Dirge Without Music


When the dreams of blonde hair and forgiving eyes came again, Willow woke and slipped from Cesar's bed. She shivered in the night's chill. In São Paulo, Willow had loved the warm summer nights, like Sunnydale's, but lush and moist. Here in the Andes, even the midsummer days had a chill, sun shining bright through thin air. At night -- well, Willow found a fleecy pullover on the back of the door, and she huddled into it, shivering.

In the other room Willow found the case of magical ingredients. One nice side effect of shacking up with a warlock was the lack of fights about magical paraphernialia. Kennedy was great in a fight -- and enthusiastic in bed -- but she could be counted on to snipe about the packing.

"If you leave behind the spice rack I can fit another axe."

"That 'spice rack' removed the curse from Zulede yesterday, sweetie."

"Yeah, but extra axe!"

Even on bound-to-be-safe trips like this one, just a jaunt up into Chile to convince another rural mestizo family to send their daughter to school in São Paulo, Cesar agreed with her about the necessity of travelling fully stocked.

Carrying the case into the kitchenette, Willow shut the door quietly so as not to wake Cesar. Carefully she laid parcels on the table. Some were plants she'd never heard of until she'd come to South America. Others still had fading Magic Box labels on the tidy ziploc bags. The herbs kept, and she didn't do this spell very often. The inadvisability and danger aside, it didn't help.

Walking with the dead was easier than it once had been, since Willow had come to understand the Earth. Earth was life, after all, and life and death were intertwined. So even before she'd lit all the candles, Willow found herself walking on a high ridge. The stars that glittered were sharper than she'd ever seen until she ever came here, to these cold mountaintops, but it wasn't Pavo and Indus whirling overhead. Instead, familiar Northern constellations hung overhead, sharper than human eyes could usually see: the Great Bear, Cassiopeia. Below her, in the canyon that was once Sunnydale, flickered the lights of a bustling town.

"You won't find her here, you know," said Jenny Calender. Willow whirled to see Jenny, who sat at a desk at the top of the ridge, grading student assignments written in Logo. "She's not wandering around here with the rest of us lost souls."

"I know," said Willow, smiling. "She's someplace better."

"I don't know about better," said Jenny. "But she isn't here."

"She's at peace! Beyond the cares of the world," Willow protested. "What's not better about that?"

Jenny used her purple crayon to mark papers with checkmarks and Xs. "Some of us liked the cares of the world," she said. She leered at Willow. "We chose to remember them because it was more fun than moving on." The paper at the top of the pile had the name "Rupert Giles" at the top, and Jenny wrote Terrible work, see me after class. My place, 8pm.

"Miss Calender, you're a teacher."

"Yeah, and I'm only a few years older than you now. " Jenny pursed her lips, and with a sudden shift of perception, Willow realised Jenny was attractive -- no, was smoking hot. "Funny thing about death; the living keep getting older and the dead don't. You realise you'll be thirty and forty and fifty, and Tara never will? Even if you could see her? "

Willow turned away, looked at the lights of dead Sunnydale below.

Jenny wrote a purple "A" on top of a paper titled "Willow Rosenberg. Her Work." She handed it to Willow, who took it without looking. "Go on," said Jenny. "Go back to your living, your sleeping warlock. I hear he can do this thing with his tongue..." Her voice turned sharp as Willow walked away. "Hey, Willow, no. Not that way."

"Why not?" asked Willow, walking into the desert. "You're right, Tara isn't here." And while Jenny looked after her anxiously, Willow walked into the empty lands.


Willow had wandered in the barren places before. The spirits here were sundered: those with destroyed souls, killed in curses or in spells gone wrong. Not ghosts or angels, these wanderers were just memories of those dead even to the dead: recalled dreams, hopes, phantoms of events long past. She found it oddly comforting. Nobody here was sad, or missed life - because nobody was here to feel, not really. Sundered spirits flitted past in repeated action: catching a baseball, sleeping, dropping a tray of glasses, slicing turnips. Willow knew more dead people than living; this neither here nor there vacancy was restful, absent anyone who expected anything of her.

And in the land of the sundered, where those beyond death had left shadows of shadows, Willow saw a familiar face. "Willow! Hi!"

"Fred?" It was Fred, all right. Willow remembered that wide, nervous smile, the shining eyes, the adorable dorky ponytail. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm a yammerer from way back," said Fred, and she smiled at Willow hopefully.

Willow reached out, but stopped short of touching Fred. Among the dead, it was not always safe to touch. "Are you dead?"

"Quod perditum est, invenietur," said Fred, seriously.

"What? Oh..." Willow was appalled, as she recognized replays of the not-too-distant past. "You're here? What happened to you?"

