Part 1: Leaving Sunnydale
"There you are, Miss, Sir, seats 76A and 76B. Boarding will take place at gate 13, in twenty minutes." With a commercial smile, the Sunny Airlines employee held out the boarding pass to the strange couple who stood behind the counter. Neither of them reacted. Both seemed to be in a sort of trance.
"Oh, sorry. Twenty minutes, right?" a muddled Giles finally said, taking the boarding pass. He smiled at her, and turned on his heels before leaving towards the boarding gate. The employee couldn't help but notice he was firmly holding the arm of the young redheaded woman who was with him.
She stared at them. "What could have happened to them?"
She was pretty puzzled. Usually she wasn't paying much attention to the passengers. But these two... the middle-aged, but charming Englishman looked bruised, like a boxer after a knock-out. His neck seemed scratched, as if it had been clawed by a wild beast. That was a big contrast to his impeccable clothes - a tweed suit and a silk tie.
And the thin young woman he was holding up... it looked like she was about to faint. Her extreme paleness and the deep dark rings under her eyes showed with no doubt that she had been through very difficult times. And her glance... all the pain of the world could be seen in her large green eyes. It was impossible not to notice her.
"They fly away, they probably left everything behind" the Sunny Airlines agent thought. "They have practically no luggage, except for the tiny bag the Englishman is carrying, and the redhead has nothing at all but her passport and her plane ticket. I guess something really serious happened to them."
She looked at them one last time, as they disappeared into the airport crowd. Leaving Sunnydale behind them. Sunnydale where everything has begun, and everything has almost ended, only a few hours before.
It was only after takeoff, and the plane had gained enough altitude, that Giles felt his muscles relax. With a sigh, he allowed himself to close his eyes for the first time since they had left the Magic Box. If he had been alone, it wouldn't have taken him long to fall deeply asleep. But with Willow by his side, this was impossible. He opened his eyes, looked to his left. The young Witch was curled up against the window. Her eyelids were closed, her mouth was trembling. A big tear ran down her cheek. She hadn't said a word in two hours, ever since Giles had told her that they were leaving for England, now, immediatly.
Giles didn't know how to react. He had expected anything but this silence, and her surprising lack of rebellion. That was worrying him. He had had his share of "Dark Willow", thanks a lot, he had even risked his neck confronting her, but this Willow... she seemed broken. Since she had left Xander's embrace (and God knows how difficult it had been to convince the young man to let her go, he didn't want to leave his best friend, even for a single minute), it seemed that she had suddenly taken all the weight of the world on her shoulders. That world she had been so close to destroying forever...
Giles sighed, again. Was this hasty departure a good thing ? Or a huge mistake ? He'd had to decide it very quickly; After what she had done, it was obvious that Willow couldn't stay in Sunnydale anymore. For her own sake, and for her friends'. And Giles didn't want to abandon her. He simply couldn't do that.
Of course, he held a grudge against her. And to tell the truth, he was disappointed by her. The girl he was so proud of, the so clever and and so kind Willow, seemed to have vanished to become this angry, bitter girl. He could understand her pain, of course - that was not even a question. But when he heard about what happened to Tara, he was far to imagine Willow's reaction. Killing Warren - that wasn't the right thing to do, obviously, but that was, well, rather understandable after all. But trying to destroy the world... and her own friends... he still couldn't believe she wanted to do so.
But he still loved her. Like his own daughter. Like he loved Buffy. "I've never told them" Giles realized. "I've never told them how much they were important to me. And I needed these terrible events, when we could all have been killed, to realize that I loved them so much... Bloody hell, Rupert, you're a fool. A silly old fool."
He had probably said these last words out loud, because the passenger in the seat to his right suddenly glanced at him with concern. Giles sank deeper into his seat.
Willow opened her eyes to see a dark, cloudy sky. The plane was banking slightly to the left. The cockpit was almost plunged in darkness, except for the sidelights used by the few passengers who were still awake.
