Seeing White

A Buffyverse fanfic by Sisiutil

Joss and ME own the characters, I'm just playing with them. This story isn't all that original--it's inspired by an idea Joss Whedon said he had but was unable to accomplish. Thought I'd take a whack at it. I'm just crazy that way.
Part 3: The Wish

"You're certain this is what you want?" the Emissary asked Buffy. They stood, facing one another, within the huge white room.

"Yes," Buffy responded, nodding her head of loose blond hair. "It is."

The Emissary--who preferred to be called "Emmy"--raised her hand and gently touched Buffy's cheek with affection and no small amount of admiration. She nodded her head gently, and her crystal-blue eyes shone.

"We were right about you," Emmy said softly. "I will return you to your home. Your friends are waiting for you there."

"Thank you," Buffy said. "I bet they're getting wiggy," she added with an embarrassed grin.

Emmy smiled smugly. "Don't worry. I pulled a few strings to make sure they'd be...preoccupied." When Buffy looked at her fearfully, Emmy raised a hand in reassurance. "Oh, nothing harmful! They're fine. Just...busy."

"Okay, good," Buffy responded. Just then, she noticed a bright glow appearing around her body. She looked at the Emissary, who slowly began to fade from her vision.

"Oh," Emmy said, as if suddenly remembering something, "enjoy your trip home."

Buffy nodded, then frowned quizzically. A heartbeat later, she was gone, leaving the Emissary standing alone in the white room.

"So that's 'Summers', right?" a chipper voice said from within the swirling vortex.

"Yes, Buffy Summers," Willow repeated with forced patience. Her eyes were still black, but her chin was resting on her fist, her elbow propped tiredly on her bent knee. Xander was pacing back and forth behind Willow and the enchanted circle where she sat. Dawn was leaning back against the wall of the apartment's living room, her eyes raised towards the ceiling in both impatience and boredom.

"Could you spell that for me, hon'?" the voice asked.

"S-U-M..." Willow said.

"S-O-M..." the voice repeated erroneously.

"No," Willow snapped. "S-U-M-M-E-R-S."

"Sorry 'bout that," the voice replied. "Summers, Summers, Summers...I'm just waiting for that information to come up on my system. It's slow today. I guess it doesn't want to work weekends either, ha ha!"

Willow ground her teeth and resisted a powerful urge to cast the entity on the other side of the vortex into another dimension. Maybe the one with nothing but shrimp. But she stifled the urge and her frustration. They'd been on "mystical hold" for almost a quarter-hour before finally managing to speak to a living, breathing...well, whatever this annoyingly cheerful entity was, and assuming it breathed. And it had taken another fifteen minutes to explain that they were trying to locate someone who had been abducted into another dimension, and no, they didn't want to subscribe to The Talisman newsletter.

"Ah! Here we are. Buffy Anne Summers," the voice announced triumphantly.

"Great!" Willow said, sitting up. Xander and Dawn also roused themselves out of their bored stupors and brought their full attention to the disembodied voice. "So where is she?"

"Good news!" the voice declared. "She's in heaven!"

Willow stared at the vortex in confused silence. Xander and Dawn glanced at one another, equally confused and also concerned.

"Uh, heaven?" Willow asked.

"Yup!" the voice went on brightly. "For three of your years now. Seems she gave her life to save her sister! Saved the world! More than once, too! Very impressive!"

"Uh, look, your records are...out of date," Willow explained. "She was, uh, brought back. To this plane of existence, I mean."

There was a pause. "Are you sure about that?" the voice asked dubiously a moment later. "That's pretty unusual..."

"Quite sure!" Willow insisted. "I'm, uh, well, I was the one that did the resurrection spell."

Another pause. "You pulled her out of heaven?" the voice asked, dripping incredulity.

"Well," Willow went on, a little abashedly, "I...I didn't know that's where she was! I thought she was in a hell dimension!"

"Huh," the voice snorted. "Nice to know you thought so highly of her," it remarked snootily. "With friends like you..."

"Look, that's not the point!" Willow said defensively. "She's been back for nearly three years, and just couple of hours, ago, she got pulled into some inter-dimensional vortex by this glowy babe in a white robe, who was actually kinda hot-looking, but...never mind that, we need to know where she is! She could be anywhere, she could be..."

"Standing right here," Buffy said from the hallway.

Willow, Dawn, and Xander turned towards Buffy and gasped. The mystical black tint vanished from Willow's eyes and she smiled with relief.

