DISCLAIMER: BTVS is the property of Mutant Enemy and Twentieth Century Fox.
SPOILERS: Up until the end of season seven Buffy and season four Angel.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
PAIRING: Willow/Tara, Willow/Kennedy
The Further Adventures of Willow #1
It was all gone and very weird. The sun was just as bright and hot as any other day in California, but there was a gaping hole in the ground where the Hellmouth had sucked Sunnydale down into another realm. Willow could smell the ozone and taste the brittle grittiness in the air as the dust continued to settle. A hand settled lightly on her shoulder, startling her, and she glanced over at Kennedy's smiling face. "Hey."
Dark eyes looked back at her with not a little anxiety as Kennedy replied softly, "Hey. How're you doing?"
"Me? Fine," Willow answered, smiling. Her body was jazzed, actually, flowing with the power that she'd wielded just a short time ago. She felt as though she could actually fly if she could only find the right words. Or heck. Bypass the words and just will herself into the sky. Willing Willow. She giggled at the thought of flying around on a broomstick.
Willow looked over at Buffy, stifling the giggle with guilt. Buffy looked terrible, bruised and bloody, exhausted to the bone. Should she feel this good when everyone else had just about killed themselves fighting? "Yeah? Yes?"
Buffy opened her mouth to answer, then promptly collapsed into Willow's arms. Careful, Willow held onto her best friend and lowered her to the ground, everyone suddenly hovering around them. When she had Buffy laid out on the ground, Willow saw the major blood stain on Buffy's shirt and exclaimed, "Oh God! Someone get the first aid kit!"
Pulling up the shirt showed a clean slice, probably from a sword, but gently lifting Buffy showed that it had come all the way from the back, puncturing who knew what inside.
Dawn knelt beside her, hands fluttering anxiously as they reached for Buffy, then pulled back. "Is she, is she...?"
Though she heard Dawn's question, Willow was in a fog and ignored it. It was like there was an aura of gold and white around Buffy except for the injury, which was a blackish-purple. Touching the skin beside the wound, which was marked with green-blue veins, Willow informed everyone, "Poisoned blade."
"Oh no, oh God, Buffy!" Dawn exclaimed.
But this was okay. Willow knew what to do, even though she didn't know how. It was as though she was still connected to that other place, the good one, and magic didn't have to be feared anymore. It was a part of her now and Willow wondered if maybe all witches who used real power had to see both sides of the coin before being totally connected like she was now.
Smiling faintly, Willow covered the wound with one hand and Buffy's heart with the other, and closed her eyes. So easy. The poison was traveling quickly through the body, but it was nothing for Willow to stop its spread with a softly murmured phrase. She had to use a little more effort to draw it out, the iron-coated liquid bubbling out of the wound and through her fingers. There was damage to the kidney and sliced muscles on both sides of the body, leading in and out. Another softly spoken command and the flesh began to knit, healing itself with just a gentle nudge from her, barely drawing on the power that healed everything, that bound everything together.
It seemed hardly any time at all before Buffy groaned under her and Willow knew that the healing was far enough along that the other woman was out of danger. Yawning, more from the exhausting week than the expenditure of any real power, Willow opened her eyes and was surprised to find that darkness had fallen. Giles, Xander, Dawn, and Kennedy were sitting on the other side of Buffy, close together as they watched her, but the rest of the group was scattered elsewhere.
Smiling brightly, Willow greeted, "Hi guys."
Xander grinned broadly in return and said, "Now that is a handy talent to have."
Concerned, Giles questioned, "Are you all right? What happened?"
"Nothing. Oh, well, I was just telling Buffy's body how to heal itself," Willow explained. Then she grimaced as strained knees made their complaints known. "Ow. I don't think I can feel my legs anymore."
Kennedy was on her feet immediately and at Willow's side a second later, helping her up then pulling her close. "I was so worried."
"Oh. Sweetie, you didn't need to worry," Willow assured her.
Drawing back a little, Kennedy said, "You just, you went into a trance and..."
Smiling now, just a little, Kennedy nodded. "Of course you are. You're a Goddess."
Willow echoed the smile and kissed her lightly. Another groan from Buffy distracted her, though, and Willow pulled away from her girlfriend to return to her best friend. And for a second, the dichotomy of the two threw her, but she shoved it away to deal with later. The pins and needles in her lower legs were also ignored, and she sat beside Buffy, taking one hand as Dawn took the other and they helped her sit.
