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Chapter Nine

Buffy yawned, shielding her eyes from the bright sunlight flooding into her room. She sat up and smiled as she felt the warm tingle she always felt when Spike was near. After a lot of debating the night before, it’s decided that Spike would stay in the basement, along with Angel and his team. Nevertheless, Buffy hoped to have Spike with her that night, whether it was a good example for the girls or not. Too much time had passed since their separation and she wanted to make up for all that they’ve lost.

Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, Buffy slipped on her robe and went down to the kitchen to find Willow already up and preparing breakfast.

“Will, you’re up bright and shiny,” Buffy grinned, pulling up a nearby chair. Buffy took in the sight of her friend, realizing not for the first time just how much she had missed her. It felt good to be under the same roof again. Somehow, Buffy felt as if the rift between Willow and herself was closing.

“I woke up early and brought some breakfast supplies from the next town over; I’ve decided to make a feast today,” Willow grinned.

“Ohhh, Iron Chef Willow,” Buffy teased. “Chefs of the world beware.”

“How about you Buffy? Still have that kitchen allergy?” Willow teasingly arched a brow, remembering how Buffy had always avoided the kitchen.

“Hey, may I remind you of the Thanksgiving feast I had prepared in our first year of collage? I believed that you all thought I did a good job. Besides, my culinary skills have improved a great deal since then.”

“I’m sure they have,” Willow nodded as her eyes dimmed with concern. “Pretty intense meeting last night, huh? First, everyone finding out about you and Spike, and then the First showing up in all it’s evil glory.”

“How are the girls holding up?” Buffy asked, remembering the trembling, scared voices of the girls as they reacted to their first encounter with the entity. She had to feel sorry for them. By the time she had seen the First in its true form, she had already battled numerous demons and wasn’t really impressed. However, these girls…they were green to the whole slaying thing. The meanest thing they’ve killed has been the average, run of the mill vampires. They hadn’t been prepared to face anything like The First. “Are they still ready to head for the hills?”

“I think that they’ve calmed down. I fixed them my relaxation concoction to calm their nerves, but I have to admit…I’m concerned. I-I mean…are the girls really ready to go against the First?”

“What do you mean? Hasn’t Faith been training with them?”

“Yes, of course she has, and they’re great, the best in her class. But Buffy…they’re no you. They’ve never been up against anything this big before.”

“I hadn’t either when I was their age, and I’m still here…after a few glitches…but Will, you shouldn’t worry. The girls will be fine. They have an edge that I didn’t have back when I was as young as they were.”

“What? Their keen fashion sense?” Willow half-heartedly smiled.

“No. Two experienced slayers, 2 souled vampires, full time demon hunters and a bad-ass Wicca watching their backs,” Buffy grinned for just a moment. The smile soon faded as another concern occurred to her. “What we really should be worrying about are the First’s minions. You remember the Ubervamps and not to mention Caleb. Not your regular baddie. I’m almost positive that this time, it’ll be worse.”

Willow nodded, understanding where Buffy’s concerns were coming from. These girls were facing something that they had never faced before and may not live to tell the tale. What if they didn’t make it? What if none of them did? Who would stop the First then? Who would save their world from becoming just another hell dimension?

Sensing Willow’s unease, Buffy squeezed her hand, a warm confident smile lighting her eyes. “We can face it Will. We’ll face it and survive. Just as long we stick together.”

Willow nodded, some of her confidence flooding back. If Buffy said they would survive this…well then they would. “You’re right. There’s noting we can’t face when we’re together.”

“You aren’t about to burst into song again, are you, Red?” Spike asked, sauntering into the room, followed by Gunn who was in the midst of stifling a yawn.

“No. Of course not. Buffy and I were just reassuring each other about the coming showdown,” Willow protested.

“Well that’s too bad,” Gunn smiled, his brown eyes lighting up with a flirtatious light. “Pretty thing like you must sing like an angel.”

“Um…actually I can’t sing,” Willow blushed, resisting the urge to dunk her head as she used to do back in high school. “In fact, when that dancing demon came to town, I had only two lines and they were mostly filler.”

Buffy smiled as she got up to greet Spike with a short kiss, who was also amused at Gunn’s attempts to charm Willow. By Red’s reaction, he’d say that his friend was succeeding.