"Buff! You're back!" Xander said happily.

He stepped towards Buffy, but was cut off by Dawn, who ran in front of him and threw her arms around her older sister. Dawn embraced Buffy affectionately, then stepped back, her hands on her sister's shoulders and a broad smile on her youthful face. Suddenly, the smile faded and Dawn frowned at Buffy.

"Drama queen," she remarked as she pulled her hands from Buffy's shoulders and crossed her arms.

"Good to see you too, Dawny," Buffy replied sharply, but with a knowing smile on her face.

"Buffy, where did you go? What happened?" Willow asked as she rose and stepped out of the enchanted circle.

"Uh, hello?" the voice said from the vortex, which suddenly began to whirl and shrink without Willow's attention to keep it open. "So, can I close this ticket..." the being said, but was cut off as the glowing light of the portal vanished.

"Looks like you guys found something to keep you amused while I was gone," Buffy remarked as she watched the portal vanish.

Willow rolled her eyes. "Amused? No. Annoyed? Copiously. Now spill."

"Well," Buffy began, "glowy-girl was an Emissary sent by the Powers that Be. Seems they wanted to have a little chat with me. Kind of like a performance review."

" did that go?" Xander asked anxiously.

Buffy snorted derisively and frowned at him. "Like you have to ask!" she chided him. "Flying colors, of course! Full marks in all subjects: vampire slaying, innocent-protecting, world-saving...and to top it all off, I got an apocalypse-ending bonus."

"A bonus?" Dawn said. "You mean like a reward?" Buffy smiled and nodded. "That's so cool! What was it?"

"They said I could have one wish," Buffy answered. "Anything I wanted."

"Wow!" Dawn said, then frowned. "Oh. Only one? Not three?"

Buffy grimaced and nodded. "Yeah, I asked about that too. I was told not to get pushy." Do I look like a genie to you? had been Emmy's exact words.

"So...c'mon, I'm' dyin' here, Buff!" Xander prompted her expectantly.

"Yeah," Willow said, smiling broadly. "What did you wish for? Or, is it, like, one of those birthday wishes where you can't tell anyone or it won't come true?"

"Nah, nothing like that," Buffy replied. Then she smiled broadly, her eyes sparkling, and looked down at her feet. "So? Whaddya think?"

Willow, Xander, and Dawn all frowned in puzzlement, then followed Buffy's gaze downward. There, at the end of Buffy's capri-pant clad, slender legs, her feet were shod in a pair of bright red, patent leather, high-heeled pumps. She raised the heel of her right foot and pointed her toe downward, model style.

"Aren't they fabulous?" Buffy exclaimed. "And I saw just the hottest outfit to wear them with in this shop off the Piazza Navona last week. First thing tomorrow, me and Mister Mastercard are going to..."

"Buffy!" Xander interrupted her, stammering incredulously. "You...the could...anything...and you chose shoes?"

Buffy frowned, then rolled her eyes, apparently annoyed by Xander's reaction. "Hrmmph. Typical male reaction. Look, they're not just any shoes," Buffy explained. "These are one-of-a-kind Pradas! And check out the straps! Aren't they darling?"

"Buffy..." Dawn said, shaking her head, "I could have had anything...and, okay, they are precious, and the buckles on the straps are cute..."

"Pure gold," Buffy told her smugly.

Dawn gasped, her eyes going wide. "Really?" she asked, incredulous. A sly smile spread across her face. "Hey, do you think I could borrow..."

"Not in your life, little girl," Buffy asserted with an angry frown.

"BUFFY!" Willow exclaimed suddenly and angrily, drawing everyone's attention. "I can't believe this!"

"Willow, calm down," Buffy said. She reached out to put a reassuring hand on Willow's shoulder, but the witch angrily pushed it away.

"No, I, I don't think calmness is called for here," Willow said, her eyes open wide in a mixture of anger and incredulity. "Now, look, I know you've saved the world a ton, a-and, you're my best friend, which I think, gives me the right to speak my mind here. I mean, there have been times, and I think we've been very tolerant of them, in the past, when you've been, well, to be blunt, kinda shallow. But this...!"

"Will," Buffy interrupted her quietly.

"No, I-I'm going to have my say here!" Willow insisted. "The Powers that Be don't go handing out wishes like this everyday! And there's so many things you could have wished for! Your mom, for starters, or Angel's curse..."

"Willow," Buffy said firmly to her friend. "Look behind you."