On her right, she could see a sleepy Giles. His left hand, which had tensely gripped the armrest when they had taken off, was now relaxed. But despite of this, and even in his sleep, his face seemed lined and tensed. For the first time since long ago, Willow realized he wasn't so young anymore. The smooth, young face of the British librarian, the one they met in Sunnydale High, was now an old memory.
"So many things have happened" Willow thought bitterly. "We're not the same people we were. I'm not the same anymore. I'm done. I know that, Giles knows that. So why England ? Why is he taking me so far away, if it's not to punish me, to lock me up, or even maybe to kill me."
She couldn't help but shiver. Her arm collided with Giles', and the Watcher woke up immediatly. He looked at her, and as if he had guessed her thoughts, he gently but firmly said: "You've got nothing to fear, Willow."
The young redheaded Witch had a weak smile. She was close to tears. She pressed her forehead against the window. But soon, and despite her efforts, she couldn't prevent the tears from falling down her cheeks. Again.
A moved Giles stared at her. He wished he could take her in his arms, tell her the words that could lighten her pain. But this wasn't the right time. Not yet.
He looked at the young redhead silently crying next to him, and everything came back into his mind. Like devastating flashbacks. The first time he met Willow. The shy highschool girl who didn't even dare look at him when she was talking to him. The computer geek, the whiz kid who was ignored by her own family.Xander's best friend and surrogate sister And then the brilliant, sparkling young woman who gained so much self confidence thanks to Buffy Summers' friendship. The radiant girlfriend of Oz the werewolf-musician. The witty and talented college student. And of course the powerful Wicca, Tara's soulmate. Tara, who was now dead.
Giles felt anger well up inside him. Not against Willow, but against himself. "I couldn't protect them" he thought with sadness. "They were children, and I didn't succeed in protecting them." "At the very time they needed me the most, I left like a coward. And this is the result."
He remembered that night, in the Summers' kitchen, months ago. The confrontation with Willow. The harsh words he had used to tell her she was wrong, selfish and pretentious. He had called her an "arrogant amateur". He really wanted to hurt her at the moment, maybe because he was feeling so guilty himself. He remembered the surprise and the lack of sympathy in her eyes when he said these words. Later that night he had wanted to go and talk to her, to calmly explain what he really thought, but he hadn't. And a few weeks later, he had left for England.
The voice of the plane captain suddenly echoed from the loudspeakers, distracting Giles from his dark thoughts. The plane was beginning its descent to London.
The sky was cloudy, and Miss Harkness thought this Monday was going to be another rainy day. Hands on her hips, she looked around with satisfaction. The room was ready. She had wanted to take care of everything by herself, and Mr Giles had given very specific instructions on the phone. The room needed to be very sober, almost monastic. A bed, a table and chair, a small cupboard. No pictures on the walls, and although Miss Harkness was reluctant to do this, she had to get rid of every object linked with magic. So no candles, stones or magical herbs of any kind. Unlike in the other rooms.
But she completly trusted Giles, and he seemed to care a lot about the young girl. "I must protect her, and foremost from herself", he had said to the Head Sorceress of the Coven.
The sudden sound of a car horn made her start. She looked through the window, and saw the big black cab of James Lurskash, a hometown guy. She rushed to the stairs, as fast as she could (it wasn't easy considering she was rather fat and was wearing her long Sorceress dress). But she really wanted to be the first to welcome her new guest.
Once out on the porch, she realized that not even one of the Coven's occupants had gone outside to meet the new visitors. She turned back just to see a curtain moving behind one of the first floor windows, and to notice the shadows of several students in the main room downstairs. She sighed. Quite obviously things were going to be rough. Maybe even worse than she had predicted. She had tried to keep the secret, but as usual the news had already spread throughout the Coven. And it seemed that nobody was really eager to welcome a Witch who had almost destroyed the world, and only 48 hours ago.
