Rupert rapidly blinked several times in the hope that would clear his fogged vision. It wasn't until he wiped his eyes that he realized it wasn't his vision that was fogged but that he was in a white misty etherworld.
He wasn't sure how he'd pictured Avalon but he was positive a white void was not it.
A chuckle to his left brought his attention around. Merlin raised an eyebrow and smirked. “Did you think, mortal, that you would be whisked to Avalon? This is the limbo between the mortal world and the magickal world. Have patience.”
Nimue shared her lover's amusement with mortals. They had been a source of much enjoyment over the millennia. Her eyes twinkled as swept her arm and the mist began to evaporate revealing a wooded glade and a dirt path.
Merlin grabbed Rupert's elbow to keep him from falling as his knees nearly buckled with the magnitude of pure Avalon magick. “Your frail body is merely one of the reasons mortals must pass through limbo.”
Rupert took a deep breath and tried to calm his racing heart. If what he had just felt was only a fraction of what Willow experienced back at Ethan's lair he was even more anxious to reassure himself that she was all right.
“Let's continue. I'm fine.”
Nimue smiled as she watched Rupert continue down the dirt path. He reminded her so much of Merlin when he first came to Avalon.
“What brings a smile to your lips, love?” Merlin asked as he slipped his arm around her waist.
“Just remembering times past when another wizard first came to Avalon.”
A smile tilted his lips as he squeezed her waist. “If I had known the adventure and treasure that awaited my arrival I wouldn't have cursed Morgan Le Fay at my exile.”
Willow cocked her head to the side as if listening to an inner voice. Ever since she had been infused with the ancient magick of Avalon she had felt her bond to the Earth and all things living become even stronger. She felt a slight ripple in the magickal essence but she couldn't place what it was.
The sound of a twig cracking brought her out of her thoughts. Willow smiled when she recognized one of the Fey. “Good morning, Cassandra.”
“The Lord and Lady request your presence in the great hall.”
Willow's smile grew wider and she felt like pinching herself. She was REALLY in Avalon with Merlin and Nimue AND she had ACTUALLY met Lord Oberon and Lady Titania of the Fey. The only thing that would make this experience perfect was if Rupert were here to share it with her.
Upon her arrival in Avalon she had been reassured that the battle had been won and Rupert was indeed alive and healthy. Nimue had told her that her stay here was contingent on her recovery. The less time it took her to get back on her feet the quicker she would return to the mortal realm. That incentive had been all she needed to harness the healing strength of the Earth and quicken her recovery time.
“Is it time for me to leave?” Willow asked as she hurried after Cassandra. Besides Merlin and Nimue the only others that could grant passage into or out of Avalon were Oberon and Titania. Willow had hoped she wouldn't have to wait for Nimue or Merlin's return before she was allowed to return to Rupert. She felt stronger every day and Cassandra had assured her that she was as strong as any mortal could be in Avalon.
Cassandra smiled sympathetically, “I am sorry, Willow. I was not told why your presence was requested just that I was to bring you there.”
The fairie castle never failed to elicit a soft sigh from Willow every time she caught sight of it. She had expected something out of a Disney movie but instead, the castle blended into its natural surroundings where you had to look closely to find the castle among the trees.
She quickly climbed the steps that lead up to the great hall. The muted sound of singing and the soft strains of instruments playing could be heard on the morning air. Willow idly wondered if there was a special occasion occurring and that's why she was summoned to Oberon. Willow briefly paused at the top of the steps and waited until Cassandra gave the signal for the two Fey standing guard.
The bronze doors opened and Willow couldn't help the gasp that escaped. “Rupert!” Not caring what protocol she was breaking, if any, she quickly made her way to Rupert.
Rupert had scowled at Merlin when he was told that Willow wasn't in the great hall and that he'd have to curb his mortal tendency of impatience and wait a little longer for her arrival.
The sound of his name being called brought his gaze around to the entrance of the hall. A wide smile spread across his features as he saw Willow quickly making her way toward him.
Rupert met Willow half way across the space that separated them and pulled her into a tight embrace. His fingers shook as he raised them to tenderly stoke her hair.
“I see our gift pleases you much.”