Willow stopped in mid-rant and stared at Buffy in confusion. Then, in her peripheral vision, she noticed that Dawn had turned to look past her, over her shoulder. Dawn's eyes went wide and she gasped loudly.

Xander, too, followed Buffy's gaze. His jaw dropped open. "Oh my God..." he whispered, his voice cracking with emotion.

Willow cast one last glance at Buffy, whose blue eyes were also looking at something behind the red-headed witch, and who was now wearing a positively beatific expression on her face. Slowly, Willow turned around and looked into the living room of the Summers girls' Rome apartment. Her dark green eyes opened wide in amazement, and her mouth fell open. She clasped one hand over it. She stared, unbelieving and dumbfounded, at the figure standing only a few feet away from her.

She was exactly as Willow remembered her. The long, lanky, golden hair. The big blue eyes, so innocent yet knowing at the same time. That endearing, loving-yet-naughty half smile. And the beautiful, slender but still shapely body, clad in a long, dark red velvet dress, the neckline plunging to reveal just a hint of d├ęcolletage. Her arms were held behind her back, her weight on one foot, in a stance that was confidently sexy, but also somewhat anxious.

"Hello, love," Tara said softly. "Miss me?"

Tears spilled from Willow's eyes. She remained frozen in place, unable to move, uncertain as to whether this was real or merely one of her longest-held, most cherished but impossible dreams. Her whole body trembled with nervous energy, like one string on a lute, long quiet, that is suddenly brought to life by the sympathetic vibrations of its partner. A partner who had been dead and buried for nearly two years, and had now been miraculously returned to life.

Willow watched as, for a moment, ever so subtly, Tara's face clouded. Her fair eyebrows raised slightly, and her charming half-smile weakened just a little. In that moment, Willow saw the hesitant, shy girl she met that day at college, the girl who so lacked the hard-won confidence Willow had gained. For though Tara had grown so much in the all-too brief time they had together, she never completely left behind that wariness of the world.

The sight of that glimmer of her lover's vulnerability, her momentary worry that her return from the grave may not be welcome, spurred Willow to action. The redhead burst across the room, her arms outstretched, and threw herself into her long-lost lover's arms. The enfolded Tara in the tightest of embraces, as if afraid that she would vanish from her life yet again.

"Oh, baby!" Willow sobbed, then she could speak no more. She clung to Tara and cried uncontrollably while her lover held her. Tara caressed Willow's back, stroked her long red hair, and cooed softly in her ear, which she kissed with tender sweetness again and again.

"It's okay, Willow, it's okay..." Tara whispered into her lover's ear.

Buffy, Dawn, and Xander watched the reunion from a few feet away, their own eyes shining with tears. Dawn put her arm around Buffy's back and laid her head on her sister's shoulder. Buffy responded by placing her arm around Dawn's waist and giving her sister a tender squeeze. Xander placed his hand on Buffy's shoulder in respect and admiration.

"That was some wish," he said, his voice rough with emotion. A tear spilled from his one remaining eye.

"Yeah," Dawn sighed from Buffy's other side, then snuffled.

Buffy cleared her throat and spoke. "Well, I thought one of us deserved a happily-ever after," she declared with feigned nonchalance. She blinked away her own tears as she watched her best friend's body shaking with emotion in the embrace of her lover.

Willow straightened within Tara's arms and caressed her lover's face tenderly. The red-head's face was streaked and wet with tears. "It's you, it's really you..." she said, her voice little more than a hoarse whisper. Overcome, she began to cover Tara's cheeks with a series of rapid, desperate kisses.

"Yeah, it's me," Tara said, smiling and pushing Willow back a little. "In the flesh. Which I'll be glad to prove to you later..." she added, her voice lowered to a husky whisper, with a sly smile at her lover.

"Oh boy," Willow responded as she reached up with one hand to wipe the tears from her face. "This is like...Christmas, and Hannukah, combined and multiplied to, like, infinity...but without the oppressive Judeo-Christian paternalism of..."

"Sweetie," Tara said gently, "you're doing that political correctness babbling thing. Remember how you told me to tell you when you did that?"

"Oh," Willow said with an embarrassed shrug, "right, just kind of...overwhelmy right now, and, I..." Willow managed to tear her eyes away from Tara for a moment, as if suddenly remembering there were other people in the room, though she remained in Tara's tender embrace. "Oh my goddess....Buffy..." she said with no small amount of awe. "You made your wish for me?" Tears spilled from her eyes again, tears of gratitude, of appreciation for her friend's incredible love and generosity.