She looked at Rupert Giles as he walked towards her, he seemed so tired, and she immediatly noticed the wounds on his neck and cheeks. Without a word, she hugged him, not too tight, because she guessed that the scars were only the visible part of his bruised body. Giles sighed, and whispered in her ear: "Everything's fine". Denying the obvious, Miss Harkness thought.
And then, at last, she looked at the young woman who had just got out from the cab. The Coven mistress was struck by the girl's youth, and by her fragile appereance. So the powerful Witch who had let herself be overwhelmed by her power and her dark side, was that lost girl, with those green eyes reddened by the tears and that freckled, diaphanous skin. She was looking down, as she didn't allow herself to move. Miss Harkness moved closer to her and simply said: "Welcome, Willow".
Then Willow slowly raised her eyes, and stared at Miss Harkness. The old witch couldn't help but step back. Willow's green gaze was sharp, even through the tears. "I can see, thought Miss Harkness with shock. Oh yes, I can see everything. The incredible pain of this girl. It's overwhelming. Her guilt, but her strength as well. It's like she has nothing to loose now. And I can feel, oh, I feel her inner fight to choose between the Good and the Bad. And oh God, she's only at the beginning of the path. And she doesn't know it yet".
Willow looked down again, and with a tiny, weak voice, said "...Thank you". Nothing else. She started to shiver, as she has guessed the thoughts of the Coven mistress.
Miss Harkness glanced at Giles, who shrugged, and nodded to her silent question. The only thing to do now was to go inside, and they followed Miss Harkness into the main room. As they entered, some pupils who were sitting near the book shelves suddenly got up and rushed outside. Miss Harkness frowned, and Giles noticed.
"We'd better go to my office", Miss Harkness said with a forced smile. "It's upstairs".
Giles took Willow by her right elbow, afraid that the redhead was about to faint again. He asked himself if her bad condition was caused by the repercussions of the dark magic or by something else.
"That's the last straw, Giles thought bitterly. I'm the one who's wounded, because of her, and it's as if she is going to pass out anytime." He helped her to climb the stairs, without saying a word.
Miss Harkness' office was warm, like its owner. There was a huge fireplace in one corner. And under normal circumstances, Willow would have certainly been eager to explore the great library filled with rare books and old parchments. But she sat on the edge of an armchair without giving them a glance, while Giles took place on the couch, near Miss Harkness.
"Do you have any questions, Willow ?" asked the old woman gently.
Willow glanced at Giles, and said in a weak voice: "No. No questions. Only a request."
"I'm not sure you can really request anything", Giles thought. But he chose not to react. At least she was talking.
"We're listening", Miss Harkness said, she felt rather surprised and uncomfortable.
"I... I would like it to be quick. I don't want it to last. I know I deserve to suffer, but I don't think I could stand it. Please do it quickly" Willow said.
Giles and Miss Harkness looked at each other. First they were staggered , then Giles suddenly realized what she had meant. He leaned over Willow, trying to catch her evasive gaze.
"Willow... you really believe we're going to... to kill you ? You think that I've brought you here for that ?"
The young Witch looked at the Watcher, and saw anger in his eyes. Anger and pain, too. Beside him, Miss Harkness seemed stunned.
"I... I don't know..." the readhead mumbled. "Well, it seems logical. What other sentence for someone who wanted to destroy the world, and who almost succeeded. I deserve it. Not to mention that I killed a human being too."
"You don't decide what you deserve", Giles cut her short. "Please let us have this privilege. And let me tell you, realizing that you might think of me as your... torturer... it hurts me more than the wounds you caused me. And that are still painful, incidentally."
Willow looked down, ashamed. But Giles didn't want to stop. "Now look at me ! Willow, look me in the eyes, if you still have some courage and honesty. I brought you here to save you, because I want to believe you can still be saved. It's not a punishment. Because no punishment would be appropriate for what you've done. Even death would be too gentle."
