Disclaimers; Joss Whedon owns them and charts their destinies. I'm just playing with them for my own twisted amusements.
Feedback; It's like tin-roof sundae ice cream. Jim_D_Means@prodigy.net
Warning; This one starts out pretty angsty, but I'll see you through safely. As Westley said to Buttercup, "Death cannot stop true love, it can only delay it."
Tonight's episode features music by Sarah McLachlan.
Summary; A woman mourns her true love, but the love story is far from over...

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The Arms Of An Angel

Written by Kirayoshi

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"Spend all your time waiting
For that second chance,
For a break that would make it okay.
There's always one reason
To feel not good enough
And it's hard at the end of the day."

Willow Rosenberg spent too much time in cemeteries during her short life.

She didn't attend many funerals, no. She had visited them at night. She had accompanied her beloved Slayer on many of her missions. To make sure that those buried in one of the many cemeteries in Sunnydale stayed buried. To slay those vampires who would rise from their graves, not having the decency to lay down when they were dead.

This time was different.

She came here to say goodbye.

She stood before the stone she had visited every day for the last three months. She knelt before the stone, and traced the engraving with her hand.

~ Buffy Anne Summers ~
Born 1981 ~ Died 2001
Beloved Daughter and Wife
"The world will never know how much we owe her..."

She smiled as she read the epitaph, written by Rupert Giles. He was now in England, having chosen to return to his native shores after Buffy's final battle. She was killed by a demon who had attempted to raise the spawn of the Hellmouth. They had died together, locked in an eternal embrace as they plunged into the Hellmouth. Her final sacrifice had succeeded in sealing the Hellmouth forever.

Willow wondered if she knew that her blood would finally close the Hellmouth. She could only remember when Buffy looked at her, that one last time, just before the final battle. Even in her final hours, she had enough time to think of Willow. As they, along with Giles, Xander and Anya, faced the demon, at the very moment that the Mouth of Hell snapped open, Willow took a long and wanting look at Buffy's face. She saw the fear, mingled with grim determination. And I thought I had a good resolve face, she thought.

Just a week ago, Tara had accepted that Willow's heart would never fully belong to her. Their split was amicable, but it still hurt like Hell. Now, Willow paled in fear, knowing without reasoning, what Buffy was going to do.

Buffy turned to Willow, took her head in her hands, drew her face close and kissed her. "I love you, Wills," she whispered to her, and Willow could clearly see a tear trailing down her face. Buffy then turned to the demon, and threw herself at the monster. The two of them plunged into the Hellmouth, which closed forever behind them.

Giles had arranged for the headstone, even though they didn't have a body to bury. The funeral was the last time the Scooby Gang were together. Days later, Xander and Anya had left for Chicago, and a few months later, mailed Willow a wedding invitation. Now, it was Willow's turn to go on with her life. She came to Buffy's grave one last time, to say goodbye to her one true love.

"I'll be on my way to Los Angeles tomorrow," she whispered. "I'm transferring to UCLA, I'll be majoring in computer sciences. The world's safe now. There hasn't been one vampire in Sunnydale since the Hellmouth closed. But there's still some nastiness. I guess I'll always be doing what I can, fighting evil and stuff. But it won't be the same without you." She leaned toward the stone, and kissed it. "I love you, Buffy. There will never be anyone else."

She left the cemetery for the last time.

"I need some distraction,
Oh beautiful release,
Memory seeps from my veins.
Let me be empty
And weightless and maybe
I'll find some peace tonight."

She waited at the Greyhound depot alone. Her parents weren't there to see her off. Which suited her fine. After their last meal together, Willow knew that for all intents and purposes, Ira and Sheila Rosenberg would no longer be an active part of her life.

"But Willow," Sheila had protested after they ate. "Why Los Angeles? It's so far away from here."

"L. A., Mom," Willow explained for what seemed like the million-and-fifteenth time. "It's just an hour's drive from here."

"She's just saying we're not good enough for her," Ira harumphed. "The old home-town's too small for you, is that it?"

"Dad," Willow could feel her patience wearing away with each word. "I'm starting a new life. Why do you seem to have a problem with that?"

"Who are you kidding?" Ira shouted at his daughter. "You're just running away. First that bitch Tara twists you around, then you lose that worthless slacker Bunny--"

Ira never got to finish that thought. Before he could finish the sentence, Willow got out of her chair, walked over to the sofa where Ira was sitting, and slapped his face hard enough to leave a welt.

"That was for calling Tara a bitch!" she shouted. "And the name is 'Buffy'!"

"How dare you?" Sheila screamed at Willow. "How dare you raise your hand against your father?"

