It wasn't real. It was a dream it wasn't –
"…down these steps, that's it."
Oh god, oh god, oh god. It couldn't be real. Was she stuck in someone's nightmare? Her own? This couldn't be happening. Oh god! Breathe, she had to breathe.
Hands tightened around her waist and eased her onto a soft, comfortable surface. A couch? When had they stopped driving? Why didn't she notice?
"… right back. I'll get you some blankets and a cup of coffee."
"…thank god, yes, it's Dr Jackson. It's all right. You're at my apartment, just try to relax. I'll be back in a minute."
When had they gone to his apartment? Why hadn't they gone to hers? Did it matter? No. Willow didn't think she'd feel safe in any place any more. There was no safe place.
She couldn't stop shaking.
She couldn't breathe.
Oh god! Why was this happening? She was being punished. The Powers were punishing her for abandoning her friends. Was that it? But why? All she wanted was for a life away from Sunnydale away from the –
Dr Jackson was back, sitting in front of her on a table thing. Didn't he just leave?
"Here drink this," he held something to her lips.
Strong, black, coffee.
"I'm going to call Dr Fraiser," he told her, "she'll come here and give you something for the shock."
Shock? She was in shock? No. This wasn't shock. Pure terror. She couldn't go back there… she couldn't go back to all the blood and death. She had joined the Air Force to get away from it, not to run to it.
It was Sunnydale all over again.
"Sunnydale all over again?" he repeated.
Willow willed herself to focus on his eyes.
He seemed to be thinking. "You're from Sunnydale? Before it was destroyed by the… oh god. Oh my god. Oh god!"
He knew about Sunnydale? What a surprise? Who didn't? It was a ghost town now, literally, the massacre at Graduation shut down pretty much everything. There wasn't a lot left, and what was had been destroyed by the –
"I didn't know. I'm sorry."
She wished she didn't know. Willow wished she could forget everything she had learned, everything about Sunnydale and now the Stargate and the Goa'uld. The Goa'uld… that's what she had been training to fight for the last two years.
There was no air!
"You're hyperventilating, just relax. Take long deep breaths. You're safe, Willow. I won't let anyone hurt you, ok? That's it, in and out, in and out."
A sob escaped her.
Arms went around her. "Willow, I'm so sorry. If I had any idea where you were from, I would have done it all differently. I would have asked to brief you individually and not with the group. I'm going to kill Jack."
What did Colonel O'Neill have to do with this?
"He would have known. I thought it was strange that he seemed so interested in you. No wonder he was so impressed today," his arms tightened around her, "it's ok to get upset Willow. No one blames you for having trouble dealing with this."
"I can't do this," she croaked out.
He nodded. "You don't have to make any decisions right now, ok? Do you want me to call anyone? Do you have any friends here?"
Why couldn't she stop shaking?
"You're in shock," he explained, "I can call Dr Fraiser if you like? Get her to come here and give you something to help you sleep. Or I could take you back to the base – "
"No, please… I can't go back there. Not yet. I don't…" she didn't finish. She didn't know why it was so important not to go back to base. Maybe she just didn't want to leave the warmth of his arms.
She felt safe here.
Actually safe, for the first time in six years.
"You don't have to go anywhere, you can stay in the guest room tonight. Tomorrow, we'll go talk to Dr Fraiser together? We can talk to the General as well. Maybe he can delay the training until – "
No! No training. She wasn't going out there. She wasn't fighting. She had done her share and lost. She wasn't going to lose anyone else… please, she couldn't bear the thought.
"Shh… shh… ok, we'll let it go for now. How about you don't make any decisions right now?" he stroked her hair.
It was over. Everything. Her entire career. She was losing it. No way were they going to give her a command ever, not with her like this. They'd take her wings, she'd be discharged. The Air Force was all but a faint memory.
Oh god! She couldn't go back out THERE. The world outside the Force. It terrified her more than the Goa'uld did.
Only slightly more.
But could she stay? Oh god. She was so confused. So scared. Nothing was real any more. She abandoned her friends for nothing. This world was no less safe than the world they lived in.
Why was this happening?
She was going to be sick.
"Bathroom?" Willow clamped her hand over her mouth as soon as she uttered the words. She was going to be sick.
"Up those steps, second door on the left. I'll take…"
She scrambled out of his arms and half crawled, half ran, to the bathroom heading straight for the toilet and threw up the remainder of whatever she ate or drank. A moment later, the door slammed shut behind her.
