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The Passing of the Crone

Title: The Passing of the Crone
Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Character/Pairing: Willow, OCs, brief mentions of other pairings, including Willow/Tara, Spike/Buffy, and Angel/Buffy
Rating: PG-13/T
Challenge/Prompt: bad_swa Bingo: Photograph
Warning(s): Character Deaths, Future AU
Word Count: 2,000
Date Written: 31 May, 2016
Summary:
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters within belong to Whedon, not the author, and are used without permission.




They gather around her every time she brings out this old book, so she brings it out often. The same questions are always asked, sometimes by new faces, sometimes by old. Her coven's lives are always fast paced, and the children change. Some grow older, but too many people die despite the best protections of the Witches, Slayers, Watchers, and even Vampires who are now fighting the good fight. The faces have changed, but the stories remain the same -- and she knows them all by heart.

Her heart has grown weary in the last few weeks, though. She misses her friends more and more. The world they live in is not the same as it was when she was a child or even a young Witchling. Too much has changed, and although a lot of it has improved, not all of what has changed has been improvements. She takes comfort in the smiling faces of those who surround her, and the fact that they smile often only to please her is not lost on her.

Being the crone has responsibilities. She has seen much, far too much. It is not just her pleasure but her duty as well to pass on the tales to the next generations, and she has done her best to do so. That's why, after the ceremonies and battles held on every full moon (the ceremonies to gain power and to put more good into their world, and the battles because there's always some kind of enemy they must fight to save the world from), she gathers the young ones to her. Some of the repeated questions are painful, but she's ready for them.

It's always the youngest who ask the hardest questions, and tonight is no different. There have been the usual queries about the other grandparents of this lot, the descendants of her friends who she misses so dearly, Buffy, Xander, Dawn, Charles, and even Faith who claimed she'd never have a kid. She always told them she'd use a coat hanger first, but surprises happen and they're about saving lives, not taking them.

But now coming the harder questions. She's always fielded the inquiries about Buffy, Heaven, resurrections, and from whence Dawn really came. It's a young boy with bright blue eyes who asks the first question. "Granny Willow," he begins for they all call her their grandmother despite the fact that she's had no children of her own blood, "you have pictures of everybody but Spike."

"And Angel," a girl adds. Leave it to the girls, Willow thinks, to think of the one with the Angelic face. He's still charming unsuspecting girls even after all these decades.

"That's because they couldn't be photographed, dummies," one of the older children retorts. Willow's calm look from hardening, green eyes silences the boy immediately.

"Well, it is," his friend insists, and she has to smile again. She always likes to see best friends stick up for each other. They remind her of herself and Xander especially but Buffy as well. It was their friendships that carried them through battles that other Slayers, not to mention mere humans, would not have survived under normal circumstances.

"What were they?" the first boy asks.

"You know what they were."

He makes a face, and Willow remembers suddenly that this lad is the youngest of the coven's children currently, other than the baby that Abigail just had on the last new moon. "No, I don't," the child is saying.

"They were -- "

"They were Angels," Willow interrupts with a fond, reminiscent smile, "of another type."

The blonde child's face screws up in confusion. "What do you mean?" he asks.

"They were heroes," she explains further, still gently, "when they didn't have to be and when everything inside of them strove not to be. They overcame the evils that were inside of them and helped to save the world many, many times. They gave their existences saving the world more than once for each."

"Granny Willow, I don't understand."

"They were Vampires, my child." The boy gasps, but she continues, "Vampires with a soul. The first and, I fear, the last of their kind. So they could not be photographed. But they were two of the bravest heroes I ever knew." She wishes they could have had their pictures taken. It would be nice to be able to hold photographs of those two of her friends along with all the others.

"Is it true," one of the older girls, one named Anne after Buffy herself and who, Willow knows, possesses every bit as high fantasies as Giles once claimed Buffy had about being a Slayer and still having a life outside of her Slayerage, "that Buffy dated both of them?"

"Oh, yes."

Another raises her hand. Leaning forward to be sure to catches Willow's answer, she queries, "Did she ever choose between them?"

Willow smiles. That was certainly the question of their century, it seemed, but as she looks around the group and sees each face listening intently for her answer, she remembers that both Vampires have fans in the coven. Some prefer Spike; others Angel. Back in the day, they all thought Buffy was wrong to be with either of them, but in the years since, it was the Slayer's love that saved the world more than once. "I don't think she really could choose a favorite." She doesn't mention that she did finally wed one. That might ruin the story, and it would certainly dampen some of their spirits.

The little, blonde boy raises his hand again. "Is it true, Granny Willow, that Billy Idol made himself look like Spike?"

Willow smiles fondly once more. "Yes, he did, Billy."

"He's cool."

