It was only a week later when Buffy decided it was time to head back to England. She had been contemplating whether they should make their war before or after her birthday. It was approaching fast and she couldnÂ’t make up her mind to act now or wait. She knew that was being selfish. It would be nice to have one more Buffy birthday blow out before the war, she thought. But then again, death and mayhem are pretty much typical for any of my parties. She chuckled to herself as many memorable birthdays from her past came to mind. Better not wait, she concluded. The First might catch wind of what weÂ’re up to and that could destroy our chances of catching him off guard. Act now before itÂ’s too late, she concluded.

After saying her farewells to Allandro and his staff, she took one of the CouncilÂ’s private jets back to Heathrow. Everybody else had arrived a few days earlier and they were now anxiously awaiting BuffyÂ’s return. Although the trip was not very long, it was a bumpy ride. The weather sucked in England too. Freezing and snowy. Buffy realized how much she took living in California for granted. A part of her was desperately yearning for home. The warm climate year round. Instead she was here in the motherland, home to her ancestors. She made a mental note to look into moving back to any city other than Los Angeles if she survived the upcoming battle.

She bypassed the CouncilÂ’s headquarters and headed straight to Linden Hall. As she was chauffeured up the long and winding drive she couldnÂ’t help but think of how much this place reminded her of Hogwarts. It didnÂ’t look exactly like the castle in the movies, but it was very similar. Especially now with everything covered in snow. Linden Hall. It was a nice change of scenery from the city as it was situated on 1500 pristine acres. There were several lakes and beautiful woods and vast rolling pastureland that the Council used for grazing sheep, goats and cows. But most importantly; it was private. This was where the Slayers were trained and the castle housed the extensive library of the Councils as well as its treasury of many priceless artifacts.

The Watchers had used this as a retreat for centuries. There were many people who called this their home. Witches, sorcerers, prophets, scientists, healers and craftsmen of all trades were among those who dwelled in this ancient structure. It had been quite a while since Buffy had been here. She had mostly met with the gang in London.

As the car came to a halt, Buffy exited the vehicle, slightly disappointed that nobody was there to greet her. She pulled the collar up on her coat in an attempt to keep that bitter wind off her neck. Only a few more steps, she thought as she got closer to the large front doors.

“Finally,” she said aloud and she wrenched open the heavy door. It was almost an immediate relief to step inside the massive vestibule. The heat of the building was delightful to anyone who had been outside only moments before. “Honey, I’m home,” she proclaimed in a cheery voice. No one answered. William followed her in with her luggage and then he too, disappeared. “Hello?” Buffy shouted, so that her voice echoed throughout the entrance hall. “Anybody home?”

Around the corner came Mabry. He was Linden Hall’s resident butler. He knew what was going on around this place more than anybody. Very much like Argus Filch, but a helluva lot nicer. “Good afternoon, Miss Summers. I hope you had a pleasant flight. Let me take your coat.”

“Thanks Mabry,” she replied. “A little bit too much turbulence for my liking. Where is everybody?” That was a stupid question to ask. As there were over three hundred occupants in this castle at any give time, Mabry began to name off people Buffy never heard of and their precise location. “Let me simplify that for you Mabry. Where’s Giles?”

“Oh, sorry miss. It’s my job to know what’s going on within these walls. Mr. Giles can be found in the drawing room on the fourth floor. Would you like for me to escort you there?”

“No thanks, I know the way.” Buffy began ascending the stairs.

“Perhaps some tea and biscuits?” He inquired below her.

“That’ll be great,” she answered back. “Oh Mabry, if you have any chocolate chip cookies…”

“Of course.” Mabry disappeared as Buffy climbed up to the fourth floor. It was quite easy to get lost in this place. She walked along the corridor following the worn out path on the hardwood floors that hundreds before her had tread. She glanced at some of the portraits on the wall, not recognizing anyone in them. She really didn’t care, anyway.

The doors to the drawing room were closed when Buffy got there. She knocked and waited for a response. “Come in,” she heard Giles say. She slid the pocket door open, entered and closed it behind her.

“Oh, Buffy, you arrived. Excellent.” He got up from a winged back chair and made his way over to her. “You look well.” He gave her a hug. “It’s good to see that Allandro has been keeping you well fed…”

A look of complete horror came upon BuffyÂ’s face.

“Well fed?! Do you mean I look fat?” Buffy glanced at her body to see if she was somehow much bigger than last time she had seen Giles. She had put on a few pounds, but not that much.

“Um, no. No, of course not. ItÂ’s just… itÂ’s just good to see you put a little weight on. You looked under nourished the last time I saw you.” He pulled off his glasses and started cleaning them on a handkerchief he pulled out of his trouser pocket. “You look lovely.”

“Nice save,” she smirked as she plopped down onto the couch. “Giovanni’s a great cook. Not too pleasing on the eyes, but he’s got a good heart.” Giles sat back down into his chair. Several newspapers were scattered on the coffee table. “What’s this?” She began picking up various papers from different countries.

“Oh, yes. Well, since we discovered the locations of the Hellmouths I thought I would check on the demonic activities in those places…”

Buffy laughed.

“Giles, you know that stuffÂ’s not gonna be printed in the local paper.” She tried to muffle her laughter as a look of disappointment came upon Giles face. “The underground’s the way to go. You knowÂ… the usual places.”

“Well, um, it doesn’t hurt to search all avenues when dealing with these creatures. Besides, take a look,” he showed her a newspaper that was written in some language that Buffy didn’t know. “It’s right here in black and white.” Buffy raised her eye brows. Was she supposed to know what this said? Or was old age finally catching up to Giles? Dawn was the master of languages, not Buffy.

“It’s Arabic,” he continued after noticing her facial expression. “There has been a mass exodus from this region,” he pointed to the little map that was included in the article. “Something’s up…”

Buffy interrupted him. “Giles, there’s a war going on there. Of course people are going to be fleeing for their lives.”

Giles sighed as though Buffy brain was full of marbles or something.

“Pay attention Buffy. The war is being fought here. That’s over two hundred miles away.”

“Don’t bite my head off!” she retorted. “What has this got to do with anything?”

“That,” he said pulling off his glasses and tossing them on the table. “That is where the Hellmouth is.”

“So,” she began. “It’s just like it was in Sunnydale, right? People are sensing that there’s some evil mo jo at work and leaving. That’s good, right?”

