Of Time and Loss

Of Time and Loss

By Malea

Rating: PG
Pairing: Willow/Tara
Summary: What would happen if one little word got changed in a spell? Answer to Willow Fic-A-Thon Challenge.
Notes: Kinda AU, Time Travel, Kinda Fluff (or so I've been told)
Spoilers: Buffy Season 3 through the end (specifically references "Dopplegangland" and the last few episodes of the series).
Disclaimers: You know, all the standard stuff, I don't have anything clever to say, unfortunately. I don't own anything except some of the words and the computer I wrote them on. :)

***

Willow made her way down the crowded hallway of Sunnydale High. She had just gotten into an argument with her best friends and wasn’t in the greatest mood. She tugged at her fuzzy pink sweater, thinking that she really should change her look. She pulled the dangling straps from her backpack around the front, fidgeting with them. She turned up some steps leading to her next class, getting halfway up, when she heard an unfamiliar voice behind her.

“Uh, Willow?” the girl asked, she seemed a little hesitant.

“Uh, hi,” Willow said, surprised, she didn’t recognize the girl that stood at the bottom of the staircase.

The girl motioned at her own chest. “Anya. I’m sort of new here. Um, I know Cordelia.”

“Oh, fun,” Willow replied, she couldn’t imagine what one of Cordelia’s lackeys would want with her.

“Yeah. Um, listen, I have this little project that I’m working on and I heard that you were the person to ask–“

“Yeah, that’s me. Reliable dog geyser person. What do you need?” Willow had been called old reliable, Old Faithful, and Old Yeller all over the course of the last 15 minutes. She was sick of being the person that everyone used. However, she wasn’t quite sure if she was sick of being used, or sick of allowing herself to be used.

“Oh, it’s nothing big. Just a little spell I’m working on,” Anya said, conspiratorially.

“A spell? Oh, I like the black arts,” Willow stepped down a couple of stairs, suddenly glad to be the one that people thought of when they needed help. At least she was interested in this project.

“I just need a secondary to create a temporal fold. I heard you were a pretty powerful Wicca, so..."

“You heard right, mister. I’m always ready to work some dark mojo. So, tell me, is it dangerous?”

Anya wasn’t sure how to answer the redhead; she didn’t want to scare her out of helping her. “Oh, no,” she said, overly reassuring.

Willow looked disappointed at that answer. “Well, could we pretend it is?”

“Um, sure. Follow me, there’s an empty classroom we can set up in.”

“Okay. So, what are you looking for anyway?” Willow asked as she followed the new girl into the room.

Anya began preparing the circle and all the components needed for the spell. “The necklace was a family heirloom passed down for generations. Then it was stolen from my mom’s apartment.” She placed a plate with a drawing of the necklace in the center of the circle, placing the purple sand to her left.

Willow knelt down across from Anya, facing her. “How does the spell work?” Willow asked as she placed her chicken feet to her left around the circle.

“Uh, well... we both call on Eryishon, the endless one... offer the standard supplication, then there’s a teensy temporal fold– we hope,” Anya said, looking a bit nervous about the whole thing. “Um, then I pour the sacred sand on the representation of the necklace,” she said, motioning to the purple sand and the plate, “and Eryishon brings it forth from the time and place it was lost.”

“Cool.” Willow said, placing her knees right outside the circle, sitting back on her feet.

“Are we ready?” Anya asked as she sat opposite Willow in the same position, taking a quick look around the circle to make sure everything was in place.

“I think so.”

Both girls took a deep breath, extended their hands, palms up, at shoulder height, and closed their eyes. They both opened their eyes to look at each other as Anya began the ritual.

“Eryishon. K’shala. Meh-uhn.”

“Diprecht. Doh-tehenlo nu-Eryishon.” Willow said in turn.

“The child to the mother.”

Willow hesitated. “The ocean to the sea.” Was it ocean or river? her mind asked her, Oh well, too late now.

“Eryishon hear my prayer,” Anya concluded.

Blue light swirled all around the girls as Willow’s vision was flooded with flashes of images that she had never seen before.

