Hell's Bells

Willow's perspective on Hell's Bells, her friendship with Xander, her re-blossoming romance with Tara - can she talk him out of leaving Anya?

"Want me to hold it shut for you?" The I gave Tara a small, hopeful smile.

"O-okay," Tara replied, nervously returning the smile.

I leaned in more closely, holding Anya's wedding dress as Tara's nimble fingers pulled the buttons together. Reaching under Tara's arms, I got even closer to her. We were so close now that I could smell Tara's apple shampoo… the cinnamon tang of her skin. I could have counted Tara's eyelashes… Our hands collided briefly and a spark of electricity flowed between us. It was the most deliciously familiar feeling in the world. I was most definitely not hating this. And I don't think Tara was either! For the past few months, she'd always kept a distance between us, never touching or even standing too close… but now… well. She wasn't pulling away. Definitely signage of the good kind. Maybe it meant that…

"Are you two even listening? I need feedback people!" Anya's harsh tone cut off my lusty thoughts.

"Sorry," Tara said with a slight giggle, winking at me and making my heart thrum, "please continue with your vows." She gave me another little grin as I stepped away to fuss with the hem of Anya's dress. I couldn't stay close to Tara for a micro-second longer, only because I was terrified I'd do something stupid. There's this whole thing when, if her lips are anywhere near me, I feel this overwhelming need to kiss them. A lot. And watching those luscious, red lips curve up in her beautiful smile… all I wanted to do was kiss them. And that was a big no no. Had to work up to kisses.

"I, Anya, promise to love you, to cherish you, and to honour you, but not to obey you, of course, because that's anachronistic and misogynistic and who do you think you are like a sea captain or something?" And oh God Tara's smile, that beautiful, stunning, breathtaking smile… that smile that she only ever smiled at me. My smile. Tara's Willow-Smile. "I will however...What?"

Tara and I both stared at our friend, appalled but hiding our giggles. Three years of humanity had really made no difference to the girl. Well, no actually. That's not true. She had changed… now, she knew how to love. And be loved. If there was one thing that I truly trusted now, it was that Anya would never hurt Xander.

"Is something funny?" Anya, genuinely perplexed by our giggling looked down at us.

"Uh, nope, n-nothing sweetie," Tara smiled gently. "Now keep still." Tara's usually so skilful fingers (and I should know – but dear God Willow don't think about that now…) were still doing battle with the buttons on Anya's dress. I cocked my head slightly, watching her long, slender digits tug on the dress. Tara cocked her head, giving me a teasingly disapproving smile. I have a funny feeling she knew what I was thinking about. Which, hey, is something I'd usually be mortified by but now… well now I know that she's thinking about that stuff too. Which is of the over-good.

"Blah blah blah, misogynistic, blah blah I will however entrust you with my heart."

And I couldn't help but gaze into those sapphire eyes… so deep and blue and glowing with a soft, tender light. She gazed at me right back, never breaking eye contact as Anya spoke.

"Take care of my heart, won't you please? Take care of it because it's all that I have. And if you let me, I'll take care of your heart too."

Yes, God yes… I'd broken Tara's heart before, but I'd never do it again. God, all I wanted was to make her happy. I just wanted things to be better. And now they could be… I could take care of her heart.

"I'll protect it and tend to it, like a little stray. Wait, no, little mangy stray that needs a home. No, that's not it either."

Finally breaking our eye contact and moving further apart, Tara and I giggled.

"Um, I think we're all set here. Let's take a look at you."

We stepped back, standing side by side to look at Anya, but I had to try awfully hard to tear my eyes away from Tara long enough to look at the ex-demon.

"Oh," Tara replied, her mouth rounding into the sweetest little 'O'.

"Wow," I added, "you look lovely," then turning to Tara, "really lovely."

I looked from Tara to Anya, my mind racing. What would Tara look like in a wedding dress? Would she and I shop for it together, or would it be kept a secret until the day of the wedding? I could just picture her… my beautiful girl, cheeks rosy and hair pulled up with loose curls framing her face. Her beautiful, hourglass figure would be draped in white lace and there'd be a string of silver and sapphire around her neck. We'd stand on the alter, hands linked… she'd whisper her vows to me… I'd proclaim my love for her to the world. As I gazed at her, all I could think about was the moment I'd get to put a ring on her finger. I loved her so much it wasn't an if, in my mind. It was simply a when.