“I suppose,” he said with a sigh. “Perhaps it’s a good thing. It may mean there will be less casualties or it may mean that The First is already up to some mischief in those parts. Um, I don’t know Buffy… I’m afraid…” At that moment there was a knock on the door and Mabry entered carrying a silver tray laden with goodies. He sat the tray on the table. “That’s fine Mabry, you may go.” Giles picked up the tea pot and began filling their cups. He seemed to be waiting for Mabry to leave before continuing the conversation.

When Mabry was gone and Giles still didnÂ’t say anything, Buffy broke the silence.

“What is it Giles?” She could tell that there was something wrong.

He took a sip of his tea and continued, “I’m afraid that The First may know what we’re up to.”

“What?!” Buffy exclaimed, spilling tea down her blouse. “How’s that possible? We’ve only just found out about the Hellmouths a week ago. How the hell could he know what we’re up to?” She took the napkin that Giles offered her and began patting the soon to be stain on her blouse. She cursed under her breath.

“I’m afraid I may have something to do with that,” Giles began uneasily. “When we found out the location of the Hellmouths and, um, about you getting the amulets that we desperately needed, I, um, notified all the governments involved so that they could evacuate their people before the upcoming war.” Buffy opened her mouth, but Giles refused to let her speak. “Buffy, we’re talking millions of people here. We can’t ignore that fact. It is imperative that we get as many people out of the line of fire beforehand. You don’t understand politics. Especially when we’re dealing with some of these…leaders and dictators, we have to be very careful. We don’t want to cause a world wide incident.” He reached over and put his glasses back on. “I have called a meeting with the heads of the Anti-Demon League from the countries involved. They shall be here in two days time. We can go over our strategy at that time.”

Buffy stifled her true feelings on the matter. “How long before we can attack?” she asked as calmly as she could.

“Um, I would guess a matter of weeks…”

“Weeks?!” Buffy exclaimed. “We could lose the upper hand in that amount of time. The whole point was to go in quickly and quietly…”

“And leave millions of people to perish?” Giles asked exasperatedly. “I know you Buffy. You would not want that on your conscience. You couldn’t live with yourself knowing that…”

“I guess I just thought that the people would split like they did in Sunnydale. You know, sense some great evil and haul butt to the first town that didn’t give off any ominous vibes…”

“But The First isn’t as active in some places. Yes, we have noticed some activity around the Hellmouths, but nothing indicates that The First is preparing a war against us. We still have the upper hand,” added Giles with the emphasis on still. “Bear in mind, we’re the ones who are instigating this war, not The First. Those people may have no inclination that anything is amiss… as of yet.”

Buffy sighed and took another sip of tea.

“I guess I just assumed Willow and The Coven could do some sort of spell to get everybody out of there.” She felt defeated. She knew that Giles was right, but she could not shake the feeling that this delay was going to cost them. She looked up at Giles, “Do you know these guys in that League thingy?”

“Some of them, yes, but not all. We’ll meet them soon. I expect you to be there.” He looked at her in a concerned lovingly fashion. “Things will work out Buffy. I promise.”

“I guess we’ll have to wait and see.” Buffy drained the rest of her tea. Grabbing a cookie she decided to find her friends. They would make her feel better. She hoped so, any way.

After changing her top, she instinctively headed down to the second floor parlor. Opening the door she found the Scoobies watching a huge plasma screen TV.

“Hey guys!” She was happy to see them.

“Hey, look gang! It’s the Buffster,” declared Xander. He got up as well as Willow, Dawn and Andrew. Kennedy was there also, but she remained in her seat. She really wasn’t a big fan of Buffy’s and she was still jealous of her relationship with Willow. Xander greeted her with a big bear hug. “Good to see ya, Buff.” The gang was watching Hellboy. “C’mon, have a seat.”

It had been a couple of weeks since she saw them. They caught up on what was going on and shared their concerns about the upcoming battle. The guys felt that Giles was right. Willow, who had gained a lot of confidence in the last few years regarding her magical abilities, wasnÂ’t too anxious to go around the world casting spells to make people flee their homelands.

“It could have disastrous results,” she had said. “I’d rather let the governments deal with that. But have no fear; we’re still gonna back you up. We’re behind you all the way.”

That made Buffy feel slightly better. But she still had that damn sense of foreboding since she found out about GilesÂ’ disclosure to the ambassadors from the effected areas. No matter what she did, she couldnÂ’t shake that thought. Hopefully in a couple of days, she could check out these people and see what kind of vibes she got off of them. The fact remained that most people in government or positions of power were rotten to the core.

Over the following twenty-four hours the snow stopped and was replaced by rain. Not a sweet gentle rain. But torrential downpours that made the castle gloomier than ever. Now that Buffy had settled in, she decided that it was time to select the final ten Slayers for her quest. There were two hundred and thirty two Slayers in residence. The others were scattered about the world. More would come once they were summoned, but Buffy felt it was better to keep the rest at a reasonably safe distance, just in caseÂ… All the Slayers currently at Linden Hall wanted to be one of the commanders of the upcoming war. It was BuffyÂ’s job to choose which ones would get that honor (if you want to call it that).

All the girls were in one of the many conference halls. The one they were in was called The Needham Chamber, named after a deceased Watcher from long ago. Buffy climbed up onto the dais and faced her anxious audience.

“Okay, guys,” she began, attempting to get the girls to settle down. “QUIET!” she yelled and immediately all the girls shut up and faced her. “That’s more like it.” She could have sworn that she heard Kennedy mumble, ‘Kill me now. I hate Buffy’s pointless drawn out speeches.’ She also thought she heard Willow ‘Shh’ her.

Buffy ignored her comment.

“As you all know we need ten more Slayers to lead the others into combat. I’m looking for those with experience, determination and leadership skills. Preferably those over the age of eighteen.” There were howls of protest from some of the younger Slayers after Buffy’s comment on age. “C’mon now,” she yelled trying to regain order once again. Once the girls quieted down, she continued, “You young girls don’t need to get so riled up. You’ve got your whole lives ahead of you. We’re not talking about staking a few vamps here. This is a kamikaze mission. There’s no coming back! So, you need to consider that before you volunteer.” Buffy felt it was better to approach it that way as it might discourage some who weren’t totally committed to take on such a task.

The room broke out into anxious whispers. Jordan, a precocious sixteen year old, stood up.

“Excuse me Buffy. But I’ve got something to say.” Buffy knew all too well that Jordan was going to argue about the age restriction. “I understand that you don’t want any of us younger girls to get… um, killed,” she said in her British accent. “But we’re Slayers first and foremost. It’s our destiny to fight… regardless of age. Were you not killed when you were my age?”

