It had been several years since Willow Rosenburg first died. Of course, she had died three more times since then, but the first time was always the most life changing. The first time was when she learned she was an Immortal.
Gone was the shy, awkward computer geek with long, red hair and clothes, as Cordelia liked to say, from Sears. In its place was a lean, muscular woman, with short-cropped hair, who wore dark khakis, poet's shirts in all colors and soft soled boots. She also always wore a thigh length, light brown, suede jacket.
If anyone were to compare photos of how Willow had been to what she was now, they would say the main difference was the eyes. Willow's eyes had seen death before she first died, but afterwards she caused death. She stopped counting the number of Immortals she had killed after the twentieth. Her eyes reflected a hardness that scared many people, new friends and enemies alike.
She had a good teacher when it came to learning the Game. Duncan MacLeod, a 406 year old Immortal from Scotland, taught her the finer arts of swordplay. He also taught her to use her hacking skills to create a new identity, how long to keep that identity and how to live now that she was no longer 'Willow Rosenburg.'
But what Duncan did not teach her was how to live with herself every time she beheaded another Immortal. Each time she fought and won, a little piece of her soul died.
Willow stood ready, waiting for the man to strike. Her face covered in decorative paint. Her sword felt like an extension of her right arm, perfectly balanced, made of layered steel with an ornate ivory handle. In her left hand was a small, three bladed sai.
The tall, heavyset Immortal swung his sword at Willow's arm. Willow parried his swing, leading him in a series of moves to position him for the kill.
The male Immortal brought his sword down, swinging towards Willow's left side. She brought up her sai and captured the steel within the three blades. With her other arm, she quickly stabbed the Immortal in the heart.
The man looked stunned as his life's blood flowed along Willow's sword. She did not move her weapon until he was dead on the ground. Then, with one fell swoop, she cleaved his head from his body, releasing the Quickening.
Willow had killed all her opponents in a similar fashion, calling the move "Willow’s touch," maneuvering them so she may catch their swords with her sai and then pierce their hearts. It was one way she knew how to stay alive, given her size in comparison to her opponents. She knew of other ways, as well, but Duncan had taught her some honor in fighting.
She retrieved the fallen Immortal's sword and left the dark alley, heading for her home.
"Willow, how are you?" Duncan MacLeod asked his protege.
"Good. I have another sword for you," she said.
"Another one?" Duncan asked. "You sure work quickly."
"Well, I keep getting challenged. You know I don't like to fight if I can avoid it," she said.
"So, want me to stop by with it for an appraisal?"
"Sure. I'll up for another hour or so."
"See you soon."
Willow pulled up on her bike in front of Duncan's antique shop, the familiar tingling in her head told her another Immortal was nearby. Entering the shop with her package, she quickly scanned the area for the Immortal.
"Willow!" Duncan said, moving out of the back room.
"Hey, Mac," Willow responded in kind.
"It's good to see you again. I'm just finishing up with another customer," Duncan said.
Willow waved her hand at him. "Go on and finish. I'll just take a gander around the shop."
Willow slowly made her way to what was known jokingly to her and Duncan as "Willow's Wall." Swords of various shapes and sizes hung on the wall, from rapiers to samurai swords. Each one was taken by Willow from its previous owner.
Willow stood deep in thought as she stared at the wall. *So many dead,* she said to herself. *And by my own hands.* She did not notice the man walking up behind her.
"Interested in antique swords?" a deep voice asked from behind her.
Without turning, because he was no threat to her since he was not Immortal, she answered him. "Yes, you could say that," she said, her face turning up in a smirk. She reached over and rubbed one hand along her favorite 'prize,' an eighteenth century broad sword, with painfully miniscule details etched into the blade.
"Are you a dealer?" the man asked.
"More of a middle-woman. I get the swords and then sell them to Duncan. He, in turn, sells them to whoever," she replied.
"Are you a thief?" the man asked.