"Yeah," Buffy said softly, her voice quavering. "You're my best friend, Willow. Don't you think I know how much pain you've been in? Don't you think I would have done anything for you?"

"But this..." Willow said, glancing back at her restored lover, improbably, impossibly returned from the dead. Tara was looking at Buffy with gratitude equal to Willow's own.

At that moment, words failed the red-headed wiccan completely. She turned and stepped gently out of Tara's embrace, then walked quickly over to Buffy. She enclosed the slayer in a tight, warm hug that conveyed her tremendous gratitude far better than words ever could. The two friends stood, enclosed in their embrace, tears spilling silently from their eyes, for some time as their friends watched.

"Hey," Buffy finally said roughly, leaning back from the embrace, "it wasn't just for you. I missed her too," she added with a warm glance at Tara. Memories flooded Buffy's mind in a rush. She remembered Tara sharing the pain of her own bereavement when Buffy's mother died. She remembered entrusting Tara with the painful secret of her relationship with Spike before she told anyone else. And she remembered standing up for Tara when her father and brother arrogantly demanded her return. "She's family," Buffy stated simply.

From beside her, Dawn suddenly exploded across the room and ran into Tara's arms. Tara laughed softly as she rocked backwards, but regained her balance and hugged the teenager close.

"I missed you too," Dawn declared tearfully, holding Tara so tight the older woman had trouble breathing.

"Well, I'd say it's time to crack open a case o' Kleenex," Xander declared as he walked over to Tara and Dawn and wrapped both women in his arms. He looked back towards Willow and Buffy and beckoned them over. "C'mon, group hug!"

Buffy and Willow laughed softly and joined the other Scoobies in the big group embrace. The gang made no noise other than soft, pleased laughter and snuffles for a moment.

"Were you in heaven?" Dawn asked, lifting her head and looking at Tara. The teenager's cheeks were wet with tears. The other Scoobies released one another, but stood close, enjoying the warmth and proximity of one another.

"Oh," Tara said, as if she hadn't expected the question. "Uh, not quite." Dawn's eyes widened in horror. "Oh, no, not the other place either!" Tara assured her. "It was a big waiting room thingy, sort of airport lounge."

"Oh," Dawn responded, looking somewhat disappointed.

"But there were snacks," Tara assured her.

"Oh," Dawn said a little more brightly. "Snacks are good," she said sagely, nodding.

"What...what were you waiting for?" Willow asked.

Tara glanced at her lover and smiled, her eyes narrowed seductively. "Who do you think, silly?" she answered as she reached out and caressed Willow's cheek with the backs of her fingers. Willow took a deep, tremulous breath.

Buffy, meanwhile, was looking at her sister apologetically. "Dawn," she said, "I're probably thinking that I could've wished for..." Buffy paused and took a deep breath as her sister watched her expectantly. "...for mom to..."

"Buffy," Dawn said, stopping her sister before she could go any further down a road that would be painful for both of them, "it's okay. We've kind of been there before, y'know? And besides," she said, glancing at how tenderly Willow and Tara were looking into one another's eyes and embracing yet again, "...I'd like to think that I would've made the same wish," she said as the placed her arm around Buffy's shoulders.

"Yeah, well," Buffy said with a sigh and a shrug, "you know the drill. You make the wish for something you want, and you end up as the punch line in some parable."

"Oh," Dawn said, her arched brows raising knowingly and a teasing smile curling the corners of her mouth, "like, you wish to be rich, and you get turned into...cookie dough?"

Buffy turned and shot a withering glance at her little sister. "Ten thousand comedians out of work, and you..."

Buffy's voice trailed off. Dawn's little joke had inadvertently sent the slayer's brain into overdrive. The last thing that the Emissary had said to Buffy had stuck with her and bothered her. Enjoy your trip home, Emmy had said. But the "trip" to her apartment in Rome had taken less time than a heartbeat, and Emmy hadn't said the words as if they were some idle joke. Her voice had been heavy with meaning, as if she'd been trying to convey a message she'd been forbidden from relaying directly.

Home? Buffy wondered. Did she mean Sunnydale? But Sunnydale didn't exist anymore, except as a crater several miles across in the middle of Southern California. California...Buffy thought. Is that what she meant? Home to California? But why would I go back to California? Sunnydale's gone, my friends are here, there's nothing for me in California, nothing except...

