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Far Beyond Normal

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This story is No. 1 in the series "The Normal-verse Series". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: Buffy did not survive her confrontation with the First. Fortunately, Buffy has never been one to let death stand in her way...

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Stargate > Buffy-Centered > Theme: ActionjAkLFR1525142,908258674455,29319 Jan 0615 Mar 06Yes
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Chapter 8

Disclaimer: I do not own any characters relating to either Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Stargate SG-1. This story is intended for entertainment purposes only and does not provide any financial compensation.

Far Beyond Normal

Chapter Eight

Buffy didn’t exactly lie to Willow, but she didn’t tell her the full and complete details either. From her description Willow was able to track down Mr. Rutherford… Rutherford Vasilonovich, an ‘alleged’ big wheel in the Russian mafia… and grow truly frightened at the hornet’s nest her friend had kicked over. Nobody had been able to prove that the man was mob-connected, but nobody doubted it either. He was ‘rumored’ to have connections with all the fun activities: drugs, loan sharking, prostitution; all the best things in life. When she read the hospital report Willow literally winced, not feeling sorry the man, but worried for her friend. A man like him was not going to accept such horrendous damage to his person and prestige without retaliating.

The loss of prestige was probably the more serious. To demonstrate the extent of his injuries the police had taken pictures of his massively swollen and discolored testicles and emailed the images to, well, pretty much everyone they had ever met in their entire lives. Their clinically-accurate, detailed description of the injury and its likely long-term consequences was figuratively drenched in crocodile tears. They had also pulled some video from the broken camera on site, and had pretty clear evidence for rape, and suspected that would have been just the beginning… ‘Rutherford’ was suspected of starring in several snuff films, under-aged girls being brutally murdered for his perverted pleasure.

At first the local police had been pretty up front about it, flatly accusing the man of being a pervert, a mobster, and a monster, who had gotten what he deserved. By morning however the feds got involved, and suddenly ‘new evidence’ was claimed but never shown which indicated that the rich old man was being set up by twisted teenaged anarchists, the images on the tape faked, the supposed ‘rape’ actually staged. The girl, Faith Lehane, was a known trouble-maker and drug addict, and somehow she had fallen in with known mass murderer and escape artist Elizabeth Summers. There was also the implication that there were others in the ‘gang,’ at least one of whom was a computer expert who had created the fake images on the digital tape.

Willow just about freaked when she heard that last part, feeling it was only a matter of minutes until armed, battle-gear wearing SWAT teams burst through her doors and windows. Not nearly as intimidated, Buffy just snorted. “They use ‘hackers’ as an excuse for everything, Wil. Images on tape? A hacker faked it. No images on the tape? A hacker destroyed it. Most people are intimidated by computers and will believe anything they are told. It’s the new Salem witch hunts. If it ever went to trial they’d be laughed out of court, which is why they have all those wonderful new laws that mean they don’t actually have to prove any of it in court anymore. Don’t worry about it, Wil. They don’t know about you. I’ve been keeping my head down so I’m fairly sure not too many of your neighbors know I’m here, and chances are pretty slim that anyone will recognize me from the pictures they’re showing. We’ve still got lots of time before they even begin to drag you into this.”

“How can you be sure?! I’m not like you, Buffy; I’m not going to be able to stand up to them. I don’t think I could survive what they did to you.”

The small blonde girl just shrugged, not looking away from the tv. “Experience.” She scowled in memory. “Don’t mistake it for tactical genius. I made that mistake once, and got burned bad. But I was a Slayer for seven years, I’ve seen pretty much everything at one time or another, and usually I learned from my mistakes. In a situation like this experience counts for a lot. I thing I know what they’re doing. They’re trying to panic me, trying to force me into making a mistake. Chances are they think I’ve left town with Faith. I hope I didn’t send her to the wolves by making her go off by herself. I think they’ll concentrate all their resources on finding her, giving me some elbow room, but they’ll be afraid to touch her once they figure out that I’m not with her. Even those assholes would find it difficult to put a 16 year old kid on a secret trial if there is nothing to link her to me. I hope.”

Willow was going over the information in her head, running through everything Buffy had told her. State Security had legal cover for what they had done to her; she had been in her parents’ custody, and they --well, her father at least-- had turned her over to them of his own free will. For the most part it was still a free country, and if the Lehane girl was located, they would not want to put her on trial and have her story told to a press which was only mostly cowed by State Security and its NID overlords. But she was also uncomfortably aware that it could be interpreted as Buffy using the girl as a diversion, without being certain she wasn’t exposing the kid to the same sort of horrific treatment she had been subjected to by the new internal police force.

