a nightlight."

"And if you perfect that spell will you regard yourself as a powerful Wiccan then?" she asks knowingly before continuing. "I think you try too hard to do everything right. Once you get this spell under control I'm sure you'll find something else you haven't mastered to make yourself feel inadequate. And it's a bloody shame if you ask me."

"Well I didn't ask you," I say trying to be indignant but my grin works it's way to the surface. She knows I would like to hear her opinion even if I might not want to believe it. "I don't know…Maybe you're right that I try too hard." She gives me a look that urges me to add, "Okay I know that I try too hard," I finally admit.

She grins before turning serious.

"You're filled with black magic Willow but the strives you've made…I have to say. It's phenomenal…You went from being a black magic witch to being a dedicated Wiccan. You made the jump and there's not many people that can say the same."

"Maybe…I know some people in this covert US military operation thingy and it's been pointed out to me that most people who tangle with the dark voodoo usually don't make it out alive. I'm lucky I guess."

"Not luck. I don’t believe in luck. I think each one of us is responsible for who we are and what we do. You chose to turn things around Willow. And you have. So regardless of any argument you're going to try to throw at me I'll still say you're very brave and you're very skilled. Now with that said…tell me more about this rumor I heard of you and the Pleiadian spirit conjuring you're trying. After all, if you leave someone has to continue it," she grins.

She's a sweet girl and I can't help but grin back.

Day 82

I got busted. Of course I didn't really go out of my way to hide. I went to 'my spot' as Giles had nicknamed it. And instead of being at the coven like I should have been I'm playing with flowers from different areas of the world, testing my knowledge in root systems.

I just didn't feel like going to class today. Besides, what's the point? They're shipping me off in the next week or so. I think the boycott of my studies today is just some undermining of authority on my part. I'm not really sure why. It's been a day of demons too. Not the scary looking ones like those that live in Sunnydale but my own. I keep finding my fear grip me all day long.

I told Giles I feel like I'm relapsing again but he assures me it's to be expected. My confidence wasn't about to arrive and stay in place according to him. I would slip now and then. And the prospect of going back was sure to bring up doubts.

But now it's dinnertime and Giles decided I needed a 'night out on the town'. In Westbury that consists of a little diner on the corner at the end of Giles street.

"Here you are," the waitress says putting one plate in front of me and one in front of Giles. I look at the plate and then at Giles and then at the plate.

"So this is it huh?" I ask him.

"Bangers and Mash," he tells me with a grin.

Somehow my off-handed comment of not knowing what Bangers and Mash was prompted Giles to go into field trip mode. So here I sit. I poke at it with my fork. One side is mashed potatoes.

"This must be the mashed part," I tell him. He grins without comment. I move my fork around in the gravy and hit something solid before stabbing it. I pull it up for inspection.

"That would be the banger," he tells me.

"It looks like sausage," I tell him.

"It is," he nods.

"That's it? Bangers and Mash are just sausage and mashed potatoes? Why not call it sausage and mashed potatoes?"

He shrugs. "Why are undergarments called knickers and cigarettes fags? Bangers and Mash are just another great mystery in English slang I suppose."

"It's pork?" I ask as I turn my fork around inspecting it.

"I can be," he says. "Or in the States, beef. This establishment makes theirs with lamb which is quite good actually."

"Real lamb right?"

"I'm assuming," he chuckles. "Try it."

I shrug and pop it in my mouth, starting to chew. Not quite what I'm used to that's for sure but not entirely bad like most of the food over here.

"Well?" Giles asked.

"Pretty good. I wish I'd looked into this sooner. This is much more easier to stomach than…well…eating stomachs."

"I never served you any dishes with stomachs," Giles replies. "Just pigs feet," he mutters.

I sit my fork down and shake my head. "What? You're kidding right? When did I eat pigs feet?"

Giles laughs before diving his fork in his mash. "You know that meat you like to eat on crackers?"

"You said it was pickled pork."

"Well…it is." He just smiles.

"I ate pigs feet? The feet of pigs?"

"Quite a few actually."

Okay. I got he willies now. And I just stare at the plate before me wondering if I really am eating lamb. Maybe returning to Sunnydale is a good thing after all.

"Eat up," Giles tells me with a smirk. "Before it gets cold."

