*Don’t try to save
Let the walls of my world all burn down
Just stand back and wait
Till the smoke finally passes
And I will rise
From the ashes*
-Martina McBride, From the Ashes
Willow sat in shock. The words still reverberated through her head, though it had been hours since they had been spoken.
<You were adopted.>
She realized she wasn’t the first teenager to hear those words. Far from it. She wouldn’t be the last, either.
<Eighteen years. Eighteen years they lied to me. Eighteen years they let me believe I was theirs.>
She absently wiped the tears from her eyes. She’d cried long enough. Now she had more important things to do. Like find her real parents.
*Where’d it go?
The bluebird I should follow back home?
But where is home?*
-Natalie Imbruglia, Pigeons and Crumbs
Two Weeks Later-
College. Scary word. A whole new world. Of course, after the way the past couple of weeks had gone, Willow felt she could handle anything. That was before she opened the letter.
It hadn’t taken long to trace the adoption agency. All she’d had to do was get the papers out of her parents’ - adoptive parents’ - safe deposit box. Of course, it had taken another nine days to get the courage to contact the agency, but that was beside the point. She figured it was worth a try to go through the proper channels before just hacking into the agency’s computer, so she had called. And she had discovered that it wasn’t necessary to hack into the computer after all. Apparently, her mother had left a letter for her in case Willow ever tried to contact her.
Willow sat with the contents of the envelope in her hand. A key and a note. The typewritten note simply stated that the key was to a safe deposit box at the Sunnydale First National Bank and told her the number of the box. The box was supposed to be in her name. The note was dated February 1998.
<Was my mother here less than two years ago? Did she look for me? Did we pass each other on the street?> Willow wondered.
The contents of the safe deposit box was another box. Willow took it back to the dorm with her and spent the next hour staring at it. She was terrified. Did she really want to know what was waiting for her in that box? With a sigh, Willow decided that she did.
*Hold on, hold on
For this is going to hurt like hell*
-Sarah McLachlan, Hold On
She gingerly opened
the letter on top of the stack of envelopes in the box. The letter
was handwritten. She knew the handwriting.
My dearest Willow,
If you are reading
this letter, I am probably dead. It hurts to write that. However,
if what I plan to do gives Angel his soul back, it was worth my death.
I am so sorry for betraying you and Rupert and Buffy and Angel. Poor
Angel. I had no idea what would happen until it was too late.
If I had only known, or paid more attention to my duty...but it is too
late for regrets now. I am working on the curse to restore Angel’s
soul. I pray I find it before it is too late. The power the
spell will require...I fear I am not strong enough to survive. The
magicks used to curse Angel have been long lost. I only hope I can
find them again. I only hope that I can restore Angel’s soul to him.
I only hope that, someday, you will forgive me. I love you.
The tears rolled down Willow’s face as she finished the letter. Jenny Calendar was her mother. Her mother was dead. At the hands of a friend.
After a few minutes,
Willow wiped her tears away and returned her attention to the box.
There were over a dozen envelopes in it. She chose one at random
and opened it. Like the first envelope, it contained a letter.
slowly began to read.
My dearest daughter,
I met you today.
Of course, you have no idea of that. I’m just the new computer science
teacher. You look so much like your father. You’re smart
like him, too. Forgive me, but I took the liberty of looking at your
transcript. You have done so well in school. You amaze me.
The letter went on,
much like a diary. The pages in Willow’s hand described several months
of Jenny’s thoughts and feelings. Willow grimaced as she came to
an entry from November 1997.
You saved me today. Or, at least, your idea did. I guess Angel was the one who truly saved me. You, however, told him how to do it. Having Eyghon inside me was terrifying. I will be forever grateful to Angel for putting himself at risk in order to rid me of that monster. It’s odd, being grateful to a vampire. His soul may have been meant as a punishment to him, but it is truly a gift to the world.
I don’t know what to do about Rupert. I care for him, but there is
so much I don’t know about him. I guess I have a lot to decide.
About you, about Rupert, about my duty. I just don’t know anymore.
Willow read for over
an hour. Each letter was from another part of Jenny’s life.