She didn’t want to think that her friend was capable of such cold-blooded calculation, but Willow recognized there was a hardness to the seemingly innocent girl, a toughness which would let her put others at risk if she felt the rewards justified it. That didn’t make her an evil person, just a driven one, and Willow once again had to wonder how much she herself was being manipulated. In truth she still hadn’t confirmed any of Buffy’s story about what she claimed had happened to her while in NID custody in Nevada. But even though she was trying to be just a bit paranoid, in her heart she didn’t really doubt any part of what Buffy had told her. When she described what had happened, her rage had been too obvious, her emotions too close to the surface, for it to be faked. No one was that good an actor.

Besides, the consequences of being caught in a lie were too high. Buffy herself had been pretty clear about the sort of wrath Willow’s counterpart in Sunnydale had been capable of unleashing when she felt she was being abused. Willow had been amazed to discover that she was capable of such rage, and Buffy didn’t want to push her into proving it to herself the hard way. “So you’re using her as a diversion?”

After thinking it through, Willow made extra effort to have it come out as a question, not an accusation, but Buffy scowled anyway. At herself though, not at her friend. “She couldn’t stay here. That would have been suicide. She couldn’t stay with me either; that would have been worse. I also needed State Security to concentrate on her, because I don’t want them to look too hard for you. The doctors at the looney bin thought you were an ‘imaginary friend’ they wanted me to kill, so from what I remember their notes only referred to you as ‘Willow R.’ I don’t want them looking too hard to find out who the ‘R’ might be, and for now they won’t if Faith makes a better target. She’s street-smart. I think she’ll be able to lead them on a pretty merry chase. Hopefully she’ll be enough trouble that the police will have to make some noise to track her down, which should hold off the Russian mob. If we can fix this thing with the aliens then I’ll be in a position to help her, to call off the dogs. And if we can’t stop them… well, I guess the police will be the least of her problems then.”

It was a harsh decision, but Willow had come to understand that those were the sort of calls the Slayer had been forced to make for much of her life. Willow wondered what she would have been like, had she been called upon to make similarly harsh decisions, choices which might mean the difference between life and death for complete strangers, and had been forced to do so from a time when she was little more than a child. It would change a person; either kill them or make them harder, the way war changed people.

That was when if sank in, when she finally understood what made her friend tick; the girl was at war, had been since she was 15 years old, and would be until she finally lost a battle that some being of godlike power didn’t figure was worth bringing her back to life from, and could finally die.

Willow’s only experience with war was what she saw at the movies, and the ‘war on terror’ which had been called after the destruction of the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Capital buildings. She knew, intellectually, what it did to people, but she had never really faced it herself. Buffy faced it, every single day, and made the sort of decisions that only other soldiers who had experienced the hideous furnace of battle could understand. Willow knew how important she was to her friend, how vital it was that she uncover the information the Slayer needed so she could make those decisions. Lives depended on her choices. Even when she made the right call, lives would have been lost. And nobody made the right call 100% of the time.

For a second she had to close her eyes in sympathetic pain, understanding the internal horrors her friend would have had to endure every time a stranger was lost, a friend lost… a battle lost. The pain, the mental anguish, the strength of character it would take to endure, to fight on… to face the possibility of losing every time she went out, but going out anyway. And she understood why the vampire Spike had told Buffy that ‘every Slayer has a death wish.’ It was amazing that any of them could endure it at all. Willow doubted she could have… but didn’t doubt that if she could, she would have been forced to turn into someone who didn’t have even the faintest resemblance to the person she was now, simply to be able to endure.

Placing her hand on her friends shoulder, Willow squeezed, her fingers barely making any dent in the rock hard muscles hidden underneath deceptively fragile shoulders. Evidence or not, Willow knew whose side she was on. She was no longer even going to pretend she hadn’t already made her decision. “The military has a unit called StarGate Command. They found a way to travel to other worlds, to cross the galaxy… and they found an enemy waiting there…”

Her explanation took hours, many of the details she uncovered only educated guesswork, speculation based on stories compiled from a thousand sources. Many of them --some of the most important ones, in fact- had been right under her nose at MIT, secret military work going on in half a dozen faculties, involving a hundred scientists. Buffy asked a lot of questions, trying to work her ‘vision’ into the framework Willow was now able to provide, their agile minds looking at the problem from different viewpoints, different experiences. While showing her friend some of the files she had found online Willow was shaken by a sense of deja-vu, an understanding that this had been something routine for her counterpart and the Slayer, two young women, with no link to the movers-and-shakers whom people assumed ran the world, who were effectively deciding the fate of the human race. It was not a pleasant feeling.