These last words echoed round the large room. Miss Harkness, who looked shocked, was about to say something, but was surprised to see a thin smile on Willow's face. "We agree at last, Giles", the readhead said. The Watcher sighed, and decided not to add anything. For the moment.
Miss Harkness got up from the couch and in an attempt to lighten the mood, said smiling: "Rupert, I'm sure that Willow has understood that she is safe here. Now, you must be exhausted, both of you, and I suggest that you get some rest. Your rooms are ready. They are in the left wing. It's very quiet here. I'm sure you'll like it."
Once in his room, Giles felt himself overcome by tiredness and discouragement. The only thing he wanted was to get into bed and fall asleep. But he had something to do before, something important.
He checked his watch, and calculated the time it was in California. The morning, but not too early. This was perfect. He took his cell phone from the pocket of his tweed jacket, and dialed Buffy's number.
She picked up the phone almost immediatly. "Summer's residence !" Strangely her voice seemed very close, as if she was in the next room, and not thousands of miles away.
"Buffy, it's me", said Giles.
"Giles !" exclaimed Buffy. "At last ! Are you calling from England ? How was the trip ? How's Willow doing ? Are you still suffering from your wounds ? And..."
"Buffy", interrupted Giles, who couldn't help but smile while hearing his Slayer's babbling. "Buffy, it's OK. We're at the Coven, as planned. The trip was alright. I... I'd say I'll get over it. And about Willow... well, considering the circumstances, she's not so bad. She's alive, Buffy, and that's all that matters for the time being."
At first the Slayer remained silent. Then Giles heard Buffy whispering with an unusually weak voice: "Giles... everything fell apart. Do you think... do you think it will get better soon, because it really can't get any worse. We lost my mother, then Tara. And Will... isn't Will anymore. Do you believe we'll get our good old Willow back ?"
Giles sighed. He could feel his Slayer's pain, and helplessness.
"I really don't know, Buffy. It's a little too soon to tell if... if our Willow, as you say, will come back to us.And to tell you the truth, I'm afraid she won't be the same anymore. Without... without Tara. I'm here to prevent her from destroying herself, because I'm afraid she could... you know... kill herself. But don't worry, Buffy. I won't let her do that. For the moment, all I can say is that the path will be very, very long."
"But you still have hope, Giles, haven't you ?"
The Englishman hesitated. He didn't want to lie to his Slayer, but he didn't want to discourage her either. She has had her own share of suffering, more than anyone else.
"Buffy... I will keep you informed. I promise. I will tell you everything. But now, we have to... we have to recover. I promise I'll put all my heart into helping Willow."
"I know that, Giles. I don"t doubt it. "
"Do you want... do you want to talk to her ?" the Watcher asked.
Buffy sighed, and then said with the same tiny voice as before:
"Giles, I don't... I don't think so. Not now. Not yet. I am... I'm really worried about her, and I do care about her, but I guess I'm also very angry. What she has done, to Dawn, to you Giles, and to us all... I'm still too pissed at her to say anything useful. So I don't think it will be a good idea to talk to her right now."
Giles felt some anguish in the young woman's voice.
"I understand. Don't worry, Buffy, I totally understand, and I agree. Time will heal the pain, and I'm not only speaking about my own wounds. "
They talked for a little while, about insignificant things, like weather in England, and jet lag, and then Buffy told Giles how Dawn, Xander and Anya were dealing with all the recent dramatic events.
They eventually hung up, and the Englishman needed only a few minutes to sink into a deep sleep.
In her own room, next door, Willow lay awake on her bed, eyes wide open, gazing at the ceiling. She still had her jacket on, and even her shoes. She was having difficulty breathing, and she had a headache. A very painful one. She had it since the landing in London, and at first she had thought about asking Miss Harkness to give her some painkillers, but she hadn't. The physical pain was so intense that her mind was forced to focus on it, which left the real pain behind, at least for the time being.