Willow snorted. "Not likely," she said, still facing the wall.
"I'm sorry if I offended you," the man said.
"That's ok. No harm, no foul," Willow began as she turned towards the speaker. "Lots of people ask..."
Her mouth stopped moving and gaped at the man who stood before her. She ran her eyes over his body and his face, taking in the familiar details. "A-Angel?"
Angel jerked his gaze towards the woman he was making idle chit-chat with. He surveyed her short hair, her stature and finally rested on her features. Recognizing the female before him, he gasped. "Willow?"
Willow nodded, speechless towards the vampire before her, her heart pounding in her chest.
"How...why...what..." Angel stammered. He reached a finger out and touched her cheek. "You're alive."
"Its...its you," she said, bringing her hand up to his.
They stood there like that for several moments.
"I take it you two know each other?" Duncan asked from the doorway.
Willow and Angel jumped apart at the sound of his voice.
"Yes...I mean...we did...before," Willow began as she gestured with her arms. She was still holding the wrapped sword from her most recent fight, swinging it around and hitting Angel in the chest.
"Hey, watch it!" Angel said, pushing the cloth covered article away from him.
"Oh, sorry," Willow smiled apologetically. She handed the sword to Duncan. "Here."
"Thanks. Did you know..." he began.
Willow shook her head. "No. He didn't introduce himself."
Angel watched Willow with awe as she conversed with Duncan. He did not understand what they were talking about, but at that moment, he didn't care. Willow was alive!
"Well, then, I'll let you two catch up on old times," Duncan said with a pointed look at Willow.
"Thanks, Mac," Willow said, moving towards the exit of the shop. "Catch you later."
Angel said a quick good-bye to Duncan and followed Willow out the door.
Duncan shook his head. *Poor Willow,* he thought as he examined the sword. *I wonder how she is going to explain all this.*
Angel followed Willow's bike on his own to her apartment. She had rented the two bedroom place with money borrowed from Duncan. She repaid him soon afterwards by selling him the swords she 'acquired' and by working at a local computer firm designing software.
"Nice place," Angel said, taking in the tastefully decorated apartment after she invited him in. The living room had a plaid loveseat and rocking chair facing an entertainment center which was equipped with large screen TV, VCR, and stereo. A small coffee table and end table was piled with magazines and books. One of the bedrooms was set up with a state of the art computer and accessories. In one corner of the room was a table with various oils and rags on it. Angel noticed a sword resting place sitting on the surface.
After the tour, Willow motioned for him to have a seat and went into the kitchen. She returned moments later with a can of soda and sat down in the rocking chair, flinging one leg over the arm. "So..." she said trailing off.
Angel looked at her, still not believing his eyes.
"Twenty questions time?" she asked him with a small smile.
Angel smiled slightly in return. "I guess so." He shrugged. "Why don't I tell you why I'm here, and then you can tell me why you're alive."
Willow nodded. The last time she had seen Angel was when she had helped Giles and the others bring him back from hell. She, in turn, had died that very night for the first time. She remembered waking up in the morgue, disoriented, only to find out she was suppose to be dead. She met Duncan that night, as well.
"I'm here because Giles asked me to talk to Mr. MacLeod to help us in Sunnydale. He is suppose to be in possession of an enchanted sword that can defeat the demon we are currently facing," Angel said in a rush.
"Enchanted sword?" Willow asked.
"A spell was placed on it by Merlin himself, supposedly, to fight and defeat the demon, Cardon. He was let lose on Sunnydale by Cordelia," Angel said.
Willow laughed at that. "How did Cordelia manage to do that?"
"According to Giles, it had something to do with virgins and chemicals found in hairspray bottles," Angel replied, laughing as well. "Needless to say, by mutual agreement, virginhood became a thing of the past with the group." Old pain flashed in his eyes.
Willow noticed the flash of pain, but chose to ignore it, knowing it was about Buffy and their first time together. "How is everyone?"