Seeming fuzzy around the edges, Buffy blinked a few times then looked at Willow and commented, "I'm sensing Death is ticked at me again. You saved my life, right?"
With a shrug, Willow answered, "Not really. Just told your body how to fight the poison."
Buffy paused for a second then grinned and said, "Uh huh. Okay. So. Shopping tomorrow after all?"
Willow snickered. Dawn and Xander joined in while Giles just rolled his eyes.
It was amazing how much money buying a house sucked up. Arm slung across Buffy's shoulder, Willow looked up at the three story home that they'd just purchased with a sense of awe. Five bedrooms, a library, a large finished attic, a bigger finished basement, and the other necessities that were vital where housing a troupe of young girls was concerned: like five and a half bathrooms, all at strategic places, and a huge kitchen.
Xander yawned and they glared at him. Defensive, he demanded, "What? Who's been working double shifts here to pay for the hotel until the insurance money came through?"
Willow met Buffy's eyes and grinned. She nodded and, as one, they jumped him, driving him down onto the grass and tickling mercilessly. He thrashed around, yelping and shouting, then turned the tables and pinned Buffy. They wrestled in a general free-for-all for several minutes until they became aware of shadows.
Panting and giggling helplessly, Willow looked up to find Giles and Dawn looking at them as though they'd lost their minds. That, of course, made her lose it completely and she started laughing hysterically. The ground was solid and comforting beneath her, the connection muted but always present. It lent a safety net that Willow hadn't even realized she'd been missing since Tara's death.
"What am I going to do with you?" Giles pondered aloud, though his voice was more indulgent than aggravated.
Funny to think that him and Wesley were just about the only Watchers left in the world. Considering the dark place she'd last seen Wesley in, that was probably a bad thing. Wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes, Willow cleared her throat and asked merrily, "Throw us back?"
Buffy snickered and said, "Can't. Expiration date's passed."
Dawn sighed heavily and asked with a liberal dose of teenage angst, "I don't suppose you could use your superpowers to help unload the truck?"
Shaking her head, Willow answered, unrepentant, "Nope."
Eyes rolling, Dawn turned back towards the massive moving truck that was taking up most of the street on the quiet cul-du-sac where the house was located.
As the three of them helped each other up, Giles informed them, "I've secured a position at the local high school library where I'll be able to keep an eye on the girls during the day. And Robin called to say that he's managed a transfer as Principal to the school in the next township over. You have a job interview there tomorrow, Buffy."
Buffy straightened appropriately, eyes twinkling, and nodded. "Sure. Be there with bells on. Um, where will I be ringing?"
A faint smile crossed his face. "I have the address written down. Now then. Shall we unpack?"
Strong arms surrounded Willow from behind and she smiled, leaning back into Kennedy's embrace, putting her hands on the ones at her waist. "Hey, brat."
"Hey yourself," Kennedy greeted, kissing just behind her ear. "You ready to set-up house?"
The pleased chuckle that surfaced died quickly at the expression that flickered across Buffy's face before the other woman looked away. Uncomfortable now, pulling away, Willow smiled to assure Kennedy and answered brightly, "Yep. Definitely."
"Well good. Because we have a new bed that needs christening," Kennedy murmured, smiling wickedly.
Willow shivered lightly at the promise in the dark eyes and cleared her throat as a flush spread over her face. "Right. Good. Um, unpacking now. Let's. Yes."
Brushing light fingers over Willow's cheek, Kennedy walked towards the truck and the other girls who were already hauling stuff inside.
Unsure what was going on with Buffy, only that her relationship with Kennedy was making her friend act strange, Willow headed after the blond quickly. Buffy had already reached the house, so she followed her inside, calling out, "Buffy, hang on."
Buffy looked back, then put on what was obviously a forced smile and asked, "What's up?"
"You tell me," Willow replied hesitantly.
"Nothing. Just, you know, unpacking and all."
Willow paused. "Right. Um, how about not with the evasions this time?"
Sighing, Buffy looked out the large picture window to where Kennedy and Dawn were chatting easily on the lawn. "Don't you think...I mean...it's great, you finding someone after, after Tara. I'm really glad about that."
