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The Meaning of Heroes
Book One: Chapter Twenty-Five (Part 1 - 5,809 words) 
3rd-Aug-2006 09:52 pm
wes/fred/giles OT3!, heroes

Fred carried Connor on her hip as Wesley and Buffy assisted Giles out of the car and up the sidewalk to the Magic Box. He seemed to be a bit better, but they were still being careful about his injury, not wanting to have to take him to back to the hospital, today of all days. Tony opened the door to the shop for them, and they all stepped inside.

“Tara? Dawn?” Buffy called out.

“Back here!” Anya called from the training room. They all made their way back to the room and stopped just inside the door, looking around in amazement. The training room had been cleared of all its equipment, and beautiful swatches of green and purple material covered the walls. A sacred circle had been created on the floor with unlit candles at the four points

“Oh, wow,” Dawn said with a grin. “Tara, Anya – you did a great job!”

“Indeed, thank you ladies, thank you...all of you. You’ve truly outdone yourselves.” Giles saw Wesley look around in awe. He was touched by the efforts his loved ones went to to welcome his lovers into their lives, but he knew Wes and Fred didn’t know what to make of that level of devotion.

“Mommy, is all this for you and Papa and Daddy?” Connor asked.

Fred nodded, setting their son down on the ground and looking around some more. Everything that they had done was just amazing. “Yes, it is,” she told him. “It’s really beautiful in here.”

Wesley, meanwhile, helped Rupert over to the chair with Buffy’s assistance. It still bothered him that his lover was in so much pain on such an important day for the three of them. But he was alive – everything else they could deal with. Nearly the moment they lowered him down, he tried to stand, though, so Wesley’s hand immediately shot out, holding him in his chair. “Rupert, sit down,” he instructed.

“I’m tired of sitting,” he groused.

“When you can walk without wincing and without the aid of your cane then you can stop sitting.” Wes eyed his lover in all seriousness, slender fingers drawing the long stick back out of the other man’s reach. “Until then, do as your told.” He glared at him, biting back a smile when the other man backed down.

Fred gave him a smile, glad that he was able to get Rupert to sit down. She knew that he would run himself into the ground, even when injured, but right now, it was best he rested, especially given that they were going to be doing so much that day.

“Xander and Willow going to be here soon?” Buffy asked.

“Should be,” Anya replied, standing by the door and looking at her watch just as Elizabeth, Geoff, Trish and Roger walked into the shop. “Back here,” she called to them. “Didn’t have any trouble finding us, did you?”

“No, no trouble at all,” Roger replied with a smile.

Wesley stepped forward to greet his mother with a hug. “Thank you for your help; they loved the gifts,” he whispered with a smile that made his blue eyes absolutely glow.

“I’m so glad, dear,” Elizabeth told him as she embraced him. Nothing made her happier than to know that she was finally able to allow Wesley to have what was rightfully his, so he could do what he wished for his family. She had always felt that while saving was important, being able to use that money to make sure loved ones were taken care was more so. Roger never understood that, though.

He touched her face lovingly. “I’m so glad you’re here, and that you’re happy,” he added before looking past her shoulder over at Geoff. “And you. You take care of her – she deserves the world.”

Elizabeth looked back at Geoff and smiled. “Don’t worry, dear. He does,” she told him.

Nearby, the other Roger was looking around the shop. It was quaint and looked profitable. “So this is your shop, Rupert?” he asked, holding his hands up in surrender when his wife speared him with a piercing glare. He protested when he saw the level of anger in that gaze, “Not causing trouble, I swear! I like the shop, and I know – now –that Rupert is a stand up fella.”

“It is my shop, Roger. Anya works for me here, and the others lend an extra hand when we need it. This is Buffy’s training room although I have no idea where this lot has put away the weapons,” Giles told him with a smile while looking up at Tara and Anya. “And just to show there are no hard feelings, before you go, feel free to peruse my financial records to put yourself at ease as to whether I can afford to support your daughter and grandchildren.” The offer was made only half-teasingly as he was willing to do whatever it took to get on good terms with Fred’s father.

She stood close by, listening to the exchange between her father and Rupert, glad to hear the tone in her love’s voice about the financial records. The fact that her father had come to accept him now for who he was before the ceremony really was the best gift she could have asked for. However, she did see that gleam in her father’s eyes at the offer. “Dad, don’t you even think about it,” she told him, crossing her arms.