"They're doing ok. It's weird not having you there, though. Giles had to learn to use the computer, which he despises, for research. Cordelia helps him when she can. She and Xander do the bulk of the research while Buffy and Giles are training. I help out when I can," he said.
Willow was silent as Angel filled her in about the past several years. She was saddened by the thought of the hurt her 'death' caused her friends.
"Willow?" Angel asked, shaking her out of her thoughts. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah. I'm fine," Willow said, taking a sip of her drink. "I suppose you want to know about me now, huh?"
Angel nodded. "If it's not a problem..."
"No problem. Actually, it's very simple. I am Immortal. Therefore, I cannot die unless someone cuts off my head."
"You're Immortal? As in, you're going to live forever?" Angel asked.
"Yep. Unless, like I said, someone cuts off my head," Willow replied.
Angel shook his head. "But why did you leave?"
"Well, technically, I was dead. Had been for several hours. Mac explained to me about being an Immortal and all it entailed and I decided it would be better off if I stayed dead," she said. "Plus, I didn't want to put my parents through the pain of losing a daughter again."
Angel disagreed. "They would have loved to have you alive, no matter what, Willow."
Willow just shrugged.
Angel was amazed and appalled at her nonchalance about her family and friends feelings. "How could you!" he suddenly yelled, rising quickly from his seat. "We all thought you were dead! I never got to thank you! I never got to tell you how much you meant to me! No one else did either!"
Willow just sat there, letting him yell. Her eyes held the same cold hardness as usual.
"Are you finished?" she asked quietly when Angel stopped shouting.
Angel, taken aback by her quiet statement and the coldness in her eyes, decided drastic measures were in order. He stomped over to where she sat and boldly picked her up as if she weighed nothing.
"How could you?" he asked, silent, bloody tears falling down his cheeks. He crushed Willow to him, holding her tight.
Willow was astonished by his tears and allowed him to hold her close, reveling in the feel of his body. *This feels so good,* she thought, soaking in his hardness. *I don't let anyone close anymore, except for Mac.*
Angel's thoughts ran through his mind as he held Willow. *She's alive!* he thought, running his hands along her back and through her short hair.
"Um...Angel?" Willow's muffled voice said from his chest.
"Hmmm?" he replied, not letting go.
"Do you mind? I can't breathe."
"Oh." Angel loosened his hold, but did not break the hug. He looked down into her face. "Willow, I missed you."
Willow's breath caught in her throat. Emotions long buried threatened to overflow. She shrugged off his hold and turned away from him to compose herself.
"How long are you in town?"
Angel, startled by the change in subject, answered hesitantly. "I'm not too sure. It depends on Duncan."
Willow nodded, her back still to him. "You're welcome to stay here."
"Thank you," Angel said, reaching for her again.
"No problem," Willow said, moving out of his reach. "I have things to do before bed, so if you excuse me..."
Angel sighed to himself. "Ok. Don't mind me, I can entertain myself. Thank you."
Willow nodded and went into the computer room, closing the door behind her.
Angel stood in the doorway, watching her work. He noticed that she had shed her suede coat. He watched the movements of her shirt as she polished the stainless steel blade. He studied the physical difference of the Willow who sat before him now and the one in his memory. *How she has changed,* he thought as she put oil onto the blade. *Gone is the sweet, innocent, lithe girl. In her place is this tough, muscular, woman with dead eyes.*
He moved away from the door and settled onto the couch. He last thoughts as he drifted off to sleep were about how he could help bring the life back into Willow's eyes.
The time Angel spent with Willow passed relatively quickly. The had built a wary camaraderie with each other, keeping to neutral topics. Duncan came by for dinner several times, talking history with Angel after Willow explained to her mentor that Angel was a vampire.
"Willow," Duncan said as she ushered him into her apartment. "I need to talk with you."
"Sure, Mac," Willow said. "Angel ran out to get himself something to 'eat' so we're all alone."
