DISCLAIMER: Buffy and Her Friends belong to Joss Whedon and a bunch of suits. I'm adjusting their realities for fun, not profit, as I own nothing and have the credit report to prove it.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Spoilers through Season 6. Ó 2009 MF Vinson All rights reserved.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By sailor80


There are these moments when time freezes or unwinds or whatever it is that your brain does that causes each nanosecond to be distinct from those around it, and some among those to stand out even more. I think maybe I get more of them because I'm a slayer, because my physical reactions are accelerated. So I can beat the baddies, and maybe to let me experience all of the life that I would have had and won't.

I get them a lot during fights. When I talked about it with Kendra, she nodded, understanding something that we as teenagers didn't have words to explain. Faith nodded, too, and called it being in the zone. When I saw The Matrix, that was the closest I ever got to being able to explain it to my friends. When I'm fighting, I can read body language, anticipate, and act accordingly. Except when I can't, and I get my ass beat and carted off the field.

That happens a lot less these days. Vampires are annoying vermin, and population control is necessary. Other demons are sometimes a challenge. Occasionally, something big comes along, something old and smart, something that plans, and makes backup plans, too. That's when I'm glad I have Giles and Willow and Xander.

Especially Willow. I've been glad for her presence in my life since the first day we met. I don't know why no one else saw her the way I did then. Maybe because of her lack of confidence. But I saw that brightness in her. And a moment passed.

A lot of moments passed while I was oblivious. In retrospect, sitting tonight on the ledge of the roof of City Hall, looking at my town, I can number each one. Thousands of them. Nights when I walked right up to that line, the one between friendship and something more, and took a big step sideways. Because despite being able to kill things with my bare hands, I was afraid.

I'm sitting up on this roof tonight, looking at all the lights, because I could have taken any one of those moments and made our relationship, the relationship that has lasted the longest and meant the most, what it could have been. But I didn't. So she took those steps with someone else.

I checked her out. Tara. I checked her out the first time Willow mentioned her. Not that I'm one to talk, but Willow's dating record - not so good. Werewolf, Xander, werewolf, Tara. So you can see why I was concerned.

I probably knew as much about Tara then as Willow did. Not the same things, but I knew the important things. And the most important is that she loves Willow. She loved Willow. When Willow's name is mentioned, Tara's light comes on. If it wasn't so adorable, it would be sickening.

So, yeah, I like Tara. I did my research, and I followed her around, and I had Giles check her out before I approached her. As much as I wanted to, I didn't make any attempt to scare her off once I was certain she was human. Attractive, intelligent, magically gifted, shy, and 100% human.

And another moment passed. Because Willow always gets this look when she says Tara's name, and I couldn't bring myself to take that from her. If I had a crystal ball and could have seen their future, I still wouldn't have interfered. They had their moments. I saw some of them. After a while, I got used to them, expected them, looked forward to them.

They were supposed to have a lot more of them. Except for me, they would have. I set Willow on the path she chose. It seemed innocent enough then. She wanted to help me. It was cute when she levitated a pencil. It was extraordinary when she restored Angel's soul. It was awesome and amazing when she channeled the power of the first slayer into me. It was astonishing when she held off a god - a hell god - through rage and force of will, and when she hurt her a second time, restoring Tara's mind in the process.

And after that, it was something completely different. Willow had her moments, and she made the decisions she thought were right at the time. Like the decision to bring me back. I was in heaven, and all I had was those moments. Each one was peaceful, joyous. I was with my mom, and it was perfect, and then I was clawing my way up from my grave with my bare hands.

The first moment I had after that, I remember more clearly than most. It was just a flash, the very first friction of a struck match sparking before it catches, and it made me realize that I was here to stay, and I had to make the best of it. Willow came to the same conclusion in her own way, that she could have power or she could have Tara. That was the only decision she didn't agonize over.

When I let Tara in that night, I wasn't sure what would happen between them. When I came home from patrol, I knew they'd had their moment, and grabbed it with all four hands and refused to let go.

So of course the hellmouth curse kicked in. The one that keeps any of us from being happy for too long, that makes us choose exactly the wrong partner, or the right partner at the wrong time. The one that tells us, no matter how hard we refuse to listen, that in the end we're going to be alone.

Warren deserved what Willow did to him. She was smarter than Faith about killing. There was no evidence left after she flayed him, causing him something close to the level of agony she was in. We couldn't turn her over to the police any more than we would have Faith so long ago. Oh, god, that's another bunch of moments that went wrong. Because I was afraid and she was afraid, and together we were afraid of the wrong things.

Willow's heavily sedated. Giles mixed up a few things from his kit o' slayer treatments before he collapsed, and I made Dawn take one of the valiums left from when mom was sick, and I left Xander there to keep an eye on them. I shouldn't have. They're all my responsibility, but I just need to breathe for a few minutes. Somehow file away the moments - seeing Willow completely lose it, and knowing she would win our fight, and realizing that she just gave up, and the relief that went with it.

I don't know what, exactly, tomorrow's going to bring. Giles needs to make some calls, but he's going to take Willow from us. That's probably a good thing. Dawn has a few more weeks of school, and Xander has steady work, and a woman I rescued last week gave me her card and asked me to visit her at her dojo. Anya will be busy cleaning up the store for the rest of the summer, and maybe Dawn can help her.

I get up and stretch and brush myself off. It's forty or so feet down, not too far for me, and I have another moment, realizing all the things that are wrong with that thought, and I walk to the fire escape and make my way down the same way I got up here. I walk home carefully, paying attention to everything that isn't happening in Sunnydale tonight. No one is out. No vampires, no other demons, no humans. No one except me.

Xander meets me at the door, and I see past him that he got the pillow and blanket from the closet so he can sleep on the sofa. We made Giles stay in Willow's room; as beat up as he is, he needs a bed. Willow's in my room, where I'm heading after Xander and I stop hugging. And maybe, if I'm lucky, Willow and I will have a moment before she leaves, one where she realizes that we love her and will be waiting for her to come home.

And then it will pass, and I'll wait for the next one and hope that when it happens I'm not afraid.

The End

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