Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Vampire Hunter D. Buffy belongs to Whedon, and Vampire Hunter D and related characters belong to Hideyuki Kikuchi and UrbanVision. No money made.

A/N: This is the last in the Vampire Hunter D/Buffy crossover that I started last Fic-a-Day for Twisting the Hellmouth. Please enjoy!

Ashes, Ashes

Willow had moved on to Sunnydale. Or, at least, where Sunnydale used to stand, according to Spike. And the last clue Willow had left for them? The Welcome to Sunnydale spat out by the latest monster kill by D.

From there, they were set. They knew that the final battle was at hand. They traveled to the very edge of the Frontier, chartered a ship, and left for the shores of what had once been North America. It was a long journey, that involved several stops for Tara, and her vampire and half-vampire companions. But, finally, they arrived in the area that had once been called Sunnydale.

It was desolate, without a soul in sight. It made a chill race up Tara's spine. It was nightfall, so Spike—now wearing the familiar duster that had been taken from him and buried—walked confidently beside her. And on her other side strode D, his possessed Left Hand oddly quiet as they made their way farther into town.

"I can't even recognize it," Tara whispered.

"Of course not, love. It was made a crater, filled in, survived a nuclear war, rebuilt, shot down by OSBs, and then leveled flat. Nothing of the Sunnydale we knew is left, pet," Spike said.

Tara's eyes swept over to D, who made no comment. She shook her head. "I don't know where Willow would be."

"How about that building there, sweets?" Left Hand barked from his place at D's side.

Tara brought her gaze up and gasped. A thicket of trees and vines—ones not naturally found in California, not then or now—grew up and over a tall, wide expanse of a broken down building. The building was flat-topped, save for its centermost piece, which rose up in a bell tower. Spike swore.

"It's the bloody high school. She must've rebuilt the damned thing."

Tara had not attended Sunnydale High, but she had been told all about it. And being the witch that she was, she knew what lie beneath. The Hellmouth, a powerful doorway into the Great Below, which had caused most of the monster problems the small town had had.

Suddenly, a great wave of… something washed over Tara. It knocked the breath out of her, and she bent double.

"Tara," D said. It was not a question. More like a confirmation.

"She's in there. Willow's in there," Tara gasped.

Without any further warning, she took off, her feet propelling her forward. The sound of crunching dirt and gravel behind her let her know that her companions followed. She did not stop, ducking under branches and stray vines until she had broken through the front door of the building. She could not explain it, but she knew. She knew exactly where Willow was going to be. She turned, travelling along a first floor corridor until she reached a long, open breezeway that connected the main school building to an even larger building beside it. She threw open the doors she found there and stepped inside.

The gymnasium's floor was polished and still had all the printing on it required for a game of basketball. One set of bleachers on the wall opposite where Tara had entered was extended. And on the very top bleacher, dressed in that medieval mauve dress with her raven locks falling across her shoulders and back was Willow. Her black-stained eyes found Tara, and she smiled, but the warmth of the gesture did not extend any farther than her lips. Blue veins tipped the sides of her paste-white face. Tara took a few more steps into the gym, and she heard her companions follow right behind.

"Willow," she gasped, her hands clasped and held tightly to her chest.

"Tara. You found all my clues? Solved them all?" she asked, taking a couple of steps down the bleachers.

Tara heard D unsheathe his sword, and Willow laughed.

"And you brought along your friends, Spike and D. Oh, and how could I forget… do you simply call him Left Hand? It's been a long time since we last met."

Tara glanced over her shoulder at D. "What is she talking about?"

"Oh, Tara. Did D not mention that he knew me?"

Tara bit her lip. "He mentioned it."

Willow's void-like eyes searched Tara, and finally she sighed.

"Oh, but he didn't mention how he knew me. I'm the one who put Left Hand where he is. On Dracula's orders, of course."

Spike shook his head. "You're off your rocker, Red. You have been for a few centuries too long."

"You're one to talk. Nice to see you when you're not mumbling gibberish, Spike."

"Yeah, and who's to blame for that?"

Willow sneered. "Well, if you could stand just a little torturing… you know, man up, then maybe—"

"Enough," D said, striding forward. "You wish for death, Witch. We'll kindly abide."

"Do I? Wish for death, that is?" Willow said, pressing a thoughtful finger to her lips. Suddenly, her eyes widened. "Oh, yes. My first hologram. I left that ages ago. My priorities have since changed."