“Yeah, but that was different…” Buffy said solemnly.

“It’s always different when it comes to you,” shouted Kennedy. “The rules are always different when it comes to Buffy.” Buffy wanted to slap the shit out of Kennedy. Her deep love and respect for Willow prevented her from doing so.

Before Buffy could reply, Jordan looked sharply at Kennedy.

“Shut it, you! If it wasn’t for Buffy you’d probably be dead! Don’t underestimate her abilities. She’s ten times the Slayer than you.” Buffy was grateful for Jordan’ comments, but Kennedy’s temper flared and so did many others. Buffy definitely thought it was ridiculous trying to reason with hundreds of teenage girls. She called off this “meeting” and decided that she would choose the ten herself. She would meet with each girl privately. The last thing she needed was a rebellion.

Jordan came up to Buffy later that morning pleading her case. She was an orphan.

“I’d rather die a dignified death by closing a Hellmouth, Buffy. I have no family. I’ve worked hard and I’m really good at what I do. Please, give me a chance.” Jordan’s big brown eyes had begun to well with tears. She was just too adorable for words. Buffy hated the idea of sending her on such a mission.

“Listen Jordan,” Buffy spoke in a composed protective fashion. “You’re much too young to be sent out on this kind of mission. You’ve got your whole future ahead of you… And you’re not alone. We’re your family. All of us,” she saw the questionable expression on her face. “Yeah,” Buffy smirked. “Even Kennedy. She’s got some… issues.” She was now referring to Kennedy. “Don’t let her get under your skin.” She looked around, leaned forward and quietly said, “I always let what she says go in one ear and out the other. I find it’s the best way to deal with her. She’s accustomed to getting her own way.”

“Are you going to let her lead one of the teams?” Jordan asked straightforwardly.

Buffy looked at her for a moment. “Yes,” she replied. “She’s earned the right…”

“What about me, then? I deserve it as much as she.”

“Jordan, Kennedy was there last time. She helped…”

“I would’ve have helped… if I knew I was a Slayer, I mean. I’ve fought beside you. I’ve always listened to you. I never give you any lip. You’re… you’re my idol.” She looked down at the floor. Buffy felt horrible about the situation. If Jordan was eighteen, she would definitely be one of the commanders. She was awesome, no doubt about it.

“Let me think about it, okay?” Buffy said giving her a gentle pat on the back. “I just need to think a while.”

JordanÂ’s head shot up and Buffy could see the tears streaming down her face.

“Okay,” she replied. “But keep in mind, Buffy, I’m better then Kennedy.” She turned around and walked off, wiping her tears on the sleeve of her shirt. Damn, thought Buffy. That girl’s determined.

After lunch, Buffy notified all ten Slayers who would be leading the teams. She wished she would have let Giles handle that. Now she was being confronted by so many pissed off girls. Buffy had relented and given Jordan one of the coveted positions, much to the dismay of the other young Slayers who were not chosen. But the fact remained that that girl could kick some demon butt. Buffy had seen her in action many times and had been impressed by her abilities. She fought better than Kennedy, too. Kennedy, of course, was also given a spot. Willow wasnÂ’t too pleased, but Kennedy was determined. She was a Slayer after all.

Buffy did catch a bit of heat from Faith. She, too, wanted to lead a team.

“Listen Faith,” Buffy had said to her. “Chances are I’m not coming back… this time. You need to stay. Take my place after… after it’s over.”

Faith actually was flattered that Buffy respected her enough to let her be in charge of the Slayers. Second in command was a great position to be in after all.

“ThatÂ’s cool, B,” she had told her. “IÂ’m not one for gaudy pieces ofÂ… magical jewelry that sends you to hell or whatever. But I wanna fight. Let me fight with you. For old times’ sake.” Buffy laughed at that. She was more than happy to have Faith watching her back. Robin had been so good for Faith. Faith was amazed that they were still together.

We now fast forward back to Buffy in the library; fingering the amulet that Angel had given her. The storm was still raging outside and in a few hours time the meeting with the ambassadors would begin. She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. She felt cold and stiff. She had caught so much hell from a number of Slayers in the past twenty four hours. She let them know that there was still a very good chance that they could have an “honorable death” just by showing up for battle. There were no guarantees in this business. The fact remained, no one wanted to die. Even those who were selected didn’t want to die. As long as there was life, there was hope. Death was not something that they could control. It was fate. Either you were meant to be here or not.

Buffy placed the amulet back into the black satin pouch and put it in her pocket. She picked up the book she had been reading for like the millionth time and walked over to the sofa. After getting into a comfortable position she began to peruse her book, The Origins of Evil. Allandro had given it to her about a year ago. She was interested in reading anything she could on The First. This ancient book was translated from Latin to English by Allandro hundreds of years ago. It was beautiful, really. Handwritten and all. She had been studying the text so much she nearly had it memorized. (Willow and Giles were so proud). In it, she discovered the name of The First; Bauglir. It told of him being thrown out of this dimension many millennia ago by The Powers That Be. But having such powers himself, he was able to punch holes into this dimension. In spirit form, he was able to come here and visit his emissaries and advise them on the corruption and destruction of mankind.

The SlayersÂ’ job, if they could, was to close those windows or hellmouths so that his emissaries would be trapped in either this world or that one. The ones remaining here would be hunted down and destroyed. Their corrupted spirits would be sent to The Deeper Well where they would abide until the end of time. Those on the other side would be unable to come through and would remain in The Void as The Powers deemed fit long ago. That was BuffyÂ’s plan anyway.

“It’s really coming down out there, isn’t it?” asked Willow who had entered the room unbeknownst to Buffy. She was still engrossed in her book. “Buffy?”

Buffy finally realized Willow was sitting at the other end of the sofa.

“Huh? Sorry Will. Just…”

“Reading about Bauglir, again,” she said finishing Buffy’s sentence as her eyes glanced at the book.

“You know me so well,” replied Buffy with a slight grin, shutting the book.

“Well, it was pretty obvious, ya’know. I think that’s the only book I’ve seen you read more than once. As a matter of fact,” she pretended to be thinking hard. “That’s the only book I’ve seen you read since we’ve been out of school.” Willow followed her statement with suppressed giggles.

“Ha-ha. Very funny. You should be a comedian. And for your information, I have read many… magazines. I’m not the bookworm type.” She shot back sarcastically.

