Title: Rattling the Bones
Disclaimer: Willow and co. are the brainchildren of Joss Whedon. Feedback: Sweet Jesus, yes.
Summary: My attempt to answer the burning question…what the hell's wrong with Willow? Takes place before "Bargaining."
A dirge for her, the doubly dead, because she died so young!
Edgar Allan Poe, "Lenore"
I could contact Buffy.
The spell is a simple one. Every witch knows how to make spirit oil and anoint her candles, then sprinkle the dark corners with curry, thistle and salt. An incantation…a touch of parsley, yarrow and sandalwood…all the elements for a simple conjuring spell are at my fingertips. Using only white magic, I could find my peace and leave Buffy to hers, if, indeed, she's found joy. I could call her forth, and know, instantly, from her aura, if she crossed into in a dimension of light.
But I hesitate.
The choice to cross over, however briefly, lies entirely with the one who's passed from this life. Buffy was always stubborn; she might reject my offering, ignore my voice calling out to her. Maybe she sees and knows all, including the dark plan I've been considering for some time now. It's blasphemy, I know, and a sacrilege to draw Xander into the abyss with me, putting both our souls at risk, perhaps damning us to an eternity in limbo, where the impure float. I play on his love for Buffy, whipping his good, noble heart into a frenzy of hope. I tell him nothing of the black ritual, just wax poetic about the golden aftermath.
The ritual and I take up a lot of his time, and that pleases me.
We spend hours among Giles' books, reading silently, knees pressed together in the tiny space. Its like the old days, when the library was our war room, we four the only soldiers. We've picked up allies along the way--Tara, Anya, Angel, Cordy, even Spike--but it will always come down to us four. I'll make sure of that. Sometimes, I look at Xander over the top of my book and smile. We have our own language and no need of speech.
We shut out the world, he and I.
I wish it could always be so.
He hasn't asked me why I haven't simply peeled back the curtain between worlds and peeked within, to find out if Buffy's new home is all heaveny or not. He knows I'm more than capable, that I'm becoming more and more of an expert at powerful magick, what witches call pulling down the moon. I fear it wouldn't matter. Giles was wrong when he deemed me the strongest of us all--I lack the strength to leave Buffy to her peace, a peace attained in a suicidal swan dive that robbed the rest of us of wholeness. She landed shattered, but woke healed. We remain broken, maybe forever. All the king's horses and all the king's men can't put the Scoobies back together again.
Only Buffy can.
Early on, I hitched my wagon to her star, a choice that kept me alive while others fell by the wayside. I'd have followed her into hell, and still might. My allegiance lay with Buffy, not her Watcher, no matter how I loved him, not her vampires, and not her almost-sister. Dawnie is a good girl, but it should have been her life energy flashing into the void, not Buffy's. We all have a destiny, whether it's to be a slayer, or a Watcher, a witch or a key. The universe is like a great wheel, and, if you cheat fate, it comes back to you threefold when the cycle begins anew. Make no mistake, sometimes I shock myself with this new-found cynicism, this willingness to sacrifice a little girl that Buffy loved more than her own life, or mine. What's become of that Willow who wore bright little skirts, who loved learning and never forgot to feed her fish? Where is that Willow who respected life, believed in the Serenity Prayer, and dreamed of Xander Harris? She's gone for good, I fear, replaced by a sorceress and a daughter of Sappho.
Only Buffy can fix us.
I have to bring her back because I'm no substitute. I see it in the eyes when I try to lead them, or care for them, or do what Buffy would have done. They respect me and fear me and hate me, all at once, and I live in the shadow of the comparison. No woman-child was more adored than Buffy; I inherited her home, the men in her life, and her sisters, both in spirit and blood, but they will never be mine. What is a self-made witch compared to humanity's crusader, a golden girl who turned tawny in the sun while I merely freckle and burn? She shines in their memories, brighter than she did in life, if that's possible. Buffy Summers, the Slayer, the chosen, the warrior of the people; the ultimate soldier, never, ever, the biblical woman in the tent, who could only wait and listen to the battle rage beyond her woven walls.
Only Buffy can free me.
I'm too young to be anyone's mother. We've all become children in our grief, petulant and prone to tears, and Xander passed me the job of leading this shattered assortment of nature's oddities into healing. How could I do that when my own love and rage still burned out of control? I channeled it into magick--powerful magick--and found the strength to rally Buffy's troops and carry on her work. All summer, we huddled in that house, heaped together like the haggard survivors of a natural disaster. And its not getting any better. Dawn has taken to stealing, Anya and Xander fight more--this pleases me---Tara always looks on the verge of tears and Spike hangs out in the basement, clutching one of Buffy's chunky sandals and avoiding the robot HE created. Then there's Giles, who spends a great deal of time drinking, staring into space and dreaming of his England. He hasn't wept since the funeral, when he spoke over Buffy's remains, some poem that escapes me now, all but the last lines:
Lady of the shortest day
Watch over our daughter
Who we commit to the grass
She was his daughter in all but blood. It all comes down to blood.
I'll need it for the ritual, the blood of an innocent creature. Surprisingly, the thought doesn't repulse me, as it would have once.
After all, nothing stays innocent in this world for long.