Standard disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all such related things, © Mutant Enemy and many other people with big scary lawyers. We're borrowing them without permission, but you said you were done with 'em, so we're hoping you won't mind so much. Stories, images, characters you don't recognize, those are all by 4Paws. Yes, we'll take the blame.

Setting: Set in the continuation-verse, which picks up about three months after the end of "Chosen". So, spoilers for pretty much everything, including any "episodes" in this series that have come before it.

Notes: Here we go with my most ambitious 'fic project ... well, ever, basically. A virtual continuation of a show with a whole heck of a lot more story to tell. Since deciding to do this project I've discovered that there are, in fact, many Season 8's ... but this is the only one with the Jet Wolf Seal of Involvement, so that guarantees freshness. Or something.

Episodes are posted to weekly, at 8pm EST on Tuesdays, all pretty and HTML'd with graphics and oo! Credits. We have credits, too. Eps will appear the following Friday or Saturday on So if you don't want to wait all that extra time (and really, how could you?), the site is the way to go.

(30 April 2004)

The Chosen: A Buffy Virtual Continuation

Episode 4: "The Name of the Game"
Story by: Jet Wolf & Ultrace
Written by: Jet Wolf

Act Four

Dawn and her friends huddled together in fear, backing away from the spectre in a shuffling mess, attempting to move as one cumbersome organism. For every step they took, the ghost would follow. Thankfully, its screams had now died away, but it was staring at them intently. The effect was particularly disconcerting, as it had no eyes, only bottomless, hollow sockets.

Its gaze swept to one side, to the CDs and DVDs that had been knocked from the shelves during its initial assault, and the cases began to snap open. The discs inside levitated and began to spin, slowly at first and then gaining momentum. The girls screamed again and only barely reached cover behind the couch before the discs flew towards them with unnatural speed. Lacking targets, the discs connected with the walls, most bouncing off, a few shattering on impact, and a couple imbedding themselves half inside.

Behind the couch, the girls tried to catch their breath, feeling safe for the moment, quickly rising to panic again as the entire couch was swept out of the way by an unseen hand, leaving them exposed.

Ducking, they tried to run to the other side of the room, back the way they had come. The ghost shrieked again as they attempted to flee past her, and the wind returned, swirling like a self-contained tornado, picking up any small objects that weren't nailed down and forming an effective barricade against any movement in that direction. The girls had no choice but to retreat.

"Oh god! Oh god!" Virginia continued to sob.

Brenda fed off of the smaller girl's rising panic. "We're all gonna die!"

"We're not gonna die!" Dawn broke in, sounding as confident as possible, given the situation. "Just- Just stay calm! Everyone! I-I've been through this sorta thing before—"

The surprise that statement carried refocused everyone, and four heads turned for the first time away from the terror before them to regard Dawn with disbelief.

"Are you serious?" Jackie asked incredulously.

"–and we should be okay so long as the TV stays off when you unplug it," continued Dawn, having tuned out everything else around her.

Convinced that Dawn had lost it, her friends simply stared at each other, shaking their heads and shrugging. They were so thrown by these new developments that they had momentarily ceased paying any attention to the ghost, and consequently oblivious to the large picture frame speeding toward them.

But Dawn wasn't. "Get down!" she yelled, throwing herself at the cluster of girls and knocking them all to the ground. The picture frame collided with the wall precisely where they had been, shattering the glass and raining shards down on them.

"You're hurt!" exclaimed Virginia, reaching out to a shallow cut on Dawn's cheek.

"It doesn't matter," Dawn dismissed with a shake of her head, "we've gotta figure out how to stop this."

Resolved, Dawn examined the living room, searching for something that would help them, when she noticed the ouija board at the center of the chaotic whirlwind. It still glowed and was wholly undisturbed.

"That must be it," she muttered to herself, while announcing to the others, "Guys, I've got it! Listen—"

The spirit glanced sharply at Dawn and gestured toward the kitchen. A long, sharp knife pulled itself free from the wooden block that housed it and soared out of the room. Reaching the living room, it headed straight for Dawn.

"—it's the oui—"

Sensing something, Dawn looked up and spied the knife, rushing at her much, much too fast. Her eyes grew wide as she realized with dread that there was no possible way to avoid it.