Willow squeezed Rupert tight before she straightened and turned toward the masculine voice. Her face lit with the glow of happiness as she smiled at Oberon. “Thank you, Lord Oberon. It is a very nice gift.”
“Stop teasing the mortals, my love.” Titania said as she slipped her hand into Oberon's. “Can't you see the children wish to be alone?”
Merlin smiled at Willow's blush and raised her hand to his lips. “Go and enjoy our gift. Tomorrow when you wake you'll have returned to your home.”
Rupert narrowed his eyes at Merlin. He wasn't sure if the immortal had meant that he and Willow would return to the same reality or if Willow would return to her reality.
Merlin ignored Rupert's glare and linked his arm with Nimue's. “Dance, love?”
Willow caressed Rupert's cheek with fingers that shook. “Hey, you. Quite the trip, huh?”
Rupert grasped Willow's caressing fingers and kissed their tips. “Quite. However, I think that one can never be too careful about the effects of pure magick. Join me in a lie in?”
“Hmm, my knees do feel kinda wobbly.”
Nimue smiled as she glanced over Merlin's shoulder and watched the retreating backs of Willow and Rupert. She turned twinkling eyes to her lover, “You know with the balance restored, our presence in Avalon isn't a necessity.”
“What did you have in mind, love?”
“I was thinking of perhaps taking a short well-deserved vacation.”
“Any place in particular?” Merlin couldn't help the smirk that twisted his lips.
“Oh, I don't know… I was thinking that a trip to Sunnydale might be nice. You know I'm sure we missed some of the wonderful sights the last time we were there.”
Merlin threw back his head and laughed.
Xander wiped his tired eyes as he turned the page of yet ANOTHER ancient text. It had been months since the mirror cracked and Willow had disappeared. Anya had called in all sorts of favors in the demon community before finally finding a spell to repair the mirror.
The coven had sent Giles an ancient book that had told the myth that surrounded Merlin's Mirror. Giles had discovered that it was indeed a portal and Willow most likely hadn't been injured when it cracked.
It was the phrase “most likely” that had caused Xander to step up his research into finding out how portals were opened. He knew about Dawn's blood opening portals and she had even volunteered her blood to try to open one. But, it hadn't worked. On the upside, they did find out that Dawn was now a typical human teenager and her blood no longer held any mystical qualities.
Anya squeezed Xander's shoulder as she passed him on her way to lock the door. The gang now spent every free moment they had in research. Whether it was in books, through the Internet or chasing down any scrap of information on Merlin's Mirror. But no one researched harder than Xander and Anya could see the affects in the circles under his eyes and his quiet demeanor.
Xander reread the paragraph twice. OH...MY...GOD. He wasn't sure if his eyes were playing tricks and they were seeing what was really there or what he so desperately hoped was there.
Giles looked up from the book he was reading as he heard Xander's shout. He took in Xander's pale face and felt his heart sink. Whatever he found it couldn't be good if it caused Xander's face to lose its color. Giles quickly closed the book and moved to his side.
“What did you find?”
“Look.” Xander pointed a shaky finger to the passage that he found.
Giles steeled himself to look to where Xander had pointed. He read it. He read it again. Giles gave a whoop of joy as he grabbed the book and pulled it closer.
Anya looked anxiously between Xander and Giles. “What?! What is it?”
Giles beamed at Anya. “He bloody found it. We can bring Willow home.”
Xander nervously looked over his shoulder as Giles quickly finished lighting the candles. He didn't know what he'd do if this didn't work. He'd spent months doing little more than researching how to get to Willow and sleeping. His eyes drifted over to Anya. She had really surprised him during this whole mess. Xander figured that she would have complained about all the time he was spending away from her and given up on him by now, Cordelia certainly would have.
Buffy gripped Spike's hand as she waited for Giles to begin. She had mixed feelings about this “rescue” mission. It was too hauntingly familiar to the “rescue” mission that Willow did to bring her back to life. Xander was doing this out of his love for Willow but what if Willow didn't need rescuing and she was happy where she was. But a small voice at the back of Buffy's mind asked what if she was in a demonic realm fighting for her life every day for the past few months? Buffy began to finally start to forgive Willow in her heart. She may have mouthed the words before but a small part of her hadn't really forgiven Willow for dragging her out of heaven.