“No, I guess you have other things to deal with,” said Willow. They sat there quietly for a few minutes. “Buffy, can I ask you something?” asked Willow breaking the silence. Buffy nodded in response. “Are you afraid… afraid of fighting The First? Um, I mean Bauglir.” Before Buffy could answer Willow continued, “You just seem so damn calm with all this craziness going on. I mean, you know, you… you might die.”

Buffy looked sympathetically at her friend. She knew this question had been on Willow’s mind for some time. It didnÂ’t faze Buffy at all. Cheerfully Buffy responded.

“Sure I’m afraid. A little, anyway. But if it works and we win then it’s definitely worth it. Besides, death doesn’t stop me now does it? Not when I’ve got friends like you and Xander around to bring me back…”

“But what if we can’t bring you back? There was only one Urn of Osiris!” Her voice was beginning to crack. The Urn had been smashed by the demon biker gang at the time of Buffy’s resurrection. “And I think Osiris is still pretty pissed at me from last time…”

Buffy interrupted her this time. “Don’t worry Will. I don’t expect you to bring me back if I die. And I don’t want you to,” she added before Willow could interrupt. “I’m not afraid of death. Not at all. I know you guys aren’t too keen on…what’s going on. But it’s something that I have to do. I can’t explain it, but my gut has been telling me for a while now that this needs to be finished.” She smiled at Willow. “And I’d rather finish it on my terms, not his. I hope you understand that.”

“Well,” started Willow. “I know you have that intense Slayer intuition and all, but Dawnie seems to think that you still have that whole death wish thingy going on,” she added the emphasis on death wish thingy.

Buffy laughed loudly at that. So much so that Willow even smiled.

“No, no, no. A definite no. Dawn’s an adult now. I fulfilled my obligation. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love her or that I don’t care about her.” She thought carefully about her next words, “It’s my destiny, Will. I know that I’m supposed to do this. We’re all supposed to do this. Let’s just say it’s all of our destinies. We were destined to meet in Sunnydale and look where it’s brought us today.”

“We’ve come a long way, too, haven’t we?” stated Willow. “I can’t believe all the stuff we’ve been through. It seems like it was only yesterday when I saw my first vamp…”

“And now look at you,” Buffy said with affection. “You can kick some major demon ass. Plus, we couldn’t have closed the Hellmouth without you. You’re a helluva witch to boot.”

“That’s my witchy Willow,” said another voice; it was Xander. He sauntered into the room and took a seat on the coffee table, facing the girls. “So, what are you guys talking about?”

“Just the impending Apocalypse,” answered Willow. “And,” she glanced at Buffy, “mortality.”

“The two go hand in hand,” said Xander. “Nothing says death like a good old fashioned Apocalypse.” He began rubbing his hands together excitedly. “I’m ready to kick some über-ass.”

“As long as you don’t get your über-ass kicked,” joked Buffy.

Xander rose to his feet, feinting that he was insulted. “What a thing to say and from Buffy Summers, no less. Just because I’m not the man I use to be, doesn’t mean that I can’t….”

“Oh Xander, sit down,” laughed Willow as she pulled him back down onto the table.

“Yeah, Xan. You know we’ve all got our butts kicked many times. We’ve just got to make sure that we take out more of them than us,” said Buffy. “Feeling up to the challenge, Mr. Harris?”

“You ladies know damn well that we’ll face whatever nasties are coming for us together,” he replied. “Just like old times.”

“It has been a while, hasn’t it?” asked Willow. “I mean, we used to fight together in all the big battles and a lot of the smaller ones. Now, it’s like we’re sent on different missions by ourselves… or with a gaggle of teenage girls.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” interjected Xander. “Especially the training sessions! There’s nothing like taking a tumble with a pretty….”

“Xander!” Buffy exclaimed with an air of mocked disgust. “They’re too young for you. Besides, in some countries you can be castrated for rolling around with underage girls.”

“Thank God we live in a civilized country,” he replied.

“You can still go to jail,” added Willow.

“Ladies, ladies. There’s no need to be jealous. There’s plenty of me to go around. And FYI, I only fool around with the legal ones,” he answered.

“Demon ones is more like it,” murmured Willow under her breath. At that they all had a good laugh. Even living in Europe, Xander still somehow always ended up with some demon babe.

“I heard that Willow,” he shot back. “My hearing has become highly sensitive since the loss of my eye. Can’t miss anything now.”

“Hey, you know,” started Buffy. “You should see if the Council can make you one of those eyes like Mad Eye Moody has. That could definitely help the cause.”

“Yeah, then I could have X-ray vision to see underneath all those layers of clothes,” his one eye was becoming misty at the thought. “But,” he accepted the reality of the situation, “I really don’t like the whole false eye ball thing. My socket dries out. Nah. Just call me One Eye Harris.” Xander had been such a good sport about that. And Buffy thought that his other senses had become more acute since then, too.

“But,” started Xander again after they had a few laughs. “I must say Buff; it seems to take an Apocalypse before we see you nowadays. What gives? Is it Allandro? Is he more important than us?” he asked teasingly.

Buffy laughed. “Is that what you think it is? Cause I’ve been kicking some demon ass in Rome, thank you very much.”

“And Allandro has nothing to do with that?” asked Willow. “I mean we haven’t really seen you a lot recently.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” stated Buffy. “ItÂ’s just thatÂ… AllandroÂ’s my first real grown up relationship. I mean, I never lived with anyone before. I might have spent the night or something, but never a day after day thing. You had Tara,” she said looking at Willow, then to Xander, “And you had Anya. I mean you guys lived together and got to find out each other’s quirks and stuff. ItÂ’s nice, you know. Waking up next to the one you love every day.”

“So you love him?” asked Xander. Buffy thought for a moment. “You have to think about it?”

“No,” answered Buffy. “I mean, no I don’t have to think about it. And yeah, yeah I do love him. It’s not that passionate love that I had with Angel, but I do love him.”

“What does he think about you being Hellmouth bound?” questioned Xander.

“Obviously, he supports her,” interjected Willow. “Why else would he have given her the amulets?” Willow had some ideas of her own, but she would never share them with Buffy. The thought was always looming in the back of her mind that Allandro was setting Buffy up. It was more than a coincidence that he just happened to have ten very powerful amulets that held the mystic cleansing energy to close the hellmouths. That’s why Willow wasn’t going to miss the chance to be at Buffy’s side when all hell breaks loose. If Allandro had something planned, she’d find out. So far her investigation of him turned up nil. He was clean.