Every word tore at Tara's heart, and she stepped forward to stand even with D.

"I don't believe that," she said.

"Oh? Well, then, how about this?"

Willow pointed a hand toward the gymnasium floor several feet in front of D, Spike, and Tara. She began to chant in Latin, and a bright light issued forth. When it cleared, Tara's eyes widened. Standing there, a sword in hand, was Buffy.

"That's not her," Spike snarled.

"You're right. But it looks like her. And sounds like her. And, more importantly, fights like her. You want to kill me? You'll have to go through my BFF."

Buffy launched herself at the three of them, and D and Spike jumped into the fray without hesitation. They drew all the sword clashing and kicking and general landing of blows away from Tara. Which was just what was needed. Tara now turned her attention back to Willow, walking forward until she stood at the foot of the bleachers.

"This isn't you. Not the you that I knew. You've been corrupted by years of having to do Dark Magic just to survive. It's time you rested," she said.

Willow smiled, and it may have been Tara's imagination, but it looked a little weary. "I can't rest. Tara, I've tried."

"Then you're not trying hard enough."

To Tara's right, the fight raged on as Fake Buffy brought her sword down to connect with D's, and Spike came up being her to attack from the rear. She threw the vampire off, just as D freed his sword for another blow. Tara turned back to Willow.

"It's time to end it," she said, walking steadily up the bleachers.

Willow snarled at her. "Don't come any closer. Not if you value your life."

But Tara kept on, nothing but heartache and pity on her features. Finally, she stood face to face with Willow.

"Give up. Please."

Willow stood there, frozen as the sounds of fighting carried up to them. She put her back to Tara, her head hung low.

"Oh, Tara," she whispered, and it sounded like tears were forming.

"It's okay," Tara said, resting her hands on Willow's shoulders.

In a flash, Willow turned, a dagger shining in the low light. Tara only just saw it, and she dodged the blow. She clamped her hands onto Willow's dagger-wielding fist.

"Stop! Willow, no!" she pleaded as the two struggled.

A scream brought their struggle to a halt as both witches turned. D had run Fake Buffy through with a sound… but not without receiving a few wounds of his own. Spike was sitting on the floor, looking just as heartsick as Tara felt.

"Tara," Willow said, and this time, it sounded genuinely bereaved.

Tara felt Willow's free hand clasp the two she still had rested on the dagger-wielding hand. And instead of pushing outward toward Tara, Willow pulled inward. The blade connected with Willow's gut.

"Willow," Tara gasped, catching her before her body fell.

"Save me, Tara," she muttered. "Release me."

Tara nodded, tears rolling down her face. She began to chant. It was a spell she did not know she had known, but it felt right. Over and over she chanted until the black in Willow's eyes and hair faded. The veins receded, and a warm color returned to the red-head's cheeks. She smiled up at Tara.

"I knew you would… save—"

Tara sobbed, cradling her body close as D and Spike climbed the bleachers.

"D, thank… you," she gasped as the two reached them. "Your father… he's waiting for you."

D leaned forward. "Where?"

Willow gasped. "At home."

Then she breathed out, heavy… and she did not breathe in again.


They buried Willow in front of the school—the foliage already beginning to recede now that its mistress was dead. The sun was rising, and Spike was already climbing into the wooden cart that was attached to Tara's cyborg horse for just such an occasion. Once Spike was fully protected from the sun, Tara turned to D.

"Is that why you helped me? Because of what Willow said to you? About your father?"

Left Hand chuckled ruefully. "Tried to tell you, sweetheart. This one's nothing if not for a price."

D didn't answer. Tara nodded.

"It's okay. I'm still grateful for your help."

D mounted his horse just as Tara did the same for hers. She looked over at the half-blood.

"You're hunting for him, your father? You have been for a long time, haven't you?"

D did not meet her eyes, but he nodded once. Tara grinned.

"Then I'll follow you, and help you. Like you did me."

"That's not necessary," the dhampire replied.

"I want to."

"I'd prefer it if you didn't."

Tara laughed. "Like you have a choice."

And the two vampire hunters rode off into the sun rise.

End Notes: Okay, so some of that was a cop out, but there it is. The last one in my Vampire Hunter T series. I hope you enjoyed it!