Giles took a deep breath to calm his racing heart and turned to Anya. “Ready?”
Anya's eyes met Xander's and he gave her a brief smile of encouragement. She gathered the herbs that she had ground together and handed them to Giles. “Insurance will cover any destruction, right?”
Giles ignored her question and began to toss the herbs over the surface of the mirror. Anya gripped Xander's hand when Giles began to sprinkle the herbs and Xander held out his hand for Buffy. They were standing in a semi-circle behind Giles and the mirror. When the last of the herbs were sprinkled, Giles stepped back and held Anya's hand.
He pulled on the physical strengths of Buffy, Anyanka and Spike and then he combined the emotional bond to Willow from Xander and Buffy to the bond between he and Willow. His knees nearly buckled with the power that was coursing through his veins. Something more was happening. Something beyond what was in the passage that Xander had found.
Before Giles could warn the others or release Anya's hand, a brilliant white light flashed out of the mirror and engulfed the basement of the Magic Box.
Willow smiled as she hovered on the brink of sleep. She'd had a beautiful dream that Merlin and Nimue had brought Rupert to Avalon. She was loath to wake up to the reality of yet another day without him. Willow snuggled further into her pillow… into her hard pillow. Her eyes popped open as she realized she was draped over a masculine body.
Rupert opened his eyes when he felt Willow move… Willow move. A broad smile split his features as he realized that Merlin had sent them back TOGETHER.
“It wasn't a dream.” Willow leaned down and placed a soft kiss on Rupert's chest.
Rupert's fingers tangled in Willow's hair as he brought her head up for a kiss. “I thought Merlin would send you home.”
Willow smiled as she pulled back to look into his hazel eyes. “He did.”
“Close your eyes we're coming in!” Jesse yelled as he heard Willow's voice through Giles' door.
He and the others had been desolate with worry as no one had seen either Rupert or Willow since the white light engulfed them all at Ethan's lair. Xander, Druscilla and Darla had gone on a killing spree through Gwendolyn's decimated forces when they learned that Willow and Rupert had disappeared and none of the others had stopped them. Faith had even wanted to join in but Tara had quietly talked her out of it.
Jesse had hoped when they returned to the Fanged Four's mansion that Willow and Rupert would be there waiting for them. It wasn't until he had checked every room that he'd finally gave up and went to his room.
As the sun's rays had begun to rise over the horizon, he'd felt a magickal ripple. Jesse had run into Tara and Faith in the hallway as he'd left his room to investigate. It was then that he'd heard Willow's voice and he'd yelled his greeting.
Willow giggled as the door burst open and Jesse, Tara and Faith entered with their hands over their eyes.
“It's okay guys, we're covered.”
“Too bad.” Xander said as he and the other vampires entered the room.
Druscilla and Darla moved to Willow's side to reassure themselves that she was alright.
Willow felt tears prick her eyes as she was engulfed in Druscilla and Darla's embrace. “I was so worried about you when Oz and Veruca showed up at Ethan's.”
Darla hugged her tight, “Piece of cake. I'm afraid Ethan will have to look for another second in command. Gwendolyn isn't quite up to the task anymore. Being dead and all.”
Rupert smiled grimly, “I'm afraid Ethan went on an extended vacation in hell and won't be returning for quite some time.”
“Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.” Angel said as he leaned against the doorjamb.
Before Rupert could reply, a brilliant flash of white light filled the mansion. Jesse, Tara, Wesley fell to their knees as the power of Avalon filled the room.
“Tara!” Faith yelled as she rushed to her girlfriend's side. “What's happening?”
Willow and Rupert quickly grabbed their robes and jumped out of bed. “The mirror!”
“Where the hell are we?” Buffy looked around the room.
“I-I have no idea. I think something might have gone wrong with the spell.” Giles said as he dropped Anya's hand.
“Ya think?” Anya rolled her eyes.
“Do you think we were transported to Willow instead of Willow coming to us?” Xander asked hopefully.
“Vampires.” Spike said as he came to stand next to Buffy.
Anya, Giles and Xander spun around, “Where?”
Spike rolled his eyes. Gits. “Nearby, I can feel them. There's a Slayer, too.”