Everyone made choices. Even hard choices. One of the benefits of democracy was the freedom to choose someone else to make the hardest of the hard choices. Most people didn’t have the time or expertise –or desire—to make such decisions, where life and death depended on the outcome or any given choice. But Buffy had been given a responsibility, less a gift than a burden, and had been put in a position where she was the one who had to make the call. And so she, and her best friend, went through all the information they had, trying to decide what options were available… which they would choose… and who would live and who would die.

Buffy knew that it was time to leave Boston. Time was running out, the heat was on as the police stepped up efforts to locate her, and she had what she had come to the city to find. Still, there was something left to do. Some decisions were not life or death; but in their own way were just as important. She owed Willow a debt, not only for the work she had done for her, the information she had provided, or the trust she had shown. A debt of friendship… of choice. So while zipping up her small pack, preparing to take her leave, she turned to her friend and gestured for them both to sit down. “Before I go, I need to tell you something else. I need to tell you about Willow Rosenberg….”

Four days passed after their final, stunning talk. Willow wondered if she was still in shock, or if she had truly lost her mind. Nothing else would explain what she was doing in this godforsaken place, why she hadn’t even been able to wait 48 hours before renting a car and driving a thousand miles just to find out if Buffy had lied to her. Or if she was just hoping that Buffy had lied to her. Or if she was lying to herself about what she hoped she would find.

The town barely registered on the map, only a few dozen houses, a gas station, a small restaurant. It was ‘rural’ the way Mayberry had been rural on that old tv show… although civilization has arrived in that several of the houses had small satellite dishes on their roofs. But nobody could mistake the fact that time had passed this town by; the cars were old, the buildings were old… the people were old. Junked vehicles scavenged for parts, cooped chicken; the random detritus of people who had become self-sufficient out of necessity, not choice. To Willow the town was as far from her world as was anything the people at the SGC could reach in their star gate, and she tried not to imagine she was a cultural anthropologist visiting head hunting tribes in New Guinea. It wasn’t fair to these people, and wasn’t true anyway. The headhunters didn’t have guns. Pretty much everyone she saw in town did.

The car was the new VW Beetle, the kind of cute car she would have liked to own if she could have afforded to own a car, but what would have fit in on the streets of any major city on the eastern seaboard stuck out like a sore thumb among the trucks and old beaters that were the only vehicles she could see in this part of the country. From the attention she received when she stopped to fill up with gas, strangers were not a familiar sight in this neck of the woods either. The attention made her uncomfortable. For about the ten millionth time she wondered what she was doing here.

“Are you lost, little lady?” The gas attendant was an elderly man, friendly enough, his curiosity honest and open.

His honesty made Willow feel like a fraud. “Just passing through.”

The lie appeared to capture his attention, reminding her once again that ‘hick’ did not mean ‘stupid.’ “Not much of anything else around here to be passing through to.”

Willow was trying to think of something else to say when she saw her, running towards them down a dirt trail, being chased by a furious-looking man who looked to be not much older than the girl, but signs of an imminent paunch already slowing him down. His face was beet red with rage, obvious even though he was still quite some distance from them, the stout stick he was waving an obvious threat. The gas station attendant saw it too, and his eyes narrowed in disgust. “Goddammit Donny, you no-good…” He fell silent, his eyes turning to the small woman watching the approaching pair with an expression of bemused, embarrassed interest. “That’ll be five dollars for the gas, miss. You probably don’t want to stick around. That lil’ bastard is not quite all there, if you catch my meaning, and I wouldn’t put it past him to do something stupid to your car. Or you.”

His customer did not seem to be in any hurry to take his advice, although she passed over the bill she had already taken out of her purse without looking away from the two people running towards them. By then the fear on the approaching girls face could be clearly seen, and suddenly Willow jumped into her car, turned it on and opened the passenger door just as the girl, who appeared to be exhausted, reached them.

“Get in!”

