A/N: This basically goes AU right after the end of "Chosen". The main idea of this oneshot is to follow Joss' original plan for the ending of the episode.
As always, enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy or any of other Buffyverse characters. They belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The lyrics belong to U2 from their live album "The Rattle and Hum"
"We'll shine like stars in the summer night ,
We'll shine like stars in the winter night,
One Heart , One Hope , One Love ,
With or Without You."
The motel parking lot was extremely quiet as Buffy made her way across the cracked and weathered pavement. The stars in the sky above were shining brightly, as if they were trying to tell her that she really had won, and this wasn't a dream she would wake up from. The First had been stopped, and despite all the odds against them, she had made it out, alive and still breathing.
Which was more than she could say for some of the others that had helped over the course of the past seven years. Ms. Calendar, Kendra, Tara, Anya, the names all piled up the more she thought about their faces. Every single one of them had given their time and effort, and eventually their lives in order to help against the fight against evil that never seemed to ever be won. But for this single moment, there was a feeling of peace in the world around the Slayer. The lives that had been given hadn't been lost in vain. The blood spilled hadn't been spilled because it was a lost cause. It had been spilled because it had been the right one.
She thought of the numerous bodies that were still buried across the collapsed cemeteries. Ms. Calendar, Mom, Tara, who would come back to visit them? To lay flowers on the tombstones? To shed the tears that needed to be allowed to fall down dry cheeks? Looking back at the curtain-covered window to the room, Buffy knew that Willow was most likely thinking the same thing. She still hadn't fully forgiven herself for Tara's death, and in a way, she most likely never would. Grief was a strong emotion to carry, something that the Slayer knew from first-hand experience.
Stopping, she folded her arms across her chest, and continued to stare up at the stars above. A few of them were still sparkling brightly, and she remembered the night that she and Angel had stared up at them, simply holding each other. It seemed so long ago, a different time, a different world. The ground that they had sat on was gone now, nothing more than dirt and grass filling in a giant crater in the ground. Sunnydale was gone, and it would never come back. As much as she had despised the town, it still held a special place in her heart. She had gone through moments of happiness within the town's borders, things that went hand in hand with pain, guilt, love, sadness, and death. Everything that she had ever felt would somehow be connected with the destroyed town.
"You've done well." Her mind shaken out of her thoughts, Buffy turned, expecting to find someone behind her talking. As her eyes scanned the parking lot, there wasn't a single soul in sight, apart from herself.
"Hello?" She said, the word echoing slightly back to her as she spoke.
"You can't see us, but we are here." The voice responded, the sound of it echoing as if it were coming across a great distance in order to reach her.
"Ok, little explanation would come in handy right now." Buffy said, not knowing which direction to speak to. The voice seemed to be all around her, as if it were the air itself that she breathed.
"We are messengers from the Powers That Be."
"The same Powers that my former boyfriend takes his orders from?"
"Yes, we are the ones that bestowed Angel a voice for our visions. We have come in order to deliver a message to you."
"Is it one that allows me to sleep for a year? Because that would really be appreciated right now" Buffy sarcastically answered, unsure of whether or not the voice would understand the humor.
"You have done a great deed in vanquishing the embodiment of pure evil. For that, you are to be rewarded. We grant you a single wish that contains no limits."
"You mean I can wish for anything?"
"You may. It is your reward." As the sound of the voice echoed and finally stopped, Buffy stood alone in the parking lot, her mind ablaze with the possibilities of which she could use for the wish. Her first thoughts were of Angel, of allowing the two of them the relationship they had always wanted. But she couldn't bring herself to voice the words aloud, knowing that it would be wrong in some way to force something on him without his permission. He would have allowed her the same if their situations had been reversed.
She thought of how much Giles yearned for his lost love, Jenny, whom Angelus had stolen from him years before. The pain of that death still tore a fresh wound in the Watcher's heart whenever he thought of her. In a way, she had been his soul-mate, two souls that hadn't had enough time to properly express the way they had felt about each other. Again, Buffy couldn't say the words to allow the wish to be granted. Giles had grown as a person, and as much as he wanted his love, he knew that some things were destined to happen, and there would be no way of changing them.
Smiling, Buffy thought of a single girl that all of the Scoobies had lost as a family, someone who had been taken from them in one of the most violent ways possible. The death had been avenged, but the pain still remained fresh in the hearts of everyone who had known her.
"Ok, I know what I want."
As Willow slept, she could feel Kennedy's body behind her, the younger girl tucked in tightly against her back. All across the room, everyone who had survived the battle was asleep, the need for that required thing for life having taken its hold upon every single person in the room. At the end of the bed, Dawn was curled into a small ball, her hair effectively hiding her eyes.
The grass beneath her back felt cool to the touch, and as she stared up at the bright blue sky, she felt entirely at peace. There wasn't a sound to be heard for miles around, and for a single moment, Willow thought that she might know what heaven truly felt like. She felt warmth spread throughout every inch of her skin, and as she closed her eyes, she sighed a breath of pure and unrestrained happiness.
"Willow?" The voice sounded so familiar, and as she opened her eyes, she found Tara standing above her, the girl smiling down at her.
"Tara?" As she opened her mouth to speak again, Willow felt the other girl's finger press gently down on her lips, stopping her from saying another word.
"Sssshhh, it's ok, I'm here." She said, removing her finger as she finished speaking.
"I missed you." The red-head responded, reaching up and letting her finger slide across the other girl's cheek.