"Father!" Willow cried, the sheer volume of her voice shocked even her. "You two aren't my parents! You just happened to be in the same room when I was conceived! You have no idea who I am!" Ira and Sheila sat dumbfounded, as Willow unleashed two decades of anger and resentment. "All I was to you was a control subject, an experiment! And when I didn't turn out exactly as you wanted, you simply ignored me!" She headed for the door, grabbing her coat and hat from the closet. Facing her parents for what she knew would be the last time, Willow said, "You don't know me, you never made the effort to get acquainted with me. And I'm not going to bother introducing myself now. It's too late. Goodbye, Ira, Sheila. You will never see me again."

As she shut the door behind her, she waited five seconds for either of the Rosenbergs to follow after her. They didn't. Willow sighed deeply and left.

And as the Greyhound bus carrying her and all of her worldly possessions to Los Angeles pulled away from the depot, she could smell the distinct aroma of a burning bridge.

"In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here,
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear.
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie;
You're in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort there."

All she could see was the sky.

Sky above her, sky below her, sky all around.

Buffy Summers blinked at her surroundings, surprised at what she saw. "If this is Hell," she muttered aloud, "I'm not impressed."

"No, Buffy," a voice replied. "Not Hell. You were re-routed." Buffy glanced around her, hoping to see who spoke. There was no one around her. The voice seemed to come from everywhere at once, and at the same time, seemed as intimate as a lover's whisper.

"Okay," she said hesitantly. "What's the what? If I'm not in Hell, where am I?"

"As you've said before," the voice said, and Buffy could feel its laughter, "do the math."

"You mean," Buffy started, "this is Heaven?"

"Close, close. At least closer than your first guess."

"Fine. So you're Saint Peter?"

"No, but I know the guy. In fact, he sent me here, to divert you."

Buffy's eyebrows shot up at this comment. "Divert me?"

"It wasn't your time to go. You were not meant to die so young."

"Really," Buffy mused. "Well, there's this problem about that demon who was going to open the Hellmouth. It was me or the rest of the world, so I figured--"

"Yes," the voice seemed more focused, directly in front of her, but Buffy still couldn't make out anyone speaking to her. "But your task wasn't finished."

"What do you mean?" Buffy was getting tired of this circular argument. "So another Slayer will be called, she'll take over the business, maybe Giles will be her Watcher, no big, right?"

A chuckle resonated in the air around Buffy. "Yes, I'm sure that the new Slayer will be as effective as you were. But that is not the task that you have yet to complete."

"Then what is that task?" Buffy asked.

"Willow," the voice said, and this time, Buffy could see a shape in front of her. The shape shimmered brightly, then coalesced into a figure. A man. He had sandy blond hair, an overpowering smile, and a strange light in his eyes. He seemed to radiate both an innocent charm, and the wisdom of the ages. He walked over to Buffy, who noticed that a floor had appeared beneath her feet. He extended his hand to Buffy, who shook it. "My name's Leo, by the way," he smiled at her.

"So tired of the straight line
And everywhere you turn
There's vultures and thieves at your back.
And the storm keeps on twisting
You keep on building the lie
That you make up for all that you lack."

She had moved into her dorm (she was able to swing a solo dorm. Without Buffy, she didn't really want a roommate), and now she was ready to start a new life. She felt the need to do something that her parents would never approve of. When they had last chatted, Cordy had given her the address of one of the trendier night clubs, so Willow decided to hit the dance floor.

But Willow had seldom set foot outside of Sunnydale before, and L. A. was a far cry from her one-Starbuck's hometown. She couldn't find the club Cordy had suggested, despite having the address, and within twenty minutes, Willow was hopelessly lost.

She tried to backtrack her steps, but was overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the city. The noises of the traffic, the sheer height of the buildings, the pulsating civic heartbeat that never seemed to stop. People milled around the crowded sidewalks, intent on their separate errands and destinations. A few people stopped her, either to beg her for some loose change, or on the mistaken belief that she was a hooker.

Finally, Willow tried to get her head together. She walked in a straight line, hoping to find a convenience store. She figured she could buy a map or something, maybe ask directions back to campus, or find out where she could catch a bus. She strode with purpose, looking around her for a convenience store.

She found herself walking through darker streets, and started to notice that the crowds were thinning. She gulped hard, realizing that she had made a wrong turn somewhere. She desperately looked for a pay phone. Contact Angel, he could find her. She searched for a phone, but the only one she could find, the handset was ripped off. She pulled the collar of her coat around her a little tighter, and desperately walked on.

She could hear sounds around her. Chittering, gnashing, scraping sounds. Sounds, it occurred to her with an uneasy certainty, that could not be made by anything natural. Dark sounds. Evil sounds.

Before she could collect herself, a shape jumped in front of her. Vaguely human, but the ridged brow, the sunken cheeks and the yellow eyes gave him away. Vampire.

"Lookee here," the beast howled. The howl reminded her of her long-lost love Oz, in his werewolf form. "Room service!" Three other vampires joined him, their teeth bared and ready to sink into Willow's flesh.