"But...don't you think she's a little young?" Buffy asked, all in a rush.
Surprised, Willow just blinked at her friend for a few moments before heat again flushed over her skin. Defensive, Willow exclaimed, "And you were in Angel's age-bracket?"
Buffy grimaced and replied, "No, but, you know. The undead-slayer thing going on there. Instant chemistry. Kennedy's just a girl, Willow."
Irritated, Willow snapped, "Thanks. I didn't realize I'd been robbing the cradle, because, hello, ancient here?"
Running a hand through her hair, Buffy said, "That's not what I meant. Well, sort of. Willow, she's going to go to college in the fall, right?"
"Well, I could go back to school too, you know!"
"Right. Because the most powerful witch on the face of the planet needs to brush up on her calculus," Buffy commented, dryly.
Hurt, Willow didn't respond, just turned away, not knowing what she could say to that. On one hand, Buffy was right. Kennedy was only just eighteen and starting to live her life. But it wasn't like Willow was that much older. And that calculus crack really was uncalled for.
There was a silent moment where the playful arguing of Xander and the girls was audible, as well as Giles' scolding tone trying to bring order. Then, Buffy hugged her from behind, resting her chin on Willow's shoulder with, "Sorry, Willow. I'm a bitch with a capital B. I want you to be happy, but I think this is just going to get you hurt. She's younger than her years and you're older than yours. But in a good way, not an ancient one. Promise."
Willow snorted, drawing in a shaky breath. She hated arguing with Buffy, it always felt really wrong. "I like her, Buffy. Really, really like her."
"I know. I really, really do," Buffy assured her.
Buffy pulled away and suggested, "So...let's get set up."
Looking at the empty, small shop set in the center of a bunch of other small shops, which were all set in the center of town, Willow grinned over at Xander and asked, "What do you think?"
"I think my back's gonna be hurting soon, what with all the fixing up I'll be doing," he answered, tossing an arm over her shoulder. "So you're going to be Ms. Businesswoman soon. I can't believe it."
Feeling proud and scared all at the same time, Willow leaned against him with, "Yeah, I know. I was, if you don't think it's totally disrespectful, I thought I could call it, um, Anya's Attic. I mean, she'd probably prefer something with money in the title, but..."
"Willow, it's perfect," Xander interrupted, smiling softly.
"Do you miss her?"
Xander arched an eyebrow at her. "You miss Anya every day?"
Giggling, Willow shook her head. "No, silly. Tara."
He kissed the top of her head and said, "I'm glad you can smile about her now."
"Yeah," Willow agreed, doing just that as she thought about the other woman. "I think she'd probably kick my butt if she found out about how crazy I went when she was killed."
"At the least," Xander confirmed.
She grinned and continued, "But now...I know she's in a good place. She was too sweet and kind to be anywhere else."
"And now you've got Kennedy."
Hip-checking him at the teasing statement, Willow glared playfully and demanded, "And what about it?"
Holding up his hands, Xander answered, "Nothing...Mrs. Robinson."
He laughed and ducked, avoiding her mock-attack.
Settled in bed that night, being held in Kennedy's incredibly strong and infinitely tender arms, Willow thought about Tara for the first time in a long time. Really thought about her. She hadn't been lying when she'd told Xander that Tara was in her thoughts at least once a day, more often than that if she was truthful, but it was in a vague, brief way to keep the pain at a minimum.
Because even now, lying with another woman and knowing just how loved she was, Willow's heart was an open wound. She deliberately rubbed salt in it and thought about Tara, opening herself to the bittersweet agony of going through the memories of their time together. The good, the bad, the incredible and the horrible. They'd been through so much together, their love had persevered through things that no two people should ever have to face, and at the end of it, Willow had felt as if her heart and soul occupied two bodies.
Willow had known that they were soulmates most of the time they were together. The shy, sweet, good-natured woman who'd captured her heart was the perfect foil for Willow's sometime tendency to delve too deep into the dark side of magic. It hadn't been instant chemistry at the beginning, but pretty close to it. Joining power to save themselves from the silent boogeymen who were cutting out the hearts of other students had opened Willow's eyes to many things.
One of those things had been Tara herself. Before that, the other woman had just been in the background of the non-Wiccan group Willow had joined in search of other witches. There hadn't been a single on among them, save Tara, which was why Willow still thought of them as a bunch of non-Wiccans.