"I want to see Xander now!" Anya cried.

"You can't," I giggled, moving closer to her and straightening her hem. "It's bad luck for the groom to see the bride in her dress, 'member?"

Anya pouted, looking at the ground. "Oh I can't keep all these ridiculous traditions straight." She paused, looking up at us with twinkling eyes. "What if I'm not wearing my dress when I see him?"

What would our wedding night be like? I thought to myself, my eyes meeting Tara's once more. Would we be tipsy on champagne as we crashed onto satin sheets? Or would we be filled with the warm glow of the red wines Tara loved so much? Though would we even make it to our room before consummating the marriage? Tara and I had a habit of getting over-excited before we got home… during Anya's birthday party over the Summer we'd had three quickies in the bathroom. But no, we'd share private kisses and quick touches, on the dancefloor and in dark hallways and niches… but the lovemaking, that would be saved for the night. The lovemaking would be tender and passionate, more filled with love and hope than ever before… because it would seal our fate. We'd be together forever. She'd be my girl forever. And I'd be hers.

Off our disapproving looks, Anya said, "Okay, no sex. Cuddling or… it's just, I'm so excited! And I want to share it all with my best friend. I get to be with my best friend forever!"

I looked at Tara again. Would we have that? How could we not? After everything… after building with her an incredible friendship… blossoming a romance… after never leaving her side… after breaking her heart… after doing my darndest to pick up all the pieces, how could we not end up together for eternity? Longer?

"I-I should… best man duties callin' ya know?" I gestured toward the door, reluctant to leave Tara.

"N-no, go… you should… go," Tara gave me another melt-y smile and I walked out the door.

Still smiling goofily, I entered the room where Xander was pacing. All I could think about was Tara… images of her filling my head, her beautiful smile, eyes, hair… soul… It was liked I was blinded by her. I wasn't really paying attention to much else. Though I'd learn later that I should have looked far more closely at my best friend. I smiled at him, all dressed up in his tux. As much as I was focused on the pretty girl in the ugly green dress – which, did I mention, Tara seemed to be actually pulling off… I don't think the girl could look bad in something if she tried – I had to give it to Xander, he scrubbed up well.

"I'll say this for the Y-chromosome, looks good in a tux." I grinned, adjusting his tie and patting down his shoulders.

"Your double Xs aren't doing so bad either," he gave me a tight smile, admiring the fugly dress. He always knew what to say, always had. Right from that first day of kindergarten when he'd make a joke to stop me crying after I broke the yellow crayon. Right from that very first day, he'd been my Xander. He'd been the first one I told when I got my first period – he even pretended that he wasn't grossed out. I'd showed him my first bra. He'd been happy about that one. I'd shared secret kisses with him… he'd been the first one to touch me 'down there' even if it was just over underwear. After we defeated Adam, I'd sat with him for hours talking to him about Tara… telling him about our relationship, how I'd felt… how she made me feel. And he'd been perfect. Xander was there for me. Always.

"You're getting married," I whispered, adjusting his tie again. "My little Xander."

"All growed up," he husked back.

I'd been nervous telling him about Tara, though I don't know why. I suppose it was just that his rejection would sting more than anyone else's. I'd been terrified of losing him. I was terrified he'd freak, walk away.

"Why didn't you tell sooner, Will?" He'd asked gently.

"B-because I was scared, Xander. This is all still so new to me, so different… I was just so scared of losing you. Anyone else who never talks to me again, I can handle because I know you'll always be there… but in the back of my mind there was this little voice telling me you'd hate me for this."

"How could I?" He whispered, raising my chin. "Now, tell me about your new girlfriend. I noticed that she's pretty hot."

"Oh yeah," I giggled, "she's something special. Really special. Definitely a hottie," I grinned. He always knew how to make me feel better.

"And have you two… you know, gotten down and dirty?"

"Well, yeah."

"And? Will, I'm I guy, you can't just leave me with that, I need at least half an hour's worth of solid fantasy material here."

I laughed again. "She's incredible. I didn't know sex could be that good. I mean, what I had with Oz was great, but Tara… it's whole new worlds of wow."

"And is she naughty?" Xander said seriously.