With a quick glance over her shoulder the young woman decided to take her up on the offer, a profanity-laden tirade being yelled by the approaching man convincing her to risk getting in the car with a complete stranger. They were in motion before she had even shut the door, and for a few minutes she simply sat there motionless, sucking in deep breaths, barely able to get enough air due to fear, exhaustion, and what felt like an imminent nervous breakdown. Only when she realized that they had already left the town did she look over at the driver, amazed that it had taken her so long to notice the woman. Being threatened by her alcoholic brother was a daily occurrence: being rescued by quite possibly the most beautiful woman on the face of the Earth was not. “Y-y-y-y-you c-c-c-c-can d-d-d-drop me off at the n-n-next corner p-p-p-please.”

She closed her eyes, mortified by the stutter. It was bad at the best of times; worse when trying to talk to strangers. Almost overwhelming when trying to say anything to attractive strangers. Under ordinary circumstances, when dealing with a tiny, slim, beautiful, red-headed goddess like her rescuer, it would have made conversation impossible. Would have, had she actually stopped the car. When they just kept on going, annoyance allowed her to gain some control over her voice. “Uh, I s-s-said you can d-d-drop me off here, p-p-p-please.”

The driver turned to look at her for a second, and if the profile view had been beautiful, face-on she was even more stunning. Incredible eyes, Cupid-bow lips, wonderful bone structure… she was so stunning it took a few seconds for the girl to process her words when she finally responded. “I’m not going to let you go.”

Naturally, she assumed the goddess meant she was worried about her safety, given the fact that she had just rescued her from what looked like a possibly severe beating by a raving lunatic. “I-I-I’ll be f-f-f-fine. He w-w-won’t do anything s-s-serious to m-m-me.”

The beautiful red-head gave her passenger a look that not only expressed her grave doubts about that, but her equally grave doubts about what that statement implied about her sanity. “Define ‘serious.’ But it doesn’t really matter anyway. This isn’t a rescue. This is a kidnapping!”

She gave a cute, self-congratulatory smile at the end of her statement, so it took a second for it to sink through and be processed by her dazzled passenger. “A k-k-kidnapping?!?”

Without looking over at her the driver gave a quick nod, searching the road ahead for the turn off that would eventually bring them to the main road and from there to the interstate. “Uh huh. Not the way I planned on this happening, but hey! I can adapt!”

She seemed so proud of herself, so pleased with the situation, that the other girl –now kidnap victim—couldn’t find it in herself to feel even the slightest concern over the situation, despite how strange it was. “Ummm… w-w-we don’t have any m-m-money. I w-w-wouldn’t make a very g-g-good hostage.”

That just earned her a quick, pleased smile. “It will take as long as it takes for them to raise the money. Big money, too. Millions, probably! I won’t settle for anything less! And until they get it together, I’m keeping you. Keeping you hostage, I mean! I’m not letting you go until they pay me the millions of dollars it will take for me to release my hostage, is what I mean.”

She seemed quite happy with the plan, her tone so sweet and happy that her ‘hostage’ felt a lot more like a person being swept off her feet, rescued by a princess of the desert, than a victim of the world’s most beautiful kidnapper. “I think that m-m-my family’s net w-w-worth is about t-t-ten dollars. It will t-t-take them quite a w-w-while to raise m-m-millions!”

“That’s okay. I’m in no hurry. In the meantime you’ll, well… uh, I mean, you’ll have to stay with me. Until they raise the money, I mean.”

When she looked over at her passenger, her expression was partly embarrassed, but mostly concerned that this would not be met with approval. Her stunned ‘hostage’ desperately tried to hide the fact that she privately thought this plan to be not just acceptable, but was in her opinion quite possibly the single greatest idea in the history of the universe. But she was also enough of a realist to know that life didn’t work that way, and she didn’t recall a fairy godmother appearing last evening promising to grant every wish she had ever had the following afternoon. “S-s-stay with y-y-you?!? W-w-where?!?”

“In Boston. Well, Cambridge, just north of Boston. I’m a student at MIT. I’m doing my doctoral research at the Minsky Labs there… well, it’s actually in engineering, not a CS degree… but you probably don’t really care about that part. I’ve got an apartment just off campus. Y-y-you can stay with me. For awhile. Until you find your own place I mean. Then you could move there. To your own place. If you want to. Until they pay the ransom, that is where you can stay.” Realizing she was babbling, she forced herself to shut up. This was not going the way she had imagined it. Of course, nothing about this situation was going the way she had imagined, her entire life had been knocked off-kilter a week ago, but even the bizarre part with Buffy hadn’t prepared her for this. Hadn’t prepared her for this reaction. Hadn’t prepared her for meeting this girl.