Rupert chuckled at the threatening tone in his lover’s voice. “Roger, if she’s anything like her mother, concede now.”

Trish grinned widely at the smile he aimed her direction. “You were right, darling. He is bright. Catches on before this one does.”

Fred chuckled at her mother’s comment as she crossed over to Rupert and rubbed her hand gently across his back. “Yep, told you he was smart.” Leaning down, she kissed his cheek back by his ear. “Thank you for that,” she whispered. “I love you.”

Giles grasped her hand gently, pressing the back to his lips. “I love you, Fred; I’ll do whatever you need me to do,” he promised, knowing how important her relationship with her parents was. He would never make her choose. She was too important for something so petty.

“Hey, guys, we’re here,” Willow called out. “And we can officially start the ceremony now.”

When Giles looked up at the final arrivals, his jaw dropping open in shock as the familiar form entered behind Willow and Xander. “Aimee?” he gasped.

“Hello, Rupert,” the grey-haired woman said with a smile as she crossed over to him and touched her hand to his temple. “It’s good to see you again.” She saw his expression of confusion and glanced over at Xander and Willow. “Your young friends contacted me and asked since Willow would be unable to complete the binding ceremony as originally planned, whether I would be willing to come and take her place. How could I say no? To you or to her?”

Giles closed his eyes, the old woman’s touch as soothing now as it was then. She had been the rock in the dark storm that followed Randall’s death, supporting him, guiding him to his new life. It seemed fitting that she be here to set him on his next path. “Aimee Dennison, may I present Winifred Burkle, and the handsome devil over there is Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. Apparently, you’re here for the three of us.”

“It’s an honor to meet you, Miss Dennison. If it weren’t for your guiding hand, Rupert might not have made it back to us. And actually, it seems again that we are in your debt,” Wesley said, referring to her coming all this way to officiate in the ceremony.

“We’re so glad to have you here,” Fred added. “Especially since you’re so important to Rupert.”

She looked at both people Rupert Giles would be binding his life and soul to. Both Winifred and Wesley were lovely, she could see, both in looks and in spirit. “I should have known that you’d need two people to make your life complete, that you’d need both male and female together. I’m pleased to meet both of you,” she greeted them. “And pleased to be the one overseeing this occasion today.”

“They do...complete me,” Giles admitted, happiness making his heart swell. “You don’t know what it means to me to have you here as well, Aimee.”

After giving him a smile in return, she moved over to observe the sacred circle. “I see this is ready, and since I have the items I require, whenever you are ready, we can begin.”

As Wesley stepped close to his chair and gripped his hand, Giles grit his teeth, preparing himself against the flash of pain. Fred moved move to help as well, but Willow beat her to it and hurried forward, wrapping her arm around him. She hated that this was possibly the most important day of his life, and he was being forced to go through it in pain. So she had been looking into this with Tara’s help, and now she finally had her chance. As Giles straightened up, the grimace on his face telling her he was distracted enough that he wouldn’t stop her, she quickly put her hand on his chest and recited a short healing spell.

Giles gasped, his body tightening as if he were holding a live wire. He could feel the stitches in his lung pulling tight, healing as bones reknit and breaks sealed completely. He couldn’t refute that he felt better as he didn’t have to take short breaths, the pain nonexistent anymore, but he was worried about Willow. He was positive she hadn’t cast since the day of his accident. “Willow, why?” he asked. “You shouldn’t have put yourself in jeapordy like that.”

Taking a step back from him, she gave him a gentle smile. “I had to. It’s my fault that you were in pain on the most important day of your life, and I had to make it right for you. I couldn’t let you suffer because I was stupid.”

“But Willow, you—,” Aimee started to say.

“I know, and I know I have a problem,” she said, taking a deep breath. “But I talked to Tara about it, and she helped me go through a couple of books to find the shortest, most effective healing spell. I didn’t do it by myself because I didn’t want anything like this, what I did to him the other day, to happen again. I had to do it, though – for Giles.”

Giles looked over at Tara, surprised when the young woman shrugged. “She’s going away, maybe for months, and I couldn’t let her go with that guilt clouding things. I watched her, Giles. She only went near the healing spells. It took us about a day to find it,” she explained.

“Come here,” he sighed, drawing Willow against him to hug. “You’re not stupid, far from it. You’re not the first person to fall under the power of magic. Aimee has my permission to discuss any of my case with you as it applies. As long as you promise not to think any less of me because of what you hear.”