Xander wearing an eye patch; a particularly evil, almost primal, looking bald vampire; dozens of young girls all in the Summers’ home; herself, older, in Joyce’s bedroom with a dark haired girl; Buffy fighting alongside Spike and Faith with a huge battle-axe; herself conducting a spell, looking at the same dark haired girl, yelling as tears filled her eyes, her hair turning all white, and then red again while gripping the same axe that Buffy was fighting with; hundreds, if not thousands of the primal vampires attacking the girls along with Buffy and Faith.

She forgot all about the sacred sand that she was holding with Anya, who was struggling with Willow’s frozen hand to get it dumped in time. Neither girl noticed that the sand fell on Willow’s free hand before reaching the plate.

Just as quickly as they came, the visions disappeared. Both girls slumped forward as the power of the spell broke.

“That was– What was that?” Willow demanded.

“Oh, it’s not here. It’s not here!” Anya yelled, not hearing, or at least not listening to the redhead.

“Okay, that’s a little darker than I like my arts,” Willow said as she stood, still shaken from what she had seen.

“Oh, don’t be such a wimp,” Anya spat, disgusted at the girl, as well as angry that the spell appeared to have failed.

“That wasn’t just some temporal fold, that was some weird hell place. I don’t think you’re telling me everything.”

“I swear, I am just trying to find my necklace,” Anya said, telling the absolute truth.

“Well, did you try looking inside the sofa in hell?”

“Look, we’ll just try it again and –“

“No. I think emphatically not.”

“I can’t do it by myself!” Anya cried. As much as she hated it, she needed this girls help.

“That’s a relief. I’m out of here.”

“Fine. Go. Idiot child.”

Willow bent down and snatched something from the side of the circle, shaking them in Anya’s direction. “I believe these chicken feet are mine. Look... magic is dangerous Anya. It’s not to be toyed with. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have someone else’s homework to do.” She turned and walked out with as much dignity as she could muster, trying not to let her knees shake.

“Nothing!” Anya screamed as she smashed the plate against the floor.

***

Willow realized she was laying down on her side at an awkward angle. She was very confused and a little dizzy so she squeezed her eyes closed tighter. She had just performed the spell to activate all the potentials; she could still feel the cold steel of the Guardians Battle-Axe in her hands. She didn’t feel funny doing the spell, her nose wasn’t even bleeding. In fact, it was kind of a rush. Had she passed out? If so, wouldn’t Kennedy be worried about her? She slowly opened her eyes, absently feeling the pockets of her tan corduroy pants, even brushing her hands over her barely covered abdomen. She was surprised to see the stacks of books surrounding her. This was the high school. Her high school. Luckily, since the floor plans were different, she wasn’t in the middle of the principles office, but the library. She carefully clutched one of the shelves and pulled herself up, holding on to steady herself.

At that moment, Giles chose to round that particular stack, holding a book open in one hand, holding his glasses to his lips with the other. He nearly ran into her and dropped the book with a start. “I didn’t realize you were in here, Willow. I thought you had class.”

“I, uh, well, I…”

“Are you feeling okay?” Giles asked, concerned.

“Umm, no. I think I’m quite not. What year is this?”

Giles put his glasses on and gently grabbed Willow by the arm, looking into her eyes. “What’s going on with you? Have you been doing magic again? Why aren’t you in class?”

Willow became a little defensive, jerking her arm free from his grasp. “You are just a memory. You don’t treat me like that anymore; I’m not in high school anymore. Besides, you and Buffy are the ones that decided you wanted me to do that spell anyway.”

“Willow, what do you mean? Are you okay?” Giles was starting to get quite worried. Had she tried a spell that went wrong, making her think that he was a memory? “It’s 1999, to answer your question.”

“Oh boy,” was all she could say.

***

“Giles!” Buffy yelled as she entered the library. “Hey, what’s a slayer gotta do to get some attention around here?”

Giles picked up his book, noticing the large battle-axe lying in the floor next to Willow. She leaned down and picked it up, shrugging at him as he turned and walked from behind the stack where he had been talking to Willow, who followed him. She felt a lot more steady, and she was starting to figure out what was going on.

