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It's so lovely to have a stash of chapters in the wings. I quite like the feeling.

Today, I share another one with you, whoever's out there and reading.

My kitties are lazing in my bed, mindless telly is blaring in the background, and

I'm debating what to make for lunch - sounds like any other day to me.

How are YOU doing?




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Willow was absolutely bursting with excitement. She’d come to the conclusion that there was nothing left on this plane of existence to keep her here. Yes, she had friends, and acquaintances, but the Library had Thespia!

She and Xander had reconnected to a point, but it was never going to be the closeness of youth. And while she was still fond of Giles, he was happily living out his life with Lydia on their farm and not much for keeping in touch except by email and the occasional snail mail.

Buffy was another matter. She loved the girl deeply, and was thrilled beyond the telling of it that she was finally freed, but Buffy was just 24 years old. Still 24 years old. She remembered their meeting a few months ago; Willow had flown back to California for the occasion. She had to see for herself that Buffy was okay.

What she found shook her sense of self. Yes, she knew intellectually that Buffy had been frozen in time for the past twenty years – half of Willow’s lifetime – but actually seeing it blew her mind. Buffy was a baby! She – Willow – would never again be comfortable sharing secrets and talking about boys - men - with her like in the old days.

And speaking of men, albeit young men, there was Will. He was a stunning 19 year old, and no matter how hard she looked, she couldn’t see anyone but Spike! Again, yes, she should have expected it. Will was Spike – down to the exact same molecular makeup. Seeing them together and so happy warmed her heart and gave her the wiggins at the same time

They’d parted on good terms, however – promising to keep in touch, but expecting nothing might come of it.

Willow had to be realistic. She was now 38 years old – the same age as Dawn. And she really should have been 42! She’d lost 4 years in the Library over 9 years ago. Earth reality time, anyway – for Thespia, it’d only been 9 weeks since they parted.

“Enough dithering!” she exclaimed aloud. She knew what she had to do. She was going to dispose of her belongings, settle up her apartment, make a farewell tour to those she cared about and contact Thespia. She rubbed her fingers over the little circlet she’d worn every day since Thespia had gifted it to her.

“Soon, baby,” she said softly into the air. “We’ll be together soon.”

Only one last task to complete and then she’d be ready. If things worked out, Buffy would have the Christmas/birthday present of a lifetime, and Willow would feel free to move on with her life.

*****

On Christmas Eve, Buffy received a large crate from Willow. She had called earlier in the day, begging her not to open it until she arrived. She tried to wheedle permission with her best friend whine, but Willow remained adamant. “Don’t worry, Buffy,” she’d soothed. “I promise you won’t be disappointed.”

That was the treat part of Willow’s visit. The not so pleasant part included a visit with her erstwhile friend, and Wills’ pseudo-captor, Xander. Willow had pleaded for them to give the man a chance. She reminded them that Xander’s life had gone badly off the tracks after Sunnydale’s implosion, and while some of his choices had been indefensible, he’d changed over the years.

“T’is the season,” Willow had implored. “Good will towards your fellow man, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I really want us to be whole again, before I move in with Thespia.”

Turning to Will, Buffy asked if he could handle seeing the man in his own home, even though he’d already paid Xander a visit a couple of years ago.

“I’ll do whatever makes you happy, sweetheart,” Will replied. “I don’t think any harm will come from it.”

Buffy snorted indelicately. “No wonder everyone decided to go to the Gunn’s Christmas party. Willow probably called them first with her intentions.”

“Can’t begrudge everyone for heading over to Uncle Charles’ holiday party. I’m sure we’ll be fine,” Will said. “In the meantime, the tree’s trimmed, there’s a fire lit… I’m sure we can manage.”

“I’d rather spend the time alone with you,” Buffy admitted. “And now we’re going to have Willow and Xander over. She sounded more excited than I am about my giftie. I wonder what it is?”

Will laughed at quick change of topic. It was so good to see her happy and at peace. “We’ll find out in a couple of hours. I bet it will knock your socks off.”