Several were written on Willow’s birthday, long musings about what she
was like. It hurt to read those letters. To know that during
the time the Rosenbergs had been virtually ignoring her, her real mother
had spent hour upon hour writing to a daughter she didn’t know.
August 7, 1982
My dear little girl,
You are one today.
I wonder what you look like. I’m sure you are beautiful. I
wonder what your name is. I named you Willow, but I doubt the family
that adopted you kept that name. I wish I had been able to keep you.
I miss you so much. But I was sixteen. I was so young, so unprepared.
I still am. I’m sure you are better off without me.
“Oh, Jenny,” Willow
whispered. “How could I have been better off without you?”
Willow put the letter back in the box, then noticed an envelope that had
fallen on the floor. She picked it up and opened it, pulling several
sheets of paper from it. She glanced at the date on the letter (it
was her sixteenth birthday), and started to read. By the time she
was done, she wished she had never found the letter.
*One thing I know
for sure is that...
Something just ain’t right*
-Luscious Jackson, One Thing
Doyle woke up in a
cold sweat, shaking like a leaf. He gabbed a pen and a sheet of paper
off the nightstand and wrote down the information he could remember from
the vision. Then he laid back down and braced himself for the migraine
that was sure to come. He’d give Angel the information in the morning.
And they would have
Janna’s daughter back.
And her powers would be theirs.
“I don’t joke. Not when it comes to this. That’s what I got from the vision. Why?”
Angel thrust the paper at Doyle. “It’s Willow.”
“I take it you know this girl. Or at least you think you do.” Angel watched as realization slowly dawned on Doyle’s face. “You think it’s one of the Slayer’s friends, don’t you?”
Angel nodded, trying not to show how worried he was. “It’s got to be her. Willow’s not a common name, and Sunnydale’s a small town. Besides, how many Willows would be out at midnight unless they’re helping the Slayer? A friend of Buffy’s is much more likely to be in danger than any other resident of Sunnydale. They search it out.”
Doyle checked his watch. The sun would be setting in a little under an hour. “I’ll go tell Cordelia what’s going on, and we’ll leave as soon as the sun sets. Let’s just hope we can find her.”
The half-demon stopped and turned at his friend’s voice. “What?”
“Did you see anything that might help us? Can you remember anything? Anything at all?”
Doyle thought for a moment. “Trees. Like a park or something. An open space. And people. Creepy people. Some major magick was happening, and the little redhead was in the middle of it.”
Angel nodded, a grim look on his face. “As soon as the sun goes down, we’re out of here, whether Cordelia’s packed or not.”
“Hello, child,” an accented voice spoke softly into the night.
And she knew. She just knew exactly who stood before her.
*I must prevail
now with no question
Have no time to stop
Onward to the top of the mountain
And I can’t turn back now*
-No Doubt, The Climb
“You know who I am.” It was a statement, not a question.
“I do. I just don’t’ know why you’re here. I’m eighteen. Seems like you waited an awfully long time to find me.”
“We always knew where you were. We had to wait until you knew who we were.”
“What do you want?”
“For you to do your duty.” That came from a man that Willow instinctively knew was her uncle. She also knew not to trust him.
“And just what is my duty?”
“Vengeance.” The word, spoken softly, sounded immensely evil. Willow suppressed a shiver and fought the urge to get the hell out of there.
“Vengeance on who?” Willow was ashamed at the quaver in her voice.
“Angelus is gone. I gave him his soul.”
“He killed Janna. He must be punished.”
At that, Willow exploded. “Don’t you think I know he killed Jenny? I went to her funeral and mourned her. You didn’t! None of you were there. And Angel has his soul now! He spent hundreds of years in the demon dimension! With his soul intact. Isn’t that enough?”
“And what gave you the right to give him his soul?” the old woman, her great-grandmother, practically hissed the words.
“Jenny was my mother. Vengeance was mine.”
The man laughed, a cold, cruel sound. “It isn’t vengeance if it wasn’t meant as punishment. You cared for him; you didn’t intend to punish him.”
The other people in the group, two men and three women, began to chant. Willow could feel the magic begin to spread around her.
“What are you doing?” she asked, frightened to the core.
“Taking vengeance,” the man replied. “Taking his soul.”