“Yes, Buffy?” he asked. He had pretty much gotten used to her incessant neediness, he had even begun to find it endearing, but he’d never admit that aloud.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your holy god you’re Willow,” Buffy rambled. She was shocked to see her friend out of her usual cute fuzzy clothes carrying a large red and silver battle-axe. “Will, changing the look not an idle threat with you,” she commented as she saw the redhead follow Giles, surprised by how little the witch was wearing. She had on a tan top with small brown flowers, but it was sheer and clearly showed the black bra underneath. She also wore tan corduroy pants that were low on the hip and tight, but flared a bit after the knee. Buffy was impressed.

“Um, yeah, uh, hi Buff,” Willow stammered. She had a good idea about where she was and how she got there, it was just going to be quite difficult explaining that to the Gang. Even more difficult, though, would be preventing herself from changing what she knew would happen to them over the course of the next several years. There were so many things she could change, lives she could save, heartache she could prevent, or could she?

Just then, Willow burst in through the library doors, dragging her backpack in one hand, her chicken feet in the other. “Giles, I need to talk to you!” she announced as she stomped in, not noticing the shocked, and a little terrified, looks that both Giles and Buffy had on their faces.

“What the HELL is going on here?? Who are you?” Buffy demanded at the tan clothed Willow, taking a defensive position. The imposter was clearly armed and she didn’t want to take any chances.

The pink clothed Willow looked up, stopped, and dropped both of the items in her hands. She was speechless.

“Yes, I do think an explanation is quite in order,” Giles agreed, taking a step back from the girl.

“I swear, I think I can explain it, although, she may get you to believe it better than I could,” the girl stated, pointing to her other self who was standing in the middle of the library lobby, staring.

“I, I saw you. I know you. Well, of course I know you, you’re me. But, I saw you in that weird hell place and now you’re here and Anya said the spell didn’t work but if not where did you come from?” the pink Willow rambled, afraid of what she might have gotten herself into, but also afraid of who, and what, the other girl meant. “I knew I got that word wrong,” she mumbled to herself.

“A spell Willow? How could you have done that without my supervision?” Giles scolded.

“Ease up there ‘Daddy’, it’s not her fault,” the tan Willow defended, well, herself.

“I don’t think we are really going to be listening to you until you are not armed,” Buffy announced, motioning toward the battle-axe still gripped in the tan clothed Willow’s hand.

“Oh!” Willow started, dropping the axe she didn’t even realize she was holding. “This actually belongs to, or, um, never mind.” She stopped talking, not knowing how much she should say or reveal. Even her being there would cause a different future; although, she would probably be a better influence than her evil vampire self had been for her. “Or maybe not,” she mumbled to herself, remembering all the bad things she had done. When Buffy just looked at her, she slid the axe away from herself with her foot.

Buffy picked up the axe as she saw Xander enter the library with the usual bounce in his step.

“Hey Willow, look, I’m sorry about the whole reliable-dog-geyser thing. You know I shouldn’t talk words,” he said to the Willow still standing in the middle of the lobby. When she didn’t immediately look at him, he followed her line of vision. “Holy... What the... Ummm, what’s with the, uh… How? What? How?”

“Three excellent questions,” Giles remarked sarcastically.

“Let me try to explain,” both Willows started. Everyone looked at them, and they looked at each other, surprised.

“Go ahead,” the tan Willow offered.

“Okay, so, here’s what I think is going on.” She explained the spell that she and Anya had performed, as well as the visions that she had.

“Well, that certainly seems plausible,” Giles stated after hearing the story. “The question is, how did it bring you, or, her, or, whomever, here.”

“I think I can explain that,” the older Willow offered. “I remember doing that spell. It didn’t happen exactly this way when I did it several years ago, but it had the same basic effect, there was a different version of myself brought through.” She figured that was safe enough to share with them. “So, something that happened in the spell both times must have brought different versions of me through time to this place. The question I have is why did it bring me back this time instead of bringing the other one forward.”

“Um, well, I think I maybe might have gotten one of the words wrong in the spell. I think it was supposed to be ‘the river to the sea’, but I said ‘the ocean to the sea’,” the younger Willow sheepishly admitted.

“Well, that would make sense then. The river is smaller than, or behind, the sea, the ocean would be larger than, or in front of, it, which would explain why this time you were pulled from the future instead of the past,” Giles explained.

“Exactly,” the Willows said together.

“Now we just have to figure out how the hell to send you back,” Buffy stated.