Xander looked at Anya, “This isn't some ‘Wishverse' place where we're going to meet psychotic vampire Willow and me is it?”
“Oh sure, blame the ex-vengeance demon on the screw up. You know Giles was the one that did the spell not me. If it's anyone's fault we're in this weird vampire infested place it's his.”
Spike growled and Buffy went into battle stance as the door burst open.
Xander's eyes grew wide as he saw a version of himself standing next to Jesse. He took a tentative step forward, “Jesse?”
Buffy grabbed his arm, “They're vampires.”
Willow pushed her way through to the front when she'd heard Xander's voice say Jesse's name. She KNEW it was her Xander. “XANDER!”
Xander let out an oof as a red headed bundle came flying into his arms.
“Will? WILLOW!” Buffy yelled as she jumped on Willow and Xander.
Willow, Buffy and Xander fell to the floor in a tangle of arms, legs and laughter.
Spike's eyes were riveted to his counterpart who had his arm draped around Druscilla. He tore his gaze away and his eyes widened further as he noticed Angel with his arm around Darla, Faith holding hands with Red's dead girlfriend, Tara and the Watcher had a pained look on his face as he watched Willow.
Rupert's heart plummeted to his feet when he realized these were Willow's friends. Obviously Merlin and Nimue brought them here to take Willow back. His spine stiffened at the thought. There was no bloody way he was going to let her leave without him. If she went back to her reality he'd follow her. With Ethan's defeat and the balance restored, he felt confident in returning the mirror to the coven.
William cocked his head to the side as he looked at himself. So this was “Spike”. This is how he'd end up if hadn't gotten his soul at the turn of the century and Druscilla had left him.
“I can't believe you're really here.” Willow said as she got to her feet. “Merlin said that you'd find a way but I thought it would be years before I saw you again.”
Giles smiled as he pulled Willow into his arms. Willow breathed in the scent that was Giles and marveled at how two men, who were basically the same, could instill two very different feelings in her.
“Merlin? You mean King Arthur, Round Table, that Merlin?” Anya asked.
“Yeah, that Merlin. Have I got a story to tell you guys. But first introductions.”
“Uh, Willow I think we know everyone.” Buffy said as her eyes were glued to Angel. Her heart broke a little more when she saw him lean down and place a small kiss on Darla's temple. Sure, intellectually she knew it wasn't HER Angel but that didn't stop her heart from hurting.
Willow squeezed Buffy's hand when she realized where the Slayer was looking. She knew only too well what it was like to come upon your love with someone else. Willow's eyes drifted to where Tara and Faith were standing. “But they don't know you.” Willow whispered into Buffy's ear.
Buffy sighed, she guessed that meant she was dead in this universe. She only hoped that she took down a lot of vampires before she went. “It wasn't the Master was it?”
Willow smiled slightly, “No, it was Ethan.”
“ETHAN?” Giles blurted out.
“Guys, why don't you go in the other room. Rupert and I'll get dressed and we'll tell you everything you want to know.”
Willow could tell something was bothering Rupert. He had barely said two words while they were getting dressed. She slipped her arms around his waist and pressed a light kiss on the middle of his back.
Rupert sighed and pulled Willow around to stand in front of him. He gently cupped her face and leaned his forehead against hers. “I'm not going to be all noble and let you go. If you leave I'm coming with you. I love you, Willow Rosenberg.”
Silent tears slipped down her cheeks as she pulled his head down to hers and kissed him. “I'm not going anywhere. Nimue said my soul was meant to be here and even if she hadn't I wouldn't leave you. After Tara died, I didn't think I would ever feel this way again. I'll always love Tara but you filled a hole I didn't realize was there. Life is too short to throw away love when you find it. I love you, Rupert Giles.”
A gentle kiss soon turned into a passionate duel for dominance. Rupert reluctantly raised his head, “Do you think they'll notice if we say it took us longer than anticipated to get dressed?”
Willow smiled as she snaked her hand between them and caressed the front of his jeans. “They might buy it from me but I think they'll be a tad suspicious of you.”
Rupert smirked down at her and then nipped her lower lip, “I don't know, love. You look like you've been thoroughly ravished, I'm not so sure they'd buy it from you either.”
She gave one last caress before reluctantly stepping back. “Remember where we were.”
