Love and revenge. One born from the power of the other. Both pure in their existences. Without love to fuel it, revenge is a word. A concept, rarely actualised and given life - a childish payback, little more than a scratch on the veneer of a universal car.
With love, it flourishes, filling the void in its creator's heart and soul, an animal, pure in its ferocity driven entirely by the eternal heartbeat of love.
Together, love and revenge are one, an all consuming force. In love you will perish and from the ashes, the phoenix of revenge will raise its head and scream.
Time - Said to be a healer of broken hearts. The clock remembers nothing, foretells even less, ticks away the lives of mortals and the ages of history, each second forcing the hand of man. In one, you find eternal happiness, the next, your world may be shattered, fragmenting your life and engulfing you in darkness. Time will guide your destiny and dictate the path of your love.
The phoenix of revenge waits in the ashes, its time to fly born only with the passing of hours, its resentment and hatred spawned after months and its first and final flight - the most vicious creature born through the power of love and time only comes with years.
The only death for the phoenix can be its creator, to strike at the wrong moment will only empower the monster, leaving the unworthy as food for its fire. To strike and destroy and, ultimately triumph is to know time, understand its power but, most importantly, one must know love, equal or greater that that of the phoenix's creator.
To be a champion is to embrace the fire of love, knowing that you will, one day, perish.
To be the ultimate champion is to embrace the fire of love and stand against the phoenix of revenge, facing its fury with nothing more than the knowledge that the consuming fire of love will save you.
Willow awoke from another nightmare, her skin bathed in sweat. Sitting up slowly, she reached out, her hand finding Tara's and grounding her. Beside her, the blonde stirred but did not wake for which Willow was thankful. She scrubbed vigorously at her eyes, forcing them open sharply. After placing a feather light kiss on the forehead of her sleeping lover, she slipped out of bed and headed into the shower, hoping that Buffy hadn't used all the hot water.
In the kitchen, Buffy was hanging up the phone, she had called into work claiming to be ill. She needed to speak with Willow and she couldn't do that while she was working, besides, if one of her oldest friends was about to walk out of her life, possibly for the last time, she wanted to be there to say a proper goodbye.
As if she'd known that Buffy was thinking about her, Willow emerged in the doorway, her bright red hair still wet from her shower. "Morning." Buffy offered gently, "How are you feeling today?" Willow had spent the entire time she was in the shower contemplating this question, and she didn't know for sure. "Ok, I guess." she said eventually, her tone non-committal and prone to change. Buffy smiled weakly, it was more than clear from Willow's reaction last night that she hadn't worked through her issues, instead she had left them all in Sunnydale and simply repressed them rather than standing up and fighting her demons. Buffy had to admire that, everyday of her life, a small part of her had wished she could just pack up and leave, much like Willow had done all those years ago but she knew that that just wasn't an option open to her.
"Do you still want to leave today?" Buffy asked eventually, knowing that when Willow left Sunnydale this time, she would never return. She had expected an immediate answer and when Willow offered nothing more than a shrug, Buffy saw a tiny spark of hope.
"When did you last see him?" Willow asked in a barely audible whisper and despite its volume, Buffy could hear her voice shaking. "About seven years ago. So much went wrong after you left." she told the redhead. "He wigged out big time, every time he heard your name or saw a picture of you, he'd wolf." Buffy told her sadly. Willow's eyes stung with tears, Oz had been her first real love and first and only male lover and a part of her still felt something for him, well, the him he had been before she told him she was leaving. "He went away for a long time," Buffy continued, offering Willow a sheet of kitchen paper to wipe her eyes on. "He said he wanted a cure, wanted to be in control again." Willow looked up at her hopefully. "It worked... for a while," the Slayer continued, "Then we had some big boiling evil and he was trapped in his werewolf self for a long time. Since then, he seems to have had less and less control over the wolf." Willow shuddered at her words and Buffy crossed the room to lay a supportive hand over the shoulders of her friend. "We fought for a while and he went away. No one has seen him since." she concluded.
Willow's mind took a while to process the information, Oz had no way to know she was in Sunnydale, no reason to suspect she'd come back. He mind told her that what they had heard the previous night must have been a dog, but if it was a werewolf, there was no need to think it would be Oz.
Somehow, she relaxed, content for the time being to believe her flimsy story. Before she could question or examine it too closely, Tara emerged, casually dressed in jeans and a fitted tee. "Morning!" she said brightly, flashing Buffy a perfect smile before kissing Willow deeply, her lips sending bolts of electricity through Willow and making the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
Buffy turned away respectfully and fixed orange juice for everyone. With the full glasses, she turned back and found they had pulled apart. "So, I got the day off, what do you ladies fancy doing?" she asked brightly. Tara shook her head, after the events of the previous day, she was reluctant to suggest anything as it seemed clear that there was very little to actually do in Sunnydale. "I have to pick some things up from my parent's house then I'm free." Willow said, but offered no suggestions for an activity. "So, shopping then!" Buffy cheered, "It's not gonna be like LA but it's something!" Her excitement was contagious and by the time Willow had collected her things together, they were all excited about the days shopping.