Fred looked longingly at Willow. "I have to say, someday I.d love to bend your ear about the Pergamum Codex." Her eyes widened as if she saw something special. "Gunn!" And the earnest young geek melted away to a lustful woman who drifted off into another memory, tangles of flesh and passion that would have embarrassed Willow if she hadn't been overwhelmed with unexpected grief.

"Oh, honey," she said softly to a ghost that couldn't hear her. "I didn't know you well. All I did was meet you that one time. But that anyone I know would end up here..." Willow knew there were horrors after death. She didn't know what her own brush with apocalypse would bring in time, and she had plenty of demon friends whose homes were disturbing dimensions. She'd thought about hell dimensions plenty, over the years, since Buffy's death and ressurection. Did the souls of vampires wander around with the dead, lost without the bits that stayed with their bodies? Would she meet the unvamped part of Drusilla in death, she'd wondered? Jesse?

But she'd never thought she'd know anyone so soul-destroyed as to have their memories and hopes end up on this plain, to replay meaninglessly until they faded at last from lack of intent. "I'm so sorry," she said. Blurrily, she watched Fred grapple with a dark form, a light form, another light form, all of them together.

"Willow?"

The dorky earnest young thing was back, with fingers resting on Willow's lips like the shadow of a dream.

"Willow, I've waited so long for you." Fred looked at her own hands as she clumsily unbuttoned the flowers on her blouse. "I knew you'd come back."

Willow took a step back from the fingers, the pale skin, the exposed stretch of practical white bra. "Fred, what are you --? This never happened. You can't be doing this, nothing happens here that hasn't happened, or that you haven't dreamed -- oh." Dreamed.

Whichever way Willow looked, there was Fred, here in good-girl white, here in garters and a push-up bra, here in -- good lord! -- a cowgirl outfit, complete with lariat. "You had these fantasies about yourself? I don't know how they do things in Texas, but I always fantasize about the other person wearing the kinky boots. Not that I fantasize about kinky boots, I mean not with you. Oh sweet gods and goddesses, I'm babbling to a ghost." She backed up one more step and backed into yet another Fred, this one, from the feel of her, wearing leather and carrying objects Willow didn't want to think too hard about. "A ghost that's feeling me up. Eep!" One of the Fred's hands had reached under Willow's pullover and cupped her breast. "You don't feel dead. Or even not-dead."

Cowgirl-Fred pressed her soft red lips against Willow's earlobe and drawled, "rodeo with me, pardner?" She giggled, warm and decidedly unghostly dreams of breath moistening Willow's ear. "I know, that's so cheesy. I've never met anyone in Texas who talks this way. But it might be fun to play." And she wrapped the lariat around Willow's waist and pulled her close.

Good girl-Fred left her cardigan and white blouse hanging open over her plain cotton bra. "I need to know what it feels like," she explained, and she took Willow's right hand and placed it on her breast, where a hardening nipple just outlined against the sensible cotton. "Does it feel as good as physics?" The breast felt warm in Willow's hand, and full, and very very real. Good girl-Fred let her eyes fall shut and breathed out, not quite loudly enough to be called a moan.

Leather-Fred said nothing, but whatever she was holding pressed against Willow's ass. Willow's flannel pajama bottoms didn't seem to be there anymore, and one gloved hand pulled Willow's hip back. Her back was plastered against slickness and cold, and something pressed inexorably against her opening, not hurting her, but not compromising, either. Teeth closed sharply on the back of Willow's neck.

Lingerie-Fred licked her lips in what was probably supposed to look like porn, but was mostly just adorable. But then her nipples poked out the top of her demicup, and her fingers slid into the moistness of that ridiculous lacy g-string, and it wasn't so cute anymore. Lingerie-Fred didn't try to touch Willow. She stood at arms length, keeping eye contact, fingers in her own cunt, rolling her nipple with her other hand.

And Willow stood there, held up by the Freds, watching and feeling. She wasn't even able to think You dreamed all this about me? Instead she felt the rope scratchy around her waist, and the leather against her ass. She watched Fred in black lace and in sensible skirts. And there were other Freds, too, kissing her mouth, whispering filth, sucking on her nipples, her clit, her ass. Fred knelt at her feet bound and gagged. Fred held Willow over a table and smacked her until her ass was red and sore. All these Freds and only one Willow, fucking and being fucked, and honestly it would have been disturbing to realise she'd been fantasized about so much by a near stranger except Willow had a starring role in these fantasies and she couldn't stop coming.

One of the candles on the kitchen table guttered and went out. Willow was alone again, shivering in a fleece pullover and flannel pajamas in a hotel east of Antofagasta. She went back into the bedroom where Cesar was sitting awake, waiting for her, and she crawled into his arms and cried and cried.