Title: Crisis of Faith
Author: Jinni (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Characters: Willow, Darius
Genre: BtVS/Highlander Crossover.
Disclaimer: All things BtVS belong to Joss Whedon, et al. All things Highlander belong to Davis/Panzer, et al.
Distribution: The normal places.
Author's Notes: A little something that wouldn't get out of my head, as usual. I should be lucky my fickle muses are letting me write anything, I suppose.
Spoilers: Season 5 BtVS. Nothing for Highlander. Obviously I'm playing with the years to get S1 Highlander to coincide with S5 BtVS, just work with me, okay?
Notes2: Yes, there will be a sequel, I've already got the notion for it in my poor little head.
Summary: We all question in life why we must lose those we love. . .and Willow is no different.
"You look lost, my child."
Willow blinked rapidly, clearing her eyes of the church that stood in front of her. It was ingrained in her memory by now, after staring so long. Though. . .she hadn't meant to stop and stare. Certainly not for so long. Not at all, to be honest. In fact, she wasn't sure what had drawn her out of her hotel, leaving Tara still asleep in the early hours of the morning, to wander the streets of Paris. It had been dawn when she stopped in front of the church, standing just outside its wrought iron gate, watching as the sun rose slowly in the horizon behind it to illuminate the dull grey morning sky.
"I'm sorry," she blushed, smiling shyly at the priest that stood there. He was dressed somewhat differently than she thought of priests. Not the usual black attire, but earthy brown robes, as if a man from another time. "I don't even know why I stopped."
He smiled warmly, his face kind in the light of the morning sun. His hands were clasped in front of him, and he was just out of arms reach, inside church grounds, those caring eyes watching her with subtle intensity. "We are all drawn at one time or another to something, without knowing the reasons why. Perhaps today is your day?"
The red head chuckled softly, face falling despite her best efforts to keep it looking sunny. Fate and destiny were not her favorite topics. Unseen forces guiding others to do what they wouldn't otherwise have done? Well that just didn't cut it for her anymore. Not so soon after --
"She wanted to come to Paris," she sighed before she thought to stop herself. She blushed. "Just forget I said that. I don't know why I'm still here."
"Maybe you need someone to talk to?"
"Talking won't bring her back. I need to move on," she muttered, shoving her hands into the pockets of her jeans.
"Ah," the priest inclined her head. "A lost loved one?"
Willow bit her lip. It sounded so final when he said it like that. And she supposed that it must be. Death was final, after all. There was no way around it. No euphemism that could cover up the despair that the very notion brought to her.
It wasn't fair.
She shouldn't have died. Not when she'd given her whole life to protecting others. She had done so much good. . .
"Would you like to come in for some tea?"
The priest's words once again brought her back to reality. She sighed, glancing at the old-fashioned little church behind him. Quaint was really the only word to describe it. In a world that liked to dress up religion in the trappings of wealth and beauty, this church was like something from a time gone by, when things were simpler. But it wasn't a church of her faith - not the one she had practiced as a child, nor the trappings that held her as an adult. She shook her head, feeling sad for the gesture, the loss of something she hadn't even ever had.
"I'm not --"
"Christian?" He offered when she stumbled. "I noticed your necklace. I don't mind. And He doesn't, either."
She reached up, touching the small gold pentacle that hung just beneath the collar of her shirt.
"Tea and talk," he offered kindly, moving forward to open the gate for her. "I promise not to preach to you."
That brought a smile to her face, though she knew that it must look worn at the edges, just as she felt. And maybe talking to him would ease a little of the raw pain that was gnawing at her very soul. If nothing else, she had a few things that she wanted to ask him. . .about why the Powers would take such a bright light from the Universe.
"My name is Darius," he offered as she stepped onto the church's grounds.
"Oh! Willow." She held out her hand, shaking his lightly. It was soft, unsuited to the hard work that many engaged in during this day and age. She wondered briefly if he ever set foot off the church grounds, thinking that he would look somewhat out of place in his robes.
A warm silence descended as he led her slowly into the church, and she looked around in curiosity. She'd only been in a Christian church a few times before, and never one this old. The stones were steeped with history; the candelabras were no doubt handmade decades before she was born, if not centuries. It was like stepping into the past.
He led her to the back, a small door that she otherwise might not have noticed amidst the shadows that shrouded it; and into an office of sorts. There was a fireplace, and a tea kettle over it. Just like the English, she supposed from her knowledge of Giles, always ready with a pot of tea for visitors.
“Just plain is fine, thank you,” she murmured, standing nervously by the door. What was she doing, she wondered silently. Talking to a priest in the house of a god she didn’t even have faith in? It made little sense to her, but felt right in her heart, like a little warm spot that provided a little relief to her aching spirit.
“Would you like to sit down?”
Willow blushed, taking the seat Darius offered her. She accepted the cup of tea with a quiet ‘thank you’, hiding her confusion in drinking the steaming brew, as if to hold off whatever talk they were about to have, for a talk was definitely coming.