They grew even wider as a stake appeared from seeming nowhere and intercepted the knife. The blade embedded itself deep within the stake instead of Dawn, and both weapons tumbled to the side, safely avoiding everyone. The girls stared at Dawn, then at the stake, then at the ghost, trying to make sense out what had happened. The spirit, however, whipped its head towards the entrance and snarled. Noticing the movement, everyone followed the gaze.

Her backpack slung over one shoulder, Buffy stood in the entranceway to the living room as though waiting casually to be greeted.

"Hi honey, I'm home."


A lone buffalo wing resided on a paper plate, sauce dripping down the sides and staining the area underneath with a thin film of grease. Giles peered at it with open, unabashed disgust.

"Xander, if this is part of some master plan to make me so ill that I'll stop winning ..."

"No way," Xander shook his head at Giles. "No need. I sense your luck is about to change."

Giles stared at the wing as though it were contagious. "Yes, I'm getting that feeling as well."

"This is all about being a full-on part of Manly Man Poker Night," the carpenter explained patiently.

Tilting his head, eyes still riveted to the plate, Giles looked plaintive. "I assure you, I was quite content to be a fringe part."

Xander would have none of it. "Nuh-uh. Full-on. That includes the beer—" Reaching out with his brew, he clinked bottle necks with Wood. "—the dirty jokes—"

Opening his mouth excitedly, Andrew took this as his cue and leaned forward. Xander jabbed a finger at him, and the blond settled back, dejected.

"—when I am NOT in the middle of talking—" continued Xander, "—and the munchies. Which, in this instance, happens to be of the buffalo variety."

"You assured me this was chicken," Giles accused, glaring.

"And I continue to assure you," he soothed with the slightest condescending twinge. "Now eat it so we can get back to the game."

Giles returned to the wing, his expression pitiful. "I was quite content with my pretzel 'munchies'."

"Quit being The Whiniest Little Watcher and eat the darn thing."

Wood had been watching the exchange with a blank expression, only the slight raising of one eyebrow betraying his amusement. "They're actually quite good, Rupert," he encouraged the Watcher. "Especially with ranch dressing." Giles shot Wood a look of complete and utter repulsion. Wood shrugged and sipped his beer. "Different strokes."

"If you don't want it ..." began Andrew, his hand snaking out, only to have it smacked by an irritated Xander. He jerked his hand back, cradling it against his chest protectively. "O-o-o-wwww," he whined as he rubbed it.

Xander paid the blond no heed and pushed the plate closer to Giles. "You are of a people who consume all aspects of the cow. This shouldn't be that difficult."

Leaning back further in his chair away from the wing as though it might suddenly decide to bite him, Giles resumed his horrified staring. "But-But it's ... orange. Meat shouldn't be orange." He shuddered involuntarily. "It's unnatural."

"You wanna talk unnatural? Let's talk black pudding," countered Xander vehemently, clearly having a very strong opinion on this topic. "Pudding should be chocolate, or butterscotch – or quite possibly banana – and endorsed by Bill Cosby. You're not qualified to deem anything unnatural," he concluded with a firm nod of his head.

A look of panic crossed Giles' face as he realized he was running out of options. With the utmost reluctance, he reached out a trembling hand for the buffalo wing while simultaneously flinching away from it. Ever so slowly he moved closer and closer, his fingers almost grazing the surface.

The door bursting open startled everyone in the room, and Giles jerked his hand away, an expression of deep relief etched on his face. Faith strode in, her arms swinging freely by her sides as she took in the room.

"Well well, what have we here?" she questioned casually.

Panicked, Andrew whirled to the carpenter. "Girl!" he cried unnecessarily, pointing at Faith. "Xander! Girl!"

"Don't worry, Andy, I'll take care of it," reassured Xander, patting Andrew's shoulder as he walked to the Slayer. "Faith!" he greeted. "How nice of you to stop by. We don't wanna keep you, though. I'm sure you've got a busy night ahead: places to go, things to kill. Can't be late with the killin', makes vamps all cranky, so if you'll just get the door on your way out ..." He extended an arm, attempting to escort the woman from his Men's Only haven.

"Nah, I'm in no rush," Faith replied, intentionally missing the social cues. The Slayer moved further into the room and spied Wood, sitting at the table with his back to the door. "You here too, huh?" she asked, nudging his chair leg with her foot. Reaching over his shoulder, she grabbed his beer bottle, raising it to her lips. Smoothly, Wood took it back before she could drink, and reached into the ice chest next to him to produce a beer of her very own. He handed it to Faith and she smirked, easily twisting off the bottle cap and tossing it aside.