“That’s right,” agreed Buffy. “I don’t know. Sometimes he seems determined for me to do it and then sometimes he seems like he doesn’t want me to. But I’m a big girl; I can make my own decisions. And my mind’s made up.”

“Well, you know we’re behind you a hundred and ten percent,” said Xander. “To the death,” he added. Willow immediately hit him in the arm hard. “Ow. Why did you do that for?” he asked as he rubbed his arm.

“You should have seen it coming,” retorted Willow, who was nudging her head in Buffy’s direction. Trying to be discrete, but failing miserably.

“My peripheral vision isn’t what it used to be,” he was still rubbing his arm. “And we’re all friends here. I don’t see what’s so offensive about….”

“I think its cause I’m probably gonna die, Xander,” said Buffy coolly. “It’s okay,” she continued. “We don’t have to beat around the bush. I’m comfortable about it.”

“Still…” whispered Willow. “It’s an odd conversation to be having.”

“We’ve had weirder ones,” added Xander.

“Enough of that talk,” said Buffy abruptly changing the subject. “Let me tell you what I’ve been thinking. Since this meeting with the ambassadors is going to cause us a delay, why don’t we have one more big party before the war? I mean, we could go to London or Milan or something. Just us… the family…”

“Hey,” interrupted Willow. “We can have a big Buffy birthday bash. It’s right around the corner any way. How does that sound?”

“Perfect,” chimed in both Buffy and Xander at the same time. Since it was Buffy’s birthday, they wanted her to decide where to go. She didn’t want to stray too far from home in case they were summoned back to begin the war or something. But Willow had a solution to that (Buffy really wanted to go to Hawaii). She could open a portal to take them there instantaneously (this was a new skill that Willow had learned to master over the last couple of years). If they were needed back, she could get them back in a jiffy. Their plans were soon interrupted by Andrew, who informed them that the meeting would soon be starting and that they were needed in the Jaffe Conference Room.

Andrew led the way to the conference room that Buffy never heard of. The two large wooden doors were still open when they arrived. The room was massive. The entire chamber was constructed from marble; the floor, walls and ceiling. It was black with wavy white lines running through it that shimmered in the light. It was quite impressive. Seven enormous chandeliers hung from the ceiling and emitted a rather dim light in relation to their size. A mahogany conference table that could comfortably seat one hundred people was situated in the center of the room. A large screen with a map of the world displayed on it was located against the far wall. Giles had a projector sitting on the table.

As Buffy, Xander, and Willow made their way in, Giles called out, “Buffy, over here, please.” Buffy noticed the various people from all over the world milling about the room. Some were picking up objects displayed on the assorted tables dispersed throughout the room. When they heard Buffy’s name, they immediately turned to get a look at the Slayer whose name was renowned throughout the world. Some of them began whispering to each other in their native tongues.

“Scary, isn’t it?” whispered Buffy to her friends. Despite the stares from the foreigners Buffy began making her way towards Giles.

“It’s like a mini-U.N.” added Willow who would smile nervously when she caught someone’s eye.

“Don’t make eye contact,” warned Xander. “Some of these guys look pretty damn evil. They might jinx us or something.” Poor Xander turned his head from side to side to get a good view of all the different people in the room. He gave one the impression of being a bird man.

“Chill out,” Buffy murmured. “Don’t draw attention to us.”

Willow laughed quietly. “Too late,” she glanced at Buffy. “You’re Buffy Summers; you draw attention to yourself just by existing.”

Once they reached Giles, he gave each one of them a name tag. “You’ve got to be kidding,” Buffy said with contemptuous tone. “Giles is this really necessary? I mean… name tags?!” Buffy looked at it with disgust.

“It is necessary,” began Giles with the slightest bit of annoyance in his voice. Buffy looked at him and could tell that he was already frustrated despite the fact that the meeting hadn’t even started. “Just be a good girl and put it on.” He pulled the sticker off and stuck it on her chest. “There you go. Take a seat.”

“Okay daddy,” she mockingly replied in a child’s voice. “But I’m not going to wear your stupid name tag.” That she said in her normal, I’m not going to take any of your shit voice. She peeled the sticker off her shirt, crumpled it up and threw it on the table. “Hello, everybody,” she shouted. “Just want to let you know that I’m Buffy. Buffy Summers. Slayer in charge.” She eyed Giles once again. “See, no need for a name tag. They all know who I am.” With that she smiled and found her a seat. Giles mumbled some very impolite words under his breath.

“Attention! Attention everyone,” shouted Giles. “Will everyone please take their seats?” Groups of people began ambling to available seats. There were representatives from all the countries involved. Some of them had empaths, people who translated English to their native tongues via telepathy. They each stood behind their respective leader. There were also many Slayers, Watchers and members of The Coven. In the end, all the seats were taken. “Very good,” Giles stated as he adjusted his glasses as the room began to settle down. “Distinguished guests,” he started again. Buffy heard Xander yawn loudly in anticipation of yet another one of Giles’s boring lectures. Buffy could empathize with Giles as she got the same reaction from her fellow Slayers all too often.

“We have all been brought together by… um, circumstances in need of our immediate attention. As you have all been made aware, there is a plague designed to wipe out humanity. This plague has a name, The First. The First has existed since before the making of our world. He was cast out thousands of years ago by his brethren for despoiling the newly made world and its occupants.” Giles picked up the apparatus for the projector.

“Before leaving this dimension, in anticipation for the future, he made several Hellmouths in order to slip back into our world in spirit form. He is, at this time, a non-corporal being who can take any shape of the dead that he desires. Our goal is not to destroy The First as that is an impossible task that we cannot undertake just yet. Our objective is simple. We are going to take the war to him by closing the Hellmouths before he can attack us at unawares.” There was a great murmuring amongst the people in the room.

“He’s crazy,” Buffy heard the French ambassador say. He spoke louder, “We live in relatively peaceful times. Why would we want to make a war with something we cannot utterly destroy? It is ludicrous.” A couple of his neighbors nodded in agreement once his words were translated into their own native languages.

Giles cleared his throat. “Ah, yes. Well… um, if we don’t take the fight to him, he will continue to destroy your people. We expect at some point in time that The First will open the remaining Hellmouths simultaneously, which will lead to the end of the world.” Once more there were rumblings from the spectators.

“What proof do you have of that?” asked Sandalio Velázquez, the ambassador from Alajuela Costa Rica. He spoke very good English.