***

Willow sat on the table in the library as she waited for school to get out. Buffy, Xander, and the other Willow were all actually in class. Alone with her thoughts, other than Giles’ periodical mumbling from his office, she couldn’t help but wonder about the different things that she could change. The thing that kept coming up over and over again in her mind was Tara.

If Tara had not been brain sucked by Glory, Willow would not have gotten so deep into the Dark Arts. If she hadn’t have gotten so deep into the Dark Arts, Tara wouldn’t have left. If Tara wouldn’t have left, she wouldn’t have been there that morning making up. And then Tara would still be alive, and she would still have her soul mate, her love, her life. Kennedy was great and all, but even Willow had to admit that she was mostly a rebound girl. It was possible that she could learn to truly love the dark haired Slayer, but she still wasn’t over Tara. She didn’t know if she ever would be. Even Oz was easier to get over; of course, he hadn’t died in her arms.

As if he heard her thoughts, he came strolling in the library. “Hey,” he said as he walked up to her, taking her hands in his. “Nice outfit,” he said appreciatively. He’d never seen Willow in anything similar to that.

“Uh, hey, thanks. Uh, Giles?” she said loudly, trying to get the Watcher’s attention as she tried not to pull her hands out of his.

“Yes, Willow?” Giles answered, not coming out of his office.

“I, uh, could use some help out here,” she stated, smiling nervously at Oz.

He looked at her, very confused. “What’s going on Will?”

“I, um, I’m not who you think,” at his skeptical look she continued. “Um, well, your Willow did a spell with Anya that pulled me here from 2003.” She tried to give him what she meant to be a reassuring smile, but it ended up just looking strained.

“Okay,” he said, releasing her hands and taking a step back, looking hurt, or maybe betrayed. His emotions were so hard to read. He looked at Giles who was now standing in the doorway of his office. “Is that true?”

“As near as I can tell, yes. We are still looking into it. Your, um, Willow is in class, but will be coming back here after she’s done for the day.” Giles tried to explain the situation as easily as he could to Willow’s boyfriend without making him worry too much.

“Okay. Let me know if you need me,” Oz said, always stoic, turning to leave the library. “Sorry about the mix up.”

Both Willow and Giles watched him leave the library, just as easily as he had entered.

“That’s one thing that I always liked about him, his ability to just go with it, you know?” Willow said to Giles. He simply nodded and walked back into his office to continue the research.

Willow relaxed, bending over to place her elbow on her knee, resting her head on her chin. She was still torn about what to do. If she could activate all the Slayers now, that would cut back on Buffy’s workload a ton, plus, it could help prevent many of the apocalypses that they had encountered over the last four years. But to change one thing would permanently alter the course of history, and she wouldn’t even technically exist. At least not in this reality.

Would it be different to change something but not know where it would end? What if she never even met Tara? What if she and Oz ended up staying together? Was it worth risking even just the years that she had with Tara, even though they came to a painfully screeching halt? Is it truly better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all? Or, another way that she could prevent a large part of the tragedy they had endured would be to remove Warren from the picture. If she had already killed him, would it really count to remove him from this reality? Could she even bring herself to do it anyway, even if she knew it would save the life of her best friend and her soul mate? Her brain was starting to hurt. She looked up as she heard someone else enter the library.

Cordelia walked in, greatly overdressed for a day at school. “Wesley? Giles? Anyone around?” she asked, looking behind the counter and around the room. “Oh, it’s just you,” she said dismissively, noticing Willow sitting on the table.

Willow couldn’t help but taunt Cordelia. She remembered the influence her vampiric self had had on her young mind, maybe she could do the same for this version of herself. Even though they had become closer in recent years, she could not forget the Cordelia of high school. She hopped down, walking towards the girl, almost predatorily. She grinned as she saw the pink shrouded Willow walk in the library. Cordelia didn’t notice, though, her eyes were fixed on this Willow that dared to approach her. “Yes, Cordelia, it’s just me. Don’t bother looking for Wesley, I know it’s really me you came to see,” Willow said, getting much closer than she’d ever dreamed of being to the brunette.

“Ew, what are you doing? Get away from me you freak,” Cordelia said, gently pushing the girl away from her, but it didn’t really seem to Willow that she was trying to get away very badly.