It had been only a few short months before their friendship had deepened into love. Into the sweetest and most tender of passions in which Willow had ever been immersed. Oz had been a completely different kind of love; the first in her life, filled with passion and love and humor and laughter, but also betrayal and desertion. Tara hadn't so much filled the hole that Oz had given Willow, but avalanched into her heart with sincerity and need.
Tears surfaced and slipped out, but Willow didn't bother to wipe them away. She cried silently as she thought about the deep-rooted need that had been such a part of Tara. Driven into insecurity and feelings of unworthiness by her family, Tara had somehow still maintained the will to open herself to love, had in fact, shown Willow what it truly meant. It had been easy for Willow to be needed, honest in a way that she'd never had with Oz. She hadn't been needed by Oz, but she had by Tara.
Pride in herself as a woman and strength of will had come about because Tara had needed her. Needed Willow's love and assurance to counter her inadequacies. Growing up had happened without her knowledge because Tara had silently demanded an equal on both the emotional and mental fields. Willow had surged ahead in her development because of the need and want of her lover and now was grateful for it.
Kennedy shifted uneasily while still asleep, perhaps sensing that Willow was being unfaithful in her thoughts. For she was. She cared a great deal for Kennedy, but even now, her mind replayed time after time of making love with Tara. The smooth skin, the firm muscles only barely defined, the long, fine hair and tufts of down on unshaved legs. The curly, wiry blond hair covering Tara's mound and how sweet and slick she tasted when Willow went down and stayed down until her lover was screaming with the pleasure.
It was different with Kennedy, which was, of course, only right and proper. With Kennedy, there was a definite sense of playful exploration beneath the love. In this partnership, Willow was the older lover, teaching Kennedy how to love and grow up. But doing so left a vague sense of emptiness inside when she was awake, deep in the night. Willow wasn't needed by Kennedy even close to the way that Tara had needed her. The way that she'd needed Tara.
Maybe Buffy was right. Maybe Willow was too old for Kennedy.
The next couple of months were insanely busy. When Willow noticed that Buffy wasn't quite sure of what to do with herself at night, she took it upon herself to reacquaint her friend with 'normal' evening activities. There weren't anymore vamps that needed staking, not in their neighborhood anyhow, so patrolling wasn't necessary anymore.
There were a lot of late night life planning sessions that usually devolved into eating ice cream and chips, and drinking way too much caffeine. But Willow was more than happy with the situation. It was like when they'd first become friends in high school. A permanent sleep over, was how she viewed it. Buffy went to work in the morning and Willow went to her slowly improving magic shop, but the nights were for finding their friendship again.
So many extreme things had happened to them in the past two years, that just being together in front of the television was a novel experience. Not like the first few years they'd known each other had been exactly relaxing, but there had always been the stability of school and homework and family to counteract the strangeness. All of that had been gone for the last couple of years, starting with college and then Joyce's death.
Willow jumped in surprise at the voice, then turned to find an old woman standing in the door of the shop. She was tiny and frail looking with more wrinkles than not, dark eyes, and flaming red hair that was definitely not natural for someone her age. Smiling, Willow greeted, "Hi there. We're not really open yet. Still getting organized."
"Oh I know, dear, I just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood," the old woman replied, returning the smile with most of her teeth intact. "The name's Janice McKeon. I own the bakery two doors down."
"Well thanks!" Willow exclaimed, moving closer. Holding out her hand, she introduced, "I'm Willow Rosenberg."
"It's nice to meet a young lady who's so polite."
"So you own this shop all by yourself?" Janice questioned.
Willow nodded, beaming proudly. "I do. All mine."
Janice smiled indulgently and observed, "And a magic shop, too. How interesting. You know, my grandmother was a witch. Of course, back then it was still a hanging offense, so she wasn't out and about like you young women today. I even have a charm of hers that she left me."
Interested, Willow asked, "Really? What kind of charm?"
"To find your true love," Janice replied, sighing wistfully.
Trying not to smile, Willow observed, "It didn't work for you?"
"Oh it did, but I was already married and with child by then," Janice answered. "I couldn't leave my husband just because someone else had come along. It wouldn't be right. Especially not with a baby on the way. I still wonder, to this day, why my grandmother gave me the charm when she knew I wouldn't be able to enjoy the end result."
