A/N:It's hard to believe...but here is it. After two and a half years and over 350 pages, the final chapter. Thanks to everyone who held on for the ride.
"Don't ask us not to go," Buffy said, not bothering to turn around. She'd felt Faith approaching, and she wasn't giving even an inch.
A booted foot settled onto the railing next to Buffy's. "B, have you been drinkin'?" Faith chuckled and bumped Buffy's shoulder as she leaned over and stared across the field. "Why the fuck would I want you and Red to stay?"
Now that Faith mentioned it, the idea didn't make much sense. "Uh…" Buffy mumbled. Then, in a burst of honesty, she continued. "Actually, I think I'm wigging over the fact no one is begging us to stay." She grinned as Faith laughed again. "Yeah, yeah. I know. I'm crazy. I've been planning this trip since you showed up in Sunnydale the first time, and now that Will and I have the car packed, I can't believe it's really happening."
In fact, Buffy fully expected to wake up from the dream at any moment.
"Can't believe or don't want to believe?" Faith shrugged defensively at Buffy's disbelieving look.
"What do you mean?" Buffy asked the question, even though she thought she knew what Faith meant.
Faith must have known, too. She turned to fully face Buffy, foot dropping to the ground. "Come on, B. You ain't stupid, despite the hair. Are you afraid another Big Bad's gonna show up before you get down the driveway, or does General Buffy not trust me to keep things runnin'?"
Staring at Faith, Buffy tried to find an answer. Did she trust Faith?
That was easy.
"Now who's acting blonde?" She poked a finger into Faith's chest. "Please. Of course I trust you. I mean, I haven't said one word about this crazy plan you have to turn Willow's parents into Professor Xavier and Jean Grey."
They both laughed. "You think we could get Mama Red to cut her hair and put on one of them leather jumpsuits?" Faith smirked. "She'd look hot."
"And Kirstan would kick your ass for even thinking that." Come to think of it… Buffy narrowed her eyes. "I should probably do a little kicking of my own. Jennifer and Willow look an awful lot alike." An evil idea occurred. "And I bet Tara would have a few things to say – magically – about you checking out Drew, too."
"That's just mean, B," Faith muttered with a scowl. "Mean. I'm gonna tell D on you."
Buffy raised an eyebrow. "You are so whipped." Who would have ever believed it?
"Hell, yeah, B, and lovin' every minute of it." Faith threw an arm around Buffy, and she dragged Buffy away from the railing. "Are you sayin' Red don't have you jumping to her tune? 'Cause I seem to remember you nearly running me down on the way to the bedroom the other night…"
"Bitch." Buffy tried to jab an elbow into Faith's side, missing only because Faith danced out of the way.
"That's General Bitch to you, B," Faith pointed out. "And don't you forget it."
Willow walked slowly into the Training Barn. It was a far different experience than her first trip into the large building. The floor was completely covered in soft padding now. Gleaming weapons lined the walls in rigid rows. "Plus, I'm not dangling over Mom's shoulder…"
"If you want, I can arrange a replay." Kirstan stepped out of the shadows and waved a hand in welcome. "Normally, though, it only takes one trip like that. I didn't expect you to be the slow learner in the family."
"Damned Slayer hearing," Willow complained, not having intended to share her reminiscence with anyone. "Not to mention the hiding in the corner bit. Are you trying to get a reputation? Scare a few of the new Slayers?" She struggled to control a grin at Kirstan's flush. "That's it. You're playing Bad Cop, aren't you?"
Kirstan stalked forward a few steps. "You keep that to yourself, missy. We're going to have enough problems with seven new Slayers and more Potentials showing up every day. I've already had to break up three fights this morning, and I can hear an argument over the sleeping arrangements all the way from the house." She rubbed her eyes. "Now I know why the Council trainers looked rumpled and grumpy all the time. Corralling the energy and aggression in the Juniors is worse than taming a powerful prodigal daughter."
Rolling her eyes, Willow pointed out one key point. "You love every minute of it."
"Who, me?" Kirstan's expression of innocence was so obviously faked that Willow giggled.
"I'll keep that a secret, too. After all, you won't get any sympathy from Mama if she knows you aren't overworked and abused." As Willow held a hand out to Kirstan, her levity faded slightly. She'd forgotten, for a split second, her original reason for coming to the Barn. "We're packed."
Kirstan's warm, callused palm covered Willow's seconds before her fingers squeezed Willow's hand gently. "You look like it's the end of the world, daughter mine. We survived that last month." She pulled Willow into a tight hug. "Don't tell me you're getting cold feet…?" Laughter rumbled through her, vibrating against Willow. "Actually, put that on the list of things not to tell your mother. I'll never hear the end of how my bad genes filtered down to you."
Tilting her head back (and ignoring the tears slipping down her cheeks), Willow peered up at Kirstan. "You got cold feet?" No way. Her parents seemed so devoted to each other.
"It took three other Potentials and a very stern lecture from my Watcher to get me to the altar." Kirstan's blush covered her face and turned the tips of her ears brick red. "I blame it all on the bachelorette party the night before. Booze and nerves never mix well."
"At least you didn't turn into a Neanderthal and thump people with sticks," Willow mumbled. Her lips twitched, though, as she created a mental image of Cave Buffy side by side with Kirstan the Drunken Groom. Maybe she should suggest the new training academy ban Slayers and Potentials from drinking anything stronger than Kool-Aid.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Kirstan turned her toward the door and began to propel them forward. "Come on. No more dawdling. You and Buffy need to hit the road." Kirstan's voice was soft and husky. "But not before we make a pit stop in the kitchen. Jenny will turn us both into frogs if you don't stop in for a hug and some advice…"
"Not frogs." Shuddering dramatically, Willow said, "I have frog fear. How about a rat? I think Amy's old cage is still at Buffy's house." She didn't offer to explain, despite the inquiring eyebrow Kirstan cocked in her direction. As they emerged into the morning sun, Willow felt the warmth drove away the chill of uncertainty and indecision that had been with her.
The sight of a laughing Buffy chasing Faith across the field helped even more.
"You know what?" Willow leaned back into Kirstan for a second before stepping away. "Mama won't need to use any magical threats. It's time for me and Buffy to see something besides cemeteries and libraries." Reaching into her pocket, she touched the car keys and smiled. It was so time…