“I promise,” she whispered, glad that she had finally done something right. “I could never think any less of you. Ever.”

Aimee rested her hand on her back. “You’re already taking your first steps, child. Magic’s greatest purpose is to help others, and what you did was done out of love and for the well-being and happiness of another.” She looked up at Giles and gave him a smile. “You’ll be fine. Now...shall we begin the ceremony? If Wesley, Winifred and Rupert will take their places in the circle with those who will stand for them, we can cast the circle and begin.”

Giles watched his lovers move off to bring their mothers into the circle to stand for them. Both of his parents were deceased, but other than his lovers, the person he was most deeply tied to was still here. He smiled, releasing Willow to return to Tara and approached his Slayer. “So...” He looked between Buffy and Tony. “Would you help this old man out? Both my parents are deceased, and my siblings are in England. My bond with you is much deeper anyways. Would you stand for me in the circle, Buffy?”

She looked up at him, touched that he would ask her. She knew that if she were ever to get married, she would want him to be the one to walk her down the aisle, so for him to ask her this meant just as much. “Of course,” she said softly, taking his hand and walking toward the circle with him.

Aimee stepped into the circle at the north point and then indicated everyone involved in the ceremony to step in as well. Giles stepped in at the south point with Buffy standing directly behind him in front of the candle. Trish stood behind her daughter at the west point, and Elizabeth behind her son at the east. The three stood closest together, facing each other in front of the altar Aimee had set up in the middle. Once everyone was in place, Tara and Anya closed the circle, lighting the candles as they said the incantation together.

After looking at the three standing before her, Aimee then addressed Giles, “Rupert Giles, why do you stand before me, your friends and family, and the god and goddess today?”

“To knit my soul to this man and this woman. For the three of us to become one,” he replied, glancing at both of his lovers, his green eyes filled with emotion. He couldn’t imagine his life without them. What Aimee had said was true – with Wesley and Fred, for the first time in his life, he felt truly complete.

She nodded but did not respond, instead turning to Fred. “Winifred Burkle, why do you stand before me, your friends and family, and the god and goddess today?”

“To knit my soul to these two men,” Fred said, feeling her voice catching in her throat at the sight of the two of them standing there with her, knowing that they were going to be joined from this day onward. She couldn’t imagine being without either of them for the rest of her life. “For the three of us to become one.”

“And Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, why do you stand before me, your friends and family, and the god and goddess today?”

“To knit my soul to this man and this woman for all of eternity. To become one,” he replied, his voice gentle and full of love as he watched his—his soulmates. Taking a deep breath, he smiled. It had taken him thirty plus years, but he had finally found where he belonged.

“Seeing as Wesley, Winifred and Rupert have come here to join their bodies and souls together in love and commitment, I ask if anyone here has any reason why this should not be so. If so, speak now and forever hold your peace.” When no one stepped forward with any objections, Aimee nodded and continued on, “And each of you declare that you have come into this place of your own free will in perfect love and perfect trust?”

“Yes,” all three said together.

“Then you may now exchange rings if you please.”

Wesley dug in his pocket, withdrawing a single ring. “Ummm, I hope this doesn’t affect the ceremony, but Fred and I decided to forgo giving each other rings today and, in a show of unity, give Rupert the third matching ring to the two she and I gave each other yesterday. Three identical rings, signifying one heart.”

Aimee nodded and smiled. “Then if you and Winifred would like to put it on Rupert’s finger, each of you can then speak the vows I know you prepared for today.”

Breathing a sigh of relief, he nodded at Fred as they both stepped forward, gently holding Rupert’s hand. Wes slid the ring on his ring finger, rubbing over the metal gently with his thumb. “When we first met a few years ago, obviously we didn’t hit it off. I was a pompous git, and you were doing the job both of us were supposed to be doing. When I left, it was the one thing I regretted – that we had never been friends. It took me months to work up the courage to call you, knowing we could use your help. I’m so glad I did because those same traits I ridiculed you for before are what I love most about you now. Your capacity to love, your devotion and selflessness to those you care for, it astounds me. And I will always be thankful to be on the recieving end of that love.”

He then grinned, turning to Fred. “As for you, my dear.” Taking a deep breath, he felt his heart skip a beat. “From the moment I first saw you on Pylea, hand coated and thrust in the air to save Charles and me, I have been yours. You showed no fear then, just as you don’t now. You have a strength of spirit that takes my breath away. Loving with your entire heart and soul. Forgiving a fool for his mistakes.” He smiled sheepishly. “Standing by me because you thought it was right and up-ending your life for the second time in a year. Fred, Rupert, I love you both so much and pledge myself to you, heart and soul.”