"I'm sorry," Willow said, completely sincere. "That's a terrible thing to have to go through. I can't imagine why she'd have done it."
Blinking rapidly, obviously returning from her stroll down memory lane, Janice smiled and patted Willow's arm. "That's nice of you, dear. Well. I should be going before Kyle burns all the muffins. He's a nice boy, but not too bright."
Laughing softly, Willow promised, "I'll stop in sometime and we can chat."
Dark eyes twinkling up at her, Janice replied, "I'd like that, Willow. Good luck organizing things."
Willow grinned. "Thanks."
Janice nodded and headed back out of the door with a cheerful wave.
Turning back to the disorganized chaos that was the magic shop, Willow sighed and got back to work.
"I met the cutest little old lady today!" Willow said, bumping hips with Kennedy.
Putting her arm over Willow's shoulder to tug her close, Kennedy answered, "Oh, yeah?"
"God, can you two stop honeymooning, please?" Dawn exclaimed, passing by them on the way to the fridge.
Grinning when Kennedy stuck her tongue out at the younger girl, Willow answered, "Not a chance. And don't eat that, supper'll be ready in like ten minutes."
Dawn groaned. "But I'm hungry now!"
"Tough," Buffy said, entering the room. She bee-lined for Dawn and snagged the bag of cookies from her sister. "Besides, who put the cookies in the refrigerator? That makes no sense."
"I did, and what's your problem with it?"
They all looked towards Xander, who hung his tool belt on the coat rack and promptly snagged the cookies from Buffy.
"Problem? None. It's just a weird place to put them," Buffy answered, shrugging.
The other girls came rushing in just then, as well as Giles and Faith, and things were chaotic as supper was finished and put on the table. It was much later that Willow remembered she hadn't finished talking about Janice, but by then, there was no one around to talk to about her.
For once, being a Friday night, she had the house to herself. She'd begged off going to the movies with the horde in favor of taking a long, hot bath and maybe even getting in some meditation. Basically, it was 'pamper Willow' night and she was going to take complete advantage of it.
"It's very strange."
Giles looked over at Willow with curiosity. "What is?"
"This. All of this. All of us living in the same house as thought it was what normal people did," Willow explained, staring pensively out of the window.
Frowning slightly, Giles set his book on the coffee table and took a good look at Willow. She'd only just arrived home a short while ago, just before midnight. The rest of the household had been in bed for a couple of hours, but Giles hadn't yet been able to break the habit of burning the midnight oil, despite the lack of dire circumstances and suspected he never would.
Just in case.
Shaking the paranoid thought from his head, he asked, "Are you all right?"
"Huh?" Willow blinked then nodded. A smile flashed across her face and she glanced at him before continuing, "Just perusing."
Giles arched an eyebrow at her. "Perusing what?"
"Memories. Life. Family. You know. Stuff."
"Ah," Giles commented. "I do, indeed."
"You know what I've been thinking about that's really interesting?"
"That you and Wesley are the only Watchers left and that's because you were both exiled. Kinda makes with the irony, don't you think?" Willow observed, lips pursed.
Snorting, Giles replied, "I've thought that myself. And now Wesley works for Wolfram and Hart."
Willow blinked in surprise. "He does?"
"Buffy didn't tell you?"
Shaking her head, Willow answered dryly, "Nope. Pretty sure I would've remembered that."
"Ah. Well. Yes. Apparently, Angel has moved the entire team over to Wolfram and Hart these days."
"I suppose there were really good benefits involved? Dental? Maybe even a 401k?"
"Something to do with averting their own apocalypse."
Willow heaved a long-suffering sigh as she complained, "You know, apocalypses used to be singular events. As in, one night only, never to happen again. Whatever happened to the good old days where they came one at a time, even spread out over a couple of months?"
Giles' lips quirked with amusement. "I wish I knew. Still, at least Angel was able to help Buffy when needed."
Frowning, Willow asked, "When was that and where was I?"
"You were channeling all the powers of good and evil to transform the slayer into plural and simultaneous slayers," Giles reminded.
Willow smirked. "Oh, right. Forgot about that."
Chuckling softly, Giles said, "In any case, I talked to Wesley and he's somewhat determined to start a new council, given how many slayers there are out there in the world right now, there's going to be a need for some kind of governing body so these girls don't get out of control."