Soul. Oh, God. Angel’s soul. They couldn’t go through that again. She couldn’t go through that again. She felt herself panicking. She hadn’t been practicing magick long, she didn’t know what to do.
And then she did.
She was calm. She was powerful. And she knew just what to do. She was going to win. She had to. For Angel.
She erected a shield first, encompassing both her and the gypsies. She could feel the magick rising around her to a feverish pitch. It was almost painful. But she couldn’t lose. She couldn’t stop.
<Dear God,> Angel prayed silently,< please let me get there in time. Please protect Willow.>
The top of the cliff came into view, and Angel stopped short. He could see the magick surrounding Willow and the gypsies, and he recognized the signs of a magickal shield. He knew he was too late. He couldn’t get to her. He had failed. In despair, he dropped to his knees and cried out her name.
Her name. Angel’s voice. Oh, God, he was here. He was in pain. She couldn’t lose. She wouldn’t lose. With renewed strength and a sense of desperation borne of a need to survive, Willow began to chant. She didn’t know the language, but it felt right. The words flowed, and she felt the magick rise within her. It was very much like the time she had restored Angel’s soul. She relaxed and let the magick lead.
Outside the shield, the wind swirled, and Cordelia was knocked to her knees. The entire shield glowed white, hiding Willow and the others from sight. Terrified, Cordelia began to cry. She felt a hand close over hers, and she turned into Doyle’s embrace, accepting his offer of comfort. And she prayed.
Gradually, the magick began to recede from Willow’s body. The pain returned. But she had won. Angel was saved. The spell she had cast could never be reversed. With that on her mind, Willow surrendered to unconsciousness.
The wind was dying down; the shield was falling. Angel slowly raised his head, taking a glance at Cordelia and Doyle to make sure they were safe. Doyle was helping Cordelia to stand on legs that were visibly shaking, but she seemed to be okay. With a sense of dread, Angel turned to the spot where the shield had been. Willow and seven others lay on the ground, unconscious.
Angel rushed to Willow’s side and checked her pulse. It was strong and steady. Angel breathed an unneeded sigh of relief. Somehow, some way, Willow had survived whatever had been done to her. Willow moaned softly, then stirred, opening her eyes slowly.
“Yeah, Willow, it’s me.”
Willow gave a small, satisfied smile. “I won.”
Cordelia, who had made her way over to where Willow lay, looked confused. “What do you mean, you won?”
“They wanted Angel’s soul. I wouldn’t let them have it.” She looked Angel in eye. “They’ll never be able to take it again. I made it permanent.” Without giving Angel a chance to respond to that revelation, Willow began to rise on one elbow. Angel quickly moved to help, and Willow was soon surveying the people around her. “Are they alive?”
Doyle, who had been methodically checking the pulse of each gypsy, nodded. “They’re alive. They’ll probably come around soon. We should get out of here.”
Willow nodded, then attempted to stand. She had made it less than halfway up when Angel scooped her into his arms. “Where to?” he asked.
“Home, I guess. Ira and Sheila are away on business. It’s probably not the best idea to go back to the dorm. My roommate would ask questions.” Angel nodded, then began to carry Willow to the car.
Cordelia took one last look at the unconscious people around her. She felt no pity for them. They had ganged up on a teenage girl, after all. They got what they deserved. Then a disconcerting thought came to her. She turned to follow the others. “Hey, Willow, who exactly are these people?” she asked as she got into the car.
“I’m pretty sure they’re my family.”
*How do you choose?
Do you hurt ‘em with the truth or with a lie?*
-Reba McEntire, I Wish That I Could Tell You
Angel paced restlessly in the living room of the Rosenberg's house. He was too concerned about the events of the evening to dwell on the bombshell Willow had dropped about his soul. Frustrated, Angel turned to Doyle.
“I don’t understand it. Why were we needed? All we did was bring her home. I arrived too late, and everything still turned out okay. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that Willow’s okay and that my soul is now a permanent fixture in my life, but the fact remains that I was too late.”
“No you weren’t. Your timing was perfect.” Angel turned at the soft words. Willow was standing there, wrapped in a robe. “I heard you. You yelled my name. I knew you were there.” She shrugged. “So I fought harder. And I won.”