Rupert pinched her bottom as she passed him in the hallway, “How can I forget?”
Xander looked up the stairs as he heard Willow's laughter float down. It was a double edged sword. On the one hand he was relieved that Willow hadn't been trapped in a demon dimension fighting for her life but on the other he was very afraid that she wouldn't be coming back with him and he couldn't imagine a life without Willow in it.
When they entered the room Rupert left it up to Willow how much she wanted to reveal to her friends about their relationship. Willow glanced over at Rupert as he seemed to hesitate in the doorway. She took a deep breath, well it was now or never. She didn't want to hide her relationship with Rupert but she was nervous of her friends' reactions.
She reached back, entwined her fingers with Rupert's and led him to the empty spot on the couch.
“So, where do you want to start?”
Giles, Xander and Buffy sat speechless as they watched the red head softly caress Rupert's arm with her free hand. The free hand that wasn't attached to Rupert's hand.
“Uh…” Buffy turned wide eyes to Xander and Giles.
Anya beamed when she saw what had held Xander's attention. Willow had moved on. Sure it was with GILES but she'd moved… away from Xander. “Well, how about we start with that.” Anya said as she pointed to the clasped hands of Rupert and Willow.
“Anya!” Xander yelled.
“What? It's what you guys obviously want to know about since you're staring at it.”
Buffy immediately tore her gaze away and met the smirking face of Faith. Great, even this Faith mocked her. “Ummm, how about you start at the beginning when you came here Willow?”
Willow began to tell her tale of unpacking the mirror, finding Rupert downstairs, the wizarding war with Ethan and Avalon.
“S-so the mirror truly is Merlin's mirror?”
A flash of white light filled the room and when it faded a distinguished white haired man stood next to a beautiful red head.
Willow beamed at the two newcomers and looked over at Giles. “Giles, This is Nimue and Merlin.”
Giles opened his mouth in shock and then closed it with a snap. It was MERLIN and NIMUE. As a young boy he'd devoured the stories of King Arthur and Merlin. He'd even fantasized of being a great wizard like Merlin one day. It had been one of the reasons he had been drawn to magick and to Ethan.
“I think we broke him.” Nimue smiled as she watched Giles reaction to them. She turned serious eyes to Xander, “Only pure love could have restored our mirror and brought you on this journey. Though she was not meant for your world your soul's bond grew strong with hers. Know that even distance won't destroy the bond forged of love.”
Xander turned confused eyes to Willow. “What does she mean you aren't meant for our world? You're coming back, right?”
Rupert gave her hand a squeeze as she stood to make her way over to Xander.
Willow dropped to her knees in front of Xander's chair. She gently lay her hands on his thighs and raised pleading eyes to his. “This is my home now, Xander. This is where I'm supposed to be.”
Xander shook his head no but the tear filled eyes of his best friend stopped the movement. He placed his hands over hers and urged her to sit on his lap. Xander enfolded her in his arms as she quietly cried. Buffy sniffed and scooted over to Willow and Xander. She set her head on Willow's lap and wrapped her arms around Xander's legs.
Giles tore his gaze away from his young charges and met the wise eyes of Nimue and Merlin. “What did you mean when you said that Willow was not meant for our world?”
“The souls of all witches are born in Avalon. Your Willow's soul was sent to the wrong dimension.”
A small smile curved Giles' lips. That would certainly explain the power that Willow was able to achieve with very little teaching. His thoughts drifted to his counterpart and his feelings for Willow. Intellectually he understood “his” attraction to Willow. She was intelligent and beautiful. Two things he'd always been attracted to, perhaps if he hadn't met Willow as a young student but as a young woman they might have traveled down a different road.
Merlin's voice brought Giles out of his thoughts. “The magick of Avalon brought you on this journey. Go and enjoy your time with your friends. When you wake in the morning you'll have returned to your home.”
Xander and Buffy tightened their hold on Willow at Merlin's words. With a sinking heart Xander knew that the twenty four hours would fly like minutes and all too soon he'd be living a life without Willow in it. The only thing that kept his heart from breaking completely was that he had seen how happy Willow was here with Rupert.
GAH! Rupert! That was an extremely scary visual place that he NEVER wanted to visit.
Back to Leslie's Stories