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Summary; Sequel to "Together Again For The First Time". Willow faces the ghosts of her past. Can even the Power of Three save her and Buffy from a vengeful spirit?

Tonight's episode features music by DePeche Mode and Lauryn Hill. All rights reserved.

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GHOST OF A CHANCE part 2
By Kirayoshi

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"Buffy, Willow," Prue greeted the couple. "Come on in. We're just waiting for Leo."

"Good to see you, Prue," Buffy answered as she and Willow joined the sisters in the living room.

"Any word on Anya?" Willow asked pensively.

"Not yet," said Piper. "Leo had left to find out something. He should be back soon." Shortly after Piper spoke, a cascade of light coalesced in front of them, as Leo materialized in the living room. "Speak of the Whitelighter," Phoebe quipped.

Piper hugged her husband briefly, causing Buffy and Willow to smile; after seven years of marriage, Leo and Piper were still as passionate about each other as when they were newlyweds. Buffy took Willow's hand in hers, and prayed to whatever God or Goddess happened to be listening that she and her soulmate would be as happy in their life together.

"Well, I've got some good news for you," Leo said, as he put a paper bag he was carrying on the coffee table. "I can say that your antagonist is not Anya."

"Wha- hold it, Leo," Buffy interrupted, "Last night, you were sure it was a vengeance demon."

"A vengeance demon, maybe," Leo said. "It was a close thing, but I know it wasn't Anya in particular. Anya is still human, and didn't seem to have any interest in revenge."

"Wait a sec, bro-in-law," Prue rose to her feet as she questioned the Whitelighter. "You sound like you know her."

"Well, we just met," Leo admitted. "I looked up records from U. C. Sunnydale, and found her full name, then I tracked her to her current home. She lives here in San Francisco, believe it or not. Runs--well, a boutique in Haight-Ashbury."

"Yeah," Buffy muttered skeptically. "What a co-ink-y-dink!"

"Yeah, Leo," Phoebe admitted, "That excuse does sound as shallow as my last three dates."

"She doesn't have her powers, Phoebe," Leo asserted. "And when I mentioned that I was sent by her friend Willow, she just nodded. She asked if Willow had finally worn down Buffy. And she asked me to give you this," she handed the paper bag to Buffy, who could have sworn she saw the Whitelighter blush, "as a wedding gift."

Buffy carefully opened the bag, and produced a round plastic tub. She read the label; "Chocolate flavored body paint," Willow blushed almost as red as her hair. "Same old Anya," Buffy commented.

"Leo!" Piper cried in mock indignation, swatting her husband. "What kind of boutique was Anya running?"

"And that address again, Leo?" Phoebe chirped, only to receive a withering stare from Prue.

"I didn't stay too long," Leo admitted, somewhat embarrassed, "just enough to speak to Anya. She almost had to be reminded who Buffy and Willow were. I'm pretty sure that she's not our vengeance demon."

"Great," huffed Willow as she plopped down into the first available chair. "That means we're back to square one, with something trying to kill either me or Buffy."

"It really is great," Buffy countered her beloved, "because it means you're not the target. You're not a jinx, Wills, like I said." Willow smiled at Buffy's reassurances.

"As for who's targeting you now," Prue added, "you've still got the Power of Three on your side. We'll patrol around your townhouse, find out if you're endangered, then," she pounded on her left palm with her right fist, to illustrate the point.

"Hey, I can't ask you to keep us under surveillance twenty four/seven," Willow said, as she stood up and into Buffy's waiting arms.

"We won't have to," Piper brightened up. "We've got our early warning system, namely Phoebe." Phoebe looked at her sister, surprised, then the idea hit her and Prue simultaneously.

"Yeah, I see it," Phoebe said. "Buffy, if you have a personal item you can live without for a while, a lipstick or a hankie or something like that."

"What are you, Monty Hall?" Buffy quizzed as she fished through her purse. She withdrew a silk scarf, and handed it to Phoebe.

"The very thang," Phoebe drawled. She wrapped the scarf around her neck, and tied it loosely. "Whaddya think, girls. Be brutal, is it too gauche?"

