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Judgement Given and Received

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"This is the part where you're supposed to judge," Willow informs him, crossly.

Everyone else is judging, even Xander, and- that's okay. She'd judge, too. They're just being very nice and supportive in interacting with her.

He gives her a wry smile and touches her forehead. "I killed for you," he says, softly. "I mean, to protect you. I disrupted the gang's plan when the mayor captured you. I punched Xander when he made you cry during that love spell that went awry. If it'd make you feel better, I could tell you what you already know. But I don't judge you, I don't think I could if I wanted to, and the reason I'm here is because I thought you might need someone who can understand."

Closing her eyes, she's lets out a shuddery sigh. "You didn't try to destroy the world. And you didn't manipulate the person you were supposed to love more than anyone. And- I'm not me. Or I'm not the me I always imagined I'd be, the me I wanted to be. I tried to kill myself, y'know, when Giles first brought me to England, but it didn't work. Well, I guess that's obvious, I'm not a- I don't want to die. I- just. Can you tell me how to live with myself?"

He repositions himself so that he can sit behind her. "It's different for everyone," he answers, softly. "Maybe you should try to see yourself the way your friends see you. The way I do."

He catches the tears as they slip past her still closed eyes. "Except, you're biased. You still remember the me I was back then. And the others- I remember I gave Faith this speech at the mayor's, and now, I think it should apply to me. My chances should have run out."

"Hey," he says, softly, "look at me."

Slowly, reluctantly, she opens her eyes, only to avert her gaze after seeing his eyes.

"C'mon, Willow."

Shaking, she manages to look him in the eyes with only her tears slightly obscuring the view.

"It doesn't matter how long. I can still see the good in you. Until the day I can't, I'm not going to believe otherwise. This isn't about- I have a family, now, Willow, and I'd never do anything to jeopardise that. The part of me that loves your babbling and thinks you're still one of the most beautiful girls I've ever seen is biased. The part of me that was used to make Xander jealous, cheated on, and tried to rush into forgiving you is biased in the other direction. But neither of them matter, because the part of me that just likes observing people? It's showing me this lonely, grief-stricken, guilt-ridden woman who's gone through hell and is still determined to fight evil and make up for her mistakes, even knowing she might not be able to make up for some."

Taking a shuddery breath, she nods and recloses her eyes.

Leaning down, he kisses his forehead. "On Sunday, I have a plane to catch, but I'm going to leave my email address and set up your webcam so that it's connected to mine. Whenever you're ready, call me. You can look at me and see how much I love you; then, when you're ready, you can start believing the love you see in the others' eyes."

"Thank you," she mutters, suddenly drained. Pushing herself closer to him, she repeats, "Thank you."

He rearranges them so that they're both lying down with him holding her from behind.

As she's falling asleep, she feels a gentle press of lips against her neck. "I'll say 'you're welcome' when you call and I see the love for yourself back in your eyes," he says, almost too quietly to hear.