Buffy and Tara had remained at home while Willow made the short journey to her parents' home. Tara had tried to insist on going with her but Willow realised this was something she must do alone, primarily to convince herself that Oz had really gone and that she could walk 7 blocks in the daylight without the world ending.
Knocking on the large oak door, Willow found herself breathing a sigh of relief, she hadn't realised that for most of the journey she had been holding her breath. Her mother answered the door and invited her in to collect the few pieces she had set out for her daughter, including a wedding dress that had been passed down through the generations of her family. "I'm afraid I must go, Willow. I have a business meeting that is being delayed so you can collect these things." Her mothers tone was clipped and uncaring and Willow remembered exactly why she had decided that she would leave Sunnydale. Originally it had been to get away from her uncaring and mostly absent parents but after the revelation that all the monsters and demons she'd had nightmares about as a child were real, she swore that on her last day of high school, she would bid a welcome farewell to the town.
Willow only nodded as picked up the large box her mother had prepared and cursed herself silently for not bringing the car. She could phone Tara and ask her to collect her but that seemed, in her mind to be a defeat of the task she had set out to do. "Thanks for the stuff, we'll speak nearer the wedding." Willow said as her mother held open the door for her daughter. "I doubt that your father and myself will be able to make it, what with work and all." Mrs. Rosenberg stated as she opened the door. "Goodbye Willow." she said as Willow stepped onto the sun dappled porch and turned to face her mother with wide eyed shock. Fair enough her mother had previously ignored her almost her all of her life, but this was her wedding, an event that Willow was only ever going to do once and her mother was telling her that she wasn't going because of work! She was surprised despite herself. "Fine!" she said sharply, turning her back on the woman who had given her life. "If that's how it's going to be." Sheila Rosenberg began pushing the door closed slowly, "That's the way it must be!" she said, a hint of sadness tinting her voice before she closed the door on her daughter forever.
More through anger than sadness, Willow felt tears stinging her eyes as she marched purposefully back towards Buffy's home, the large box making it difficult to see where she was walking.
Less than two blocks from the home of Sheila and Ira Rosenberg, Willow would no longer think of them as her parents, she crashed into an unseen body, dropping the box and her victim to the floor. "Oh god, I'm so sorry!" Willow said as she helped a young girl back to her feet. "Are you ok?" Crouching down to the level of the small child she had accidently crashed into, she saw that she had a small scrape on her knee , but no other injuries. To her credit, the girl was fighting the urge to cry and Willow gave her a small smile and wiped the tears that were swimming in her crystal blue eyes. "What the hell are you doing with my daughter?!" a woman came thundering out of the house to her right, making Willow visibly jump. Standing immediately, Willow started backing up, her hands in front of her defensively. "Hey, hey, calm down." she offered a smile, hoping that the woman would find it hard to yell at a friendly face, "I bumped into her; I was carrying a box and didn't see her, that's all. I wasn't doing anything wrong!"
The glaring woman studied Willow and she felt herself shrink under the furious gaze, before looking to her daughter. "You ok honey?" she barked, never taking her eyes from Willow. The child appeared at her mother's side, slipping her tiny hand into the shovel sized hand of her over protective parent. "I'm ok mommy!" she said sweetly.
Without another word, the large woman scooped her daughter into her arms and disappeared back into her house leaving Willow to collect the box's contents that had spilled onto the sidewalk.
As she resumed her trip back to Buffy's, she absently wondered what else could go wrong on the journey back. All thoughts of the previous night's events had been pushed out of her mind. She turned the corner onto Revello drive and noticed a single car parked in the street, its back door open but no one around. Frowning slightly, Willow wondered who would leave their car doors open then decided that the owner had probably popped back inside to fetch something before returning. Making a mental note to be extra cautious as she approached the car, Willow failed to notice the short but muscular man step out in front of her and she barrelled headlong into him, this time it was she who hit the ground, coming to a painful halt next to the awaiting vehicle. "I'm so, so sor....." she began, turning to see what unfortunate individual she had run into this time. Standing before her, legs shoulder width apart was the undeniable form of Daniel 'Oz' Osbourne. Over time he had grown more muscular and an ugly scar twisted down the left hand side of his face, making the once timid man look dangerous and unpredictable. Willow's words froze in her throat, making breathing difficult but not impossible.
"Welcome back!" he said, grabbing her and bundling her into the waiting car before she had a chance to even try and scream.