“Would you like to talk? About the one you lost?”
He was so polite. So quietly curious, though not intrusively so, that she found herself answering.
“Her name was Buffy.”
“Best friend,” Willow corrected with a half-smile.
He nodded, returning the smile as he took a sip of his own tea. She found herself shifting in her chair, relaxing a little under his kind gaze. “May I ask what happened?”
The red head found herself sighing. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
The priest raised his eyebrows. “I’ve seen a lot in my years, child. If you feel that your burden would be lessened by sharing it, then please do. I will not judge you.”
“I don’t see how you’ll be able –not- to,” she argued softly. “It’s a weird thing, my life. My friends. What we do. . .”
His inquiry sounded more like a softly urged command. And, slowly, she found herself telling the tale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
“Do you believe in demons?”
She breathed a sharp sigh of relief as the tale came to a close, watching the face of the man across from her. He had scarcely moved since she began – not his calm face or his body, except to murmur his assent every so often, when she posed a question she really didn’t expect an answer to.
And now that it was through, she found herself wondering if he’d throw her from the church for speaking of such things. Surely Christianity didn’t allow for the mention of hell gods and demons. Of sisters made from mystical energy or witches that helped to save the world.
But he didn’t.
“You’ve lived a hard life,” he murmured softly. “For all that you are just a child, you’ve lived the life of a woman three times your age. And experienced that measure of sorrow, all at once.”
“You believe me?” Willow whispered. “I mean, really believe me. Not just humoring, because that’s a cruel lie. Not that you’d lie, I mean, being a priest and all. I’m sure that’s not allowed.”
She blushed as those kind eyes met hers, his mouth twitching into what looked like a small, faint smile.
“Yes, I do believe you.”
It felt like a weight was lifted off of her shoulders as he spoke those words. But the pain in her heart remained, ever so vivid thanks to the memories she had spoke of during her tale.
“Why did she have to die?” She whispered suddenly, blinking back tears she hadn’t even realized were pooling in her eyes.
Darius sighed. “That –is- the age old, question, isn’t it? Why would God, in all his wisdom, seek to take the brightest members of his flock home before their time?”
She nodded. “Why not the bad guys? The ones that are doing so much bad that they can’t be saved? Why not –them-? Buffy. . . she saved the world. A lot. She was a friend, a sister, a protector. She did nothing but good. . . even if the way she did it wasn’t the best all the time, she still tried to do what was right. And –“
Her voice broke, the sorrow overwhelming.
“And yet she died.”
“Right,” she muttered. “She still died. And it’s not fair. I need her. Dawn needs her. The –world- needs her. . . “
She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up, sight coming immediately to the handkerchief that he held out to her.
“I wish I could tell you why it was her time,” Darius spoke slowly, kneeling before the chair. “Why someone else, someone ‘darker’, couldn’t have taken her place if someone had to die that night . . .but I can’t.”
She hadn’t thought he could. Who knew the way of the Goddess in these matters. Or God, as Darius would say. Wasn’t it all the same, in the end? Right was right and wrong was wrong. Who cared what you called the person you prayed to, as long as you prayed?
“She lived a hard life, your friend,” he continued softly. “She burned brightly, keeping the darkness of the world at bay, lest we all fall to it. Sometimes it seems like the brightest are the ones to go first, because they give their all until there’s nothing left to give. And then they go on to Heaven to reap the rewards of what they’ve done in their life. Your friend, if all that you said is true, is at peace now.”
Willow nodded. “She deserves peace. And happiness.. . . lots of it.”
Darius smiled gently. “And I’m sure that is what she has. We can ask why things happen until we’ve run ourselves into the ground, Willow. The truth is, no answer would ever be enough to fill that space that losing a loved one makes. Take it from an old man, celebrate the life she led – let it encourage you to do more good works. But don’t ponder the ‘why’ so long that you lose sight of everything else that’s still important in your own life. He would not want that, and neither would She.”
She looked down at where he pointed, the pentacle around her neck, glancing up in shock.
“What?” He asked innocently, climbing to his feet. “Did you expect me to preach His word to you? I’m not so set in my ways that I cannot acknowledge that good is good, no matter what name it is done in.”
Willow smiled, her own thoughts echoed so closely in the words of the priest.
“Thank you,” she whispered. She wasn’t sure what it was about him, the kindness or the quiet gentility, that set her heart into such a state of peace that she felt like she could breathe for the first time since Buffy’s death.
“You’re welcome,” he returned, settling back into his own chair. He gestured at the chess set near them, set up near the fireplace on a small wooden table. “Do you play?”
She nodded shyly, not ready to leave yet. Tara would understand – and she had her cell phone in case the blonde got worried. This was where she needed to be right now.
As he set up the board, long fingers moving deftly with the intricately carved wooden pieces, she thought back to the walk that had set her on this path to his door, a small smile curling on her lips.
The Goddess worked in mysterious ways – and maybe sending her to a Christian priest for comfort was one of the more mysterious of all, but it worked.