Duncan nodded his head and began. "Willow, did Angel tell you why he was in town?"
"Yeah. He said he needed an enchanted sword to defeat Cardon the demon," Willow said.
"Did he also tell you that only an Immortal can wield the sword?" he asked her.
Willow shook her head. "No. He might not have known, though I doubt it. Giles was always a thorough researcher."
"This means that I must go with him back to Sunnydale, Willow," Duncan said.
"Yes. And there I'm bound to be involved with your old friends..." he said meaningfully.
Willow looked at her only friend. "What do you mean?"
"I just don't want it to be awkward for you, knowing that I'm going to be involved in your past," he replied.
Willow took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "If you must, you must," was all she said.
Duncan looked at his young friend and her lifeless eyes. He then made his decision. "Unless, that is, you want to go."
"Well, you are an Immortal, too," Duncan said.
"I-I-I can't go back!" she sputtered. "They think I'm d-dead! I've put that l-life behind m-m-me!"
"Willow," Duncan said, holding up his hands. "I think maybe you should go back."
Willow looked questioningly at Duncan. "You do?"
"Yes. I do. You'll have to be careful, though, so people don't recognize you," Duncan replied.
"But how am I suppose to help if I can't be seen?" Willow asked.
"You think he'd go for it?"
"I think so. He seems to care for you very much," Duncan said. "Why don't you think it over. In the meantime, give this sword to Angel and tell him to call me."
Willow nodded and watched her friend leave, examining the sword he had given her. It was a simple blade, held in place with a plain, cloth covered hilt. It was slightly heavier than her blade, but she held it easily. She dropped into an offensive crouch and went into a series of practice moves.
Angel entered the apartment to see the flashing sword in front of Willow. He watched her gracefulness and fluidity as she battled an invisible opponent.
"Impressive," Angel said when she stopped. "You're very good."
Willow smiled wryly at him. "All part of the Game."
"The part of being Immortal which I despise," Willow replied, moving towards the
bedroom. She laid the sword on the workbench and picked up her own.
"This is my blade. Remember the swords I was looking at in Mac's antique shop? That was my "Wall." I killed each of the men and women who wielded those swords."
"You killed them?"
"Yep. All part of the Game. 'There can be only one,' as Mac is fond of quoting. It's kill or be killed," Willow said with a shrug.
"And you're ok with it?" Angel asked.
"No. But that's my life."
Angel studied Willow silently. He was saddened by what she told him. His innocent Willow was no more.
Willow broke into Angel's silence. "I'm going with you."
"I'm going with you back to Sunnydale. Mac says that only an Immortal can wield this sword, and since I happen to be an Immortal..."
"No, Willow, it's too dangerous," Angel said.
"Danger is my middle name," she replied with an evil smile.
Willow followed Angel on her bike, loving the feel of the powerful machine between her legs, her brown suede coat flying behind her. As pre-arranged, they ended their journey in Sunnydale at Angel's apartment.
Willow climbed off her bike. "Still looks the same," she commented slinging her travel bag over her shoulder.
Angel smiled and led her into his apartment. The leather chair and couch sat before her, as it always did. She looked around, noticing nothing new.
Angel walked back to his bedroom and Willow followed. This was the same, as well, except for a framed picture on the wall. She moved closer to examine it. It was a drawing of Buffy, Xander, Cordelia, Giles and the old Willow, seated around the table in the library in various modes of research.
She smiled sadly and touched herself in the picture. "When did you do this?"
Angel looked at the picture she was touching. "Soon after I returned and you...died."
Willow nodded and moved away from the picture in question. "So, when do you meet with the gang?"
"I'm suppose to meet them tomorrow night. Are you sure you don't want me to..."
"No." Willow said firmly. "I don't want them to know I'm still alive."
Angel nodded in reluctant acceptance. "Is there anything you need?"
