This is fan fiction of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, which were created by Joss Whedon. If you like, you can read my thoughts on the ethics and legality of fan fiction.
Anne let out a delighted “Oh!” and gave her a warm hug. “Aunt Willow! What a surprise. Won’t you come in?”
The flat was small but elegant. Sleek Swiss chairs and tables, a kitchen plucked from a Modernist showcase. Windows made up nearly the whole west wall, revealing a mass of old gray and brown buildings huddled along the River Thames.
“Cuppa tea?” Anne said brightly.
Willow smiled. She couldn’t help thinking the young woman matched the flat. Shoulder-length brown hair proper but stylish, crisp white dress, matching shoes with sensible heels.
So much like her mother.
“No, thank you.” She went to the window. “Lovely view.”
“If you like gray,” said Anne. She went hunting for something in the kitchen. “And what brings you to London? Here to see Mum, I suppose?”
“She ought to be home before long. Most days the office lets her out on time.” She returned with a plate of cookies. Willow took one, and they both sat down.
“So,” said Willow, “you’ll be back to University soon?”
“End of August. And Justin’s a year younger than me, so he’s…speaking of.” She got up and made her way to the back of the flat. “Justin! Aunt Willow’s here!” Some muddled reply. “Don’t be a prat, Justin. Willow Rosenberg? From America?”
A pause, then poor Anne was practically bowled over as Justin dashed into the room. “Auntie!” he cried, bending down to hug her, then plopped on the couch and rested his sneakers on the coffee table. “Ace! Biscuits.”
Anne returned to her seat, glaring at him. “Not overdressed, are we?”
He glanced down: faded jeans and a ragged black T-shirt that read simply, in white letters, BOLLOCKS. “What? Got my trousers on, don’t I?”
Willow smiled. It was good to see these two again. “Justin, your sister and I were just talking about school.”
“Bored you to tears, did she?” Justin put his feet down and leaned forward eagerly. “Listen, Auntie. You haven’t, you know, killed any vampires lately. Have you?”
“Justin,” said Anne, “don’t be stupid. Nobody’s seen a vampire for almost a decade.”
He grinned. “Buffy has.”
“Justin!” Anne was scandalized. “We don’t say that name!”
He rolled his eyes at her. “Sod off, Anne, it’s not a secret.” He turned back to Willow. “So?”
Her stomach sank, but she preserved her friendly smile. “No vampires, I’m afraid. Not lately.”
“Too bad,” said Justin. “Reminds me, though. Can I show you this picture I found?” He flipped open a panel on the coffee table and began typing.
Anne tensed, preparing to stand. “What are you…?”
“You’ll see.” Moments later, a large rectangular image floated above the plate of cookies. “Ta-da!”
Willow stared. Her smile disappeared.
It was a painting. Of her.
Floating in the sky, arms out, palms open. Long red hair wet against her face. Raging clouds, lightning thick as rain. Screaming like a wrathful deity. Eyes blazing like portals to the sun.
The caption read ‘Storming the Palace, Rio de Janeiro, A.D. 2015.’ The title was ‘Willow Ascendant.’
“Well?” said Justin. “Is that really how it was?”
Memory took her.
Rain, yes, and lightning. That was all true, more or less. But that’s not what she remembered.
Because in her mind there wasn’t any storm. No palace, no battle, no enemies to kill. No sight or sound, no space or time. No self. Not even magic.
There was only the power, thundering in her veins, begging her not to stop, to let it go on, and on, and on…
She tore her eyes from the picture and looked at the far wall. “No,” she said quietly. “Not really.”
Anne turned it off and shot Justin such a withering glare that even he fell silent.
Willow was still trying to think of a pleasant way to break the tension when the door opened. She stood up and smiled once again, despite her nervousness.
“Hello, Dawn.” She indicated the table. “Biscuit?”
Dawn Arkley set down her wine glass and dabbed her lips with the cloth napkin. “All right,” she said. “I’ll go with you.”
Willow, sitting across from her at the two-person table, chewed her filet thoughtfully. She did her best to ignore the buzz of conversation and clatter of dishes around them. “You understand, it’ll be dangerous.”