*****

As a couple, Will and Buffy greeted their guests at the door. “Hey, Willow,” Buffy said giving her a quick hug. “Xander,” she acknowledged with a brief nod. “Merry Christmas.”

“Hey, Buff,” he replied with a small, tired smile. “Will,” Xander nodded at the very image of Spike, himself. He offered his hand, which Will grabbed in a hearty handshake. “Good to see you again, kiddo. You both look amazing.”

Buffy laughed, ducking her head slightly. “Well, that’s what twenty years of being statufied will do for a gal.”

“We bring more seasonal tidings!” Willow chirped, waving a couple of shopping bags around filled with gaily wrapped packages.

“Oh god,” Buffy gasped. “I’m so, so sorry, but with the short notice and all, we don’t have any…”

“Pish tosh!” Willow’s response sounded funny, coming from this older version of her once best friend. “Tonight isn’t really about gifts, except for the one that was delivered this afternoon. Just consider these an added bonus.”

“Buffy’s been alternating between acting like an overly excited five year old, and a brooding drama queen.” Will walked over to the large crate sitting in front of a gorgeously decorated pine tree. “I have to admit to being a bit curious, myself,” he added, grabbing the crate with his hands and shaking it slightly. “Don’t think it’s a pair of socks, but you can’t judge a book by its cover, I always say.”

Silence stretched on awkwardly and all four people fidgeted – words that needed to be said weren’t coming freely from anyone, until Xander cleared his throat and stood, facing Buffy and Will. Willow patted his back, for support.

“Buffy, I don’t… I’m sure I’m not the first… well, it needs to be said. I’ve been an ass. I know we’d all been through hell when Sunnydale went boom, so I guess there’s no real excuse I can use for my behavior, for losing Anya. Obviously I wasn’t the only one to lose a loved one, but I couldn’t see past my own troubles.

Willow stared at Buffy, as if expecting her to do something. Will listened closely to Xander’s words, checking on Buffy to make sure she was comfortable – or at least not panicking – as the air in the room grew more tense by the moment.

“I drank myself into oblivion until I couldn’t drink another drop, and then became a terribly mean dry drunk. I abused those in my charge – verbally – which sucked worse than physically. And then there was the one time I actually decked a baby Slayer. That was my low point. I tried to get myself together, and realized I couldn’t do it alone.

“I tried to contact Giles. I figured with his help, I would at least have a purpose in life. Something to do, somehow make a difference in the world again. We all know how spectacularly that failed. Cutting past the horrid events with the Watcher’s Council, and my jail term, along with court ordered psychiatric help, I’ve tried to move on with my life.

“It’s easier to be alone, in a way. Not to have pitying, judgmental faces on old friends – people I’ve hurt past the point of forgiveness. You fall into a routine. Dull, but peaceful. Eventually, it’s not enough. Will,” he said, turning to the man in question. “Your visit a couple of years ago helped me more than I’ll ever be able to thank you for. It made me miss people who were no longer in my life. I know it was my own doing… but loneliness is not anyone’s friend.

“Willow and I are never going to be the bosom buddies we used to be,” Xander said, turning to the blushing redhead at his side. “But – with a little bit of effort – we reconnected. We email, we Skype every now and then. It fans the flame of my battered soul.

“I’d been hoping to see Dawn this visit, but if you would, Buffy, please give her this letter,” he continued, pulling a large red envelope out of his jacket pocket. “I owe her more than an email, but I’m not sure she’d be willing to see me face to face – even now.”

Buffy had tears in her eyes. Xander – her friend – was honestly contrite. Keeping up the distance – both emotionally and physically – was suddenly way too painful to bear. She stood, strode over to him with open arms, and hugged the proverbial stuffing out of him.

“Uhhh,” he huffed, trying to extricate himself from her embrace. “Old! Fragile human, here. Strong, young, Slayer with steel bands for arms!”

“Sorry, Xan,” she said, backing off slightly. “You know I tend to forget my own strength against all you puny humans.”

“See? See?” Willow said, excitedly. “I knew this would be okay. We’re all adults here, now. Some more of us than others.” Once again, she blushed to the tips of her ears. “I’m sorry – seems I still can’t stop my foot from fitting squarely in mouth, despite my advancing years.”