"No, I'm fine. I'm just going to practice with this new sword, then hit the hay," Willow replied.
"Ok. Then I'm going to go out for awhile."
"See ya," Willow said, already engrossed in removing the sword from its protective
Angel closed his eyes for a moment, then left.
"Hey Angel! You're back!" Buffy said, as she greeted her old boyfriend. "When did you get in?"
Angel looked around the cemetery as he replied. "Just a few minutes ago. I needed to clear my head from the trip, so I thought I'd come by and see how the action was."
"It's pretty dead, pardon my pun," Buffy said. "You'd think after all this time being the Slayer I'd be used to boring nights."
Angel chuckled at her comment. He knew that she secretly lived for the boring nights as an excuse to get out of patrolling. "Come on. I'll walk you to the Bronze."
"I'd thought you'd never ask."
The former couple walked in peace to the only club in Sunnydale. The spotted Xander and Cordelia sitting at a table drinking cappuccino.
"Greetings deadboy, Buffy," Xander said, raising his cup. "Want some?"
"No, thanks," Buffy replied. She and Angel sat down next to the couple.
"So, how's things?" Cordelia asked.
"Ok. I got the sword Giles wanted," Angel replied.
"Really? What's it look like?" Buffy asked.
"Just a very plain sword. In fact, rather a boring one, except in Wil...er...a swordsman's hands," Angel said.
"What happens then?"
"It looks graceful," he said with a faint smile on his face, remembering Willow's practice earlier in the week.
"Earth to Angel. Come in, Angel," Buffy said, waving her hand in front of his face.
Angel gave her a sheepish look.
"Ooh...Angel got a new crush?" Xander asked, rubbing his hands together.
Angel shook his head. "No. I just ran into an old friend while I was in Seacover."
"Old as in vampire old?" Cordelia asked.
"No, not that old. Just someone I used to know and didn't realize how much I missed," he replied.
"Xander's right. You do have a crush!" Buffy said, laughing. It had been a while now since they had decided to stop being a couple. Both Angel and Buffy had moved on emotionally, but continued to be friends.
Angel blushed, a difficult task for a vampire.
"So does this mystery woman have a name?" Xander asked.
Angel, knowing he was getting into deep water, quickly stood to leave. "I hate to leave, guys, but..."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. You just don't want us to play twenty questions," Buffy said, smiling at her friends.
Angel just nodded his head at the group. "See you tomorrow night."
Angel let himself into the apartment to the sound of a techno beat. The music was accompanied by Willow's swordplay. He watched as she ducked and weaved, the blade of her sword flashing before her in intricate patterns. Her body was covered in a fine sheen of perspiration, her muscles quivering in exertion. She was wearing a pair of skimpy running shorts and a sports bra, her feet bare.
Angel inhaled sharply at the vision in front of him. He continued to watch, fascinated, as the tempo of the music slowed and changed into a new tempo. Willow's movements changed with the beat, as well, slowing down into an erotic dance. Angel's body hardened in response to the sight before him.
Willow had seen Angel return out of the corner of her eye, but she did not care. She let the music flow over her and through her body as she moved to the rhythm. She continued this way until the music stopped and an aroused silence filled the room. She turned towards Angel, breathing heavily, sword loose in her hand.
Angel watched her chest rise and fall with each breath she took. Unable to help himself, he moved forward until he was standing toe to toe with her.
Willow looked up into his face, her heartbeat increasing with excitement. She licked her lips in anticipation. She heard Angel moan deep in his chest and saw him bend towards her.
Angel couldn't stand it any longer. He bent his head and placed his lips to hers, tasting the saltiness of her sweat. She shivered in response. Emboldened, he deepened the kiss, plunging his tongue into her mouth.
Willow kissed him back, meeting his every move with one of her own as their tongues dueled. She leaned in closer to him, feeling his chest through his shirt.
Angel's stomach quivered under her touch. He quickly scooped her up into his arms and brought them to the bedroom.