"Lovely," Willow said, puzzled. "So what?"

"So," Phoebe explained, "with an object that Buffy owns on my person all day, any time your lives are threatened, I'll get one of my visions, and I'll call you. Don't worry, Willow. I've got your home number, your office number at Willtronix, the number at Buffy's dojo, and both your cell phones. You're covered."

Buffy turned to Willow, and saw the trust in her green eyes. Willow had known the Halliwells for nearly eight years now, since she left Sunnydale to make a new life for herself in San Francisco. She wanted to forget what had happened, to forget Tara, to forget Buffy. Prue, Piper and Phoebe were a comfort to her, but until she returned to Sunnydale for her class reunion, and met Buffy again, she didn't feel whole. Buffy was her center, her strength.

And Buffy looked upon Willow as her soul, her moral compass. She knew that if Willow trusted the Halliwell sisters, then they were worthy of trust. "Okay," Buffy nodded to Phoebe. It's a plan."

"So, Leo," Piper turned toward her husband, a mischievous grin splitting her face, "did you bring anything home from Anya's boutique for us?" Leo rolled his eyes in mock embarrassment, as the other girls enjoyed a stress-relieving laugh.

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Willow had finished her work on her home computer that night, as she prepared to call it a night. "Buffy," she called out. "You coming to bed?"

"Just a sec, Wills," Buffy answered from the bathroom. Having finished her evening relaxation exersizes, she took a quick shower, cleaning off the sweat and grime of her day. As she towelled herself dry, she glanced at the vanity, and noticed the tub of edible body paint. A wicked smile formed on her lips, as she considered the possibilities that this erotic treat presented. Willow came from a conservative background, and neither of them were into kink, but occasional play was something they both appreciated.

She lifted the lid off the tub, and sniffed at its contents. A rich chocolate aroma perked up her nostrils, and she had to whiff some more. She worked up her sexual appetite further imagining the flavor of chocolate combined with the taste of Willow's skin, her breasts, her-- "Whoa, bad Buffy!" she said to herself, grinning even more broadly. Oh, yes, the night was going to be interesting. She dipped her finger into the bucket, scooping out a dollup of the thick liquid, preparing to taste.

A sudden breeze startled her with its chill, as the light switch turned off. Buffy stood still in the darkened bathroom, as she gingerly groped for the light switch. The bathroom floor was wet from her shower, and if she moved suddenly, she risked tripping and injury. As she sought the switch, she tried to remember when she left the window open, when it hit her; she didn't. Soon, she located the switch, and turned on the lights.

A message had been written on the vanity mirror, a finger wiping off the steam. The message was one word; "Don't".

"Uh, Willow?" Buffy stammered toward the bedroom. As she spoke, she heard a telephone ring twice, before Willow answered it. She waited warily by the vanity mirror, afraid to touch anything, afraid to disturb the evidence of...what?

Shortly Willow entered the bathroom. Or rather, exploded into the bathroom.

"Buffy!" she screamed, "don't touch it!"

"I'm not, Willow," Buffy answered, confusion showing in her smoky blue eyes.

"No, no," Willow explained hastily, "don't touch the body paint! You didn't taste it, did you?"

"No, not yet," Buffy absently remembered the dab of body paint on her finger. "I was going to try it out on you tonight, though--"

"It's poison," Willow blurted out. "That was Phoebe on the line, she had a vision of you being poisoned by the body paint! Thank the Goddess I got to you in time--Buffy, what's that on the mirror?"

Buffy remembered the strange message. "I dunno, Wills. Just before I could taste the stuff, the lights went out for a sec, and when I turned them on, I saw this." Willow looked at the mirror, at the scrawled 'Don't', and calmly held out her hand near the mirror's surface.

"A ghost, maybe?" she ventured a guess.

"Seems like a possibility," Buffy answered, as she rinsed the paint off of her finger. She closed the tub, and said in a low voice, edged in dread, "but we've got a more pressing problem. The poisoned body paint means that Anya really is after us."

Willow's shoulders sagged at the realization. "You're right, Buffy. But why use poison, or try to run us over? And how could she have tricked Leo into believing that she was mortal?"