“Okay, that’s enough of the old business,” Will said, clapping his hands loud enough to startle everyone else. “I do believe we’re ready for the highlight of tonight’s get-together. Buffy… go get the crowbar. It’s time for the unveiling of your present.”

“No, no! Not yet!” Willow interrupted. “First, the gifties Xander brought. Please?” she begged, looking more like the younger girl Buffy had known, than the almost forty year old woman she actually was.

Will and Buffy each opened up a plainly wrapped package that held two of the most beautiful handworked inlaid mahogany boxes – perfect for holding personal momentos..

“Oh, Xander!” Buffy said, wiping away tears of joy. “These are absolutely gorgeous!”

“Thanks, man,” Will added. “You do nice work.”

“Woodworking is my one true joy these days. Much more creative than whittling stakes used to be,” he admitted, a bit of a blush staining his stubbled cheeks. “No offense, Buffy. I was always happy to help serve the forces of fighting evil, but this is way more satisfying for me.”

“I’m so glad, Xander,” she said, eying the red velvet lined box. “You deserve to have some pleasure in your life.”

“Thanks, you guys,” he said, eyes shining with emotion. “Your forgiveness means the world to me.”

“We’ve all done stupid things in our lives,” Will allowed. “Hopefully from here on out, we’ll all be better people for it.”

“Here, here!” Willow cheered. “And now, it’s time for the great unveiling. First, though,” she said thoughtfully, “I need to give you a bit of background. Thespia and I did a lot of digging until we came up with the perfect trap and the spell to spring it. I never said anything, because we didn’t want to raise your hopes, and it took a bit longer than I would have liked, but – in the end – it was so worth it.”

“Babble much, Willow?” Buffy laughed, picking up the crowbar she had stashed near the crate. “It’s party time!” she cried, wielding the crowbar with ruthless efficiency.

“What the hell?” Will stood and walked over to the remains of the crate, which had revealed a tallish, marble statue with the angriest expression he had ever seen carved in stone.

“Willow… what did you do?” Buffy marveled at the sight. There, in front of her, stood Davide. The freaking Immortal, himself; as frozen solid as she herself had been for so long, thanks to him.

“I can’t guarantee he’s alive in there, like you were,” Willow admitted. “But I didn’t think you’d care for his health one way or the other.”

Buffy continued to circle the statue, looking absolutely predatory.

“Remind you of high school and the Master, Will?” Xander asked, looking on in fascination. “Go on and do it,” he shouted at Buffy. “Go on – you know you want to,” he said, gleefully.

Will had opened a weapons locker, and handed Buffy a sledgehammer. “Here ya go, sweetheart,” he said. “Get your own back.”

Buffy smiled. Not a pleasant one, to be sure. No, this was laser focused on the Immortal, and when she hefted the sledgehammer, everyone backed away several steps.

Wise decision, as it turned out. Chunks of marble went flying everywhere, and when the statue had been reduced to rubble, she smashed the rubble into powder. When it was done, Buffy collapsed to the floor and was gathered into Will’s arms as she cried out her emotional release. It had been a long time coming, but by the time she’d stopped sobbing, a tremendous weight had been lifted from her small shoulders.

“You guys,” she said softly from the safety of her beloved’s arms, “This is the best present anyone could have ever given me. I thought I was free before, but now I feel like I could fly!”

They gathered together for a group hug, which left a lightness that seemed to make the room glow. The rest of the evening was spent with the traditional pizza delivery and ice cream for dessert.

By the time Willow and Xander left, Buffy was ready. One hundred percent sure. It was time. She took one look at Will and his knees buckled.

She raised a well-groomed eyebrow and tilted her head toward the stairs. Not wasting a moment, Will scooped her up from the floor, and took the stairs two at a time.

His door shut behind them; the sound of the lock engaging ringing in the deserted building. They wouldn’t emerge until well past noon the next day.


As always, please feel free to comment. Hope this gave you a few minutes of happy reading time.

Enjoy your day, folks!

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