"You wouldn't have wanted to have told Spike that. He hated him and his music -- "

One of the older boys cuts in, "But his music rocks!"

She remembers the time a Demon cast a spell over the entire town of Sunnydale to make them all sing. "You should have heard Spike rock," she answers wistfully. "Then you wouldn't say that. Idol was a pale imitation of the real man. Spike ran into him in London when he was real young, long before he started his musical career, and he actually managed to get away from him. Idol still remembered the encounter when he grew older and started his label and used what he thought was a fearful creature to make him look bold, cool, and dangerous."

"So Spike wasn't always good?"

"No, Billy. None of us were." Willow's eyes take on a distant look as she remembers her own bad times. She still misses Tara to this day, despite having worn the ring of one woman on her wedding finger for the last several years.

The oldest girl in the group, a smart and compassionate redhead like Willow herself, stands up and dusts off the back of her leggings. "I think that's enough questions for tonight."

"No, Amber, not yet." Willow shakes off the feeling and looks at each bright, expectant face in turn. "I want you all to remember something. It's the most important piece of advice I can give any of you. We all have good and evil within us, rather we're Vampires, Witches, Slayers, or whatever. We all have the potential to put more good in this world or to take good from it. We all have gifts, and it's up to us how we use them. Make your parents proud. Make yourselves proud." She smiles, but there's a touch of sorrow to her expression now. "Make me proud. Always do your best to choose good. No matter what anybody else says, there's far more rewards in being good than being evil."

"None of us would ever go bad, Granny Willow."

"You might be surprised, Sara. I almost destroyed the world myself." Gasps ring throughout the gathered children. "It was only Xander -- your father, Alex --," she nods at one dark-haired boy, "who managed to reach me and talk sense into me. I had lost some one I loved dearly and would have killed everybody else I loved if he hadn't gotten to me. Our actions always have repercussions, and they reach farther than we think. The smallest decision you make can still come back to affect your brothers and sisters, so choose wisely in every decision you make." Her eyes drift closed. She's suddenly very tired; all this talk of her memories and the past has made her weary.

"That's enough for tonight." Amber gently directs the young ones out of Willow's study, then comes back to sit down just before her and to the left of the gently crackling fire.

Willow's eyes open again, and the two watch the dancing flames for a while in silence. She can see the faces of those she's loved in that fire. Tonight, Spike and Angel shine the brightest. She hopes she's explained well to the children about them. They may have been Vampires, but they were certainly heroes as well. Also in the flames she sees Giles, who left them far too soon, Buffy, Xander, Andrew, Wesley, Fred, Cordelia, and even Anya. She gasps painfully when Tara's image looms before her eyes.

"That's a neat trick, Granny Willow," Amber speaks suddenly, startling Willow out of her reverie. The fire snaps loudly and then sizzles into ashes. She looks down at the girl, whose arms are wrapped around her knees where they're drawn up to her chest. She tilts her chin on one knee and grins up at her. "You should use it the next time we have a meeting."

Willow's gaze cast downwards at the floor between them. She hadn't realized until Amber spoke that she was using magic. She thought she was only seeing more memories, but now, once again in her life, she understands more than she would like to. She understands why she's so tired suddenly, and that there will not be another meeting, at least not for her. Her eyes close against the pain welling in her heart. She's eager to see her friends again, but she's equally not eager to leave the friends she still has in this world. But every one's time must come, she knows, and hers has arrived tonight.

"Granny Willow?" Amber asks, leaning against her leg and looking up at her with both curiosity and fear. It's almost as though the child can sense the thoughts running across her mind.

"Sit with me for a while, child," she asks, reaching out and stroking the top of her head.

"Of course, Granny Willow." Amber smiles brightly up at her, and there's more warmth in that child's smile than there's been in the fire all night. "You know I like spending time with you."

"I know." Willow leans back in her rocking chair and resumes stroking the child's head, much like some Witches might stroke a kitty's head and akin to the way Tara used to stroke Miss Kitty Fantastico's head. She wonders if cats are in Heaven, but she knows they must be for felines have some of the kindest and brightest souls of any living being.

The fire soars back to life, and Willow's memories play in its flames. Amber watches, fascinated, as important moments from her favorite adult's life play out before her. She doesn't realize that Willow's eyes are closed and that her soul is doing this to help her understand what is coming. She doesn't realize that power is passing from the older Witch into her own flamelike tresses. She doesn't realize that her friend is fading from this world as the fire dies and her own eyes grow heavy. She doesn't know she's gone until the next day, but Willow's left her with gifts, new magic added to her own and far more powerful than hers would have ever grown otherwise and stories she'll never forget. Amber would trade it all to have her friend back, but she knows it's not possible and her friend's legend lives on in her.

The End

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