"A simple glamour, Witchipoo," an all-too familiar voice chimed around them. "A simple spell of illusion, fools even Whitelighters!" A thunderclap shook the timbers of their house, and Anyanka, vengeance demon, stood before them. "Who's ready to party, girls?"

Buffy stepped between Anya and Willow, defiance in her posture, anger in her eyes. "What the hell do you want, Anya? You've invaded our home, you've tried to kill us, you care to explain your anti-social behavior?"

"No need to explain, Buff," Anya smiled sweetly as she blasted Buffy through the bathroom door, and onto her back in the hallway. She then turned her attentions to Willow. "You killed Xander, bitch! You killed my orgasm partner! You must pay for your crimes! I will have my vengeance!"

"Have your vengeance on me!" shouted another voice. A small figure materialized before the startled demoness. "Willow didn't kill Xander, I did! I created an effigy of him, a voodoo doll, and stuck a pin in the effigy's heart!" The ethereal form's features defined themselves more fully, until Willow and Buffy were taken aback by the recognition of their ghostly visitor.

Tara's ghost stood before Anya, still small and weak, but gaining in strength with each word. "I blamed Willow for what had happened to me, Demon. You offered me vengeance against the one who hurt me. But you used me, enslaved me, so that the magic I controlled in life, you would control. But you don't have any more power over me. Because I finally realize that I've got nobody to blame for my death but myself!" Anya shrunk back at Tara's words, terror contorting her features.

"You--you killed my Xander?" Anya shrieked at the ghost. "I'll destroy you!" She tried to conjure a force, a weapon, anything to rid her of the ghost, but Willow pushed her back with a conjured gust of wind. "NO! No more! You'll hurt no one!" She pinned Anya down telekenetically, saying, "I lived in fear because of you. You made me think my love was fatal, that my loving Buffy would kill her. No more. You don't have the power to make me unhappy anymore. You're nothing, less than nothing!"

Just then, a shrieking car brake could be heard outside. Frantic knocking at the door alerted Buffy, who opened the door, permitting the Halliwell sisters to enter. Without preamble, Prue started to chant; "The Power of Three will set us free." Piper repeated the chant, and Phoebe joined in on the third round. Anya stood powerless before the wills of the three witches who surrounded her. The sisters then recited the spell from the Book of Shadows;

Hear now the words of the Witches Three,
As thrice times round our charm binds thee.
The one you would kill is not at fault,
Let your hatred cease and your anger halt.
Begone to the realm from whence you came,
And harm not the one who is not to blame.

Anya screamed as arcane energies engulfed her, suffused her, consumed her. Within seconds, her corporeal form was no more. The demon Anyanka had been vanquished.

Four witches and a retired Slayer drew a collective sigh of relief. "Well, that was fun," Phoebe broke the silence cheerily, "who's for Mongolian barbeque?"

Willow and Buffy didn't hear Phoebe's quip, their attention was riveted to the spectre standing before them. Tara's ghost now stood as tall as she was in life, but infinitely sadder. Her face was one who had borne all of her sins, willingly, if not gladly. She had killed, she had harmed others, she had taken a coward's way out by taking her own life, and now she repented.

"Tara," Buffy whispered. "It was you, wasn't it? You stopped me from trying the body paint. You wrote on the mirror."

"Yes," the ghost answered. "I had hurt Willow enough in my life, I could not let her be hurt for my actions now." She turned to Willow, saying, "I can't expect you to forgive me my crimes, Willow. But please, I beg you, by the love I felt for you then and feel for you now, don't blame yourself. Forgive yourself."

Willow nodded at the apparition. "I do. Both myself, and you." She held up her arms to hug her, then awkwardly remembered, "Oh, right, ghost. Sorry."

"You could stand to take your own advice," Leo said, materializing next to Piper. Another form stood next to Leo, and Willow nearly fainted in Buffy's arms. "Xander!" she shouted.

Her childhood friend smiled at her. "In the newly formed flesh, Willow."