“Oh, come on, you know you like it,” Willow said as she walked around behind Cordelia, clearly stalking her prey. She dipped her head down to the crook between the brunette’s neck and shoulder, taking a deep breath in, smelling Cordelia’s throat. “I never did get close enough to you to see how good you smelled. It’s something I should have done sooner,” she taunted as she rounded back in front of Cordelia.

The rich girl took her first good look at Willow since she had entered the library; this wasn’t the little, bookish Willow that she was familiar with. This Willow was strong, very well dressed, and, dare she think it, sexy. The brunette stepped back slightly from the girl, very unsure of what was happening. “I, um, I don’t know what to say Willow. Are, are you feeling okay?” she asked, her voice wavering more than she wanted.

“Oh, I’m fine, good even. Verrrry good,” Willow said seductively. She took one of Cordelia’s hands and gently placed a lingering kiss on the back of it, then simply dropped it, turned, and walked back up to the table where she had been sitting as if nothing strange had happened.

“I, um, I, uh, okay. I have to get back to class,” Cordelia stammered, turning around to exit the library, but instead, she ran smack into Willow. “What the...” she looked quickly behind her to see the seductive Willow sitting innocently on the table, but yet, there was Willow, who looked a lot more like what she remembered, standing right in front of her.

“Yeah, well, she’s not from around here, so you’ll have to excuse her,” the younger Willow said, throwing eye daggers at her future self. She stepped out of the way and let Cordelia rush away from them. “Care to tell me what that was all about?” she addressed her older self.

“You saw it, what do you think?” the older Willow grinned slyly. She was smart; she’d figure it out soon enough. She smiled at the memory of seeing her vampiric self all decked out in leather, clearly gay, and how she had reacted to it. She wasn’t so much freaked out by it, but almost intrigued by the possibility. Up to that point she had never really considered that to be an option for her. Of course, Oz was the only person that she had loved at that time. Well, Xander, but does a crush really count?

“I think you looked all strong and sexy and I think a little gay. Are you really me from the future?” the younger Willow asked, her world shaken a bit.

“Are you really me from the past?” the older Willow asked, her younger self reflecting back her philosophical/challenge face exactly. “You have already made at least one decision differently than I did. During that spell with Anya I chose to say river, so that had a different outcome. So really, are you really me? Am I really you? Or are we just possible versions of our self?”

“Wow. You turned out really smart,” the pink dressed Willow stated.

“Well, you aren’t too bad yourself because you understand what I’m saying,” the tan clad Willow said, placing a hand on her younger self’s shoulder.

“Both very interesting ideas in theory, but neither of them really matter since we still need to return you to your time,” Giles said, breaking up their discussion, “but first I would like to ask you a few questions, if I may?”

“Certainly, I didn’t know how much I could say, I didn’t want to mess up the Prime Directive or anything,” at Giles’ puzzled face she continued, “you know, future self, giving future information, changing the future, but is that a good or a bad? Xander would get it if he were here,” she sighed.

“Well, yes, very good then. I don’t think we should really worry about that too much. As you said, you, err, Willow has already made at least one decision differently than you did.”

“Great, what do you want to know then?”

“Well, I’d like to start out with this battle-axe, for one, where did it come from, and why did it come through with you? I’ve not been able to find it in any of my books,” Giles said, a little frustrated.

“Actually, you wouldn’t find it in any of your books. This battle-axe belongs to the Slayer. It is a gift from the Guardians to fight the First. I was conducting a spell of my own when I was pulled through, I must have been gripping it when the temporal fold opened,” Willow explained. It made sense to her anyway.

“Okay. Who are the Guardians, why are they fighting the First, and what spell were you doing?” Giles asked. He was used to Willow’s rambling; he would have assumed that she’d have outgrown it though in the next four years.

“The Guardians were women and basically the good version of the men that possessed that first girl, the First Slayer, with the demon essence. Instead of trying to control the Slayer as the men did, the Guardians tried to guide her, to protect her, to warn her, when possible. This was given to Buffy by the last of the Guardians to help fight the First, who is trying to open the Hellmouth. As far as the spell that I was conducting, we, you, me, and Buffy, decided that we no longer had to play by evil’s rules. So I used this battle-axe to activate every potential slayer throughout the world. It’s no longer ‘one girl in all the world’, and I’m praying that it worked because I had just finished it when I ended up here,” Willow explained hoping that she hadn’t said too much.