"I don't think so."
Surprised, Giles asked, "Why ever not?"
Turning to look back out the window, she replied, "First, we all saw how well the last council worked out when it came to knowing what was really going on in the world."
Giles had to nod agreement at that.
"Second, we're training big sisters now. When they're ready, they'll go out and find little sisters and train them. Not to mention the ones that will find their way here all on their own. We'll have a home ready and waiting for them so that they know that they aren't strange or weird or bad."
He hadn't thought of it like that before, but Willow was right. That was exactly what they were doing. "But how do you know they'll come?"
Glancing back at him, Willow answered, "Because I may have put an extra little oomph into the spell that sent them to Buffy if they were in trouble."
Startled, Giles exclaimed, "Willow! Why would you do something like that? And does Buffy know?"
"Because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time and no, she doesn't. I've kinda been looking for the right time to tell her," Willow admitted.
Giles thought about it for a long moment, then started laughing.
Willow gave him a curious look and asked, "What?"
Shaking his head, Giles explained, "Just that it looks like Buffy's going to be employed as a counselor for a very long time to come."
"Heh. She is, isn't she?" Willow agreed with a little snicker.
Relieved that some of the melancholy had departed, Giles got to his feet and crossed towards the stairs. He paused at her chair and gripped her shoulder. "You're doing a wonderful job, Willow. With everything. I'm very proud of you."
Willow smiled up at him, covering his hand with her own and squeezing it lightly. "Thanks, Giles. That means a lot to me."
Nodding, Giles bent down and kissed the top of her head. "Don't stay up too late."
"I won't," she promised. "Night, Giles."
"Good night, Willow. Sweet dreams."
Looking around the quiet, but finally ready shop, Willow smiled and felt the flush of pride run through her. She had done all of it by herself. Well, except for actually construction where Xander had done the work, but all the rest of it. She would sink or swim all on her own; something that she'd been waiting for her entire life.
Not the magic shop itself, no, but accomplishing something. Magic was part of her now, had been for the last few years, and it was something incredible and wonderful. Willow felt about ready to explode with happiness that she could share it with the world and show people that witches were Disney characters or evil, well, most weren't evil. She could finally do something that was good, and normal, and profitable.
Chuckling to herself, Willow muttered, "Definitely Anya's spirit in this place."
Willow turned towards Janice with a smile. "Hey!"
"Hey yourself, young lady, are you ready for the big opening tomorrow?" Janice questioned.
Nodding, Willow agreed, "Yep. But, you know, we'll be lucky to get more than a couple of browsers, even with your castoffs."
Janice chuckled and gripped Willow's shoulder, patting her on the arm. "Now, now, don't be so gloomy. I'm sure you'll do wonderfully. This is the most cheerful magic shop I've ever been in, you know. So many pleasant touches and decorations, almost soft spoken, one might say. No offense, my dear, but it doesn't seem your style at all."
With a grin, Willow assured her, "None taken. No, I decorated it with someone else completely in mind."
"Who would that be, dear?"
Hesitant now, even though Janice had never shown a problem with Willow and Kennedy's outness, she answered, "My girlfriend."
Surprised, Janice asked, "That exotic dark-haired girl? This doesn't seem like her, either."
"Oh! No, not Kennedy. Tara. Tara was, was my girlfriend, but she was killed last year," Willow explained.
The fragile hand rested again on her shoulder, dark eyes compassionate as Janice said, "I'm so sorry, my dear. That's terrible."
Willow forced a smile and replied, "That's all right. I'm, I've dealt with it and moved on."
"You still love her, though," Janice observed softly. "I can see it right there in those beautiful eyes of yours."
To that, Willow could only shrug. Finding her voice a few moments later, she said, "In any case, I thought I'd pay her a little tribute and have this be the kind of shop that Tara would have felt at home in."
The hand tightened momentarily and Janice stated, "Well, you did a wonderful job, young lady. And to celebrate, I have a little gift for you."
"Oh, you didn't have to do that!" Willow protested.
Smiling, Janice pulled a small box out of her pocket and held it out. "I wanted to welcome you into the ranks of the small business owner, and congratulate you…as a friend."