Tentatively, I take his advice.


Day 83

"No class again?"

I turn to see Giles walking toward me.

"I couldn't go."

"Why not?"

"I don't think I can handle much more knowledge right now. Besides I've been working on the whole earth is connected theory. And see?" I say showing him my arm I sliced the first week of my arrival. "No more scar. I grew skin Giles. This is really gonna help out the gang 'cause you know how Xander's always getting cut or knocked out or something. This way I can fix him or anyone…well…that's if they take me back."

"More doubts again?"

I nod.

"I wonder if we're sending you back too late instead of too early."

"Meaning?" I ask.

"Waiting is the hardest part sometimes. You know you're going back but you're not sure how they'll react. It's understandable."

I let the conversation die off. We could go over it again but he can't promise they'll still want me. He made a call to Buffy and told her when and where I'd be arriving. I heard him ask if she'd like to speak to me but since he didn't hand over the phone I guess I knew the answer. Now I really don't want to see her. Or Dawn. Or Xander.

Yeah I miss them but maybe it's still too soon. Maybe I could postpone it a bit longer until I am ready. But I know that isn't an option. I leave in less than three days. My ticket is already bought and paid for. Giles asked the coven about teleporting me but they feel since I've been affected by black magic that might be not so good. As Mrs. Hagness pointed out I could end up in any dimension as a result. And spending a lifetime in 'melting world' or even 'world without shrimp' has little appeal to me. This world is tough, real tough, but it's the only world I've known and there are things worth staying here for. Even if they never speak to me again.

"I've been practicing with roots more today," I tell Giles, "and I actually managed to get a palm tree here a few hours ago. Wanna see? I promise to send it right back."

He grins. "It's not going to destroy it, will it?"

"Not at all," I reply. "Here. Sit down."

I take a seat and I pat the ground next to me and Giles follows suit. I put my hands on the ground trying to find the right location. That's when it starts. Something black, dark. Unlike anything I felt before in my studies. It was getting larger and larger and grumbling. I feel my body start to shake in response and I can vaguely hear Giles calling my name. His voice sounds more frantic but I can't pull away.

My throat is tight and I can't breathe. The black begins to change and alter to a brilliant white but the closer it gets the more I see that it's teeth – fangs actually. It's a mouth with sharp, pointy, scary teeth and it's coming right for me. For us.

It's dark but it feels like it's burning my skin. I want to tell Giles to run but I can't even suck in a breath. Suddenly I feel Giles hands on my shoulders as he pulls me closer. As my hands leave the earth and I feel my back pressed tight against his chest I try my best to remember how to breathe. The vision starts to recoil away with the sound of screaming and Giles voice breaks in over my growing hysteria.

"Just breathe!" Giles tells me.

" I ca- I can't!"

"Just breathe," he insists, trying to call me down.

It works but I'm still having a difficult time catching my breath. I wonder if he saw or felt the same thing. I've had visions and flashes of oddities concerning the Hellmouth for weeks but nothing like this.

"What happened?" I ask.

"What do you remember?"

I sit up, using my hands to help support my weight. I feel drained.

"We were talking ... and ... I felt... "

Suddenly my hands feel like they're on fire and I snap them back, looking around me.

"I felt the earth. It's all connected. It is, but ... it's not all good and ... pure and rootsy. There's ... deep ... deep black, there's ... I saw, I saw the earth, Giles. I saw its teeth."

"The Hellmouth."

He's right and I know what it wants. "It's gonna open…It's gonna swallow us all."


Day 86

I watch the rain when I hear Giles come from behind me.

"The taxi’s here."

"I know."

"And in keeping with quaint old British tradition, you would now be expected to get into it."

"I don’t know if I can. Giles, I’m not done here."

"That’s your fear talking."

"Yes, and my fear is being an obnoxious blabbermouth. You’re the one that keeps telling me to trust my instincts."


"So? Shouldn’t we be listening? I don’t want to go back home just so I can screw up again. Why don’t I stay? Not forever. Just long enough to, I don’t know… make my fear shut up a little, maybe?"

I hear the taxi honk but I ignore it. Giles, however, gives him a wave to hold on a moment.

"It’s possible but…try to be very specific. What exactly are you afraid of?"