“Not exactly a first, is it?” Dawn brushed a stray hair from her face. All these years, Dawn’s hair had never been anything but long. “If there’s a chance to see Mom, I have to go. Besides, this sounds like quite the Scooby reunion you’re planning. The two of us. Xander. Illyria. And…my sister? Is she coming, too?”
“I haven’t talked to her yet, but I will soon,” said Willow. “What do you think she’ll say?”
Dawn stirred her vegetable soup, which she’d hardly tasted. She was such a serious woman now. Cool blue eyes, stark navy blazer. But then, thought Willow, she had reason to be serious. The divorce, raising two children alone, taking care of Giles…
“I don’t know,” said Dawn. “I don’t hear from her very often, and when I do, it’s usually dangers I should watch out for, trouble spots to avoid. Very practical.”
What would it be like, to lose a sister that way? Willow never had a sister. “She still loves you, you know.”
“She has a funny way of showing it.” Dawn gave up on the soup and went back to the wine. “What about Spike? Any chance this little get-together will draw him out of hiding?”
Willow sighed. “He’s not hiding, Dawn, he’s dead. You know that.”
“Nobody saw him die. Just because he disappeared, and we haven’t seen him in forever…”
“I’ve had my best witches do locator spells. I’m talking really high-end, all-inclusive, multi-dimensional, the works. Spike just doesn’t exist anymore. Anywhere. He’s gone.”
Dawn didn’t answer, just finished off her glass. A few tables over, a young couple was laughing wildly. The waiter came by with the check. Willow took it.
“Well then,” said Dawn, “what about Giles?”
“I’d like to see him while I’m here, of course.”
“No, I mean, what about bringing Giles?”
“Bringing him? To Sunnydale?” Willow blinked. “Dawnie, I don’t think that’s a very good idea.”
“Why not?” Dawn’s lips pressed to a thin, obstinate line that Willow remembered well.
“I mean…” Still off-balance. The question had caught her by surprise. “With his…condition, I don’t think he’s in any shape for international travel. And like I said, it’ll be dangerous. Besides, Dawn…would he still recognize…? I mean, would he even understand…?”
“Physically, he’s as healthy as can be, for an eighty-one-year-old,” said Dawn. “He can make the trip. We’ll be there to protect him. And as for his ‘condition,’ he still has lucid moments. If there’s even a chance he could talk to Mom, or Jenny, I think we should let him try.”
Willow rubbed her temple. “I don’t know. I just think, the way he is now…I mean, he’s not even…”
“He’s still a person, Willow!”
Willow stared in surprise. “I know that,” she said coldly.
“Do you?” said Dawn. “This is Giles we’re talking about. He was more of a father to you than your real dad. Remember?”
“Don’t you dare lecture me.” Willow’s growing fury clipped the words tight. “I’ve saved his life in battle a hundred times.”
“And what about his battle here in London, locked in that room for the past ten years? Do you care about that?” She leaned closer. Scornful. “Willow, do you even love him anymore?”
Willow slammed the table. Silverware rattled, glasses fell over, ice water spilled on her skirt. A teacup dropped to the floor and shattered. She glared at Dawn, grinding her teeth, unable to speak.
Faces turned in their direction. A waiter came over and swept the porcelain shards into a dustpan.
Willow let out a slow breath as he worked. “Thank you,” she muttered, righting her glass and drying her lap with a napkin. “I’m very sorry. Thank you.”
After he left, Dawn brushed her hair with her fingers, got quiet again. “I shouldn’t have said that. I apologize.” She looked away. “It’s just…after Kyle left, I had nothing, except two little kids to raise. But Giles moved me to London, found me a place to live. Pulled strings to get me a job. Helped with the children. He was there for me, Willow. And now, I want to be there for him.”
Willow didn’t answer. Her heart felt heavy. She brushed her skirt again, trying to dry the damp spot. Her legs were getting cold.
“But the truth is, you’re probably right,” Dawn said. “A trip like this, he’d just get confused. Upset. He’d be a liability in battle. And he wouldn’t get anything out of it.”
Willow tapped her thumbs together. How could she decide a question like this? How could anyone?
She folded her hands and looked at Dawn.
“Why don’t we ask him?”