Chaos reigned on the small school bus, injured slayers slumped in seats, Andrew gazed out the window, the desert flying past him but remaining unseen as he wondered in bewildered confusion how he'd managed to get out alive.
The less badly injured tended to those in need of medical treatment.
As Rona slumped in her seat, Vi grabbed viciously at her face, knowing that she had to stay awake if she were to survive.
"Look at me! This is nothing! Stay awake! This is nothing!" she snapped, causing the young slayer to focus on her face and smile weakly.
At the back of the bus, Willow clung to the back door, her eyes scanning the rapidly vanishing town for any sign of Tara. Beside her, Xander looked just as eagerly for Anya.
As they sped faster out of town, the whole bus took a collective breath as the road behind them began disappearing into a huge crater.
"No…" Willow gasped, her voice weak and barely there. Her mind filled slowly with what she thought were random words and, try as she might, she would never be able to recall exactly what she had said.
"By the dragons light,
On this May night,
I call to thee to give me your might,
By the power of three,
I conjure thee,
To protect all,
That is loved by me,
So mote it be,
So mote it be!"
"Will?" Xander turned to her, his eyes wide with terror as he realised the implications of what they were seeing.
"It's going to be ok?" Willow whispered softly although it was obvious from her tone that she was less than certain.
Behind them, Faith was watching the demise of Sunnydale with a mixture of fear and curiosity. Gesturing to Robin, Faith indicated for him to slow down and as they sped past the Farewell sign, Robin pulled the bus to a halt and slumped back in his seat, his own injuries were bleeding heavily and he was exhausted.
As soon as the bus had come to a halt, Willow pushed the back door open and stepped outside. In her chest, her heart raced furiously and she was torn as to whether or not to step to the edge of the mammoth crater that had once been her hometown.
Slowly she was joined by Xander, Buffy, Giles, and Dawn as the more able bodied slayers stepped into the warm sunshine.
"I don't understand. What did this?" Giles asked slowly as he surveyed the loss of Sunnydale.
"Spike!" Buffy told him.
The watcher looked to his young charge and frowned slightly before removing his spectacles and polishing them on his shirt, the action only serving to cover the lenses in more dirt and dust than they had before.
He slipped them back on his face and frowned quizzically, at any other time, it would have been a comical expression but Buffy remained stoic.
"Buffy…." Willow asked hopefully.
The blonde turned to her, the hope and need she saw in the redheads eyes turned her stomach. She knew what Willow wanted to know and yet, she couldn't provide the answer.
Behind them, Kennedy stepped out of the bus and looked towards the group.
On not receiving any answer, Willow continued.
"Please Buffy!" She knew she was begging and didn't care how undignified she sounded; she needed to know that the past few months hadn't been the last she would ever have with Tara. So much had gone wrong and they had wasted so much time and now, she had lost the love of her life for the second time.
"She saved my life!" Kennedy said, startling the group.
Willow turned and regarded the new slayer carefully, the mixture of emotions taking position over her face one by one.
"What?" She asked.
"Tara…." Kennedy told her, "She saved my life, the ceiling started collapsing and she pushed me out the way as the rocks…."
As Andrew stepped from the bus, Xander rushed to his side.
"So did you see?" he asked hopefully.
Andrew looked up at him, his shock at what he had seen etched tightly over his face.
"I… I was scared. I'm sorry." he said weakly dropping his head in what could be considered shame or embarrassment.
"Did you see what happened?" Xander repeated, more insistent this time, he had to know. After hearing the uncertain news Willow had had, he knew that knowing Anya's fate, no matter what it was would be better than not knowing at all.
Andrew looked up at him; tears filled his smoky blue eyes.
"She was incredible. She died saving my life." He told Xander.
Xander nodded, his own tears threatening to spill from his eyes as he squeezed his shoulder.
"That's my girl… always doing the stupid thing." he said in a tear choked voice before returning to the others at the side of the crater.
As they stood in silence, Buffy glanced to her right. 'Welcome to Sunnydale' the sign greeted cheerfully and she half smiled at the irony of this statement now that Sunnydale was nothing more than a big hole.
As she watched, the sign seemed to wobble slightly before tipping backwards and falling into the crater.
"For fucks sake!"
The annoyed yell emerged from the crater and everyone froze in place, not daring to hope that someone had somehow survived.
Willow wobbled slightly. She knew that voice and looked to the others, hoping that they had heard it too.
Everyone watched in anticipation, each one unable to move, too afraid of what they may see if the stepped any nearer to the edge.
Both Faith and Buffy although exhausted, tensed slightly. Only something superhuman with incredible strength and power could have survived.
Suddenly, a bloodied hand grasped the desert floor at the lip of the crater and, on seeing it was clearly a human hand, everyone rushed to the aide of its owner.
Looking down into the crater, the group took a collective inward gasp. Covered in dirt and blood, but otherwise ok, Tara looked up at them all, her forehead bearing a fresh and nasty looking cut
"Can you believe this?" she asked the stunned onlookers. "I manage to not get squashed and the bloody sign nearly takes my head off!"
They all burst into laughter as Buffy and Giles reached down to help her up.
Willow threw herself towards her girlfriend who winced slightly as they hugged.
"I can't believe you're alive!" Willow whispered.
"I told you, you're never going to lose me again!" Tara replied, kissing her girlfriends cheek softly.
"How?" Willow asked eventually.
"Magic. I remembered the Dragon Protection spell and, well it kinda surrounded me and kept me safe. All I had to do was dig out."
Tears streaked her dirt covered cheeks, leaving clean white tear tracks.
Willow hugged her tightly before pulling back slightly and kissing her passionately.
Buffy watched as the pair celebrated their reunion, a small smile creeping over her face.