"I know, I'm here now, it's alright." Looking up from Willow's body, Tara stopped, almost as if she had heard something call her name.
"What? What's the matter?" Willow asked, her smile fading as she saw the seeds of conflict on the other girl's face.
"I have to go."
"Please, don't. I love you."
"I love you too. I will always find you." As the final word fell from Tara's lips, her body slowly began to fade away, leaving Willow lying in the middle of an empty, silent field with the grass still feeling cool beneath her back.
As her eyes opened, the dream still fresh in her eyes and mind, Willow could feel the quiet sensation of tears beginning to bubble up underneath her eyes. Behind her, Kennedy buried herself further into the bed, oblivious to the emotional rollercoaster her new girlfriend was going through. Slowly getting back onto her feet, the red-head pulled on her shoes and headed towards the door, each step quiet and precise in order to avoid waking anyone else in the room. As her fingers curled around the door knob, she opened the door, relieved that the hinges hadn't make a single sound as they opened.
All around her, the night air was slightly cold, which wasn't shocking considering that they were still technically in the middle of a desert. Everything she had ever read told her that deserts got surprisingly cold at night. Regretting that she hadn't grabbed a coat, she rubbed her hands up and down her bare arms, the skin already beginning to get goosebumps. The stars above her shined brightly, and she smiled as she remembered the night she and Tara had laid on the ground staring up at them. The dream had brought scores of memories soaring back to the forefront of her mind, and for the first moment in a few weeks, she found herself missing her lover even more. Kennedy was fine, and in a way, Willow was growing to love her, but it wasn't the same kind of love that she had felt and shared with Tara. They should have been forever, but now they were separated with the largest distance possible.
Stopping just short of the end of the bus, Willow could see Buffy standing near the otherwise empty highway, her voice just barely able to be heard. Looking at where her friend was standing, the Witch was otherwise silent, her ears trying to make out what the Slayer was saying. As her eyes struggled to make out Buffy's form properly against the darkness that surrounded the outside of the parking lot, her vision was met with a great ball of light, the event nearly blinding her. Covering her eyes with her hand, she could just make out a voice saying something, the sound of it echoing throughout the air with such a volume that she hadn't heard before.
"So be it." It said, and then both it and the light disappeared, leaving the parking lot as it had been only moments before. Her legs falling into step, the Witch ran towards Buffy, unsure of whether or not the light had been an attack on her friend. The sound of her shoes against the cracked pavement echoed up to her ears as she ran, but she ignored them, her thoughts focused solely on her friend.
"Buffy?!" As she heard her name being called, the Slayer turned to find Willow running towards her, a look of concern spread out across the other girl's face. Smiling at her, the Slayer waited until the Witch was directly in front of her until she started to speak.
"Something wrong, Willow?"
"I saw a really big ball of light, and I rushed over here to see if you're alright, because you know that the First's forces might be a little mad that we collapsed one of the Hellmouths, and I'm babbling aren't I?"
"Calm down, Wills, I'm fine. I just had a message delivered to me."
"What kind of a message, from who?"
"You know those things that Angel gets his orders from, the Powers That Be?"
"Yeah…" Willow answered, looking at her friend with questioning eyes.
"Well, since we defeated the First, they decided to give me a wish. Reward or something."
"And you wished for…" As she heard Willow's question, Buffy smiled, and pointed behind her friend's back.
"Look behind you." Turning on her heel slowly, the red-head felt her heart stop for a few sort moments as she saw who was standing before her.
"I told you I'd always find you, Willow." Tara said, smiling widely as she saw the look of shock spread over her love's face.
"Tara?" Willow answered, saying the name as if she were unsure that the girl were really standing in front of her. Without thinking, her feet again fell into step, the pace changing as she broke out into a run. As she reached the girl, the Witch wrapped her arms around her, the tears she had held inside from the dream flowing freely down her cheek. Feeling the red-head sobbing into her clothing, Tara wrapped her own arms around the girl, a few tears beginning to fall down her cheeks as well.
As she watched the scene, Buffy smiled, her own feet falling into step as she began to head back towards the motel, the need for sleep she felt inside her body beginning to properly exert itself over her mind. She caught Tara's eyes as she walked past the reunited lovers, and as the Witch smiled at her, she smiled back.
"Thank you." Willow said, hearing Buffy walking past the two of them. "Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou."
"You're welcome." The Slayer replied with simply, turning back towards the otherwise quiet motel. Above the three of them, the stars continued to shine brightly, the constellations seemingly smiling down on the two girls held in each other's embrace.
"Sssshhh, Willow, honey, you don't need to cry." Tara, running her hands through the girl's hair as she spoke. "I'm not going anywhere."
"I've missed you so much." Willow answered, her sobs beginning to calm down, but the tears of joy still flowing down her cheeks. "I nearly destroyed the world because I thought I would have to live without you."
"I know, I know, it's alright." Kissing her lover on the forehead, the girl met Willow's eyes. "I'm here now."
"I love you." The red-head said, smiling with true happiness.
"I know, I love you too." As she finished the sentence, Tara slowly leaned down and pressed her lips against Willow's, the other girl instantly doing the same. The two of them remained in that position for some time, each of them afraid to break the kiss for fear of the other disappearing. Finally pulling away, the two of them looked into each other's tear-stained eyes, and smiled.
"I'm yours, Willow, I'll always be."
"I know, forever." Unable to restrain herself any longer, Willow again pressed her lips against Tara's, her tears finally having stopped and given way to pure, unrestrained happiness.