"Well, for starters, the Hellmouth’s getting all rumbly again. And now I know it’s got teeth. And are those literal teeth? ’Cause I don’t know if I can handle it. And what if I can handle it? Does that mean I have to be a bigger, badder badass than the source of all badness? And what if I give up all this control stuff and I go all veiny and homicidal again? And what if—."

"They won’t take you back?"

Okay so he hit the nail on the head like always.

"Uh-huh," I nod.

"Willow, we could spend another two years here training and practicing and learning to hone your powers and still there’d be no way of knowing for sure that the friends you left behind you… are still your friends."

"Well, sure. I mean, if you put it that way. Duh."

"I’d love to offer you some guarantee that you’ll be welcomed back to Sunnydale with open arms but I can’t. You may not be wanted. But you will be needed."

"Is that all ya got?"

"For the moment, yes."

I sigh. Might as well get it over with. I know he's right. It's not about my skills. It's about acceptance and there's only one way to find out. "Okay. Guess I’d better."

I stand up and Giles picks up my belongings.

"Trust yourself and the others might follow."

As we walk to the taxi I sigh. Gaia, I hope he's right.

+ + + + +

"Flight 138. London to Chicago is now boarding at gate 67."

I give a deep sigh. This is it. I'm heading home.

"Looks like my number's up," I say, trying to grin.

Giles leans down and kisses my forehead as he strokes my cheek. "Be strong Willow. I have faith in you. Don't forget that."

"I won't Giles a-and I could say thanks for everything but that seems kinda lame. But…thanks for everything."

"You're quite welcome."

"Any chance of getting you to visit the Hellmouth soon? It's the number one vacation spot for Watcher's I hear." I give him a chuck on the shoulder and he grins.

"I'll try to visit soon. The council is concerned about the recent turn of events but I will try to make the time I promise."

I feel like I'm going to cry so instead of turning into a blubbering mess I simply wrap my arms around him and pull him close to me, hiding my face.

"I love you Giles. Thanks for believing."

"I love you too Willow," he replied before kissing the crown of my head. "Take care dear. Remember I'll be in meetings tomorrow but I'm just a phone call away. You know I'll contact you as soon as I can."

I pull away and pick up by travel bag without looking at him. I can't look at him just yet and I go up to the ticket clerk handing my ticket over. She nods me ahead but before I pass the final gate I look back to see Giles grinning at me. I grin too and give him a wave, which he reciprocates, before starting on my way. Once my back is turned and I'm heading toward the fuselage only then do I let the river of tears flow. I know I'll miss his guidance. His stories. But most of all I'll miss him.

+ + + + +

I realize while waiting for the layover that this wool coat and sweater aren't gonna cut it in California so I head to the restroom with my flight bag in hand. After a quick change into a blouse and leather jacket I decide to go in search of some coffee. I'm three hours from Sunnydale now and I need caffeine of some kind. I reset my watch. If my plane's on time I'll get in around 9:30 pm west coast time. And with any luck I'll have someone waiting to pick me up. Not long after I return with my mocha in hand, the plane begins boarding and I know…It's now or never. I could run. Chicago is what's known as a hub. You can get anywhere in the world from Chicago. But I take a deep breath and square my shoulders as I stand. I can do this. One foot in front of the other. Baby steps.

+ + + + +

The pilot welcomes me to Sunnydale. Okay he welcomed all the travelers to Sunnydale over the P.A. but that's not the point. At least I heard someone say it. As the overly friendly, obnoxious flight attendants bid us goodbye I take my time walking. I pace my steps carefully because my legs feel quite wobbly. I'm still not even sure what I'm going to say when I see them. Maybe I'll start with I'm sorry and take it from there. But the truth is I really, really, really am not ready to see any of them yet. And I wish I could postpone if only for a little bit longer. But wishing it won't make it so.

I enter the airport and I look around.

No Buffy. No Dawn. Not even Xander.

I thought at least Xander, out of anyone, would be here but then again why should he. I hurt him too after all. I can't help but feel a sense of utter defeat wash over me as I look around at other arrivals being hugged and kissed by loved ones. I had loved ones in my life but apparently I pissed it all way in my anger and despair. I try to remember Giles words before I left. I might not be wanted but I'll be needed. I give a deep sigh.

"Welcome home me."


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



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