I paused, looking at my hands, then back up at him. "She makes me happy. Happier than anyone has ever made me before. It's like, I've been going to the movies my whole life, but all I ever saw were black and white movies, and that was fine because I had nothing to compare it to. But then I saw one in colour, and it was like there was no turning back. Oz was black and white. Tara is vivid-3D-surround-sound-technicolour. You know?"

"Yeah, I know," he said wistfully, gazing into my eyes.

"Thank you, Xander. For understanding. For being just as amazing as always."

He pulled me into his arms, holding me tightly and whispering his words into my ear. "No matter who you love, I'll always love you. No matter what happens, girlfriends, boyfriends, high waters, hell, you're still Willow. You're still my crayon-breaky friend. My Willow."

"It's a good thing I realised I was gay," I joked, "otherwise, hey, you… me… formalwear." I grinned, remembering our first kiss on the night of the homecoming dance. Yes, this day truly was perfect. Xander was getting married, Buffy was smiling, things were looking very much upward for me and Tara… I pulled him into my arms squeezing him tight as my mind swirled with images of Tara's smile. I barely looked at him as I hugged his large frame.

"You know how much I love you?"

"Mmm… 'bout half as much as I love you?"

I broke our hug, smiling at him. My Xander.

"You ready for the long walk?" I said hopefully.

"Um… can you give me a sec? I want to go over my vows."

And then the words I'd forever regret spilled from my lips. "Take your time, not like they can start the wedding without you."

I sat outside the little room, picking at a hangnail and thinking about what my next move with Tara should be. Would I ask her out, or perhaps wait a little longer? Oh God… one wrong move and it's screwed up for another five months… Was Tara even ready to trust me again? It had been nearly fifteen minutes… c'mon Xand… your vows are only a minute long. I rolled my eyes, pushing the door open. I stepped inside, beginning to call out his name. But it was empty. The only movement coming from the wavering curtain in front of the very, very open window. Oh.

Oh Gods, have to stop Buffy before she goes into Anya's room and.. dammit! Before Buffy could get more than three words out to Anya, I yanked her back outside.

"He's gone. Xander's disappeared," I hissed.

Things went from bad to worse after that. Xander was gone. We couldn't find him anywhere, and we turned the building upside down searching in the vain hope that he hadn't 'left the building'. Things had gotten so desperate that Tara had actually sat down with Buffy and done a spell to find him. Of course, they didn't tell me, but I could feel it. I could feel her spell pulsing through the building and the buildup of her magic in every room. Magic is like a fingerprint, everyone's feels a little different, and Tara's was sweet and pure. But they didn't say a word to me, acted like they hadn't just done a spell. Acted like I didn't already know. The spell did work. But it told us the thing we least wanted to hear, Xander had really left. He could be anywhere in Sunnydale by now. But Tara's lingering spell wasn't the only magic I could sense… there was a dark force in the building. Something powerful, sticky like tar and gluggy, dark… though considering the broad range in the species of the guests at this wedding, it wasn't exactly surprising. But I had a duty. As the best man, I was supposed to find him, de-freak him, and haul his ass onto that alter if it was the last thing I ever did. After all, it was kinda-sorta my fault that he climbed out the window. If I hadn't been so focused on Tara, then maybe I could have noticed that something was wrong… noticed his maxi-wig before he AWOL-ed.

Hiking my dress up around my thighs, I ran out of the chapel, stumbling slightly in my heels. The rain drops began to hit my head and I groaned – Anya wasn't going to be happy, she'd spent nearly a month deciding how my hair was going to be for the wedding. I felt a warmth encapsulate me and the familiar tingle of magic… and the rain stopped. Except it didn't, it was still pouring down, but I wasn't getting wet. I stopped, looking over my shoulder, Tara was standing in the doorway of the chapel, a shy smile on her face.

"Anya won't be happy if you ruin the dress," she said quietly.

"Th-thanks, Tara," I said quietly. And for the first time, being exposed to magic, to power, didn't make me itch to cast my own spell. Tara's magic was different. It was soothing… it felt like it was a part of me, not just on me. I felt like I was carrying her with me as I ran down the wet street.

When I reached the main street, I stopped. I closed my eyes meditatively, letting myself sense the air around me. Don't worry – not magic. Just that irrevocably strong bond between best friends. When we were kids, we never played hide-n-seek, just because we could already sense where the other was. Feeling his inner-turmoil-i-ness, I set off at a run again.