Because inwardly, Willow felt devastated. When she had realized, a few minutes ago, in Miss Harkness' office, that Giles hadn't brought her to England to kill her, but to save her, the relief had been short-lived, and she was still feeling terribly bad. Everytime she closed her eyes, she could hear that awful sounds - the sound of the gunfire, the sound of the window broken by the bullet, and then Tara's last words "Your shirt..."
Again, and again. These words, and the blood on her shirt. Her lover's blood. That couldn't be real.
Willow knew that death would have been kind to her, by comparison with the hell she was living since the moment Tara had been killed. She also knew that things could only get worse, because now she had to live with what happened, and she was sure she wouldn't be able to do so. Life wasn't worth it now. How come Giles and the others couldn't understand that ? Tara would have understood. But Tara was gone forever.
Giles was tossing and turning in bed, unable to get back to sleep. He had been given an eiderdown, and several pillows, and the Coven employees had been waiting on him hand and foot, but the mattress was rather uncomfortable, and not large enough (nothing compared to the American King size beds, he couldn't help but think, and he smiled to himself - well, not so British any longer !).
He slept for two hours, a dreamless sleep, as if his exhausted body had finally won the fight with his nervous tension. But now he was perfectly awake, his mind on the look-out. And he was still suffering from some of his wounds, although the Coven nurses had applied several ointments, and Miss Harkness herself had used a calming spell. It worked at the time, but now the effect seemed to have worn off.
He switched on the light, got up and went to the small bathroom that separated his bedroom from Willow's. His throat was dry, he desperately needed to drink. He took the glass from the edge of the washbasin, filled it with fresh water, and drank.
He lifted his eyes and looked at himself in the mirror. He was pale, and that made the scars on his neck and on his forehead all the more visible.
"You've been much better, Rupert" he mumbled to himself. But he knew that these wounds would heal. In a few days, the scars would be gone. It wasn't that that was worrying him.
He was about to get back into bed when he heard some noise from the other room. He pressed his ear to the wall and listened. His heart felt the pain when he heard her. She was crying. She was even sobbing, as he could hear. Willow's sorrow was so intense it seemed to be crossing the walls, like waves of pain. Giles moved back, he was shattered and relieved at the same time. Maybe it was a good thing for her to express her pain with the tears, it was much better than her former silence.
But the Watcher was worried, because the waves of anger and pain he could feel were very powerful. It could only be the product of her dark magic, the magic that almost killed them all.
"That makes sense ", Giles thought. "She can't be all magic-free by... magic. That's why she's here, after all, and why I'm here with her. To help her to deal with that, and with her terrible loss."
Tomorrow he would go and see Miss Harkness. Willow needed a treatment to drain the remaining powers from her body and mind. Only then would it be the right time to talk about the future of the young Witch. A future without the kind, sweet blonde-haired Wiccan they loved so much. That would be the most difficult part, for sure.
Willow was still sobbing, and Giles sat on his bed, head in his hands. If only he could soothe her. He wished he could go into her room and take her in his arms. But it wasn't the right time. Not yet. She had to face her pain alone. He also knew she wouldn't agree to any external help. She was certainly thinking she didn't deserve any compassion. And Giles understood totally why.
The next morning, at dawn, Giles went to Miss Harkness' office. He knew that the venerable Sorceress was an early riser. And she was there, her glasses on, reading an old book. She smiled when she saw Giles come in.
"Rupert, did you sleep well ? Do you feel better ?"
"Yes, really indeed," Giles lied.
She smiled at him, but she wasn't fooled by him. He still looked exhausted.
"And what about our new guest ?" she asked.
"I'm afraid she hasn't slept much. I expect her night has been... very difficult. That's why I'm here so early. I'm really worried."
Miss Harkness took Giles' hands in hers. "Rupert, we both know this girl had been through very difficult times, and we also both know that she will soon have to face even more difficult moments. You won't be able to protect her from all of that; She has to face up to her own demons. Do you think she can handle it ? "Miss Harkness asked.