"These fine gentlemen were so eager to give me all their money, it seemed rude to not take them up on the offer," he explained.

Xander had returned to his seat across from Wood, although he had yet to sit down. "Tough talk comin' from the guy who lost seven whole dollars to my three-of-a-kind," Xander stated proudly.

"That was over an hour ago."

"Seven dollars, my friend!" he insisted.

Faith raised her hands in a parody of being impressed. "I can see this is a tough room. So I'm sure you won't mind addin' another player."

Panicking again, Andrew threw Xander a look of alarm.

"Actually—" Xander began.

"Great," concluded Faith. She grabbed a large box from the corner of the closet and brought it to the table, placing it between Wood and Andrew before settling comfortably on top.

As Xander watched Faith, desperation crossed his face. "We're playin' for real money here," he told her hopefully, as though this fact would somehow deter the game crasher.

"Works for me," the Slayer replied without pause. "I got ..." Leaning back and digging a hand deep into her pockets, she came out with a handful and dumped the contents on the table. She flicked aside a few pennies, a balled up receipt and a paperclip to reveal a wadded up dollar bill and some silver change. "A buck fifty," Faith concluded. "And a peppermint."

Snatching the mint, she unwrapped it and popped it in her mouth before tossing the dollar and two quarters in the center of the table and looking at Xander expectantly.

Panic mounting, Andrew also looked to Xander, while Wood simply sat with a detached interest, watching the events unfold. The carpenter floundered, unsure of what he should do next, and Giles rolled his eyes at the entire situation.

"Xander, if Faith wants to play a quick round, I'm sure we can indulge her," the Watcher sighed.

"But ... Manly Man Poker Night!" protested Xander, gesturing toward the table.

"...Can surely be momentarily suspended for the single hand it will take Faith to lose her ... generous contribution."

Faith raised an eyebrow at Giles. "I ain't sure, but those sounded like fightin' words." Tipping her head, she glanced to a hesitant Xander, a smile curling her lips. "C'mon, X-Man, you gonna let a girl ruin your testosterone party?"

With a sigh, Xander sat back in his seat, shuffling the cards. On the other side of the carpenter, Andrew glanced nervously at Faith. She grinned back, predatorily, and he scooched his chair as far in the other direction as possible.


A pair of vases hurtled in Buffy's direction, but she cartwheeled between them easily, using the opportunity to bring herself closer to the ghost. The remaining steak knives followed, and the Slayer dodged them with no effort, snatching out to grab one in each hand. In a fluid motion, she threw the knives back, where they sailed harmlessly through the ghost's chest and head.

"Okay, see, this is a sign you've taken the diet a bit too far," Buffy admonished.

Against the far wall, the girls were still crouching, trying to remain as small and unobtrusive as possible, but all previous traces of fear had vanished, replaced by awe and wonder.

Jackie jerked her head at Buffy as she focused on Dawn. "Is that your sister?" she queried, suitably impressed.

The sighing reply was long and resigned. "Yeah, that's Buffy."

"She's awesome," Meghan breathed admiringly.

With a wave of a translucent hand, Xander's chair went flying at the Slayer. Rather than duck, Buffy vaulted into the air and landed on top of it as it sailed by, using it as launch point to dive across the room toward the ghost, eliminating the remaining distance between them. Now close enough for physical attacks, the Slayer executed a spinning kick, following immediately with a one-two combo. All passed through the spectre with no effect, but Buffy never once lost her balance. Searching for some weak point, she unleashed a barrage of lightning fast punches at every point of its body, each one futile.

"Buffy!" Dawn called out, seeing her sister's ineffectual attacks. "It's the ouija board!"

Responding immediately, the Slayer whirled her head around the room, searching for the board and turning her attention away from the ghost. It leapt upon this fact and sent a huge, jagged shard from either the window or a fractured picture frame flying at Buffy. Despite there being no way for her to see it coming, she ducked, and the glass sailed harmlessly over her head and shattered against the wall.

Closer to the ground, Buffy finally spotted the ouija board and began to move toward it, only to suddenly jerk her head up in time to see the coffee table, flat side first, heading straight for her. Scrambling to her feet, the Slayer managed to secure her footing and throw her hands out just in time. She grunted and strained and succeeded in holding her ground. For a moment it looked like a stalemate, then with a loud splitting sound, a crack formed in the center of the table. It widened further and further until suddenly splintering in two. Buffy dove between the two halves, rolling to a stop in front of the ouija board and, with one powerful downward punch, smashed it into pieces.