Buffy smiled lopsidedly at Xander, saying, "Hey, Xand, great to see you, and don't take this the wrong way, I'm glad, don't get me wrong, to see you again, but--"

"I'm dead, right?" Xander gave his famous "Xander smile".

"Uh, yeah," Willow said for her fiancee. "No offense."

"Hey, I know what you mean. But I was dead. For a little while anyway. Leo's superiors found my soul after I died, and, well, do the math."

Prue pointed at Xander, the shock of epiphony hitting her. "You were reborn as a Whitelighter." she said, not an accusation but a simple statement of fact.

"Give the girl a Kewpie doll!" Xander quipped. "To be specific," he added, turning to Willow, "I'm your Whitelighter. When I first became a Whitelighter, I requested this assignment. To make up for being such a, well, a--"

"The southern end of a northbound horse?" Buffy suggested. Willow glared at her. Phoebe chuckled; she was going to have to save that one.

"Exactly," Xander admitted. "I guess I needed to watch my friend, and make sure she's okay. Willow, I'm sorry for the way I treated you. I didn't trust Tara, but I shouldn't take it out on you. Still friends?"

"Like you need to ask, you knuckleknob?" Willow embraced her longtime friend, and Buffy wrapped her arms around them both. After a few seconds, Xander quipped, "Uh, guys, oxygen becoming an issue!"

"And as for you, Tara," Leo said, approaching the ghost. "You've proven your readiness to atone for your misdeeds. If you wish, I can arrange for you to finish your penance." He smiled at the sad apparition, saying, "You'd make a fine Whitelighter." Tara smiled at Leo, nodding her assent.

For Tara, Xander and Willow, the time of recriminations was at an end. And for all three of them, their new lives began that evening.

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Sometimes it seems
We'll touch that dream,
But things come slow or not at all.
And the ones on top,
Won't make it stop,
So convinced that they might fall.
Let's love ourselves and we can't fail
To make a better situation;
Tomorrow, our seeds will grow,
All we need is dedication.

Everything is everything.
What is meant to be will be.
After winter must come spring,
Change will come eventually.

Lauryn Hill finished up her show on the P3's stage, as the bachelorette party continued. Buffy and Willow were both suitably embarrassed by the various revealing lingerie they received from the Halliwells and Cordy, but both secretly harbored fantasies of seeing each other wearing them, followed by their not wearing them.

"Hey, Cordy, how's the first Hope episode of 'Steffi the Demon Killer' coming along?" Buffy asked, the wine going slightly to her head.

"Famously," Cordy answered. "And we may have finally convinced the suits to cave regarding the Steffi/Laurel subplot."

"Ooh, does this mean we'll see Cordy kissing a girl?" Phoebe teased the actress.

"I can give you some pointers," Buffy offered, only to have Willow playfully elbow her in the ribs. "Oh no you don't!"

Leo and Xander strolled up to the girls as the party was winding down. "Hey ladies," Leo greeted them. "Mind if I steal my wife for dancing purposes?"

"Dancing porpoises?" Phoebe giggled drunkenly as Piper took her husband's hand and allowed him to lead her to the dance floor. "Sounds like something you'd find at SeaWorld!"

"My kind of woman," Xander grinned. "Care for a dance, Pheebs?"

"Why, sir," she said in her best Southern drawl, "I'd be delighted." As Xander escorted Phoebe closer to the stage, Prue watched her sisters as they danced. Buffy, Willow and Cordy looked on wistfully.

"Where can I get a Whitelighter?" Cordy asked in a stage whisper.

"Forget it, Cordy," Prue growled. "The next one's mine." This brought a new wave of giggles among the ladies at the table. Buffy then stood up and asked Willow, "May I have this dance?" "You may have every dance," Willow curtseyed to her beloved, as they headed for the dance floor. As they moved their bodies closer together to the thobbing rhythms, Willow's heart felt light. Within the last week, she had made her peace with Tara, and had renewed a friendship she feared lost forever. And in two weeks, she and Buffy would be married.

She had lain the ghosts of her past to rest, and now revelled in the prospect of her future. And as she lost herself in the circle of Buffy's arms, the light of her eyes and the heat of her body, she knew that Buffy was her future.

FINIS