"Willow?" Angel quietly asked later, raising himself up to look at her face. "Was this...was this ok to do?"
Willow nodded. "It was very ok to do." Then she giggled.
Angel, relieved that he didn't overstep his bounds, laughed in return.
"Are you sure you don't want to come with me?" he asked again.
"Yes. I'm sure. Now get, you're suppose to be there in a few minutes," Willow replied before kissing him soundly.
"Keep kissing me like that and I'll never leave," Angel murmured.
Willow laughed and shoved him out the door. "Go."
As soon as he was gone, Willow went into the bathroom and pulled out her makeup kit.
Angel arrived at the high school library right on time, despite his prolonged good-bye to Willow. He greeted his friends and then proceeded to tell them about the sword.
"...It can only be wielded by an Immortal," he said. "In fact, I think only an Immortal is able to pick it up."
"So, does that mean you're going to kill the demon?" Buffy asked.
"Um...no. Actually, I'm not the right kind of 'immortal' that can pick it up," Angel replied.
Xander, Cordelia, Buffy and Giles just looked at him.
"What you're saying then is...we're screwed?" Xander asked, tactless as always.
"No. I have an Immortal friend who is willing to do this for us," Angel replied.
"What's the catch?"
"No catch. She said she'd do it, and there's no talking her out of it once she puts on her resolve face," Angel said, thinking about Willow.
Xander turned pale at Angel's comment. "Her 'resolve face'?"
"Yeah, you know how she is..." Angel started to say as he turned to Xander. He trailed off when he noticed his friend's face. "I mean...that is...she reminds me of Buffy - stubborn as always."
"Well, in any case, I am glad your friend is willing to help. Will we be meeting her soon?" Giles asked, rubbing his glasses clean.
"I don't know. I asked if she wanted to come tonight, but..." Angel started to say when he heard the library doors open behind him. He turned and looked at the intruder.
"Can I help you?" Giles asked politely, looking at the figure in the doorway. She was wearing black khaki's, a black turtleneck and soft soled, black boots. Her trademark medium brown, thigh length, suede jacket was over her petite muscular form. Her short red hair lay in contrast to the make up on her face. The top half of her face was white, with black slashes across the eyes. A serpent's head traveled up her neck from under her shirt and onto her cheek. Her blood red lips stood out in the lighting. A multitude of earrings ran up each ear. Around her waist was a scabbard holding the enchanted sword.
Willow smiled at the looks she got from her friends. Of course, they wouldn't recognize her with the makeup on, but just to see them again made her heart sing. She gestured to Angel. "I'm with him," she said, deepening her voice so as not to be Willow-like.
Angel closed his mouth with a snap when he heard Willow's voice. He knew it was her from the brown jacket, but the change was so drastic, he didn't know what to say.
Giles turned to Angel and raised his eyebrow. "Um..." Angel said. "This is the friend I was talking to you about. The Immortal."
Willow bowed slightly as the group still stared. She looked up from her bow and smirked at them.
"Hi," she said.
"Hey," Buffy said, shaking herself out of her stupor. "Are we rude much? Sorry about that. I'm Buffy. This is Xander, Cordelia, Giles and you know Angel."
"Yeah. I know Angel very well," Willow replied with a slight smile.
Angel cleared his throat. "Everyone, this is Willo...Willomina. Will, this is everyone."
Willow glared sharply at him. *That was close,* he thought to himself as Willow sauntered up to him.
"We had a friend named Will once," Xander said quietly from his seat. Willow turned towards Xander and saw the sad expression on his face.
"Really? What happened?" Willow asked.
Angel looked at her strangely when she asked this. She just shrugged and smiled at him with clenched teeth.
"She...she died several years ago," Buffy explained, reaching down and laying her hand on Xander's.
"Oh. Too bad. Sounds like you miss her," Willow said.