She was lovely. There was no other word for it; lovely. Also cute and shy and pretty and nice. Okay, so there were other words for it. But Willow couldn’t have imagined her own reaction to seeing her, to meeting her. The way her breathing speeded up, not enough oxygen reaching her lungs. The tingly sensation on her skin. The way her ears perked up every time the shy girl talked. And she liked looking at her. Too much. She wasn’t used to driving, and had to be careful to concentrate on watching the road. Not lost in dreamland when looking at the cute blonde. The color came from a bottle, but it suited her. She used it to shield her face; she was shy, and probably mortified by the cute stutter. She was bigger than Willow, but then again everyone except Buffy was bigger than her. Especially in the chestal-area, she couldn’t help but notice. Face flushing in embarrassment, Willow returned her attention to her passenger when she realized the girl had processed her words and was talking, but from the blush on her face had probably noticed where her eyes had been staring.

“T-t-that’s really nice of y-y-you, and I r-r-really appreciate it. But I c-c-can’t just l-l-leave and g-g-go all the way to B-B-Boston!”

This time Willow was able to flash her a smug look. “You don’t have a choice! Remember this is a kidnapping. The whole point of being ‘kidnapped’ is that you don’t get to say ‘no.’ It says so right there in the dictionary. Look it up if you don’t believe me.”

Her passenger was looking at her like she was nuts, which Willow conceded was not an unwarranted assumption. But she didn’t look afraid; didn’t look like she was ready to open the door and jump from the moving vehicle, at least. “D-d-do you do things l-l-like this a l-l-lot? K-k-kidnap people, I m-m-mean.”

“Nope. You’re my first.” Once again Willow blushed at the unintentional double-entendre she hoped the other girl didn’t realize was implied by her words.

“W-w-why would you c-c-come a t-t-thousand miles from B-B-Boston to kidnap s-s-someone you’ve n-n-never met?”

Her confusion was understandable, and Willow sighed. She barely understood it herself. “That’s kind of a long story.”

“I-I-I’m being k-k-kidnapped. It’s n-n-not like I d-d-don’t have the t-t-time to listen.” She smiled at the beautiful red haired girl driving the car, her hands tightly crushing the steering wheel due to nervousness, and tried not to get her hopes up too high. This wasn’t possible. It was just a wonderful dream. She was really asleep in the woods behind her house, and would soon be awakening from the best fantasy she’d ever had. But in the meantime she was just going to let it ride, to pretend it was real, to imagine that something so wonderful could actually happen to a girl like her.

“Well, it started last week. A strange girl came up to me and told me she was from an alternate universe and needed my help to save the world.”

Okay, that got her attention. Suddenly the girl in the passenger seat shifted slightly away from her, not quite panicking yet but obviously suddenly aware that she might be riding with a raving lunatic. Willow smiled happily at her, pleased that she had been able to make someone else respond the way she had to Buffy’s appearance. “Oh, don’t freak out yet! It gets better! She said that in this other universe she was a superhero, with super powers, and I was her trusty geek side-kick. You can probably imagine my reaction.”

She gave her passenger a wry grin, which got her a tentative smile in return as the other girl got the implication that she realized how ridiculous it sounded. But then she frowned, returning her attention to the road. “The part where I freaked out came shortly afterwards. When she proved that she really did have superpowers. Seriously; superpowers! And then she proved that she knew everything about me. Not the public stuff, the information any good detective could find out. The secret stuff; my dreams, my deepest thoughts, my most private fantasies. The sort of things you would only tell your best friend. The sort of secrets I’ve never shared with anyone in this world.”

That last had been whispered, her tone wistful, and her passenger understood. She had also never had a friend close enough to risk sharing her deepest, darkest secrets with. She had also desperately wished she’d had someone in her life that close, that trustworthy. But a superhero from another universe? That was a bit of a stretch. She raised one eyebrow, and Willow got the implied message without a word being said.

“I don’t like to brag, but I’m good with computers. Really good. Full scholarship to MIT, my thesis advisor is, well, world famous in the world of computers geeks. I’m getting to be fairly well known myself; Willow Rosenberg, girl genius! I get people coming up to me all the time asking me to do stuff, basically do their work for them. Usually crazy stuff; often illegal stuff. But nobody had ever asked me to do stuff that was crazier or more illegal than what Buffy asked me to do.” Catching the look from the other girl, Willow giggled with her. “Yup, that was her name. Buffy. I kid you not. But as I said, she knew me, and the things she was asking me to investigate were so bizarre as to be crazy.

