~Seacover, Washington-Present Day~
Duncan watched as his pupil spun, swinging the saber over her head as she concluded the pirouette and dropped to her knees. The move was the last part of a complex pattern he had been teaching her.
She now held the sword thrust outward, into the stomach of an imaginary foe. Her arm was straining with the effort, her muscles jumping and sweat glistening along the outstretched limb. She wore a sports bra and black stretch pants, but showed no signs of embarrassment as she knelt there in front of her teacher.
Duncan clapped and smiled, gesturing for his student to rise. “Excellent. I told you that you could do it.” He smiled, handing her a towel.
Taking the offering, the young blonde beamed at his praise. He wasn’t a harsh taskmaster, but he was hard. He pushed her, but she knew it was out of love and concern. He never pushed her to do things she couldn’t do. “Thank you.” She said graciously.
“Feel like putting everything together now?” Duncan asked, holding up his own katana.
The blonde nodded and handed him the towel. She centered herself and closed her eyes, getting ready. She felt the attack coming before she opened her eyes. Duncan came in fast and hard, the steel of his katana biting her saber and driving her back. She winced and spun, dropping into a crouch and spinning, her leg searching to sweep him off of his feet. She connected and Duncan flailed, trying to regain his balance. She pushed her attack, jumping up and lashing out, kicking him in the chest with a snap of her foot and sending him reeling.
Duncan fell backwards, dropping into a roll and brought his sword up in a guard position. “Very good. I see that you got past the fear of hurting me.”
The blonde grinned. “You’re an immortal. You’ll live.” She said, swinging her sword in a flurry of attacks and driving Duncan across the floor, keeping him on the defensive as she went. She spun, slashing across his mid-section and as he leapt back to avoid getting sliced open, she felt her body move on its own accord, going into the dance.
The sword began a series of flips and spins as she dropped low, hopefully fast enough to avoid a counter-attack, and she rolled forward, sending the blade through the empty space in front of her. As she came to a stop she halted the blade a scant few inches from his bare stomach, grinning.
“I did it!” she cheered.
Duncan was frowning. “You did. But it was to slow.” He said softly, tapping the side on her neck with his blade. “Your head would have come off before you finished the thrust.” He said sadly.
The blonde frowned. “I’m moving as fast as I can. I don’t see how I can be any faster.” She complained.
Duncan smiled, helping her up. “Practice. Just stick to basics if you have to fight, and work out with the routine every day. You’ll get better.” He said.
“I suppose.” She shrugged. Suddenly, she felt a deep buzzing echo in her body, a tingling sensation that ran through her and heightened all of her senses. She looked at Duncan, who was also searching around, tensed for an attack to come.
Instead of an attack, the elevator opened and Ritchie walked in, smiling. “How goes the drilling?” he asked.
Tara smiled. “I need to be faster.” She sighed.
Ritchie nodded. “So do I, hence the training session.” He said, pulling off his coat and reaching for a sword, a basket handled English broadsword.
Tara shrugged. “Maybe in four hundred years, we can be as fast as Duncan?” she smiled sweetly.
Duncan chuckled. “I’m hoping it won’t take that long. Are you going out after you shower?” he asked Tara, who was gathering her things.
Tara nodded. “This new Magic shop opened up, I want to check it out.” She said.
Ritchie groaned. “Magic again? I still don’t believe it.” He said, grinning.
Duncan shook his head. “You should. It’s real and Tara is a very skilled Wicca.” He said, waving as Tara left.
“Whatever.” Ritchie said, raising his guard and waiting for Duncan to get ready. When the venerable highlander didn’t raise his weapon, Ritchie frowned. Duncan was staring sadly out the door Tara had just walked through.
“Look at her, do you honestly believe she will be able to take another immortals head?” Duncan asked.
Ritchie nodded, understanding now. “People surprise you Mac.”
“She’s not a killer, Ritchie. It’s not in her.” Duncan said. “But she will have to be in order to survive.”