Fred smiled, feeling tears coming to her eyes as she listened to his words, holding both their hands. “Wesley...I know I didn’t always see everything you did, but I see it now. I see how much you’ve cared for me and protected me and loved me, even when I was too scared to come out of the cave I made for myself. It’s because of you that I’m back in this world again. You sacrificed so much and asked for so little. You love with an intensity that just makes my heart flutter. I will always be thankful for the second chance we’ve been given and never, ever take it for granted.”

She then looked over at Rupert. “I haven’t known you as long as I’ve known Wesley, Rupert, but from the moment I met you, I knew that you were special. First because of your friendship and loyalty to Wesley in such a dark time, and then because of the way you helped me when I was scared and uncertain when Wesley was hurt. You opened up to me and became a part of me as much as Wesley in such a short time, and I will always be thankful you were there, that you are there and that you will be there.” She then addressed both of them. “I can’t imagine my life without either of you in it. I don’t want to imagine my life that way. I love both of you more than I ever thought it possible to love anyone, and I pledge myself to both of you, heart and soul.”

Giles could feel his heart racing. His lovers were amazing. “Fred, I should thank you – for not giving up on finding Wesley and not giving up on me. In the short time I’ve known you, you have taken this tired, worn old man into your heart and breathed new life into him. Whether it be comforting someone after a nightmare or just your smile, your light is infectious, and every day I will be thankful to have you in my life as woman, mother, lover. Every day, I will thank God for putting you in my life.”

His grin grew. “Wesley. You started out as a thorn in my side and a headache to my family.” He laughed softly when he heard Xander’s chuckle. “Once you were out from under the Council’s thumb, I had a chance to see you for the gem that you were. Brilliant, kind, devoted to the fight we fight every day, with such an intensity that it put me to shame. Not to mention I always thought you were beautiful...even when you were a pain in my arse,” he teased, his green eyes lit with mirth. “You lead with your heart, putting everything on the line for those you love without a moment’s hesitation. And it still astounds me how you have never lost that trait despite everything you have been through. You bring out the best in others; you bring out the best in me. I love you both and pledge myself to you, heart and soul.”

Aimee reached down and picked up the cup sitting on the altar, holding it up to them. “I now ask all of you to drink from the same cup. First separately, then each of you holding the cup so the other two may drink. This symbolizes the need for a balance between apartness and togetherness in your future life together. And normally, you would be sipping wine, but as I understand Winifred is with child, I’ve used grape juice instead.” Soft laughter ran through everyone gathered as she handed the cup to Fred. Giving everyone a grin, she took a sip and then held the cup out, first to Rupert for him to drink from.

Taking the cup from Fred’s hands, he took a small sip and passed the cup to Wesley. He watched the younger man take his sip, then extend the cup to Fred, keeping it in his possession, tipping it for her. She took another drink from the cup, then watched as Rupert did the same. Wesley then passed the cup to her, and she held it back out to him for him to drink from.

He stepped forward, smiling at her over the rim of the cup. The ceremony was drawing near it’s completion, and damn it, he was getting excited. Meanwhile, Giles watched as Wesley drank before Fred then held the cup out to him. Taking it from her, his fingers brushed hers gently as he took possession of it. He held it back out to her first, his green eyes sparkling.

She grinned, seeing the look in his eyes as she drank. They had come so far, and now, they were about to be tied together for the rest of her lives. It was an amazing and wonderful thing to think. It made her stomach flutter – and for once, not in the queasy way it been for last few weeks.

Once Wesley had taken his sip while Giles held the cup, Aimee took it and set it down before picking up a length of cord. “Please hold out your arms and place your hand together.” Once they had done so, she wound the cord around their wrists, tying them together. “With this cord, I bind the three of you together, hands to hearts, hearts to soul. Even when you are apart, let you never be without the others. As so as you three shall be one, so shall you be understanding and patient, each with the other two. Be free in giving of affection and warmth. Be sensuous with each other. Have no fear and let not the ways of the unenlightened give you unease, for the Gods are with you now and always.”

Aimee then turned to look at Buffy, Elizabeth and Trish. “I ask of you three, as you stand with them, will you support Wesley, Rupert and Winifred in their relationship with each other.” After the three nodded and said yes, she then turned and asked the others in the room. “And I ask of all those gathered, will you support these three in their relationship with each other?”