The ghost shrieked, bringing its hands to its head, as it seemed to collapse into itself, faster and faster until it disappeared completely within a flash of light. The scream lingered on for a few seconds longer until it, too, faded away.

Buffy remained poised, ready to face another assault for a few heartbeats before relaxing and straightening, bringing herself to her full height. She smiled, pleased with herself as she commented, "I guess she got 'bored'."


Things were considerably less jovial and relaxed around the poker table. Andrew's visor was crooked and only barely perched on his head. Xander rubbed his face, staring despondently at the cards in his hand. Giles' hair was mussed, like something other than a comb had been run through it several hundred times. Even Wood appeared worn out, like he'd taken on a dozen vamps solo.

Also conspicuously missing were the poker chips. Whereas before each player had possessed a neat stack of varying colors, they now had only one or two lone chips. The bulk had relocated to a high and thoroughly disorganized pile in front of Faith. The Slayer sat contentedly behind it, peacefully slipping her beer and inspecting her cards. She grabbed a handful of chips at random, not bothering to sort out which color or how many.

"I raise ..." She paused briefly to consider those in her hand, then shrugged and tossed them in the center of the table. "...that much."

A chorus of groans erupted around the room. Wood and Giles both threw down their hands and pushed away from the table. Trying desperately to find some way not to surrender, Xander hesitated only a moment longer before also slamming his cards down with a disgusted "Bah!"

Andrew displayed no signs of irritation. Very calmly, he laid his cards face down on the table and regarded Faith with a cool expression. "In the game of life," he stated sagely, "women are the rake."

This earned him several strange looks, but no one asked for clarification. Faith glanced from one player to the next, taking in all the defeated faces. "Aw, the 'Manly Men' foldin'? Ain't got the stamina to outlast a little girl?"

There was no response as four sets of eyes all focused somewhere else.

"Well, I know I've had a blast," announced the Slayer. Standing, she grabbed a small box from a nearby shelf and, dumping the contents, began shoveling her winnings inside. "I'll just take these back to my room," she explained conversationally, "an' catch ya later for the trade-off. I think you guys could use some alone time, an' I do so hate to see grown men cry."

Blowing the room a big kiss, Faith strode out much like she had entered.

"I think I liked her better when she was tryin' to kill us all," muttered Xander. Giles nodded vaguely in agreement.

Wood rose to the scraping sound of his chair being pushed back. "Well, I'd like to say it's been fun, but ... " He trailed off, considering what to say next, finally settling on saying nothing at all and simply walking out of the room.

"Yes, thank you, Xander," Giles agreed, also rising. "Next time you host one of these events, do please feel free to tell me nothing about it."

Xander watched Giles leave, still staring at the door after the Watcher had disappeared from sight. To nobody, he grumbled, "Well you were the one who was all, 'Oh, pshaw, what's one round?' ...git. I'm not even sure what a 'git' is, but right now he sure feels like one."

Encouragingly, Andrew piped up with a big smile and bright voice. "Well I had fun," he declared. "I think this was an enriching experience. I, for one, feel bonded in all sorts of exciting new ways!"

Blinking a couple of times at Andrew, Xander decided to simply leave it, sighing and, with a hung head, slinking from the room. Now alone, Andrew absorbed his surroundings in silence, then, trying his best to look sneaky, snagged a nearby beer bottle. He hesitated for only a moment before taking a tentative sip, instantly gagging and pulling a face.

"Smooth," he strained.


Buffy gingerly stepped over the broken remains of ... something. It was impossible to tell what it had once been. Regarding the room critically, she raised an eyebrow. "Wow. You know, I don't remember this place being such a dump when I left."

From their position of relative safety, the girls were rising, moving forward tentatively. Dawn wore an expression of vague annoyance, while her friends gaped openly at the Slayer.

"Buffy," Dawn stated.

For the first time, Buffy really had the chance to focus on her little sister.

"Dawn," replied Buffy in the same tone.

A minute passed, both Summers appraising each other. Finally, Dawn crossed her arms. "So. What'd you bring me?"

"A 'My sister went on extended sabbatical and all I got was this lousy t-shirt' shirt."