Willow peered at the robed figure in front of her, twisting the knife it had in its hand slowly, before it lunged. Years on the Hellmouth had given her a sort of danger sense, so she could have easily dodged the attack and hit the creature with the axe she carried. But living on the Hellmouth had also given her something else. She reached her hand up and froze the robed minion of the first as it charged. She then brought the axe down on it’s head, wincing as its skull split.
Turning, she saw that the two potentials she and Xander had been sent to pick up were doing fine, scared, but fine. Xander was rubbing his head. “Sorry Wills. I let him get by.” He said sheepishly.
Willow smiled. “That’s ok. I hit him with my axe.” She smiled brightly; a smile that Xander noticed never reached her eyes.
The redhead looked at the two scared girls and sighed. “Sorry about that. You must be Monica and Jessie?” she asked. The girls nodded. “I’m Willow, this is Xander. We’re here to take you to the Slayer.” She said. Both girls seemed to relax immensely.
The ride was short, mostly because Xander drove like a madman. Soon, they found themselves at 1630 Revello Drive.
Xander looked over at the redhead that sat next to him. He smiled softly, as he often did when looking at his lifelong best friend. “How are you holding up?” he asked softly.
Willow only shrugged. “Fine I guess. I mean, I’m alive, my friends are alive...” she looked away and sighed. “Most of them.” She added softly.
Xander frowned. He knew that taking Willow on this retrieval was a bad idea when he saw where the girls were; the same cemetery that the potentials had picked to run through and get trapped by the minions of The First was the same cemetery that Tara was buried in. In fact, Willow had fought off two of the robed minions and been knocked over Tara’s headstone.
It was at that point, when she saw exactly where she was, that she gave up on the small axe she had and unleashed the magic. He hadn’t seen any black eyes and her hair was as red as always, but the magic she used was powerful, even he could tell. But his concern was more the fact that she was kneeling on Tara’s grave when she unleashed the magic. He saw the tears streaming down her face as she did.
Willow looked at Xander and smiled softly. “I’m fine Xander. I won’t be black eyed Willow again. I promise.”
Xander nodded. “I know. I wasn’t worried about that. I meant how are you with…” he couldn’t bring himself to finish the question.
Willow didn’t need him to. “She’s gone physically, but I will hold her forever in my heart. She will always be in my thoughts, my dreams and because of that, my life.”
Xander smiled. “You did a lot of growing in England.”
Willow nodded. “Growing and healing and learning.”
Just as the two friends opened their doors, a figure came onto the porch. Kennedy smiled broadly at Willow, as she always did at the hacker. “You couldn’t bring groceries back with the two more mouths to feed?” she teased.
Willow smiled back, something Xander was still surprised by. “I thought we were going shopping tomorrow?” she said, reaching out and taking Kennedy’s hand. “Unless you don’t want to spend the afternoon with me.” She sighed dramatically.
Xander rolled his eyes. “Excuse me you two. I have weapons to clean and put away.” He said as he slipped by the two girls.
Willow smiled sheepishly. “I should help. I helped dirty them.” She said.
Kennedy raised her eyebrow. “Where was that attitude when I was cleaning our sheets?”
Willow’s cheeks suddenly matched her hair as she blushed. “Kennedy!”
Xander just chuckled and shook his head. “That’s way more than I needed to know.” He laughed, than paused. “Wait. No it’s not. Go on.” He smiled cheerfully at Kennedy.
Willow punched Xander on the arm and shooed him inside, turning back to Kennedy and hugged her tightly, humming softly and reveling in the embrace. “I missed you.” She said softly.
Kennedy squeezed the redhead and closed her eyes. “Well…I just changed the sheets…” she whispered suggestively.
Willow grinned. “Race ya.” She said, running for the stairs with Kennedy in hot pursuit.
In the living room, Xander watched as the potential and the hacker raced up the stairs. “Andrew. We have cleaning duty.” Xander grinned when the hostage groaned from the kitchen.