Not sure how to respond, but feeling honored and pleased, Willow took the box and opened it. Gasping as she found a silver pendant inside of two women twined around each other, a stone of some kind joining them together. The chain was heavy and looked very old and Willow could feel the power coming off the necklace. She knew instinctively what it was and looked at Janice, shaking her head. "Janice, I can't accept this, it's too much! This was your grandmother's!"
Wagging a crooked finger at her, Janice answered, mock-sternly "You have to take it, it's a gift. Besides, I have no granddaughters to pass it on to and I want you to have it."
"What about your daughter?" Willow asked.
With a wink, Janice answered, "It's supposed to skip a generation. Besides, she'd never leave that loser she calls a husband."
Snorting, Willow hesitated, then took it out of the box, looking it over with wonder. "It's beautiful."
"I always thought so," Janice agreed. "Did you know that it actually changes form depending on who inherits it?"
Willow was startled. "What do you mean?"
"When I got it, it was a man and a woman, not two women," Janice explained. "It takes the form of the other half of your soul."
Knowing that the other half of her soul was currently on another plane of existence, Willow just smiled and put it over her head.
"Now, when your true love shows up, you're supposed to take the necklace off and put it away somewhere until it's time to pass it on to the next generation. Which will be your granddaughter, or someone you deem worthy of it," Janice explained, taking the necklace and putting it over Willow's head.
The pendant settled heavily on Willow's breastbone, but didn't feel at all uncomfortable. The weight was soothing, somehow, and she smiled at Janice. "Thank you so much, Janice. I can't tell you how honored I am."
Patting Willow's cheek, Janice said, "I know, dear, I really do. Now then, it's after my bedtime, so I will see you tomorrow at the grand opening. And remember, the muffins are on me."
Willow grinned and walked her friend to the door. "I'll hold you to that."
Closing the door softly shut behind Janice, Willow picked up the pendant and looked at it, turning it so it was right side up. It was beautiful and she knew that she would treasure it and the sentiment behind it forever. Her own grandmother had died when she was little, so Willow hadn't had that experience growing up. Janice was more than making up for the lack, though.
Willow yawned and looked at her watch, surprised to find that almost three hours had passed with her just staring at the pendant. It was just after midnight and she had to be back at the shop in a mere seven hours. Startled and irritated, fully planning to complain to Janice come the morning, she hurried to the phone and called the house.
"Insane Asylum, please rescue me," Buffy answered, her voice near-desperate.
Willow grinned, hearing the shouting and fussing of the girls in the background. "Hey, it's me."
"Willow! Where the hell are you? I'm going nuts here!"
"So I gathered from the greeting. I lost track of time, but I'll be heading out soon."
"Thank God! Hurry, please, or there will be much of the blood shedding very, very soon."
Laughing outright, Willow agreed, "I'm hurrying, I promise! I'll be leaving in, um, about a half hour 'cause there's a couple last minute things to do before I skedaddle."
"Okay, but no later than that for the skedaddling, or you'll be the one to scrub the carpets clean of the blood."
"Got it. I'll pick up some cleaner on the way home, just in case."
Willow grinned and hung up, shaking her head. Moving as quickly as she could, she finished putting the remaining stock on the shelves and was just about ready to leave when a noise caught her attention from the book-room. Frowning, Willow called out, "Is someone there?"
There was no answer, but years of living on the Hellmouth had taught Willow all kinds of caution. When it sounded like books fell from shelves from behind the door, she grabbed the broom from against the wall and headed for the other room, again calling out, "Who's there?"
One hand held the broom firmly while the other opened the door. She peered into the darkness, but saw nothing, even when there was another loud thump. Then, without warning, something rushed out of the room and slammed into her, knocking her to the floor. Her head slammed into the tiles and the broom slipped from her grip as Willow groaned in pain.
Whatever had knocked her down, was already off her and had scrambled away. Rolling to her side, Willow scanned the main room of the shop and froze at the sight that greeted her from the opposite corner. Her mind didn't want to, literally couldn't grasp, what her eyes were seeing. Her heart, however, surged up from the eternally dark place where it had dwelled the last year. Something deep, deep inside Willow sighed in relief even as darkness tinged her vision from the strain of disbelief mixed with intense emotional agony.
Shivering, obviously confused and out of it, covered in some kind of clear slime that was slowly dripping down her nude body…was Tara.
The Further Adventures of Willow #2: The Return
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