“You have that kind of power?” the pink shrouded Willow said in awe.

“Yes, and you will too. But be careful of magic. Like you said today to Anya, it’s not something to be toyed with. Take your own advice and remember that,” the older Willow replied, hoping to give the girl a gentle push in the right direction.

Giles was still lost in his own thoughts, mostly not listening to what the two redheads were saying. Would it be possible to actually activate all the potential slayers in all the world? It would certainly even out the fight. “Willow, do you think you could perform that spell here? To activate the Potentials?”

“Um, I’m sure I could. Do you think that would really be such a great idea?” the older Willow asked. Even though she had already performed the spell once and was confident that she could perform it again with no problem, she was unsure of bringing her knowledge into this reality.

“I will discuss it with Buffy and see what she says,” Giles replied. If he still worked for the Council, he would have probably asked for their guidance in this matter as well. But, as he didn’t, he had to act in a way that he felt was right.

***

“So. What’s with the...” Xander motioned to Willow’s tan outfit around the jelly doughnut in his hand. “I’m not saying that I don’t approve or anything, I’m just sayin’ I can not imagine you dressing all see-throughy.”

The older Willow looked down at her outfit. It hadn’t even occurred to her how differently she dressed than she had in high school. “Well, I, um, I just wear what I think is comfortable. And if my girl- err, ah, partner thinks I look good in it, then all the better.”

“Uh huh. I see. Your girl er ah partner, huh? I guess you are over me then?” Xander questioned, he was a lot quicker than most people gave him credit for.

“Yeah, I guess you could say that,” Willow stated, a slight blush forming across her cheeks.

“Well, hey, as long as we are still the best of friends, I don’t care. As long as you don’t care about my fantasies,” Xander said, winking at the older version of his longest and best friend.

“Ew, I totally didn’t need that visual. Thank you so much Xander,” Willow said, picking up an apple fritter from the box. “When did Giles say he and Buffy would be back again?”

“Oh, who knows? You know how Giles is, all slay and no play. I say that makes Buffy a dull girl.”

Willow peeled off a small piece of her pastry and pelted Xander in the head with it.

***

“I really think it’s an extraordinary idea, Buffy. It would also be your best shot at a normal life. Or at least as normal a life as a slayer can have. You wouldn’t be fighting the forces of darkness alone any more. You’d have help. God knows how many Potentials there actually are. The Council tries to track the most obvious ones, but there are some that slip through even their cracks.” Giles didn’t think it would have been hard to persuade his slayer into having the Willows do the spell to activate all the Potentials.

“Are we sure that her story is actually true though Giles? I mean, how many other beasts and demons have we seen that come through either possessing or taking on the identity of a human?” she had the courtesy to look a little sheepish at the last statement, “Okay, none of those, but how long until we get one, huh?”

“I completely understand your concern, and if it were just her story, I’d be tempted to agree with you. But the fact that our Willow actually corroborated the story I think should hold a great deal of weight.”

“You are right. I just don’t want to make this decision based on personal emotions. If this is going to be done, it needs to be done for the right reasons, not so I can extend my life span by 10 years,” Buffy explained, although, the temptation of not being the only slayer was incredibly influential.

“I believe that it is the right decision, or else I wouldn’t have come to you with it. You’ve trusted my judgment for all these years, please, don’t stop now,” Giles pleaded with the blond girl. Anything he could do to make her life easier, he was more than willing to do. The Council was right, he had a father’s love for his charge, but he thought it made him a better Watcher, not a poorer one.

“Okay, I’m going to trust you. Don’t make me regret this though, I’d hate to have to kick your old British ass.”

***

The Willows, along with Xander, Buffy, Giles, and Anya prepared the elements needed for the spell to activate all the Potentials. They had incorporated the help of the ex-demon as she was quite familiar with magic, and they’d also need her to send the older Willow back. She was not the least surprised to hear what had happened. She deserved it for not incorporating the skills of a true witch. They all recognized that this was a turning point in their history, whether or not the outside world would ever, or could ever, acknowledge it.