"Yes. We do. A lot," Giles said, removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes. "Angel tells us you're the Immortal who can wield the enchanted sword," he said, changing the subject.
"That's right. Immortal's my name, slayage is my game," Willow said.
Buffy gasped when she heard this. Willow turned towards Buffy. "What?"
"Um...nothing. What you said just sounded familiar, that's all," Buffy said, looking at Giles.
"So, care to explain more about the baddie I'm up against? Cardon, I think Angel called him?" Willow asked. She folded her arms across her chest and leaned against the counter casually.
"Yes. C-Cardon. A demon who's skin is so thick it can only be penetrated by one of Merlin's enchanted swords. However, I did not read anything about an Immortal being the only one who could wield it," Giles said.
"That's what Mac told me, anyway, about the Immortal wieldage," Willow said. "He was going to come down here, but since I knew Angel, I figured I'd come instead."
"You look rather puny to be able to lift a sword, no offense," Cordelia said.
Willow laughed, true merriment dancing in her eyes. "Pure Cordelia," she murmured under her breath. "Do you want to try to pick it up?" she asked, unsheathing the sword and laying it on the counter.
"Who me? And get all oily?" Cordelia responded.
Buffy, because of her exceptional Slayer hearing, heard what Angel's friend said under her breath. Deciding not to make an issue of it, she walked over to the counter and tried to pick up the sword. "Hey! I can't lift it!"
Willow smirked at Buffy. She reached out and plucked it back off the counter easily, sliding it back home. "Like I said, only an Immortal can use it."
"Let me see if I understand. You, Will, are an Immortal, but not a vampire?" Giles asked.
"That's right, Giles. Destined to live forever unless some idiot decides to decapitate me," Willow responded.
"Bummer," Buffy said. "Decapitation is so gross."
"Kinda hard to eat that way, too," Willow said, cracking a joke. Everybody laughed, the tension leaving the room.
The gang left the library together, heading out into the clear night. Willow went over to her bike parked at the curb.
"Is that yours?!" Xander asked.
"Yeah. Had it for awhile now. She’s a sweet piece of machinery," Willow replied, caressing the seat lovingly. Suddenly she looked up and off into the distance, her senses telling her another Immortal was nearby. "Shit," she said under her breath. "Guys, stay here. I’ll be right back."
Willow moved away from the group towards the back of the school. There a tall, muscular man stood casually, sword visible. Willow unbuckled the sword from around her waist and let it fall to the ground. She approached the man, pulling her sword from under her suede jacket, letting it fall to the ground as well. "Do you issue a challenge?" she asked, pulling her sai in her left hand. Unbeknownst to her, her former friends were watching from a distance, prepared to assist Angel’s mysterious friend.
"I do. I am Martin Vanderwall. Prepare to lose your head," Martin said, bringing up his sword.
"Not in this lifetime," Willow replied, bringing up her sword as well. "I am Willow Rosenburg. Prepare to eat my blade."
"Willow?" Buffy whispered. She looked at Angel, tears in her eyes, when her slayer enhanced hearing picked up the name. He nodded his head and held his finger to his lips, indicating she should keep it quiet.
The clang of steel against steel echoed out into the street. The flash of the blades hitting one another creating lightning sparks of energy. The two fighters danced on, dueling to the death.
The group watched as Willow defended herself artfully against a man twice her size. Suddenly, they gasped collectively, as Willow’s stomach was pierced with the blade.
Willow grunted in pain as blood rushed from her open wound. Knowing she was dying, she had to move quickly. She feigned injury with her left arm, leaving her neck exposed. Martin took the bait, and swung his sword to cleave his head. In her patented move, she thrust her sai up, catching the blade. Quickly, she thrust her sword point into her opponent’s chest, piercing his heart. But, unlike him, she did not remove her sword. When he fell to the ground, dead, Willow lifted her blade with what little strength she had left. "There can be only one," she said as she brought her sword down.