Giles considered the Sorceress' question before answering it.
"Willow is... an amazing young woman. Her abilities are... I think she doesn't even know how great her potential is. Her own world has just collapsed in a few seconds, and she hasn't been herself since that moment, which is understandable. But I do trust her. I have faith in her. And all I want to do now is help her, as much as I can."
Miss Harkness smiled. "That was the answer I was fishing for, Rupert. We, I mean the Coven and myself, of course, will do everything possible to help her too". She pointed to the book on her desk.
"The most urgent thing is to find a way to eradicate the dark magic left within her. I think I've found, in this book, the right formula to do so without damage. Nevertheless, you must be aware this could be dangerous. She used such incredible powers, I'm afraid their echoes could still cause some damage. We must be very careful."
"Last night..."mumbled Giles. "Last night, I felt some waves of anger and pain, crossing through the walls of her room. It was... powerful, and overwhelming."
Miss Harkness got up. "So we must act now. We haven't got much time. Besides the fact that she could endanger the whole Coven, this could lead her to self-destruction. I'm going to gather our most experienced members right now. We will start the Ceremony in two hours at the latest."
She came nearer the Watcher, trying to catch his glance. "Rupert, do you really want to be there ? You don't have to. I will understand perfectly if..."
"I want to be there, Miss Harkness. That's not even the point. I won't leave her alone", Giles said firmly.
"Well then", said the Head of the Coven. "So I'll put you in charge of bringing Willow to the Board Chamber, at eight o'clock."
Willow's heart was pounding, but she was trying to keep calm. She didn't succeed though. Beads of sweat apperead on her forehead, and at the roots of her red hair. And she couldn't help but shiver.
Giles could see that, he could see everything that was happening to her, but he had to remain neutral. He had given the young Witch a minimal explanations, only telling her that the Coven had to carry out a sort of a purification incantation, to help her to fully get rid of the dark magic.
He hadn't mentioned the possible side effects, and the enormous risk.
The Board Chamber was almost dark, and that only made the atmosphere more oppressive, if that were possible. The Sisters were making a circle round a red cross, drawn on the floor, and Willow saw four lighted candles at an equal distance from the center of the cross.
Miss Harkness entered the room, and gently put her hands on Willow's shoulders. The young Witch let the Head of the Coven lead her.
"Sit down just right here, on the cross," Miss Harkness said, while putting
a slight pressure on the redhead's shoulders. The young American obeyed her, and sat down cross-legged.
«On your knees !» the rough voice of one of the Sisters said. Willow knelt down, shivering.
Giles, who was standing back, frowned and held his tongue. He didn't like the way things were going. Willow was shaky enough. He didn't want her to feel humiliated.
As she felt Giles' reluctance, Miss Harkness said another time the very words she has said to Willow at their arrival: "You've got nothing to fear, dear. We just want to help you."
The young Witch nodded, and closed her eyes.
The incantation rose up from the Sisters. Giles understood Latin perfectly well, but was too tense to get the meaning of the words they were chanting.
The Sisters' voices became louder. Suddenly the room became misty and darker. The heat was oppressive. Willow was still shivering, but soon she began to sweat. A slight moan came from her lips. Her eyes were still closed, and she could feel her body tense. Then she felt the cold coming over her, it was like she was dying inside, it was unbearable. She slid down. Her eyes opened, and she tried to scream - but no sound came out of her mouth. Miss Harkness, Giles and the Sisters saw her open mouth, and guessed her yell. Her face was distorted by the pain. Giles felt his own heart almost stop. The Sisters were still chanting, their voices even louder, and Willow felt the room spinning as intense pain pierced her breast. It was like she had been clawed. Like her heart had just exploded. Thousands of pieces which were now scattered around the Chamber. She screamed, and this time her yell was heard through the whole Coven, and the echo resonated far beyond the green and peaceful English countryside.