"You found me," he said quietly. His back was turned to me, and he was scraping the toes of his shoes in the wet sand as he rocked backward and forward on the swing. When we were kids, every time Xander or I were sad, we'd go to the park and sit on the swing. And every time the other would come within minutes. We knew. Just knew when the other was hurting.

"You were hurting," I said quietly. "I'm supposed to come find you when you're hurting."

"I didn't want you to find me," he answered.

"Yes, that's why you hid in the place where we always find each other." I rolled my eyes, hopping onto the swing next to his and linking my arm around his chain and coaxing his arm around mine, so our swings began to move in tandem.

Being twelve wasn't great. Things started to change. A lot. For starters, there was the whole puberty thing. That sucked. And then there was Xander. My bestest-friends-for-everest-guy as we'd labelled ourselves. Now, every time I looked at him, I'd get a funny feeling deep in my belly, like there were big bats flapping around. I wanted to spend every waking moment with him. I lay on my bed, staring up at the ceiling. I was supposed to be asleep. We'd just lit the third candle on our Menorah – holiday season and all – and I was supposed to just come up here and go to bed, but I couldn't stop thinking about him. It was Christmas eve – eve (December 23rd), and I knew Xander would be having a horrible time. Christmas was the worst for him. More family around. More drinks. I desperately hoped he was okay. I sank deeper into my pillows, trying to fall asleep, and I felt a gut-wrenching pang deep in my belly. I felt that overwhelming sense of pain and sadness that didn't belong to me… accompanied by the familiar tingles. Oh. Oh Xander. He was hurting, I could feel it. I'd never been able to explain it, but since, well, forever, we'd been able to sense each other, feel the other's pain. I had to find him. And I knew just where he'd be. The same place we always went when we were hurting.

I dressed hurriedly, pulling on tights, a skirt and a big sweater to beat the Winter chill. I grabbed two candy bars from my drawer and stuffed them into my bag, before slinging it over my shoulder. Quickly stuffing pillows under my blankets, I ran out onto my balcony and shimmied down the drain pipe, trying not the let my sneakers squeak. I'd become quite adept really. Usually, I wouldn't sneak out of my bedroom for anything, but Xander was an exception. Always.

I ran down the moonlit street, making a beeline for the park. Sunnydale always gave me the heebie-jeebies at night. He was sitting on the swing, his untied sneakers scuffing their toes in the sand and his dark hair lit like a halo in the moonlight. What had happened? I ran forward, dropping to my knees in the sand in front of him and catching his feet as he swung. He looked down at me, a sad smile in his watery eyes, making his bleeding lip curve up just slightly. I tied his laces, then hopped up on the swing beside him, linking my arm through his chain and coaxing him to do the same, so our swings began to move together.

"You came," he observed, voice husky.

"I always come," I replied. We swung for a while, soaking in the moonlight and revelling in each other, in the closeness as our wrists touched in our swinging criss-cross. Finally, I looked at him. His lip was split and bleeding and there was a bruise blossoming on his cheek. His eyes were red, puffy and watery from crying and his nose had caked blood on it. "Who?" I asked quietly. It wasn't a matter of when, or why… this happened all the time. Always for no reason other than alcohol.

"Dad," Xander replied, scuffing his sneakers in the sand again. "Too much nog. There was yelling. Lots. Yelling of the loud kind. And they kept throwing bottles. I-I got up to see if everyone was alright. Couldn't sleep past the noise. Dad got really mad. Hit me."

I was caught in between, not sure whether I wanted to hug him, or kiss him… whether I was what he wanted, or simply what he needed.

"Thanks for coming, Will."

"It's been seven years, Xand. What makes you think I wouldn't know? What makes you think I wouldn't come?"

"Because every day, I wake up hopeful that today my dad won't drink, that today he won't hit me, or my mom. That today he'll care."

"Well, he's just being consistent," I joked, trying to alleviate the pain in my friend's eyes.

"I don't want to end up like that, Willow. I don't want to hurt you- er -my wife the same why dad hurts mom."

"You're not your dad, Xander. You're better."

"But what if I'm not? What if I'm just as bad, and I just don't know it yet?"