Angel stared at her for a moment. If that was the only explanation she could offer, he would have to accept it. However, he still felt that he was missing something important. “Those people, you say they were your family?”
“Yes, they are.”
“They were gypsies.”
Doyle looked from Willow to Angel, then stood as Cordelia entered the room. “I’m going to take Cordelia back to the mansion. I doubt we’ll get out of here tonight. We’ll leave you two alone. I suspect that you have a lot to talk about.” Cordelia shot him an odd look, but allowed him to lead her out of the house.
Willow watched the others go, then turned to find Angel still staring at her. She sighed, realizing Angel would try to get her to tell him everything. “We can talk in my room.” She led him down the hall, then entered her room and sat on the bed. Angel took the desk chair, turning it around so that he was facing her. He stared at her expectantly, waiting for Willow to start. After a long moment, she did.
“What do you want to know?”
“I’d really like to know why you think you’re related to gypsies.”
Willow took a deep breath, then began. “I was adopted. Sheila and Ira Rosenberg aren’t my real parents. My real mother had me when she was sixteen years old. She was a gypsy.”
Willow’s eyes filled with unshed tears. She didn’t want to tell him this. “Yes, Romany.” She took a deep breath and felt a tear trickle down her cheek. She pulled Jenny’s final letter out from the pocket of her robe and handed it to him. "Jenny.”
Angel looked horrified.
And guilty. He had never before looked so sorry, so tormented.
He slowly opened the letter, his hands shaking. He read it through
tear-blurred eyes. Not only had he taken Giles’ love, he had taken
Willow’s mother as well. “Oh, Willow. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. You must hate me.”
“I don’t,” Willow whispered. “I can’t. Maybe it would be easier if I could. But I’ve seen you with a soul as well as without one. I would run screaming in terror from you without a soul. With a soul, I trust you with my life.” She stood and grabbed Angel’s arm as he went to leave. “Where are you going?”
“You shouldn’t have to see me. God, Willow, I killed your mother.”
“It wasn’t you. It was that damn demon that set up shop in your body. Yes, I know that the demon’s still inside you, and it always will be. But it’s not you. You are your soul. Why is it that you’re the only one who can’t see that?” Willow was nearly shaking as she vented her frustration.
Angel stared at the
tiny young woman standing in front of him. He didn’t understand how
Willow could keep forgiving him for what he had done. He couldn’t
talk about the difference between Angel and Angelus anymore. It hurt
too much. Not just him, but everyone around him. So he changed
the subject. “What did they want
from you?” he asked.
“Vengeance.” She punctuated the word with a hollow laugh. “They wanted to take your soul again. Apparently, I didn’t hate you enough for their taste when I cursed you. Unlike them, I wasn’t looking for vengeance.”
“What were you looking for?”
“I’d lost so much already. Jenny was gone forever; Giles was so angry. Buffy was so sad and scared. I was so scared. If there was even a chance at restoring your soul, I had to try. Not just because we needed you to help us fight, though. I wanted my friend back,” she sobbed brokenly. “I just wanted you back.” Angel reached out to hold her, then stopped himself. Would she really want her mother’s murderer to touch her?
“Do you... would you
just hug me right now? I really need it.” The words were hardly
out of her mouth before she found herself wrapped in Angel’s strong embrace.
Willow didn’t know how long Angel held her, or when she fell asleep. All she knew was that Angel was gone when she woke up the next morning and that he, Cordelia, and Doyle were long gone by the next night. No one, not even Buffy, knew they had come.
The hunters were prepared. The target had used her magick. It was time to catch the prey.
*You made me a shadowboxer,
I wanna be ready for what you do
I been swinging all around me
‘Cause I don’t know when you’re gonna make your move*
-Fiona Apple, Shadowboxer
Two weeks later-
Willow was being followed. She wasn’t sure how she knew. Perhaps she just felt them. But they were almost always there. She just didn’t know who they were. She wanted to tell Buffy, but was afraid she’d end up having to explain everything. The thought of being followed made her nervous, and when she was nervous she babbled. And when she babbled, secrets came out. Secrets like Jenny being her mother, Angel coming to help her, and the gypsies fighting her for Angel’s soul. So she didn’t tell anybody.
Of course, she realized what a bad decision that was when they grabbed her.
