Buffy tried to keep walking, but she felt like weights had been tied around her legs. She had to keep going, though, had to reach the road and then maybe someone would find her. They had to find her.
Buffy blinked and found herself on the ground, staring sideways at one of those prickly desert trees she could never remember the name of. She didn’t know how she fell over, or when, really, but she had to keep going. She had to find the road, because a road meant people, and people meant water.
She’d been investigating the crater that was the remains of Sunnydale, to make sure the Hellmouth wasn’t still grumbling underneath, but she’d gotten lost on her way back to the car. It sounded stupid, even when she thought it, because, duh, go around in a circle, but the city hadn’t been a perfect circle, and there were all sorts of twists and turns to the edges of the crater. She’d even sworn she’d gone all the way around and passed her own markers, but she couldn’t have, because that would mean that Willow and Xander had just left her there.
And she was fairly certain that they wouldn’t do that.
Buffy blinked again and found the sun in her eyes. When had it moved? She really just needed a drink of water, that was all. She did her best to roll over, trying to find the little bit of shade provided by the scraggly tree, but it wasn’t much good. She thought she saw a lake, just beyond it, but she had seen those earlier too, and they had all been mirages. The lake in Sunnydale park had gone down with the crater.
When Buffy blinked this time, she saw Willow running towards her. This was probably a mirage too - it had been before - especially as Willow appeared to be wearing a bright blue angel costume. Willow landed on her knees by Buffy’s side and immediately said, “Wada Calcium CD3?”
Buffy didn’t have enough energy to give her a strange look, so she settled for asking, “Water?” instead.
Willow frowned and then replied. “Its a question of nurture versus nature.”
Done with this mirage, Buffy closed her eyes. When she opened them again, Willow was still there, wearing her normal clothes, but a halo of light spread around her head. This must be what dying of thirst feels like, Buffy thought, hoping that all the angels in heaven looked like Willow. Not that there had been angels before, come to think of it.
“I refuse to nurture elephants!” Willow insisted. “Get more calcium!”
“I just need water!” Buffy tried to tell her. It came out as more of a squeak and she felt the edges of the world slipping away. She just wanted a drink. Willow grabbed her head in both hands and shook it, saying something, but Buffy couldn’t hear her anymore. Her attention was drawn to the other girl’s lips as they moved soundlessly, and she wished that she could just kiss her lover one last time.
Finally the blackness closed in on Willow’s face, and then Buffy lost consciousness.
Buffy woke slowly, and to her surprise she seemed to be in the back of a familiar bus. She started to sit up, but her head pounded fiercely and she stopped. Arms immediately tightened around her, and Buffy realized that she was in Willow’s lap. “Ssh, don’t move,” Willow whispered. It was the first sensical thing she had said so far and Buffy complied.
She wanted to ask for water, but her throat was too dry and her brain felt like it was trying to squish out of her ears. “Here,” Willow put a straw to her lips. “You have to drink it slowly; no chugging.
Buffy complied and felt sweet relief as cool water filled her mouth. After a moment Willow tugged the cup away. Buffy made a noise of protestation and Willow said, “no, not all at once. Giles said that could make you throw up and then you’ll be dehydrated again.”
So Giles was the one responsible for taking away her water, Buffy made a mental note. She’d talk to him about that when she wasn’t dealing with the worst hangover in the history of mankind.
Then Willow was whispering something and Buffy had to strain to hear. “Apparently the First isn’t entirely squashed; there’s still some residual energy floating around out there. The minute we split up it disguised us from each other. I had to use magic to find you.” Buffy thought that made some sense. It would explain the apparent disappearance of the road and the car that she had been searching for.
“Then when we found you you were babbling,” Willow continued. “Something about angels and Joshua trees. I was afraid that we were going to lose you.”
Right, Joshua Trees. That’s what those things were called. “Water?” Buffy asked again.
This time Willow held the straw to her lips again, and Buffy was able to guzzle it down. When Willow pulled away again, Buffy grabbed her hand, still feeling weighed down, and turned slightly. Willow was sitting behind her, cradling the slayer in her lap, and Buffy found their faces only a few inches apart. She had almost lost her chance before, and she wasn’t going to lose it now.
“Thank you for finding me,” she said softly, before kissing the other girl deeply.