Title: "The Slayer's Duties"
Author: Kat Lee
Rating: PG/K+
Summary: Buffy's always been duty bound.
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, names, codenames, places, items, fandoms, titles, and etc. are always © & TM their respective owners, not the author, and are used without permission. Any and all original characters and everything else is © & TM the author and may not be reproduced in any way without the author's express, written permission. The author makes absolutely no profit off of this work of fan fiction, and no copyright infringement is intended.

She sees them in a cafe, dining and laughing as a normal couple should, and she watches for a moment before forcing herself to turn away and refocusing her attention on her never ending battle against the dark forces. The Slayer's mouth twists into a wry, saddish smile as she reflects that Xander would have been unable to let such a comment slip by without a crack. She deserves a crack, she thinks as she hurries to put distance between herself and her favorite redhead. She deserves a lot of things that aren't necessarily good, but she doesn't deserve the one thing she yearns for the most, that person sitting back there in the cafe.

She was a person she used to know almost as well as she knew herself, or so Buffy thought. She was her best friend, and she misses being in her glowing presence nightly even more than she misses Xander. She knew her well then, but Buffy barely knows her now. She's grown more beautiful, more powerful, and wiser, too. She's tougher than she ever was back then or would have thought herself to ever become. She's changed a lot while remaining the same in many ways, but Buffy still doesn't know her any more.

She doesn't know what power helps her to keep going through every day and night. She no longer knows her inside jokes or what makes her green eyes sparkle just so. She no longer shares her dreams, her hopes, or even her fun times. She rarely sees her, but even if she saw her every day, as she had once, Buffy fears she still wouldn't know her.

She still wouldn't know her, because she'd only know what she allowed her to see. She'd try to look deeper while never guessing, just as before, what thoughts were really running through her mind. Now, she knows those thoughts - they haunt her every night -, but she still doesn't know her. She doesn't know her, because she can't imagine how she could have made such sacrifices before to continue living her life now without her.

She loved her. She'd loved her so much that she'd allowed her lover to be killed. She'd loved her so much that she'd brought her back from the grave. And she still loves her, which is why they must keep away from each other. Buffy stands still for a moment and shuts her eyes tightly as she remembers, while trying not to, all the things Willow told her the last time they were together, all the secrets they spilled, all the grief she shared, all the regrets she finally admitted, and all the love of which she'd never spoken before.

She could have took Dawnie. She could have took her and raised, with Tara, as her own. They could have had a life. There isn't a night that goes by that Buffy doesn't remember all these things Willow told her, that she doesn't remember the sacrifices her love for her caused her to make and regret them for all that she, inadvertently, caused her beloved Will to lose.

Buffy's bottom lip trembles as she remembers that conversation they held and sees again, in her mind's eye, the haunting sadness in Willow's green eyes, eyes that had once been as alight with magic and vibrant as a forest in full, Spring bloom. She remembers pleading with her not to say any more. She thinks she even begged her to stop speaking at one point, but her memory's an emotional blur. She doesn't really remember what she said or what she did but, rather, only what the most important person in the world told her, all that she blamed herself for and all that Buffy caused her to lose.

And yet, she would do it again. She would take the life from her current lover to give it to Buffy. Buffy knows it's not fair, it's not right. She knows Kennedy shouldn't have her memory hanging over her, that Willow's life and heart should be dedicated to her instead of Buffy, who can only bring her more pain and, ultimately, death. She knows they should be free to live their lives as a normal, happy couple without the burdens of the undead and the fight that is Buffy's sole mission in life.

She knows Willow should be able to be happy, and so she doesn't turn back and return to that little cafe though everything in her is screaming at her to do just that. She doesn't call her up when she's aching to hear her voice or even turn to her when she needs magic to help save the day, or her life. She doesn't speak to her. She doesn't see her. And she most certainly does not tell her her side of the story that Willow told her. She doesn't tell her that she should have told her, way back when in high school, that she loved her. She doesn't tell her that she loved her then and loves her still, but she does cry for her and for the love they could have shared every night just as dutifully as she opens her eyes again and slays another Vampire.

The End