“We have ancient texts that contain prophecies and many seers who have informed us…” Giles response was cut short.

“That is insane,” interrupted Jeannot de Lafayette, the French guy from Orléans. “You speak of tales from unreliable sources. We do not believe in such fairy tales as prophecies and such.” Giles’ frustration began to grow. “This is a complete waste of time.” He rose from his seat.

“Hey,” yelled Buffy. “Sit your ass back down.” She stood up and walked to the end of the table where Giles was. “It’s obvious that you don’t give a damn about your people. Do you really know what a Hellmouth is? What it does?” She looked around at all the strangers who remained silent. “Well, we do.” She said sternly. “The First created a dozen Hellmouths throughout the world,” Buffy decided that she would help Giles with this part of his lecture. “We closed the one in Sunnydale. Ever hear of it? Well, it doesn’t exist any more. It was sucked into hell.” She let her words sink in before continuing.

Picking up a pointer, she referred to the map on the screen. “Eleven remain,” she used her pointer as she spoke again, “The remaining Hellmouths are located in the following places; Cleveland, Ohio; Salzburg, Austria; Dz hul ‘fa, Armenia, Orléans, France; Rio De Janeiro, Brazil; Mosul, Iraq; Chengchow, China; Vologda and Yaroslavl in Russia; Luxor, Egypt and Alajuela, Costa Rica.” Giles clicked the apparatus that controlled the projector and the map was replaced by satellite photographs of the cities in question.

“We have determined the precise location of each and every Hellmouth in these areas,” Giles started this time. Buffy tried to look intimidating in order to keep everyone focused on Giles. Her arms were folded across her chest and if looks could kill, the French guy would be a goner. “Your task is to remove your people to safety by the quickest means possible. Our objective is to have the least amount of fatalities as possible.”

“Excuse me,” said the empath for the Russian ambassador of Vologda. “How are we to get our people to leave their homes without question? What did you do in Sunnydale?”

Buffy answered that question, “Sunnydale had a very active Hellmouth. The First had minions in place to open it at will. The people of Sunnydale sensed that evil and fled on their own.”

“It was rather remarkable,” continued Giles again. “All creatures in the area had a deep sense of foreboding and deserted the town in great numbers. We had very few fatalities with that Apocalypse… Um, but this time, this time we’re going to open the Hellmouths and end this once and for all.”

“That’s fine and all,” the empath Vladimir began again. “But how are we to get our people to leave their homes? We cannot surely disclose the truth of the matter.”

Xander spoke up this time. “Remember Chernobyl?” Everyone looked at him intently. “Most people still do. That would get me out of there faster than you can say ‘nuclear holocaust’.” The room broke out into rumblings once again.

It was the Brazilian ambassador, Epifanio Bolívar, who chimed in at once. “Rio is Brazil’s largest city and tourist attraction. Our economy would plummet. We cannot afford to let our city be destroyed by… some Slayer.” The Council members were disturbed by that statement.

Boutros Fahim, the ambassador from Luxor, agreed. “Quite right Epifanio, quite right. We will not willingly allow our ancient monuments to be destroyed because of you infidels from the west. Warmongers I name you.” He spat on the polished floor. “We will have no part of this.”

“Let me tell you something,” said Buffy who now walked over to the Egyptian. She leaned down looking him directly in the eyes. “We’re gonna do this with or without you. This isn’t a matter for debate. You have the option to get your people out. If you choose not to, we will still proceed on with our plan. Got me?” she shouted in his face. Buffy could see the beads of sweat forming on his forehead.

“We will not let any of your people into our country. No Slayer or any of their associates will be allowed in Egypt. I will see to that,” he spat out.

Buffy glanced at Willow, smiled and continued to speak to Boutros, “And what are you gonna do? Take our passports away? We have means of coming and going that you can’t even fathom. It’s obvious that you don’t know what a Slayer is.”

It had now become apparent that Buffy’s gesture to Willow had more meaning than just a mere glance. Willow had confined the ambassador to his seat with invisible bonds. “What have you done to me?” he cried out as he twisted in his seat. “You are using magicks against me! Help! Help!” Buffy punched the guy across the face, knocking him unconscious.

“Dear Lord,” exclaimed Giles as he pulled off his glasses and wiped them on his handkerchief. “That’s wonderful Buffy. Just fantastic.” His temper was rising. “That’s most excellent for diplomatic relations.”

“I like him better this way,” said Buffy with a cheerful tone to her voice. She looked around the room and put her serious face on again. “Its war people. There’s no time to waste. Act now or die trying. We’re not asking for anyone to fight, we just want to keep the casualties as low as possible. Get your people out!”

Epifanio rose from his chair and said, “Listen to me amigos. It is crucial to our survival that we do not go along with these people. Do you not see their behavior? These Americans are nothing but barbarians. They are out to destroy our way of life and take over the world. They want it all their way. But no more,” he banged his fist on the table. “I say no more of this. We in Brazil are happy with the current state of affairs…”

“So, you’re quite content in having Rio as a breeding ground for demons?” asked Giles angrily. “How many of your people disappear in any given year, Senór Bolívar? Or is it Brazilian custom to offer helpless people to the demons that reside there?”

“How dare you!” retorted Epifanio. “How dare you make such accusations?”

Jordan, to everybody’s amazement, stood up. “You’re a soulless creature yourself,” she declared with an unwaveringly calm voice that meant business. “I could smell it on you when you first arrived here. A spawn of the devil, you are!” Her gaze was fixed upon him and her words were like daggers piercing her enemy’s heart. “I will see to it that the Rio Hellmouth is destroyed, personally! If that means taking millions of people with it, then so be it. Sacrifice is part of the job. My friends, the time has come. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. And as for you…” her voice had become cold. “You shall get your just rewards.” In the next second, Jordan whipped out a knife and threw it across the table and it met its mark right in Epifanio’s throat. The people sitting nearest him quickly scampered from their seats as he made a funny gurgling sound. What shocked people further was that his appearance changed. No Brazilian gent sat in that seat clutching his throat, but a demonic looking beast howling in pain. Jordan flung herself across the table and grasped the knife that stuck from his throat and pulled it out. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. There were cries and gasps throughout the room. Even her fellow Slayers watched in amazement. She grabbed what lanky hair he had and pulled his head back. With one swift motion she severed his head from his body. His limp form fell to the floor as she continued to hold his bleeding severed head in one hand; the knife in the other. She stood on the table showing her trophy to all who were present. “Do you see?” she yelled. “Do you see how they are among us? Demons! They are all around us. They have attained high positions in government and business and are out to destroy us. All of us.” She walked up and down the table as she spoke. Thick gooey black blood was dripping down her arm as she walked. Blood splattered on the others when she would shake the head trying to add emphasis to a point. “This,” she continued, “is what we Slayers do. We have the natural ability to find these…” she looked at the gruesome head in her hand, “vile creatures and destroy them. Now is the time, friends, to rid this world of ours from these devils. This is our world. Let’s take it back.” With that said, she tossed the head across the room, it made a popping sound as it hit the wall. Bone and brain matter splattered onto the marble wall and floor.