Willow backed away quickly, and started to run. She couldn't remember how far she had gotten, before she tripped over an empty beer bottle in her path. She skidded ten feet ahead of her, scraping holes in her jeans, and abrading her knees. The vampires circled around her, salivating over her. Willow closed her eyes in fear, and prayed to the goddess that it would be quick.

"Back off!" a voice of unshakable authority shouted. Willow glanced about, and saw someone fighting the vampires. An avenging angel, the figure punched and kicked expertly, staking the vamps within seconds. Her savior turned toward Willow, and asked, "Are you all right?" Willow gasped as she saw the mane of blond hair that framed her face.

"Buffy?" she asked, then fainted.

"It don't make no difference
Escaping one last time,
It's easier to believe
In this sweet madness, oh
This glorious sadness,
That brings me to my knees"

Willow awoke to the more familiar surroundings of her dorm room. She blinked in the light of her bedside lamp, and glanced around her.

"Hey, beautiful," Buffy smiled at her. And it was Buffy, Willow realized. She was here, before her. She was alive.

Willow lunged at her, hugging her fiercely, crying freely on her shoulder. "Oh, Goddess," she wailed, "I missed you! I love you so much!"

"I know, Wills," Buffy answered as she returned Willow's embrace. "I love you too." She nudged Willow's face to her own, and kissed her. Willow had despaired that she would never feel the softness of Buffy's lips, but now, confronted with this sweet reality, Willow could only weep in joy, and accept this miracle.

Eventually, the need for air forced Willow to break off the kiss. "Buffy," she said dreamily, as she beheld the face of the love she thought she'd never see again. "What are you doing here? You were dead."

"Yeah, I know," Buffy answered simply. "But someone stopped me from passing on to the next plane, or next life, or whatever you believe is out there. He said that I wasn't done here."

"I guess," Willow admitted. "So the Powers That Be decided that the world still needs a slayer?"

"No, it's not that," Buffy sat closer to Willow. "It's you. You need me. You need a protector. You've become a very powerful witch these last few years, especially since you first hooked up with Tara. That means you're gonna attract trouble, like those vamps tonight. The Powers decided that you needed a protector. Someone to watch your back. And I got the job. Lucky me."

Willow tried to process this information. A protector, a guardian. She had read about such things in some of the more esoteric texts and pagan websites she browsed. Conflicting facts, opinions, rumors and legends. And they all had the same name.

"Whitelighter," Willow spoke the name. "You're my Whitelighter?" Buffy nodded. "Oh wow," Willow hugged Buffy again, amazed at her good fortune.

Buffy simply said, "They told me that I had been something of an unofficial Whitelighter for you all along. I've been protecting you from the nasties of the Hellmouth, and I knew you. When they asked me if I wanted to be reborn as your Whitelighter, I jumped at the chance." Buffy could feel the tears welling in her eyes as the joy of holding Willow in her arms consumed her. "We've been given a second chance, you and I. I'm not blowing it this time. I love you, Willow."

"And I love you, Buffy," Willow declared, as she claimed Buffy's mouth with her own again. The kiss was more passionate, more urgent than their last one. "But Buffy," Willow suddenly leaned back, as Buffy started to nuzzle her ear. "Aren't there rules about Whitelighters not becoming involved with the witches they protect?"

Buffy stopped nipping at Willow's earlobe, and looked her in the eye. "Yeah, there are rules," she laughed. "And you know me and rules." She then showed Willow her right hand, her thumb sticking out, and her fore and middle fingers crossed. "We're like this." She then pointed at her thumb with her left hand, adding, "I'm the one over here."

Willow and Buffy laughed together, rolling on the bed in each others arms. Buffy then pinned Willow to the bed, and kissed her for real. Quickly, the two lovers undressed, and let their passion carry them wherever it would.

"In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here.
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear.
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie,
You're in the arms of the angel,
May you find some comfort there."

Hours later, Willow snuggled against her naked Whitelighter's breasts, reveling in the feel of Buffy's strong arms around her shoulders. Buffy nuzzled in Willow's soft red hair, and Willow luxuriated in each sensation. "We should tell the others that you're back," Willow said absently.

"We will," Buffy murmured against Willow's hair. "But not right away. Right now, I want you all to myself." Willow grinned and moved forward across Buffy's body, and kissing her lips again.

As she began to fall asleep in Buffy's arms, Willow sighed contentedly. For the first time in Goddess knows how long, she felt completely at peace. She no longer had to worry about pleasing parents who would never notice at any rate, she no longer had to answer to anyone but herself, and she no longer had to go through her life alone.

No matter what the fates threw at her, she was prepared. She was in the arms of her angel, her Buffy. And nothing would ever be wrong again.

"You're in the arms of the angel,
May you find some comfort here."

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Additional disclaimers; Leo, the Whitelighter concept, and other aspects lifted from "Charmed" are owned by Spelling Entertainment.

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