Once everything was gathered, the Willows sat knee to knee inside the circle that had been cast, grasping the Guardians Battle-Axe that was laid between them. As the Willows conducted the silent spell, the library began to glow with the white light of the magic, filling both the witches completely. They could feel the power rising, could feel the room ready to explode with it when they both slammed their heads backward, eyes and mouth wide, hair turning white, as a huge column of magic shot up from them, shooting out into the vast world, awakening the Slayer in each Potential girl. Just as soon as it had come, the column of power disappeared, leaving both witch to exhale, exhausted, but smiling.

“That was cool,” the younger giggled.

“Hell yeah,” the older laughed back.

***

After they had recovered somewhat, a new circle was cast as the Gang, with Anya’s help, prepared to send the older Willow back to her own time.

“I hope it’s still there,” she half joked, not really sure what to expect. They had made a fairly huge change in history, and she didn’t know what she would find.

“It will be. Even if things are a little different, we couldn’t let you not have a place to go home to,” the younger Willow reassured her. “Any words of wisdom before you head out?”

“Actually yes,” she had finally figured out how to warn them without giving away specific events. “This will sound strange, but if you start having trouble with a group of nerds, take them seriously, okay?”

“A group of nerds? That’s it? No demon, no weapon, just nerds?” her younger self asked, surprised at her parting warning.

“Seriously. It is a matter of life and death. If you encounter nerds that want to be evil, take them seriously, okay?” she tried to emphasize how important it was without being overbearing.

“Nerds, check. We will keep that in mind,” the younger Willow replied. If it was important enough for her to mention, it was something worth remembering.

“Thank you.” Willow hugged her younger self, trying to convey how much even the thought would mean to her.

“Could you, um, Willows please complete the circle here? We’ll get you on your way,” Giles prompted.

***

Willow woke in bed, in hers and Tara’s bed. She could feel a warm presence at her back, cuddled up against her. It was strange to honestly have no idea who she would find there.

Everything was coming back to her slowly. After the Potentials had all been activated, their involvement in demonic activities had greatly decreased. There was simply less work to do when hundreds of Slayers were working, as opposed to one.

She had still decided to go to UC Sunnydale, as did Buffy, where she met Tara. They had fought Adam, but there were several other Slayers that came in from surrounding areas to help fight him.

Glory had also tried to come, and the monks had still given Buffy a sister, Dawn, who was still the Key, but with several Slayers to protect her, there wasn’t much the Hell-God could do. The hardest loss was still Buffy’s mother. Changing the forces of good and evil doesn’t effect brain tumors, as it turned out.

The Troika had indeed decided to become an evil force in Sunnydale, but Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Giles had all remembered the other Willow’s warning, so they simply filed police reports on the boys, which did lead to their arrests. That, along with Jonathan and Andrew’s testimony against Warren for killing his ex-girlfriend, Katrina, assured that he would never again see the light of day through anything other than a jail cell.

They were all living together, as a family, herself, Tara, Buffy, and Dawn. Xander, who did indeed have both eyes, and Anya, who was not a vengeance demon, were now married and living only a few blocks away. Giles and Olivia had moved into the house across the street, 1633 Revello Drive, as it turned out, and were on their way to raising a pair of beautiful twins that the whole Gang doted on.

“Are you awake, baby?” she heard a husky voice ask.

She couldn’t help but smile, as tears instantly began to stream down her face. She rolled over to look into the eyes that she hadn’t seen in so many long, arduous months. “I’m awake,” she managed to squeak out.

Tara looked instantly concerned. “Is everything okay? Did you have a bad dream?” she asked as she peppered kissed all across the redheads face, kissing away the tears.

“I’ve missed you, that’s all,” Willow said, feeling her love for Tara, and Tara’s love for her enveloping her entire being.

“Oh baby, I’m right here. I’ll always be right here,” she said, reassuring her love as she stroked her back.

“I know you are, and I love you for it.”

“No matter how lost you ever got, I would find you. You will never have to walk this world alone,” Tara said, cupping Willow’s face, looking deep into her eyes.

Willow smiled, basking in the love they had for each other and answered, “I will never be lost again.”

The End

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