Buffy started clapping her hands enthusiastically. Gradually, the entire room burst into applause. For a sixteen year old Jordan sure had a way with words. Giles was still pissed at Buffy for knocking out Boutros, but she didn’t care. This was Jordan’s moment and Buffy wanted it to last a long as possible. She always had a strong liking for the girl. Jordan was loyal in the fight against evil. As she had said to Buffy in the past, “I’ve got nothing to lose. That makes me more dangerous than anyone else.” She was an extraordinary Slayer. No doubt about that.

In a matter of minutes, Mabry with a couple of helpers, came in and hauled out the remains of the representative from Brazil. The Council had known for a while that demons were running the show down there. It was the ideal version of what the Mayor had always wanted for Sunnydale. A feeding ground for demons. It was decided that it was a perfect time to take a break as Mabry needed to clean up the mess. They all went down the hall to a large chamber where they could have a drink and take a breather. There was coffee, tea, soft drinks, booze and wine of all kinds. Everyone of age went straight for the alcohol. After that spectacle, they needed it.

Buffy had walked over to the window and saw that the rain had finally stopped. The wind was still howling and she watched the treetops dancing to and fro. A man approached her from behind.

“Miss. Summers?” he asked quietly. Buffy turned around to face the American ambassador, Colonel Oliver North.

“Yes,” she replied.

“My name is North. My friends call me Ollie.” Buffy said nothing but shook his hand. He continued, “I must say that it is an honor to finally meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you. But then who hasn’t?” He chuckled. “You saved the N.S.A. a few years ago…”

“Yeah, well you know,” she took a sip of wine. “It’s kind of hard to forget that you guys were creating new species of demons. Especially Adam, the triborg.”

“Hey, wait a minute,” he interrupted. “We had nothing to do with The Initiative. That was Walsh who…”

“And where did she get her funding from? Hmm,” she asked.

“We did not allocate any funds for creating… monsters.” He shook his head. “My life’s mission has always been to track down HSTs and to destroy them. I’ve done that my whole career. Yet, when something goes amiss, it’s me who gets blamed.” His tone revealed his anger. “Just like in Nicaragua,” he said that more to himself than to Buffy.

“Whatever,” Buffy said as she started to walk off. She didn’t have much faith in her own government. She had already been down that road before and they treated her like crap. Hell, Walsh tried to have her killed. And she was poisoning Riley and all his military buddies. Screw ‘em, thought Buffy.

“Miss. Summers?” The Colonel followed after her and grabbed her arm. “Please, I’d like to talk to you.”

“I’ll only say this once,” she said through gritted teeth as she pulled her arm from his grasp. “Touch me again, and I’ll show you what a Slayer’s all about. I’m in no mood to deal with the likes of you.” Buffy could feel her temper rising. She was trying to be the perfect role model for the younger Slayers and was making her best attempt at keeping her cool.

“Please,” he began. “I meant no harm. Forgive me for being…”

“A brute?” she asked interrupting him.

He sighed. “YesÂ… forgive me for being a brute. I know that youÂ’re the one whoÂ’s going to Cleveland.” He noticed BuffyÂ’s surprised reaction. “Rupert told me,” he replied in response to her facial expression. “I just want to let you know that the N.S.A. will cooperate with you a hundred percent. We donÂ’t want these, er, Hellmouths in our country despite what some of the others here may say,” he glanced at the Egyptian and Frenchman who were hunched together in a quiet conversation. “IÂ’ve fought the same type of creatures as you, Miss. Summers. I know theyÂ’re attempting to take over the world.”

“Your point being?” she asked exasperatedly.

“Miss. Summers, we have people who are anxious to help you. We have men and women who have trained for many years to deal with these types of, uh, situations. Let me put them at your disposal. They’re more than willing to…”

Buffy interrupted his pleading once again. “Listen, Ollie,” she began. “I donÂ’t need the government’s help. My girlsÂ… theyÂ’ve got more power than your commandos could ever dream of. Thanks, but no thanks. This mission is for us, not you. Go fight your global wars and leave the demon fighting for those who are destined to do it.” With that, Buffy turned on her heel and walked towards Giles, leaving Ollie feeling dejected and useless. His hopes of participating in this war in order to help elevate his status within the N.S.A. were beginning to crumble.

Buffy informed Giles that the meeting was pointless. “It’s over Giles. The Slayers are ready to go when we give the word. Two weeks. Whether these places are evacuated or not, we’re making our move then.” Before Giles could protest she continued, “As for me, I’ve got a birthday coming up. My twenty-fifth. Hard to believe that I may make it there after all.” Buffy knew that most Slayers died before that age. The oldest Slayer recorded in the Watchers Diaries made it to twenty-eight. She smiled, “We’re gonna have a fabulous Buffy bash… in Hawaii, no less. Start packing Giles, we’re leaving first thing tomorrow.”

As Buffy sauntered off with her fellow Slayers and friends, Giles could be heard distinctively mumbling, “The world is doomed!” He gathered the remaining ambassadors and told them that the meeting was over and that they should prepare for the upcoming war in ways that seemed befitting to them.

The gang made call after call attempting to get reservations at any ocean front resort in Hawaii that they could find. They unfortunately didn’t have much luck. Buffy went to her room and called the one person who always came through for her – Allandro. A couple of hours after speaking to him, he called to say that he indeed did find a resort that had room to accommodate the sixty people who would be going. Buffy was delighted and told Allandro to fly to London that evening. Of course he was raring to go and would be there as soon as he could make arrangements with his pilot.

Most of the people going were BuffyÂ’s closest friends within the Council. All the Slayers who were going to be participating in the upcoming battle were there. Not all of them, mind you. Just The Select, as the Council now referred to them (including Buffy). She included those who she just liked to be around. All those who were going were quite excited.