Buffy broke their staring contest to gaze around the room. "Though I'm thinking maybe I should've gotten you a broom," she amended.

As though seeing the destruction – really seeing it for the first time, Dawn's eyes grew wide. Throughout the ordeal with the ghost she had been relatively calm and collected, but now panic seemed to be rushing in as she fully comprehended the damage.

"Or maybe some life insurance," continued Buffy, kicking a broken statue to one side. "Will's gonna kill you when she sees this." Noticing the window, she casually added, "Oh, and Xander too. An' he thought his window-fixin' days were behind him. Silly, silly carpenter."

Reluctantly, Dawn bent down and picked up a lamp that used to be on an end table, which appeared to be missing-in-action. She looked at it hopefully for a moment, then the futility of it struck and she let it drop back to the ground. It broke into a few more pieces. She whimpered.

"Wow," Virginia breathed at Buffy's elbow, causing the older blonde to start as she took in the group of girls who had made their way to be within touching distance of the Slayer.

"Oh. Hi," she said with a touch of unease at their proximity. "I'm Buffy. You guys must be Dawn's friends...?"

The question went ignored. Meghan, in a state unusual for her, was so excited she was having trouble articulating herself. "That stuff you did," she enthused. "With the—" she chopped the air with her hand, "—and the—" she pulled off a weak imitation of Buffy's kick, "—and the jumping off the chair?" Taking a deep breath, Meghan started intently at the Slayer. "Coolest. Thing. Ever."

Buffy puffed visibly. "Oh, well, thank you," she smiled, flattered.

"It was like watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," agreed Jackie enthusiastically, "only ... shorter, no wires and with a much better ending."

Smiling again, Buffy accepted the praise, totally relishing the attention being showered on her. Unnoticed, Dawn stood to one side watching her sister surrounded by her friends. She considered the state of the room again, and sighed heavily.

"How did you do all that stuff?" wondered Virginia. Her hand hovered over Buffy's arm, as though she wanted desperately to touch the older girl but was too afraid to do so.

Buffy blinked at this, unsure of how to answer. "I, uhh ... I eat my Wheaties."

Virginia nodded firmly, taking this information to heart. She looked very much as though she would eat Wheaties every morning for the rest of her natural life.

Still fixated on the action, Meghan continued to enthuse, mimicking each move she described. "And the way you caught those knives in mid air like that! You were movin' so fast I couldn't even follow you!" She gasped, a thought having just occurred to her, and she leaned in close to Buffy. "Do you have your own Bullet Time?"

The Slayer opened her mouth to answer, but Brenda jumped in. "How did you know?" the girl queried, her voice softer than the others but still full of wonder at what she had seen. "About the board, I mean. I'm guessing that Ashley somehow tried to make a deal with something to steal Lydia's singing, but that something must've gone wrong ..." She shook her head. "But I never would've guessed that breaking the board would have dispelled her spirit. How did you figure it out?"

Turning to her sister, pride evident, Buffy smiled. "Dawn, actually." Dawn perked up immediately, delighted to be credited for her deductive reasoning. "She just knew what to do."

But Dawn's friends were clearly not interested in hearing about anything other than the Slayer's awe-inspiring achievements, and they began to babble about which part of the fight they liked best. Dawn's face fell, as did Buffy's, taking note of Dawn's expression.

"I think my favorite part was when she broke the table," Jackie said excitedly. "I mean, she didn't even move, just ... Snap! Two tables."

Meghan nodded emphatically. "Coolest. Thing. Ever."

A inarticulate gurgling sound attracted everyone's attention, and they spun around to see Willow standing in the doorway of the living room. Kennedy was close behind with raised eyebrows, as both took in the massive damage.

The redhead was beside herself. "Whuu—? How did—? What the—? And the—? When did—?"

Suspecting things were about to get very ugly, Dawn's friends began to slowly back away.

"Uhh, Dawn?" announced a nervous Jackie. "We'll be in your room ..."

Without waiting for confirmation, the four girls tore off, the sound of pounding feet disappearing up the stairs. Dawn gulped and went to Willow, wearing what was supposed to be a placating smile on her lips. It looked more like a grimace.

"It's not what you think," the teen began defensively.

Willow gaped at Dawn, green eyes flashing. "I'm thinkin' the living room's pretty much destroyed!"

"Okay, it is what you think ..."