Everyone said yes, of course, with Connor jumping up and down as he agreed the loudest, causing another ripple of laughter. Aimee grinned at him then turned back to face Wesley, Fred and Giles. “I now pronounce your hearts and souls bound as one, now and forever. So let it be.” Holding her hand over their hands, she chanted a short spell, and the rope shimmered slightly before disappearing. “Though you can no longer see or feel the rope, it still ties you to each other, hands to hearts, hearts to souls. You may now kiss as a show of your commitment and love.”

Giles stood back, allowing Fred and Wesley to kiss first. Once they had parted for air, he immediately stepped forward, drawing Fred into his arms and kissing her, turning her into a dip, holding her tight. Never would he allow her to fall, not as long as he drew breath.

She gasped a bit when he dipped her, but she felt secure in his arms and smiled against his lips. It was a wonderful feeling, knowing that these two men were hers, and she was theirs. Her husbands. She rather liked the sound of that.

Chuckling, he stood her back on her feet. He knew something the others didn’t. Fred liked to watch. So for his wife, he would put on a show...within reason as there was a child in the audience after all. Stepping toward Wes, he drew his lover into his arms, pressing his lips against the younger man’s. Licking at his bottom lip, he pressed his tongue into Wesley’s mouth when the other man opened for him. After several minutes, he pulled back, grinning mischeviously as Wes swayed, his blue eyes glazed over. Looking over his shoulder, he smirked seeing the desire in Fred’s eyes.

“See. Papa really loves Mommy and Daddy,” Connor said with a big smile.

Fred, whose heart was still beating quickly at the sight of both her guys kissing so deeply, looked over at their son and nodded. “Very, very much, Connor.”

If she hadn’t seen the love that had shone of the faces of the three people she had just bound together before, Aimee certainly could see the depth of those feelings now. “If Tara and Anya will now banish the circle.” Once they had, blowing out the candles, Aimee turned to the others. “The circle is open but unbroken. May peace go with us in our hearts as we celebrate the union of these three souls. Blessed be.”

Giles stepped forward toward Aimee. Leaning down, he kissed the old woman’s cheek. “Thank you, Aimee. For everything.”

She reached up and touched his temple again. “You’re welcome, Rupert. I’m pleased that you’ve found happiness. You’ve come so far from the young man I once knew.”

He nodded, his heart feeling light for the first time in years. “It’s still a daily struggle – I still feel Ripper pulling on his leash,” he admitted. “Ironically, I haven’t felt him as much since I began this relationship with Fred and Wesley. Wes knows about my past with Ripper and Randall. Fred is learning. She knows some.”

Stepping back, Aimee placed her hand on his chest over his heart. “Ripper will always be a part of you. Just like Willow’s addiction will always be a part of her. But you have learned to control him. Your relationship with those two gives you balance, and they’ve embraced you for everything that you are. If you ever find yourself losing your struggle, turn to them. I know that they will help you find yourself again.”

Giles nodded at Aimee’s advice. He did feel more balanced with his lovers around. Like he could finally find some sense of peace. Tucking the older woman’s hand in the crook of his elbow, he escorted her out of the circle.

Draping his arm around Fred’s shoulders while they gave Rupert a moment with his former guide, Wes grinned seeing both of their mothers stading there, wearing – if possible – even larger smiles.

Elizabeth stepped forward first and gave her son a kiss on the cheek. “Congratulations, dear.” She glanced over at Giles and then gave Fred a smile. “My son has truly found two wonderful people to share his life with.”

“Thank you, Elizabeth,” Fred said softly.

“Please, call me Mum.”

Fred smiled at that, a warm feeling spreading inside her. “Thank you, Mum.”

Wesley smiled at his mother and the fact that she was so welcoming and understanding with both Fred and Rupert. Not to mention immensely patient with Connor. He could feel the potential there to build something wonderful. And knowing he had his mother’s blessing warmed him to the depths of his soul. “Thanks, Mum.”

Once everyone got clear of the circle, Tony approached Buffy with a smile. By the way she was looking at her Watcher, he knew she couldn’t be happier. It took him a moment to realize why. She fought so hard for the survival and happiness of her loved ones that when things worked out for them, it was like a vindication for all her hard work.

But he couldn’t help but feel that Buffy deserved her happiness too. “I...um...” He frowned, mentally kicking himself. He couldn’t take her out to dinner if he couldn’t even ask.

