I was torn. I knew about duty and I also knew about my friends. If Willow said that they need her then it's probably true.
"Do you want me to come with?"
She shook her head. "That's why I came here by myself. You belong here now, Buffy." A thought came to mind. "This world is going to need a Slayer. Whatever it was that followed me through didn't want me going back. And I have a feeling a part of it will stay behind, even if I go back."
"What was it?" Anita asked.
"I don't know: a ghost, an apparition. Whatever it was, it couldn't take corporeal form. It had me thinking that it was my conscience or something. It even took my appearance. I thought I was hallucinating at first, but in the end it had to show its true form."
She started for the door.
"Willow." I blurted out.
She turned. I didn't know what to say. My best friend in the world was leaving and I didn't know if I would ever see her again. What was I supposed to say. All I know is I didn't get a chance to utter anything before she came back and hugged me again.
My tears mixed with the rain that was still dripping down my face.
"I have to go now, Buffy. Take care of yourself and Richard." She pulled back slightly and looked into my eyes. "I love you."
I sniffed and smiled. "I love you too, Wils."
I felt bad for Buffy. We all have hard decisions to make in life; I know for I was feeling something rise up inside of me, something not of my own.
It was Jean-Claude.
I opened the marks between us and felt his sorrow and his pain from losing Asher. What!
I spun around looking at the black clad vampire. "You're going too?"
He didn't seem surprised.
Willow wasn't expecting that.
"You can't come. It will be too dangerous. I don't even know if I can make it back to Sunnydale. I ... I could end up on the ass end of the universe."
He smiled sweetly. "Then we will be at the ass end together, ma petit saule. We are joined now, you and I."
Joined? "What do you mean joined?"
Asher turned to me. "Willow has given me the first mark, Anita. It seems as if I will not be enslaved to you after all."
I flinched as if he had struck me.
"Asher, I never meant ..."
In a swift movement he was in front of me cupping my face in his hands, pressing his lips to mine. I let him go, hell I joined in until it seemed as if the world outside had stopped altogether.
He pulled away. "Forgive me, chéri. And do not forget."
My throat hurt from the suppressed cry that was trapped inside. This wasn't supposed to be happening. I watched as he took Willow's hand in his and walked out the door.
We stood and watched from the safety of the lobby. Asher had replaced his helmet and was holding Willow in his arms, protecting her from the abusive elements. I looked down at the blackened sidewalk as she completed her incantation. A violet glow consumed them both in a matter of seconds. They stared at us through the glass wall of the building. We couldn't hear her of course, but her words were universal ... goodbye.
Asher held me in his arms tightly. He was not afraid, but perhaps a little anxious. I knew I would be safe, and I knew Buffy would be too. I was stunned that Asher had joined me. I figured he would be free of the mark I had laid on him. Or perhaps he was already free. From what he said to Anita at the end, I had the feeling his time in St. Louis had come to an end as well.
We shared something during our connection a couple of days ago. Perhaps we might share it again in the future. We'll see.
The blackness that enveloped us was beginning to fade to light; a streetlight to be specific, in front of The Magic Box. We were home at last.
My hands were pressed against the glass as I watched my best friend leave for home. Good luck Willow.
As the light faded so did the wind and the rain. The sun broke through the clouds and the air smelled of fresh water.
"She'll be fine."
Richard embraced me from behind. "We'll find a way to visit, Buffy."
I smiled and closed my eyes. "No we won't. But that's okay. Willow is back where she belongs."
Micah broke the eloquent moment. "And exactly where does that leave Asher?"
I opened my eyes and saw Anita burying her face in his shoulder. Micah rubbed her back softly. I couldn't say anything. Another man had been pulled out of her life and, in part, I was too blame. Anita stiffened and pulled her self upright. Her eyes were red and her jaw was set.
"Forget about it. It's over." She bravely said ... right.
She threw her fist at me and I didn't even try to avoid it, but Micah caught her in time. "Anita, no."
My face felt hot all of the sudden. I couldn't keep my eyes on her from the shame that I felt.
"Anita ... I'm sorry."
Richard pulled me away. "Give her time, Buffy."
Time? Was that all that was needed? Time was always my enemy, always the one thing that made my life a living hell. How could it make things all right?
Next: BS:VH III - To Err is Human ...