“But when I started looking into her claims, I found out pretty quickly that she wasn’t pulling my leg. There are secrets out there that you wouldn’t believe, things going on in the shadows that people can’t even imagine. But Buffy wasn’t asking me for the details, the sort of information a spy would need. She was asking me to think things though, to get the data I would need to reach a conclusion. She had this strategy, this overall plan for what she needed to accomplish; but she wanted me to work out the details on how she might do it. I just found it so strange. To me she was almost a complete stranger, but she trusted my judgment more than anyone ever has. She had all these amazing physical abilities, but listened to my opinions. It was just… well, it was an amazing experience.”

Her passenger met her eyes with an expression of understanding, the kind that said she was also someone who had also desperately wanted a friend and had never found one she could trust so much. A look that said she was envious, but not jealous. Willow smiled back and continued. “She told me about myself on her world. Not all of it was much fun to hear. She tried to be gentle, but thought I needed to know the bad along with the good. Apparently over the years I’d learned some pretty hard lessons, and learned them the hard way. I think Buffy was trying to give me a heads-up that it was usually my own fault when I screwed up. No surprise, I mean it usually is, but it was because of attitudes I didn’t even realize I had that made me do stupid things that blew up in my face. She was sort of warning me about those attitudes ahead of time, because I don’t really have those sort of attitudes here, I don’t think so anyway. But I could. I can see them in myself, if things were different.”

When she looked over at the other girl she saw the look on her face, and realized that her ‘kidnap victim’ was indignant that someone had dared lecture her on her attitude. Smiling, Willow reached over and gently patted her arm before continuing. “She wasn’t being a bitch. Really. She was really embarrassed and tried to explain the reasons everything worked out the way it did. And it wasn’t like she glossed over her own failures either! Let me tell you, there were more than enough screw-ups to go around! But basically she was tying to warn me that I sometimes have control issues, that I sometimes will do what I think is best for other people even if that’s not what they want to do. Like, well, kidnapping people.”

Willow shook her head in chagrin, taking the time to collect her thoughts and concentrate on driving, turning onto the main road, glad to have pavement under the VW’s wheels again instead of the bumpy side road. “She also told me about my relationships with other people. This part was pretty important to me, because, well, until I met Buffy I haven’t really had any relationships with anyone. Not that we had a relationship! I mean we were friends! We had a friendly relationship. But in this world I haven’t even had a relationship like that; all I have are acquaintances, people I work with, or know casually. But in her world I had actual friends. Even a boyfriend! And you’ll never guess who it was! Have you heard of Oz Osborne?”

The other girl almost freaked out, horror obvious in her expression. “You had a relationship with Ozzy Osborne?!?” In the privacy of her own mind the girl was crushed at the thought that her kidnapper, Willow –such a beautiful name, and appropriate to the slim, graceful girl—had a boyfriend. Any boyfriend. But the shock-rock god? The old shock-rock god? The old, married shock rock god?!? That was worse. That was terrible!

Willow looked horrified. “Not him! Are you crazy?!? No, the actor in the Austin Powers movies. The guy who played Mike Myers’ son.” At the look of relieved understanding in the other girls face Willow smiled smugly. “In Buffy’s world he was a musician, not an actor. But we dated on her world; he even took my virginity the night of our senior prom!” She smiled proudly, and then gently sighed. “I didn’t even go to the senior prom in this world. I never went to a school dance, never had a real date even. I like her world better. Even though it turned out Oz was a werewolf and we had to lock him up in a cage whenever there was a full moon.”

The other girl’s wonderfully expressive eyes went wide at that claim. Willow internally chuckled, recalling her own shock upon hearing about her boyfriends’ affliction. After a short pause, she gave an audible sigh, and continued her story, no longer turning to look at her passenger, eyes locked on the road ahead. “Well, to make a long story a bit shorter, Oz and I were together for awhile, when something bad happened and he had to go away. And while he was gone, I found someone else. Someone special. Someone so special that when Oz came back, I chose to stay with my new friend instead of going back to him. I, uh, really pushed Buffy hard to tell me who that special person was. That someone who had made me so happy on such an unhappy world.

“You can probably imagine my surprise when she told me the name of that special someone was Tara McClay.”

With that she finally turned, and met Tara’s stunned expression. For a long time neither said a word, as the car continued to travel north.
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