Buffy looked over at him, raising her eyebrow. He definitely reminded her sometimes of Giles when they had first met when she started as a sophomore at Sunnydale. “Something on your mind?”

“I’m not sure if this is the best time, but with Willow leaving tonight, and this being such an important night for them...” He trailed off, blushing. “Would you consider letting me take you out to dinner and a movie before patrol tonight?”

“Tony, with what I do, if we waited until the best time to do anything, it would never come, so yes, I’d love to go out with you tonight,” she said, taking his hand.

He breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay, good, all right then.” Shaking his head, he silently called himself every kind of idiot there was...in multiple languages. He was a grown man, so why was it that this single little blonde woman had him flustered? “Sorry...what do you say we arrange for Dawn and Connor to sleep at the flat with Tara tonight. Since it’ll be Willow’s first night away, she shouldn’t be alone. And it gives our newlyweds the house to themselves for the night.”

Buffy nodded. Knowing the three of them and the fact that Willow had healed Giles, they were going to want to have their night together. “I think that sounds like a very, very good idea,” she said. “We’ll talk to Tara and Dawn about it.”

Nearby, Giles looked at his watch, then over at Willow, who was standing with Tara, leaning her head against her as they watched. “I think we should all head to the airport.” He didn’t want her to feel isolated or punished in any way. He wanted her to realize that they would love her no matter what. And would be here for her when her treatment was done.


Once they had parked in short-term parking, Giles saw Xander grab Willow’s bag from his truck’s flatbed. Exiting his car, he retrieved the small box from the boot and hurried to catch up to Willow, draping his arm over her shoulder. “I have a small gift for you; it might help with your time in Devon.” He smiled, passing her the box. “I found that during my own recovery keeping a journal helped. Whatever your feeling, don’t be afraid to write it down. I think it’ll make you feel better to get it out.”

She looked up at him as she took the box, a smile playing across her lips. “Thank you,” she whispered, holding it to her chest. She looked around as everyone got out of the cars to join them and go into the airport. “You all didn’t have to come here to see me off, though, you know. I know it’s a big day. You should all be celebrating.”

“Of course we had to come,” Wesley interjected. “It’s what family does. They see each other off when someone goes on a trip.”

“He’s right,” Giles added. “Last night, my spouses taught me that celebrations can wait if your loved ones need you. They’re not going anywhere, and neither am I.” He winked at Wes and Fred. “That goes for you as well, my dear. We’ll be here to welcome you home with open arms as soon as you’re ready.”

Willow stood there for a moment, overwhelmed by the love and caring that everyone was still showing for her despite everything she had done. “Then I’m glad that you’re all here,” she told them as they walked into the airport.

“You won’t ever be alone, child,” Aimee told, resting a hand on her arm. “We’ll talk a bit on the flight about what to expect when we reach Devon, and it won’t be easy, but you will never be abandoned or forced to face any of this by yourself.”

Once Willow and Aimee had checked in for their flight, the entire group trouped back to the security entrance where they were going to have to say goodbye. Willow gave everyone a hug, pausing when she got to Buffy.

“Buffy, I—.”

She stopped her before she could say anything more. “I know, Will. But I’m okay now thanks to everyone here, so you just concentrate on getting better yourself.” Buffy hugged her tightly. “I’ll miss you.”

“Me too,” Willow said softly. She then turned to Giles. “Thank you again for everything.”

“You’re quite welcome. Write to us,” he instructed, his voice soft. He didn’t want her to feel that she couldn’t. Embracing the redhead one last time, he stepped back, then turned to embrace his old friend. “Introduce her to Stefan,” he suggested, knowing how theraputic the palamino had always been for him. He stood back, letting everyone say their goodbyes. Willow would be missed, but for everyone’s safety, including her own, she needed to get this help.

Once she had hugged everyone else, she reached Tara and stood in front of her for a moment before reaching out to hug her tightly and kiss her. “You’ll be here when I get back right?” she asked softly.

“Of course. Someone has to pull your weight around here,” she teased, her eyes lit with amusement. “Just get the help you need, and come back to us soon.” Reaching a hand up, she curled the red locks behind her love’s ear. She really was proud of her girlfriend for getting the help she needed.

“I love you,” Willow told her before kissing her one last time. She then backed up and, hitching her carry-on higher up on her shoulder, walked over to Aimee. They headed through the security checkpoint, Willow looking back once and waving before they were sent through.


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