"Angel," Buffy breathed.

The name of her former lover, even spoken so softly, had an electrifying effect in the room. All of the other Scoobies froze and turned their attention to Buffy. They watched with growing apprehension as Buffy's eyes went wide and she suddenly looked at them in alarm. But she said nothing. She was still formulating the meaning of Emmy's words, of the Emmisary's...warning.

"Buffy," Willow said hesitantly, "are you, uh, wishing you wished that Angel's soul..."

"He's in danger," Buffy interrupted her. In response to Willow's surprised look, she shook her head and went on, her voice tight with concern and growing more agitated. "I can't explain how I know. I just do. He's...he's in terrible danger. So bad he needs my help." She looked around at her friends...her teammates. "He needs our help."

The Scoobies stood in silence for a moment, then almost as one, went into action. Xander walked to the kitchen, grabbed the phone, and started dialing. Willow glanced at Tara; the two sorceresses nodded, and then sat down, facing one another, holding hands, eyes closed in concentration, in the sacred circle that remained on the floor in Buffy's living room. Dawn ran down the hall towards Buffy's bedroom. Buffy watched in surprise, then stunned admiration as her friends rallied so quickly, so unquestioningly, to aid her lover.

A moment later, Tara and Willow each took a deep breath and opened their eyes.

"You're right, Buffy," Willow said, her voice heavy with concern. "There's...well, I guess if Andrew were here, he'd call it a 'disturbance in the force'."

"We sensed...anger in the demon world, and an army of darkness, an evil horde, arising in Los Angeles somewhere," Tara added, her recently-revived body shuddering slightly.

"Will," Buffy said, kneeling down beside the two witches, "can you teleport us there?"

Willow's eyes went wide. "Whoah, there, little filly!" she said. "Appreciate the vote of confidence, but...we witches are kinda like natural sprinters. Very dangerous over short distances."

"Damn," Buffy swore quietly.

"Just got off the phone with Giles," Xander announced as he walked back into the living room. "A jet will be at Fiumicino airport for us within the hour."

"Wow. We have a jet now?" Tara said, surprised and impressed. "Like the X-Men?" The other Scoobies turned and looked at her in surprise. "What, I can't be a little nerdy now and then?"

"Speaking of nerds," Xander went on, "Giles said Andrew is in California. With a platoon of slayers. I've got him waiting on the line. Where should we send them?"

Buffy looked hopefully at Willow. The witch glanced at her lover. "We can work on localizing the disturbance once we're in the air."

Buffy's eyebrows raised. "You can do spells in an airplane?"

Willow rolled her eyes. "Hello, this is the twenty-first century."

Buffy smiled tightly and nodded, then rose from her crouch. She placed her hands on her hips and was clearly in full command-mode. "Okay. Xander, tell Giles to put Andrew and the slayers on high alert," she said as her friend turned and walked back to the phone in the kitchen. "We'll tell them where to deploy once we're airborne. Which means all we have to do is..."

"Okay, we're packed!" Dawn announced as she returned to the living room, her slender frame teetering from the weight of several large, stuffed duffel bags. "I've got one bag of your weapons, two of clothes, and, uh, this little one with Will's witchy stuff, herbs and so on. Didn't know what you'd need, so I kind of grabbed it all," she said with a slight smile and what would have been a shrug if she'd been able to lift her shoulders against the weight of the bags.

"We're going into battle, not on a month-long cruise," Buffy chastised her dryly as she looked at the two bags that over-stuffed with clothing.

"Well, I figured once we avert yet another apocalypse, we could hit the beach!" Dawn responded brightly, her youthful face lighting up with a broad smile.

Xander returned from the kitchen. He gallantly walked over to Dawn and relieved her of the burden of the heaviest bags. "Taxi's on its way," he said to Buffy.

"Right," Buffy said as she turned and prepared to march out of the apartment. Tara and Willow stood up and stepped out of the sacred circle, and Buffy looked at them apologetically. "I'm sorry to interrupt your reunion," she said softly.

Willow and Tara both looked at her sympathetically. "Hey," Willow said. "C'mon. It's Angel."

Buffy nodded, her lips pressed together in a tight smile. She glanced briefly at her friends...her teammates, her allies, her family. Her heart swelled. The First had been wrong. She wasn't alone, never had been. And neither was Angel. She nodded once again, then strode confidently towards the door, her friends in step right behind her, as they always had been.

"Let's get to work," she said.

The end...for now.