Doyle dropped to his knees in the middle of the sidewalk as the vision assaulted him.
<Warehouse. White. Red. Pain. Fear. Willow. Oh, God, Willow. Heat. Fire. Burning. Red. Flame. Blood. Oh, God, blood. Willow. Angel. Fear. Black. Night. Death. Oh, God, death.>
Doyle passed out as
the pain overtook him.
“Angel. Angel.” The voice was almost sing-songy. The vampire groaned and glanced at the clock beside his bed. It was two o’clock. In the afternoon. Not a good time to wake up a grumpy vampire. Angel turned in the direction that the voice had come from. When he saw what was waiting for him, he did what any self-respecting vampire would do. He passed out.
When he came to, a cool hand was tapping the side of his face. “Wake up, sleepyhead,” Jenny Calendar cooed.
Angel struggled into a sitting position and blinked his eyes like a shocked child. “You’re dead.”
Jenny gave him a look. “So are you. So I guess we’re even.”
“Why are you here?”
Jenny looked at the clock, then turned back to Angel. “Since you’re stuck inside for the next few hours, I guess I’m here to tell you a story. Then I need you to save my daughter.”
“Willow’s in danger? How? Why? What happened?” Angel was automatically in a panic, almost tumbling to the floor in his haste to get to his clothes.
“You can’t do anything now, Angel. It’s daylight. Plus, you don’t know where she is. We’ll have to wait for Doyle for that.”
Angel paused in the process of frantically tossing his clothes on. “He had another vision?”
Jenny nodded, then gestured for the vampire to sit down. Angel complied, then waited for Jenny to speak. After a moment, she did. “You asked why she was in danger. It’s because of what she is.”
“She is a gypsy, but that’s not where the danger lies. After what happened last month, they want nothing to do with her. She is far too powerful for them to contend with. It’s her father. Did she ever tell you about him?”
“We never got past talking about you.”
“He was a witch. A Harmon.” She looked at the vampire, took in his stunned expression. “I see you’ve heard of them.”
“They’re supposed to have been completely wiped out fifteen years ago.”
Jenny nodded, a bleak
look on her face. “Willow’s the only one left. Her father was
killed seventeen years ago. He was only nineteen.” The
ghost wiped away a tear that was trickling down her cheek. “The Harmons
had always been hunted. They were very powerful. Because of
this, people feared them. Hunted them down like animals. Killed
them. The entire line...one teenage girl left. I told
her about it. Wrote her a letter. I'd hoped she’d go to Giles,
get some help. I was so scared they’d find her. That’s one
of the reasons I gave her up. I was so
young. Sixteen. When I found out I was pregnant, I was scared, but I thought I could handle it. Then I told Michael. And Michael told me everything. He’d never wanted to have children. His family was always on the run. He didn’t want a child to go through that because of him. We were afraid that a child of mine would be connected to him. The people in town knew we were involved. If the hunters came, asked the right questions...we were terrified that they would find her, and we wouldn’t be able to protect her. So we decided to give her up. We hoped that anonymity would give her chance.” Jenny turned to Angel, tears running down her face. “I love my baby girl, Angel. I don’t want her to die.”
Angel walked over and took the surprisingly solid ghost in his arms. He rocked her gently, whispering, “I’ll protect her, Jenny. I won’t let your baby girl die. She didn’t give up on me. I won’t give up on her.”
“Angel!” The yell came from the hallway, and Angel turned towards the voice. Doyle came rushing in. “It’s Willow.”
“How do you know?”
Angel turned to gesture toward Jenny, only to discover that she had disappeared. “I’ll explain later. What can you tell me?”
The look on Doyle’s face told him it wasn’t good.
“It’s Willow. She’s missing,” Buffy blurted out, a frightened look on her face.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” Xander replied. “Her roommate hasn’t seen her today. We went by her house. Her room was a mess.” He held the letter he had found out to Giles. It was dated August 7, 1997. Willow’s sixteenth birthday. “We found this. It looks pretty important.”
Giles quickly scanned
the letter, barely processing that it was from Jenny. It was the
content of the letter that concerned him. He knew that if they didn’t
find Willow soon, she was dead. He looked up at the frightened Slayer.