That was just the icing on the cake!
Now wasn't the time for her magic to rear it's ugly little head, but of course, it had to. Her magic never left her and always rose to the surface when she was upset, or in trouble… or when she was looking for someone.
Everyone was so damned impressed that she could find someone quicker than everything else. They wanted to know how to she did it. Easy…
It was her magic.
Giles had warned her, her power was extremely potent, raw, and would take any chance it had to `leak' out. When she was looking for people, her magic always sort of took over and found them, and she followed it. Willow didn't have a choice. There was no controlling it. She had no choice but to go where it led.
Her power was desperate for release.
Who was she kidding?
There was no leaving Sunnydale, that life, EVER.
She was so wrong to think she could, and she was wrong for hurting her friends trying to get away from it. She hurt so many people, most of all, herself.
What would Buffy, Xander, and Oz think of her if they saw her now?
An Air Force trained basket case completely losing it.
God, this really wasn't happening. It was a dream. It had to –
A quiet knock. "Willow, can I come in?"
Why not? Her humiliation wasn't complete until one of her superiors saw her throwing up. What did it matter? It was all over now. "Come in," she called out, her voice almost hoarse.
Then he was next to her, his hand gently rubbing her back. "Everything will be all right."
Willow didn't think either one of them believed that.
"I know things look bad, but they always do when you're upset, and considering how much you've drunk tonight it’s not a surprise you feel that way. When was the last time you ate?" his hand stopped moving. "That probably wasn't the smartest question to ask considering where we are."
Willow couldn't help it, she laughed.
Dr Jackson's laughter filled the bathroom. "Why don't we clean you up, and I'll fix you some soup. I've got some clothes you can change into, then we'll talk. Come on, I'll help you get cleaned up."
No. She couldn't. "No, I'll be all right. I can do it on my own."
It reminded her too much of what it had been like right after graduation. Giles had done the same thing for her. Helped her get cleaned up, washing the blood of her friends and, unbeknownst to her, her parents, off her.
She had been covered in blood.
She didn't want to remember that.
"I don't think that's wise. Listen, if you're embarrassed, I can call Janet and get her to come over – "
"No. I'm fine… I feel a lot better," lies, all lies, "I'll be all right. I'll have a quick shower so I can…"
Wash the blood off.
He didn't move. "Willow, I really don't think I should leave you alone."
Please, just leave. She didn't want him here. Not with her like this. "I'll be ok, I just need a minute… the alcohol is wearing off."
This was never about the alcohol, but he didn't know that.
She wasn't going to tell him.
"Ok, just don't lock the door. I'll leave a change of clothes for you outside. Yell if you need me."
He left, reluctantly.
Willow closed her eyes and the memories came rushing back. The blood, the screams, the death… it was always with her. Xander's limp body lying not far from where he had been commanding the troops, Buffy a few feet away, and Oz, dead from a vampire.
So much death.
Shower. She needed a shower to wash off the death. She didn't want to remember, she didn't want to think about it. She didn't want to think about anything. The spray of the shower was scalding, but she didn't care. It took away the cold that had been consuming her.
Her body was still shaking, and the fear still consumed her. The shower wasn't doing anything but warming her up.
Why did this have to be real? It couldn't be happening? Oh god.
A sob escaped her and she sunk to the shower floor with a thud, the spray drowning her. The death wouldn't leave her. It was still there. Clinging to her. It was never going to leave.
Oh god… oh god… oh god…
She couldn't do this. She couldn't face anything – not without Buffy, Xander, and Oz. They made her feel safe, and loved. There was no death with them there. Please, god, let this be a dream….
No. No. She couldn't deal with this…
Willow sobbed uncontrollably as the water cascaded over her. She didn't, or couldn't, move not even when the spray turned slightly cold.
There was no escaping the death.
Why did she try?
Running away had only taking her even closer to it. There was no escape, it would always be there, always –
"Willow are you all right?" A panicked voice rose over the shower spray. "Willow! Answer me… Damn it!"
Cold air. She could feel cold air. The door was opened and he was in the shower with her.
"Please," the word was a sob, "tell me it isn't true! It's a lie. It's not real. It's a dream, tell me it's not real. Please… please… oh god, please. I can't… I can't…"
He picked her up in his arms and carried her out of the shower. She clung to him, sobbing, begging.
The tears wouldn't stop.