I'm really ready to move now. It hurts. What do I mean, it... everything hurts. One big ache from head to toe, and this is a damned uncomfortable position. I'll be twisted like a pretzel tomorrow. Assuming I can even get out of bed.

But I don't dare move. She's resting now. Finally. She ran out of sobs a while ago, and I don't wanna disturb that.

Her weight in my arms is warm, but limp--she's lying half across my lap, her head on my shoulder. My left arm is steadily going numb under the weight of holding her here, but I can't move. I don't want to wake her. She needs to sleep before....

Yeah. Well. My arm's not the only numb thing here. It's been a while since I could feel anything from my butt down. What I get for kneeling here for hours. Everything else still hurts.

I knew--I knew she could hurt me if she wanted. I mean, I'd seen her kill Warren. And she hurt Anya, and Buffy.... She could've done anything she wanted to me. I almost expected her to. But...she's Willow. So I didn't really think she'd do it.

What I didn't expect were these--spiteful cat-scratches. The one on my face isn't so bad, but the one on my chest feels pretty deep. The fists didn't help either. Bet I'll be black and blue all over that side for a while.

I didn't really care when it happened, though. That's when I knew I'd gotten through to her. That was the first hope we'd had--I'd had--all night. So it hurt when she hit me. Big deal. I was afraid that... well, there are worse ways to lose someone than to death.

Maybe I didn't really believe she could actually go through with destroying the world. With killing everyone. Or I was just sick of what she was doing to herself. I'm still not sure.

I just did the only thing I've ever been able to do. Got up and kept coming.

Sure, I was afraid. Afraid I would fail. As usual.

I don't know what the others are going to say when this is over. But I wasn't thinking about the world when she hit me. I wasn't think of Dawn or Anya or even Buffy.

Definately not the world.

I told her the truth. If the world's ending, where would I rather be? What would life be without my best friend? Especially after Anya.... It really is about that yellow crayon (I hadn't thought about that for years). And the Barbie I stole. And peanut-butter cookies and sneaking her out to see the Charlie Brown TV special every Christmas.

I was thinking about Willow.

She moves a little, settling deeper against me. I think that arm's going to fall right off in a minute. Bright red hair spilling over my hand. I used to think you had to be special to be born with red hair. It sure looks better on her than the black.

That wasn't when I knew she'd come back though. That first frustrated sob, that was it. I knew. I wasn't afraid after that.

Somehow the hair change makes me think of Anya. Of what she'd said when she brought the news about Will to--what she said--in the graveyard--

Oh god.

I tighten my hold convulsively, wondering for a second why she feels so thin, so light.

An excuse. Anything not to think of... Giles.

He came back. To fight Willow?

Anya said.... No. I don't want to think about this. I'll think about red hair, and about, about--oh shit. I don't want it to be real. I don't want her to have to face this too.

I crush my face against her hair.

Anya said Giles was dying.

Please, God, don't let it be true. I heard Anya's voice stumble but it didn't sound like she didn't know. She was just trying to be in denial, like me. Didn't want to bring more bad news....

Please God don't let Willow have killed him.

I didn't cry when she did. I held her. That's all. Big strong man that I am. Rocked her, stroked her hair, listened to her scream out a world's worth of pain.

Suddenly I'm glad the others haven't shown up yet. Because I realize I'm shaking from more than the strain of holding her.

I don't cry much. You couldn't in my house. Dad really didn't like that kind of thing. I'm not sure why I'm crying now.

I'm happy that Willow came back to us, that she let the magic go. I saved the world... geez, I can't even process that right now. Giles...Giles might be dead and I don't know what's happened to Buffy and Dawn and Anya. I won't know anything till they get here. This is now.

I think I don't want them to come yet. Right now it's enough to sit, muscles cramping into spasms. Hold my best friend while she sleeps off this insanity. Brush away thoughts of how to deal with it all in the morning.

Wait. This is morning, I guess. Sun's up.

Well, later, then.

It's enough right now to watch Willow's hair catch fire in the new light, and see my tears make sparks in it.

I hope the others take their time finding us.

I'm not ready to move just yet.