“Call Angel. We may need his help.”
“I’m already looking
for her. Doyle had a vision. He thinks she’s in LA. We’re
going to find her, Buffy.” Angel hung up the phone. He
didn’t make any promises to Buffy about Willow being okay because he didn’t
have any promises to make. All he could do was pray that he found
Willow in time.
*My mouth is dry
Forgot how to cry
What’s up with that
You’re hurting me*
-Natalie Imbruglia, Smoke
The room was dark. The walls were white and the room had a very sterile feel to it. Willow flexed her arms slightly, only to discover that they were tied behind her back. She could hear voices outside the door.
“It that the one?” a man’s voice asked.
“We did the test,” a woman replied. “She’s definitely a witch. If we’re lucky, she’s a Harmon.” Willow tried to think of what kind of test these people could have performed, then remembered the concoction she and Buffy had used to learn that Amy was a witch. She hoped the test these people had performed had been as simple. She continued to listen in.
“A Harmon? I thought they were all dead.”
“Supposedly, there was an illegitimate child about eighteen years ago. All signs point to the girl.”
“Damn. Imagine the power.” The man sounded stunned.
“And it will be ours to use.” Willow felt a chill go down her spine. What did they plan to do to her?
After making sure that no one seemed to be planning to come in the room with her, Willow began to work at the rope tying her hands. It was slow, hard work, and by the time she was done, her hands were bloody. But at least she was free. Well, untied anyway.
She rose to her feet, wincing at the stiffness she felt. The door was locked, and she saw no way out. As she turned to the window, she bumped into a file cabinet behind her. Her curiosity got the best of her, and she opened the top drawer. And discovered file upon file of witches. Dead witches. Witches whose powers had been completely drained. Witches the hunters had killed for their own personal gain. She glanced at the files in the other drawer, stopping to check the files marked with a flag. There were three witches that had somehow survived the process of having their powers drained. But they were all comatose.
Willow jumped at the
sound of the door opening behind her. The person didn’t seem to notice
that she wasn’t where they’d left her, so she did the only thing she could
think of. She shoved the file drawer into the person’s stomach and
ran for her life.
Angel had no idea where he was going. The building was like a maze, and he was completely lost. Cordelia and Doyle followed close behind him. He entered a huge room that looked much like a laboratory, and looked up as he heard a commotion above him. It was Willow. And she had a knife.
She was cornered.
She had nowhere to turn, nowhere to go. She looked at the knife
in her hand. It was long and sharp, reminding her of the knife that
Faith had threatened her with. She didn’t know what the hunters wanted
with her powers, but she knew it couldn’t be good. Anyone who would
kill innocent people for any reason was evil. Either way, she was
dead. Either she would die when they drained her of her powers, or
she would die with her powers. Willow made her choice. She
took the knife and plunged it into her stomach.
*And I wonder where
And I wonder if the pain ends when you die
And I wonder if there was
Some better way to say goodbye*
-Martina McBride, Goodbye
Angel screamed in horror as Willow fell to the floor. He vaulted up the stairs and ran to her side, already in tears. He snarled at the hunters, his game face firmly in place. The hunters, their foe dying at their feet, ran away as quickly as possible. She was worthless to them now.
“Oh, God.” Angel didn’t even turn as Cordelia and Doyle reached him. He cradled the red head in his arms, sobbing. The unfocused look in her eyes told him what he already knew. He was too late.
“Angel?” Willow’s pained voice was barely more than a whisper. “The knife. Please, Angel, take out the knife.”
Without thinking, Angel pulled the knife from Willow and laid it to the side. It didn’t matter anymore. She was already gone. As the redhead took her last breath, Angel pressed his face to her chest and sobbed uncontrollably. The brightest, most precious thing in his life was gone forever.
Cordelia stood in shock, tears rolling down her face. This couldn’t be happening. No one was supposed to die. The Slayer’s friends always won. Always.
Doyle watched in silence, staring at Angel and Willow. He was about to try to get Angel to leave when the unthinkable happened.
She was standing in
a beautiful meadow on a sunny day. A sense of well-being flooded
through her. But something was wrong. There was something she
hadn’t finished. Willow turned to see Jenny in front of
Jenny nodded, tears in her eyes. She pulled her daughter into her arms, then set her back to look at her. “It isn’t your time, you know.”