"I know you, Xander Harris. You'll always make the right decision. And no matter what decisions you make, or who you are, I'll always be here, Xander. When we were five. Now that we're in middle school. When we're in high school. When we're grown ups. Always." I pulled the candy bars from my bag, handing one to him.

"Thanks, Will," he murmured. And he didn't mean just for the candy bar.

I reached into my purse, knowing that rain imperviousness wasn't the only thing that Tara slipped me. She knew, I'd told her all about the ritual Xander and I had. I'd find him, we'd talk, we'd eat a candy bar, we'd hug and he'd go back to whatever mess he'd run away from a little stronger, a little more resolved. I felt the familiar, crinkly wrappers of the chocolate and smiled. She was really always looking out for me.

"Why?" I asked quietly.

"Because, what if I am just as bad as my dad, Willow? Our future… it's so uncertain and I have no idea what's going to happen."

"That's pretty much what the future's all about," I smiled, kicking him lightly. "That's the exciting bit, finding out."

"But what if I find out something bad… what if I hurt her, Willow?"

"You know," I mused, "I always thought that it'd be you I married. Even when I was with Oz, there was this little thing in the back of my mind that said it'd be me standing at that alter with you. Obviously, hey, gay now, so that's not gonna happen. But I never doubted, not even for a second, that you'd be the most incredible husband." I glanced at my watch. Oh God. Wedding was supposed to start three minutes ago. I hoped Buffy was stalling at least semi-successfully. This wasn't something I could rush. "Xander, you're just wigging. Look, your family isn't you."

"But I come from them."

"Yeah, you got your dad's eyes. Your mom's mouth. But you're not them. You're Xander. And Anya loves Xander. I love Xander. We all do."

"Will, I'm scared."

"Me too," I whispered back. "But the girl of your dreams is waiting for you. You're lucky. The girl of my dreams has only just started speaking to me again. You're doing a lot better than I am."

"But what if it's a mistake?"

"What if it's not?"

I fished the candy bars from my bag, handing one to Xander.

"Tara's still getting it right," he said with a grin.

"Yeah, well, I like her," I grinned back, happy to see a smile back on Xander's face. "So are we going back to church?"


"Xander, she's waiting for you. She loves you. You love her. This isn't the biggest day of your life, it's just the beginning of forever."

"But… but what if by doing this I'm ruining her 'forever'?"

"And what if by doing this, you're simply making it incredible?"

Standing over the now-dead demon, I felt kinda shaky. We'd burst into the chapel just in time for Xander to stop the demon from killing his bride, and now all we could do was stare down at it's very ugly body. Damn, I hated demons that didn't 'poof'.

"Anybody else waiting for it to go 'poof'?" I asked meekly. I paused looking at it. It was kind of an eyesore. Maybe we could make it all pretty? "Maybe we can cover it with flowers."

There were certainly enough lying around, the place was a mess. Broken chairs and tables everywhere and flowers mulched all over the floor. Looked pretty much like every Christmas in the Harris household. Families. But suddenly the voices escalated again, and there was shouting again and shouts rose to screams and then there was violence and… Oh God where was Tara? I heard her distressed yelp and I dove into the fray, grabbing her freshly manicured hands. I tugged her to safety behind a flower pot, pulling her from the raging crowd. Hell's bells could be ringing and we wouldn't hear them over the din. Still holding onto her hands, I gave her a small, appreciative smile.

"Thanks," she said quietly, a little smile on her lips. Her eyes were all shiny and I was getting lost again.

"You okay?" I asked, gently wiping a strand of hair from her eyes. I felt the familiar, electric tingle flow between us and so desperately didn't want to move my hand away.

"Y-yeah," she breathed, her eyes wide, mouth slightly open as she gazed at me. Here. I'd happily stay here forever. She was my entire world, after all.

I didn't know whether to hate him, or to feel sorry for him. I didn't know whether or not to blame myself. He'd left Anya standing in the middle of the aisle, face tear-streaked, her bouquet hanging at her side as the guests began to brawl again. Screams rose around the room, while Anya stood in the aisle, totally still, totally wrecked.

I was supposed to be able to talk Xander out of things like this. I'd managed perfectly well for the past fifteen years… what had gone wrong this time? I was supposed to be able to talk him through anything, the way he could for me. It wasn't supposed to happen this way.

Reviews, please? What's your take on this? Xx Bitca