The following morning everyone gathered in the entry hall. It was amazing to see how many suitcases a single girl took with her on a ten day excursion. They were not traveling by airplane or by ship. They were traveling via a portal. “I think,” started Willow as a hush came over the group, “uh, that we should go in groups of ten.” She explained to those who had never traveled by this ‘roadÂ’ the various sensations one would experience. “You’re going to be moving through a vast amount of energy. ItÂ’s painless, but your hair mightÂ… get all staticy.”

Of course a few girls seemed horrified by the thought. “Leave it to you Will,” said Xander. “Upsetting all these poor girls like that.”

Dawn laughed at that statement. “All the more reason for you to comfort them Xander.”

“I hope none of you lovely ladies forgot your thongs!” announced Xander with a very cheerful grin on his face.

“Xander!” chastised Giles. “Will you please keep your undignified thoughts to yourself?” He looked at Willow who was attempting to suppress the fit of giggles that was overcoming her. “Whenever you’re ready Willow.” Giles was dressed like the perfect tourist. It was definitely the Hawaiian looking shirt that was pushing Willow over the edge.

In a few moments, Willow had uttered whatever Latin phrase it was that made a sweeping portal appear in the middle of the hall. Buffy led the first group in. It was hard to describe the sensation of going into the portal other thanÂ… spine-tingling. Literally. Except you tingled all over. You could feel this intense electric sensation around you. It didnÂ’t hurt. It wasnÂ’t hot. It wasnÂ’t cold. It was like being in the middle of swirling lights and then being spat out abruptly. Thank God for sod, thought Buffy as she was helped to her feet by Allandro after landing on the soft grass.

They had landed in a secluded grassy enclosure surrounded by huge native shrubs. The grass smelled as though it was freshly mowed and a cool breeze was felt despite the natural barrier. A wooden gate stood at one end of the enclosure and Buffy made her way towards it as the others kept arriving. It was a pleasant day; the sun was shining down upon them from a clear blue sky.

Buffy opened the gate and the others followed her. She hesitated, not sure of which way to go, when Allandro took charge. He led them into the massive structure and saw to it that everyone was well taken care of. He and Buffy shared the presidential suite. It had an entire wall of windows that overlooked the ocean. More importantly, was the private balcony. It was only seven days until BuffyÂ’s birthday.

The gang basically did whatever they wanted over the next few days. Some went sightseeing but most stayed on the beach frolicking in the water. Buffy worked on her tan and enjoyed spending quality time with her family. Dawn, who was still a little pissed at Buffy, spent a lot of her time conversing with Allandro in Latin. She had become so fluent it was scary. Even Willow only understood a few words here and there. It was during this trip that Dawn announced that she was transferring to Oxford.

“Since there’s no reason to stay in Rome, I might as well go back to England,” she had announced. Stranger still was the fact that Willow and Xander were going too. The realization that her friends had readily accepted her plight and death, made her feel quite solemn. But life goes on. Buffy knew that. But still… it was odd.

January 19th arrived all too soon for Buffy. Her twenty-fifth birthday! All her somber feelings had dissipated. Thoughts of the upcoming war were put out of her mind. Today was her special day. It wasnÂ’t about presents (although she gladly accepted them); it was about being with the people she loved. All she wished for was a birthday that lacked the usual death and mayhem that normally accompanied that day.

Her party was held later that evening in one of the ballrooms. It was awesome, even by BuffyÂ’s standards. Lots of music and dancing with an open bar too! The gang even had BuffyÂ’s birthday cake made in the shape of her scythe. It was very touching. One thing that seemed out of place was WillowÂ’s behavior. Buffy could sense that something was not right. She was watching Kennedy telling some of the girls how she killed an Octo-demon (an eight tentacled beast that feasts on virgins). She was being very animated. Jumping around, kicking, etc. She seemed quite intoxicated.

“C’mon Willow,” said Buffy as she pulled her up from her chair. “Let’s get some fresh air.” Willowed mumbled okay and they headed outside. “How ‘bout a walk on the beach?” suggested Buffy.

“Okay,” replied a despondent Willow. “But it’s your birthday Buffy,” started Willow. “You should be in there enjoying yourself.”

“Who says I’m not?” Buffy responded cheerfully. “Besides, my best friend has a case of the grumpies and needs cheering up. That’s more important, don’t you think?” Buffy was feeling a bit tipsy.

“I suppose,” answered Willow. They made their way down to the surf. Pulling off their shoes they walked along the shoreline letting the waves lap at their feet. It took a while for Willow to open up and tell Buffy what was bothering her.

“It’s Kennedy,” she finally said. Buffy was glad that it was dark and Willow couldn’t see her roll her eyes. She wasn’t fond of Kennedy; she tolerated her for Willows sake. “I don’t think it’s working out. I mean, um…” she hesitated. “I just don’t feel it any more, ya’know? Kennedy’s a nice girl and all, but…” she stopped dead in her tracks.

“You want to break up with her?” asked Buffy.

Willow unleashed her tears. “But how can I? I mean, she’s about to go to war and… and… she could die, Buffy… She probably will. I can’t desert her now… Oh God,” she moaned. “I don’t know what to do. Help me Buffy. Please!” The tears rolled down her cheeks and Buffy’s heart ached for Willow. She hugged her and tried to comfort her.

“Listen Will,” Buffy started as she pulled away from her, looking her straight in the eyes. “This is my advice to you. Wait. Don’t do anything now. In a few days, we’re going into battle. Don’t break up with her before then. Wait and see what happens after.”

Willow began to calm down. “You went through this with Angel, didn’t you? Right before the Mayors’ Ascension?”

“Yeah,” Buffy recalled all too clearly. “And it hurt like hell. Don’t do that to Kennedy. If you want to end it… fine. But wait until after the war. She needs to stay focused.” Buffy paused. She hated what she was about to say, but it needed to be said. “If she doesn’t come back, well… I’m sorry Will, but you won’t have to confront her about… your feelings. Let’s just see what happens, okay?”

“But wouldn’t that make the next few days a lie? I’d be deceiving her,” she said.

Buffy sighed. “Sometimes lies are necessary. Sometimes we don’t want to hurt the ones we love so it’s better to bend the truth a little.”

“Bend the truth? This is more than just bending the truth Buffy,” she whimpered. “She’s my girlfriend. And… and I’m living a lie.”

“Trust me Willow. Just wait.” Buffy said confidently. They continued walking until Willow felt a little better. She didn’t go back to the party, but went to bed instead. Three days later they departed Hawaii and went back to cold and dreary England.

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