“Then why am I here?”
Jenny smiled. “So I could see you, speak to you before you go back.”
“I stabbed myself. How can I not die?”
“It’s a Harmon trait.
The only way to kill them is to decapitate them. A few mystical poisons
work as well, but antidotes have been found. They can also be killed
very easily once they are drained of their powers. Those
witches the hunters left comatose? They were Harmons. Draining them didn’t kill them, but now any disease or injury could kill them. Without their powers, they can’t heal themselves.”
“Does this mean that, as long as I keep my powers...I’m going to live forever?”
Jenny laughed. “Forever is a long time, so I can’t guarantee that. However, you will live a very long time. The length of several lifetimes. You’ll stop aging, and you can be with Angel for several hundred years.”
Jenny smiled gently. “Don’t tell me you don’t love him. I’m your mother. I can tell these things. Now go to him. Be happy.”
Before her mother could leave, Willow had one last question. “If the Harmons are so hard to kill, why is it that I am the only one left?”
“The hunters discovered
how to kill them.” And with that, Jenny was gone.
She was on the floor. It was cold. And someone was crying on her. Opening her eyes, she saw a dark head pressed to her chest. Xander? No, not Xander. Xander didn’t have any vampiric ridges. At least, none that she knew of.
The vampire froze.
It sounded like Willow. He whipped around to face Cordelia and Doyle,
wondering if somehow, in his misery, he had mistaken Cordelia’s voice for
Willow’s. Cordelia, sheet-white, was
staring beyond him. With a shaking hand, she pointed.
“She’s alive. Angel, she’s alive.”
Turning toward the redhead, Angel didn’t dare to hope. But her eyes were open. She smiled gently, and raised her hand to wipe away his tears. “I’ve got quite a story to tell you,” she whispered. “But I think we need to get out of here first.”
Angel, still in shock, picked Willow up, and carried her down the stairs and out the door to his waiting car. As he gently placed Willow in the front seat, he saw a spark out of the corner of his eye. He turned to see Doyle dropping a match into a trash can.
“What are you doing?”
Doyle shrugged. “In my vision, the place went up in flames. I figure it seems like a pretty good way do destroy the equipment. Now, let’s get out of here.”
The small group drove away as the warehouse burned, turning the evil within it into ashes.
*I’ll walk away
I will be flyin’
Higher and truer
Than I’ve flown before*
-Martina McBride, From the Ashes
It had been nearly a week since Willow had died and came back. She was still physically weak from the ordeal, but she was getting better every day. The others had come to LA and heard the story, but there was still something left undone.
“Do you love her?”
Angel turned at the Slayer’s voice. “What?”
“Willow. You love her. You should tell her.”
“She loves you, too, you know. It’s a good thing. According to what we’ve found out over the past few days, the two of you will be around for the equivalent of several lifetimes. Don’t waste it. Spend as much time as possible making each other happy.”
“Buffy, I don’t deserve-”
“To be happy? Of course you do. It can’t hurt you anymore. Your soul is forever. And even if I can’t convince you that you deserve happiness, think of Willow.”
“No you’re not. If you were, you’d march right into her room and tell her the truth. If anyone deserves to be happy, it’s Willow. And you’re capable of making her happy, so you damn well better do it. If it makes you happy in the process, so be it.” With that, Buffy turned and left. After a moment, Angel left the room as well.
Willow was sitting in her room, reading. Angel took the book out of her hands and set it on the table beside her chair. And then he kissed her. The kiss was long and sweet, and Angel wanted it to last forever, but he knew there was still something he needed to do. He broke the kiss and met Willow’s surprised and slightly questioning look.
“I love you.”
The smile Willow sent him was as bright as the sun, and Angel could see his feelings reflected in her eyes. Still, it helped to hear the words.
“I love you, too, Angel.” And with that, she kissed him.
Two silent figures watched the couple kiss. One mourned the loss of an old love at the same time that she rejoiced in the happiness that her friends had found. The other quietly cried as she watched her daughter in the arms of the man she loved. And Jenny found peace at last, because she knew her daughter was safe.