I Hope You Dance
I've seen them all, in my time on this planet. The lovers, the losers, the dreamers, the schemers. Occasionally the psychotics, vampirics and just plain evil, I've seen them all.
The redhead fell in the 'lover' and 'loser' categories.
She kind of reminded me of "Peanuts", you know? I could see Charlie Brown sitting at recess, seeing The Little Red-Haired Girl, wondering if she'd grace him with her presence and her sweet smile. Yes, I could imagine that this one had broken a few hearts in elementary school.
Angel and the gang (in this case, 'gang' included Yours Truly) had just returned from my home dimension when she showed up on his doorstep. She had news from Angel's old stomping ground of Sunnydale. When she said what she came to say, it came out in only four words;
"It's Buffy. She's dead."
Now, what I want to know is; how does a vampire, someone who, to my knowledge doesn't need to breathe, manage to pass out?
Wes gave me the details, but really all I needed was the name. Buffy Anne Summers. Yep, that told me all I needed to know. Buffy, the Slayer. The best of the Slayers, if my intell from the demon community of Los Angeles is accurate. One of the most successful warriors for the forces of the Light. The PTB's main girl.
Oh man, something big must have happened. I mean, The Slayer, dead! THE Slayer.
Cordy filled me in on Buffy's personal history with Angel, and I understood the situation better. Angel still had it bad for Buffy; first thing he did after getting that whole Darla thing out of his system was to visit her after her mom's funeral. Buffy must have been very important person in his life.
In the redhead's life too, I'm guessing.
Willow crashed at Hyperion Arms that night, Cordy and Gunn looked over her and Angel. Wes and I talked about things, about Buffy especially. The funeral was in a couple of days. Wes, Angel and Cordy would be there, of course, while Gunn minded the store in their absence.
I invited Willow and the A-Team over to Caritas, for a private party. Sort of a wake. I closed the bar for a couple of hours, a private party. We gathered around a table, had a few drinks (virgin Mary for the redhead, sea breeze for me of course!), and the others told tales about their fallen friend.
"So she then tells me," Wes was saying, "that until the new Slayer was called, the Council could close shop. I shouted, 'This is mutiny!' she answered, 'I like to think of it as graduation.' I was insulted by her impertinence, but I know now that she was doing what was right for her. And besides, the Council really don't have a clue what's out there." This got a laugh from Angel and the others. Wes raised his Guiness, saluting the Slayer. "To Buffy, who at this very moment is probably telling off Saint Peter!" Glasses touched, and the next tale was told.
"I was sitting on the cliff, overlooking the ocean," Angel explained, a hushed awe in his voice. "The first evil had done a number on me; I was seeing ghosts of those I had killed as Angelus. The First Evil had driven me over the edge, the only solution was for me to kill myself. Buffy pleaded with me, she tried to convince me that it wasn't me, but the demon that was responsible. I just sat there, waiting for the sun to rise, waiting for it all to end. Just before the sun could rise, clouds suddenly covered the sky. It snowed. It snowed, in California! What're the odds of that?" He laughed sadly, as the memory filled his being. His aura was tinged with gold, with the precious memories he held for her. "She knew that there was hope for me. She believed in my salvation, even when I didn't. She saved me that night. No, she saved me every night she and I were together. To Buffy," he toasted, "who saved us all, just by being Buffy."
"To Buffy," the others chorused.
"Willow," Cordy said, "It's your turn."
Willow turned away, and I could see the trace of a tear falling down her cheek. "I-I'm not r-ready," she stammered, desperately trying to control her grief. "I-I just can't accept it yet. I'm sorry--" Angel was there quickly, letting her cry over his shoulder.
"Willow," I suggested gently as I could, "sometimes, a song can express how you feel, better than any mere words could say." I gestured to the stage. "Why don't you try it? It could do you a world of good."
She looked at me oddly, as though she felt that nothing in the world would help her feel any better. Angel spoke softly to her, "Go ahead, Willow. Lorne has a way of knowing these things."
Willow glanced up, not caring about the tear tracks on her face, and asked, "You got a playlist?"
I showed her the playlist, and she made her selection. I looked at the selection, fought off my gag reflex (not difficult for me, after years of people requesting 'Gypsies Tramps and Thieves' and 'Endless Love' over and over!), and set up the karaoke machine.
"Goodbye, Norma Jean, though I hardly knew you at all, you had the grace to hold yourself, when those about you crawled..."
Well, at least she didn't do the Princess Diana version from '97.
As she sang, I looked at her for the first time. Really looked at her, I mean, the way only I can. I saw her aura, her soul-self. Her truest person, all that was truly Willow.
I saw a scared young girl, afraid of her own shadow, afraid of change, afraid of life. This was the woman of her past, the person she was, before a girl named Buffy Summers entered the picture. Maybe 'entered' isn't the right word. More like she looked at the picture, tweaked a few knobs, and suddenly it's in bright vivid color instead of drab black-and-white.
I saw Willow Rosenberg, the way she truly is. A witch, and a mighty powerful one at that. A lesbian, recently discovered. I saw the love she bore for a girl named Tara McClay, and the far greater love she had for Buffy. A love that she never dared reveal, either because she was afraid of losing Buffy's friendship, or hurting Tara. But this beautiful woman, whoever she was, what she had become, she was the creation of Buffy Summers. Buffy didn't just save her life, she magnified it.
All this I saw, this miracle of friendship and love that Buffy and Willow shared.
And I saw something else.
I saw a fleeting glimpse of her future.
I couldn't share this knowledge with the others, they wouldn't fully understand it anyway. I just knew that she had to hang in there for a while longer. She had to tough it out.
I don't know how I knew, I just knew. Buffy Summers' story wasn't over yet. I was relieved to hear that; the PTB weren't about to lose their best player.
She finished her song, and the others applauded as she returned to the table. And to her credit, she didn't sound as bad as I feared. I beckoned to Willow, who looked at me. I tried to look as reassuring as I could, which considering that my natural skin tone was a sickly pale green was a tall order. "Willow, I want you to listen to something." I left the table and mounted the stage. The karaoke machine was ready to go, and I located the track easily enough; it was a popular song for some reason. "Ladies and Gentlemen," I announced, grabbing the mic from the stand, "I just want to say, right off the bat, that I hate country music with a passion. I've always been more of an Aretha Franklin person. But this song is something that, I think, Buffy would want you to hear, Willow. So think of this as the ultimate long-distance dedication." I inserted the CD, turned it on, waited for my cue, and started to sing;
I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
One of the many reasons I love this world more than my home is that these people have music. That wonderful concept that's both a form of communication and a source of expression. Joy, sorrow, rage, compassion, lust, affection, all encapsulated in that simple arrangement of notes.
I sang for a friend I had just made, a little red-haired girl. I sang for hope, for her future, for her will to carry on, until she was reunited with her true love.
I hope you still feel small
Angel got up from the table, and took Willow's hand. He led her from the
table, took her gently in his arms and started to dance with her. They both lost
someone that they loved more than life itself, and they leaned against each
other in comfort. They each relied on each other to get through this low point.
He twirled her on the floor, and at first she just let him lead her. But she then took a few steps of her own, tentative steps, cautious. But still they were her own invention. She was no longer just letting Angel dance with her, she was dancing for herself.
She was dancing for Buffy.
Don't let some hell bent heart
It was still a long way between where she was now and where she needed to be. She wasn't well yet, she wouldn't be well for a long time, but she was better. She wasn't going to give it all up. She would still live, she would still strive.
She would still dance.