Appraising Dawn critically, Willow conducted a quick inventory. "I see two arms, two legs, and you're forming complete sentences. Those were pretty much your only tickets outta this conversation, so start talkin'."

Kennedy gave the pair a wide berth, intent instead on surveying the damage, appearing a little impressed with its extensiveness. Going further in the room she finally spotted Buffy, standing back and watching Willow and Dawn uncertainly. "Oh, hey," she greeted. "When'd you get back?"

"Not too long ago," replied Buffy. "Came in, saved some people, defeated a monster." She shrugged. "It's like I never left."

"Funny how that works."

The two Slayers stood together, watching as Willow vented and Dawn hung her head. After a few seconds, Kennedy turned to Buffy. "Well I sense this is gonna take a while, an' I'm not much for the discipline side of things. Tell Willow I went to bed?" The other Slayer nodded. "They'll be glad you're home. An' me too, I guess," Kennedy added with a smirk before leaving.

"'A ghost'?" repeated Willow incredulously. "Rule number three!" The witch held up three fingers and shook them angrily. "'No summoning demons or other nasties'! I specifically said no summoning of nasties! Room-destroying ghosts count as nasties!"

"I know, and I'm sorry! I didn't know that would—"

Xander interrupted Dawn's sixteenth or seventeenth apology, his eye wide as he kept glancing over his shoulder into the hall. "Could someone please explain why my chair is in the hall with half the DVDs?"

"Nasties!" Willow exclaimed, offering nothing more.

"Ah, yes, it's all clear now." Very slowly, he craned his head around the room, frowning. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't we pretty specific about the lack of destruction that was to occur tonight?"

Willow gasped, rounding on Dawn. "Oh! Oh! That was rule four!" Her tone became more angry and sarcastic as she demanded, "Gee, what other ones didja shatter? Got a hidden stash of boys in your room?"

Jerking her head up, Buffy started wide-eyed at Dawn. "You have boys in your room?"

Dawn, apparently having forgotten Buffy was there, whirled around. She looked all the more frazzled at the idea of facing an assault on three fronts. "What? No! I swear," she pleaded, "no boys!"

"Buffy?" Willow whispered, having noticed the blonde for the first time.

"Buffy?" echoed Xander, blinking in surprise.

Dawn gestured at her sister. "Oh, and yeah, Buffy's home," she added lamely.

Without hesitation, Xander arrived in front of Buffy within a few striding steps. He gathered her up in a huge bear hug, which she gladly returned. "Man, it's good to see you," he beamed. Breaking the hug, he stepped back, keeping his hands on her upper arms for just a moment as he appraised her. "You're lookin' good. European Slackin' must agree with ya."

"Thanks," Buffy replied, with a grin, brushing the back of her hand against his arm as she made her own assessment. "You look good too. Really good." Smiling hopefully, she questioned, "Things are better?"

Xander shrugged his shoulders and gave her his little boy grin. "They're gettin' there. One day at a time, y'know?"

"Yeah, I know," she replied sincerely.

Xander stepped back as Buffy turned to Willow. The redhead hadn't moved, she still gaped at Buffy, the surprise at seeing her there seeming to have sucked all the steam out of her anger with Dawn. Faced now with her best friend, Willow didn't seem to know what to do.

Sensing the awkwardness, Dawn began to back away. "I'm ... gonna go to my room," she stated, managing to make it sound more like a question. "You can finish yelling at me later?"

Willow nodded distractedly, but it was enough for Dawn, and she turned to Buffy, wrapping the Slayer in a hug. "You suck for staying away so long," Dawn told her.

"Yeah, well, you suck for ... I'm not sure what, but I've only been back for about 10 minutes. Give me at least 30 and I'm guaranteed to have something," retorted Buffy with a grin.

Smiling happily despite what had occurred earlier, Dawn pulled away and left the room, heading upstairs.

Buffy looked at Willow. Neither said anything and the moment drug on. Finally Buffy spoke up, waving her hand at the room. "So, here we are, all corporeal and everything."

The redhead ducked her head, embarrassed, then stepped forward and the two embraced in a tight hug.

"I missed you," Buffy breathed, her eyes closed tightly.

"Me too, I missed you too," assured Willow. "I'm so glad you're home."

Almost reluctantly, they released each other and took a step back.

The Slayer nodded. "Me too. Home is good," she decided. "Be it ever so mangled ..."

Buffy trailed off as she, Willow and Xander eyed the destroyed remnants of the room.