Willow fainted, without realizing that a deeply moved Giles had just left the room.
"You were right, Rupert. I must recognize that your protegee has got significant potential. She came through the ritual remarkably well."
Giles startled. He couldn't believe his ears.
"Remarkably, you said ? So why on earth did she suffer like this ? You told me the ritual could be painful. You didn't tell me it was going to be unbearable."
"Rupert, I've never said that Willow wouldn't be hurt. Physical pain is a part of the purification spell, you know that. The intensity of the pain is not predictable, but it is said to be proportional to the original one - the pain that caused Willow's destructive anger.
Miss Harkness sighed. "And I'm afraid that means a lot about Willow's sorrow since the... the tragic events."
Giles nodded. He told Miss Harkness the whole story, because she had to know everything. Warren's murder attempt on Buffy, the stray bullet that had killed Tara, and what happened just after, the "Dark Willow" part. But he didn't say much about the Tara-Willow relationship.
That's why he was staggered when he heard Miss Harkness softly ask:
"This blonde young Wiccan... the one who died... she was her soul mate, wasn't she ?"
Giles didn't answer at first. The Head of the Coven looked to the Watcher's damp eyes, and she knew that she was right. As always.
"...Soulmates, yes, Miss Harkness. That's what they were. But Tara Maclay is now dead. And Willow Rosenberg, the sweetest girl on earth, is a killer. And may be worse, the most hopeless person I've ever seen", Giles eventually said with sadness.
Miss Harkness sighed. That was going to be much more difficult than she had thought at first. She knew the Coven would help Willow to control her magic power, but dealing with her pain would be another story. She wasn't really optimistic. Something she definitely couldn't tell Giles.
Giles and Miss Harkness spent the next two hours working on a rehabilitation class schedule for Willow. First they carefully chose the courses that were essential for her recovery, like "History of the Magic" and "Traditional Witchcraft" and "Botany for Beginners". These subjects had been taught at the Coven for centuries. They both agreed that the "Defense Against the Dark Arts" course wasn't appropriate for the time being. Later, when Willow was feeling better (if she ever would, Giles couldn't help but think), this subject would obviously become important. But the main thing for now was to protect her from a relapse.
But Giles knew that it would not relieve her from her despair.
"And of course", Miss Harkness said as if she had guessed the Watcher's thoughts, "It's crucial for Willow to be tutored. She needs a guidance adviser."
"Do you have someone at the Coven ?" Giles asked.
"Well, yes. And I must confess I've already thought of someone... but I wanted to ask you first."
"It's a tricky choice",a worried Giles said. "Because you know, Willow seems so... so lost, so far away from herself since... since everything happened. It will be very difficult for anyone to gain her confidence."
"I know that. And that's why I thought Sara might be the best choice. She's one of our best Wicca, and she is only ten years older than Willow. I believe the closeness of age will help."
Giles had only met Sara once, so it was difficult for him to decide, but he fully trusted Miss Harkness.
"So, Sara it is", he smiled. "That guidance thing might help. But I also think she needs some rest, some time alone."
"I agree", Miss Harkness said gently. She could feel anxiety in the Watcher's voice. "Don't worry, Rupert, we don't want to harass her. It's out of the question. She will have some free time, of course, and she will have full access to the gardens. But I think it's better for her to remain in the Coven area, at least for now."
"Well, I guess she's not even thinking about leaving", Giles sighed. "To tell you the truth, I'm afraid she won't be leaving her room for a while."
After the painful ceremony, a halfunconscious Willow was brought back to her room. She lay on her bed, prostrate. It seemed she wasn't suffering any more, at least from physical pain, but she was broken. Her eyes, those large green eyes once so sparkling and mischievous, were now somewhat dull. Giles wouldn't admit it for all the money in the world, but he was dreadfully afraid that Willow, his Willow, would be lost for ever.