Everyone watched in silence as Willow beheaded the strange man. The started to run to her, when the lightning struck. Blue bolts of energy flew everywhere, centering their attack on Willow’s form. She jerked with each hit, dropping her beloved blade to the ground. Suddenly, it was over. Willow turned towards the group, looking at her friend’s concerned and questioning faces, fell to the ground and died.
"Willow!" Angel shouted running to her still form. The others ran after him, wondering why he shouted their long dead friend’s name. Buffy reached him first, and saw him cuddle the pale, bleeding form against his body. "No, no, no, no, no…" he said over and over.
"Angel?" Buffy said quietly as she checked for Willow’s pulse. "She’s gone."
"No. She can’t be gone! She’s Immortal!" Angel said fiercely, brushing Willow’s short hair away from her face.
By this time, Xander, Cordelia and Giles joined them. "Um…Angel? Why did you scream Willow’s name back there?" Xander asked with his usual bluntness.
"You’re hearing things, Xander," Buffy said, keeping her old friend’s secret. "He yelled Willomina. It just sounded like Willow."
"Oh," Xander said, leaning closer. "Is she ok?"
Just then, Willow took a deep, shocking breath, returning to the land of the living. "Shit, I hate that," she said, looking up at the people surrounding her. "How long have I been gone?"
"Only a few minutes," Angel replied, placing a kiss on her brow. "But it seemed like a lifetime."
"I told you that I couldn’t die unless someone took my head," she said, sitting up. She rubbed her newly healed stomach and groaned.
"Will?" Buffy asked looking at her friend. "I think you have some explaining to do."
Willow looked at Buffy and saw that her old friend knew it was her, Willow Rosenburg, back from the dead. She sighed. "Ok. I guess I should explain. But can we move this back to Angel’s place. I’d like to get cleaned up before I face Cardon."
When they returned to Angel’s, Willow proceeded to tell the group what being an Immortal entails. After that, she took a shower and changed clothes and returned to the living room to drop the bombshell.
"Hi guys," she said softly from the doorway.
They looked up and saw Will, sans makeup, and realized it was their old friend Willow Rosenburg.
"Willow!" Xander shouted, jumping up and throwing his arms around his best friend, tears streaming down his face.
"Xander, your squishing me," she said, pushing herself away from him.
"Oh, sorry, but, hey! You’re alive!" Xander said. "Look, she’s alive!"
Willow steps away from the people trying to hug her. Angel rescued her by pulling her down next to him on the chair. She smiled thankfully at him.
"Are you going to tell us what happened, Willow?" Giles asked, wiping the tears of joy from his eyes.
Willow filled them in on her life since she first died, leaving out bits and pieces, including her and Angel’s recent relationship. When she was done, the room was filled with an uncomfortable silence.
Xander was the first to break it. "But why? Why leave us hurting so much when you are obviously alive?"
"Xander, it’s just something I had to do. I made a choice and I’m glad I did what I did." Willow said.
"But that’s…that’s…mean!" Xander yelled.
Willow just looked at him with cold, dead eyes.
After everyone had left Angel’s apartment, Willow climbed into bed wearily.
"Willow?" Angel said from the doorway. Willow looked up at him and motioned for him to join her.
"Are you ok?" he asked softly, joining her beneath the covers.
"Just love me," she replied, kissing him.
The fight with Cardon seemed almost anticlimactic to Willow. She ran into him the next evening and killed him easily with the enchanted sword, using her growing skills as a sword-woman.
However, the ‘fight’ with her old friends was much more difficult. They could not understand why she did not tell them she was still alive, why she let them hurt and grieve for her. She tried to explain that she was a different person now, that the Willow Rosenburg they knew no longer existed, but only Angel seemed to understand.
Angel. He became a rock for her to lean on and, for the first time in years, she allowed herself to become close to someone. Over time, they fell in love and formed a lasting relationship. One that remained strong for hundreds of years.