“Well, that’s too bad,” Gunn smiled, entranced by the shy redhead.

“Gunn, we better get back downstairs. Don’t want the poof to think you’re slacking,” Spike cleared his throat, hating to disturb the flirtation.

Gunn sighed. Spike had the worse timing…even worse then his grandsire. Rolling his eyes, he turned back to Willow and took her hand. “Alas, duty calls. Until we meet again.”

The red of Willow’s cheek deepened as Gunn raised her hand to his lips in a soft kiss. He winked one last time before following Spike out of the kitchen.

“Watch out Kennedy, you got some competition,” Buffy chuckled.

Willow looked down at her hands, her smile now dimmed to a slight frown. “Buffy…I can’t believe that I forgot to tell you this…I mean you’re my best friend. You should have been the first I told…but Kennedy and I…we’re not together anymore.”

“What? What happened? The last time I saw you two, you were shopping for furniture together.”

Willow sighed. It’s been a while since she had even thought of Kennedy. It had always hurt to talk about her. But somehow, it was different this time. The dull ache was almost nonexistent and the flirtation with Gunn had seemed to open up a door that had been shut to her for so long.

“It was her parents. They didn’t like the fact that their daughter was dating a woman. So they had offered her a new car if she broke up with me.”

“Oh Willow, no…why didn’t you call me? I would have been up there in a flash with a pint of B&J and some kind of movie.”

“I didn’t want to bother you. You were in Europe at the time, spending quality time with Dawn. I didn’t want to get in the way of that,” Willow took her friend’s hand, begging Buffy to understand and not to be hurt that she wasn’t there when Willow had needed her. “Besides, I wasn’t alone. Xander was there for me and he was enough. He kind of knew what we girls did whenever we suffered a broken heart.”

“If it makes any difference, I never liked Kennedy anyway. I had remained civil for your sake,” Buffy squeezed Willow’s hand affectionately. “So…do you want to tell me what all that with Gunn was about?”

“To be honest…I don’t know. I mean…for the first time since Oz…I’m attracted to a man. I had thought that part of my life was over. Now here I am, once again attracted to a very attractive, charismatic man. I’m so confused,” Willow sighed, looking away from her friend.

“What is there to be confused about? Gunn likes you and by the looks of it, you like Gunn too.”

“Hello! Supposed to be gay now,” Willow shook her head, her distress evident in her voice. “I’m not supposed to be attracted to men like this.”

“But you are. Will, what is this reluctance to get involved with Gunn really about? Is it Tara?”

“No. Of course not. Tara has nothing to do with this. I just don’t want to be hurt again. Oz…he had ripped my heart to pieces and then set it on fire. I just don’t think that I can go through that again.”

Buffy’s heart went out to her friend. She knew that fear all too well. It had been that fear that had kept her away from Spike until it had been too late. Buffy didn’t want Willow to make the same mistake. Sure, she had gotten lucky. Spike had been given back to her. But Willow might not be so lucky.

“Willow, I understand all too well what you’re going through. I was so afraid of getting hurt again, that I denied my feelings for Spike until it was too late. When I had finally decided to stop being afraid…he was dying. I don’t want you to do the same thing. Carpe Diam. Seize the day.”

“Because tomorrow, you may be dead,” Willow smiled at the phrase that had been a part of the first real conversation that she and Buffy had ever shared. That had been so long ago. Back when vampires hadn’t existed and Xander had been the love of her life. Things had been so much simpler then. “So…you think that I should let things with Gunn happen.”

“You already know that I do,” Buffy nodded. “I think he really likes you. Willow…you may regret it if you don’t. Don’t be a fool like I had been. Learn from my mistakes.”

Willow nodded, taking Buffy’s advice to heart. Of course, she didn’t know of Gunn’s actual intentions, but there was an attraction there. It would be interesting to see where that attraction went.

“Thank you Buffy,” She hugged her friend, thankful that the closeness that they had once shared seemed to have returned. No matter what may happen in life, good advice from her best friend was irreplaceable.

“No big. Now, let’s go wake the girls. They need to train today and get ready for tonight.”

“What’s happening tonight?”

“Patrol,” Buffy grinned. It sure did feel good to step back into the role of slayer again. She had no idea that she had missed it so much. “I want to see what the girls can do.”

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