The hum of the electric motor silenced as the sleek black sports car pulled to a stop by the gate to the memorial forest. A slender attractive woman of late middle years climbed out of the driver’s side and moved to the passenger’s. She opened the door and helped a slender old lady to her feet.
“Thank you, Buffy,” said the old woman. Her skin was creased but her smile was radiant and her green eyes reflected a sharp intellect.
“Are you sure about this, mom?” asked Buffy. Her red hair was cut short with gray roots. The old woman looked at her daughter and saw herself twenty five years before.
“I’m sure. I always said I’d rather live a year with him then twenty without. The Norns gave us ten. I can’t back out now.”
“I wish you’d wait for Xander.” The younger woman pulled a Zimmer frame from the trunk and passed it to the older.
“We’ve spoken. You have a fine son in him, Buffy. I’m glad he’s joined the watchers. Our family’s helped the Slayer for too long to stop now.”
“I could walk you.” Buffy parallelled her mother’s first steps towards the forest’s gate.
“No. I’m not here as your mother. Right now, I’m me, Willow Rosenberg-Giles. Wife of Rupert Giles, slayeret. I want to, need to, do this alone. I’ve made all the arraignments. I’ve set up a scholarship for little Rupert.”
Xander will be happy about that. He worries about paying for the boy’s education.
“Goodbye, Buffy. I love you. No tears.”
Water brimmed in the younger woman’s eyes. “No promisees on that last one, mum.” The two women hugged then Willow proceeded into the grave forest.
Birds sand in the trees and squirls played, a black fox appeared on the trail. It paused watching Willow.
“I know, old friend. My turn,” she said.
The fox made a friendly yip and trotted off.
She slowly moved to a plot on the boarder between the more traditional graveyard and the forest. A gnarled crab apple grew on an unkept grave. Willow paused beside it. She looked at the scuffed and warn plaque. Only 2005 was visible on it. “Rot in hell, Tara, you whiney piece of murdering filth.” Willow pulled a hand full of crabgrass and dandelion seed out of her pocket and threw it at the base of the tree before spitting on the plaque. She moved on, leaving the hateful monument behind.
The trees closed in around her. It was green, rich, alive. She came to a beautiful glade. The trees formed almost a complete circle with only one space left open. She smiled at the living monuments to those she’d loved.
She slowly made her way round the circle naming each tree. Chestnut “Buffy.” Pine “Riley.” Ash “Anya.” Maple “Xander” Sycamore “Cordelia.” Elm “Wesley.” There was a gap then an Oak sapling planted only the year before. “Rupert.” she whispered with all the love in her heart. She read the little bras plaque that projected on a rod from the tree. ‘Rupert Giles, 1956 to 2067. Loved in so many ways.”
“Buffy said you’d be here today,” spoke a familiar voice.
“Angel.” Willow didn’t bother to turn around.
The handsome vampire moved to her side.
“We’re the last two,” he said.
“Yes. I asked Buffy not to tell you.” Willow settled onto the grass in front of the small oak tree and looked up at her friend. He was dressed in black and wore a choker. She recognised the amulet on it. It was, arguably, her greatest magical working. With it he could live as a man. Walk in the sun, love and be loved, grow old, but for only three days of each moon. She couldn’t help but smile at the gray hair she saw amongst his black. Her gift had been well used.
“Should have named her something else if you expected her to be able to keep a secret.”
Willow snorted and smiled. The smile melted years off her face.
“Do you have to go?” asked Angel.
“Yes. I bargained with the Norns. They took ten years from me and gave them to Rupert. Balanced us. I’d do it again, but now the time has come to pay the price.”
“I need to know. Did. Did he ever forgive me?”
Willow took the Vampire’s hand in her own. “He healed, Angel. Jenny was very important to him. In the end I believe he forgave Angel. He will never forgive Angellis. Is that comfort enough.”
“It will have to be.”
“Goodbye, old friend,” Willow said the last with firmness and lay on the grass her head touching the young oak.
“Goodbye.” Angel moved silently away.
Willow closed her eyes. It was like falling asleep, or going astral. She felt a warm hand grip hers. Her eyes opened and he smiled down at her. He was young and strong, like the day she’d first seen him. He helped her to stand.
“My love,” said Rupert.
Willow smiled. She looked down. The battered malfunctioning shell she’d worn for ninety years lay on the grass. She looked at herself. She was mid-twenties.
“Rupert, this is how I looked the night you proposed,” said Willow. Her hair was done up with little ringlets, falling randomly around her neck and she wore a black evening gown. Rupert wore a sports-jacket with his shirt open at the caller.”
“What more appropriate?”
“I’ve missed you.” She noticed the physical world around them becoming misty and indistinct; Rupert was all that remained clear.
“And I you. The others are waiting.” A white light shown to the side, forming a glowing tunnel that lit the mists.
Willow moved close to Rupert. She leaned her head towards his, their brows touching. The space between them made a valentine’s heart that the light shown through.
“Does it hurt?”
“Will we be together?”
“How many lives already, my love? We’ll rest and learn and be together. I promise. Then we’ll come back and can fall in love all over again.”
“I love you, Rupert.” Willow kissed him then clutching his hand strode with him into the light.
Buffy stood beside Xander, her son, while Rupert played amongst the trees. They were alone. Willow had requested that as few people as possible disturb the peace of the grove.
Xander placed the Willow tree sapling in the grave. All that hid his grandmother’s body was a canvas bag. He began shovelling the dirt back into place, his well muscled form making light work of the job.
“She’ll like it here,” he said, pausing to wipe sweat away from his green eyes.
“Don’t be silly. She’s long gone from here. She’s with Dad and the others.”
“How did she know. I mean dying on grandad’s grave.”
“Does it mater? She knew and she wanted to be here, close to him when she left.”
“They really did love each other.”
“More than I think we’ll ever guess.”
Xander finished filling in the grave and calling his son to his side took the boy’s hand in his left hand and his mother’s in his right. He led them from the sacred grove.
A thought away and farther then you can imagine, a beautiful redhead smiled and held the hand of the man she loved.
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