by Andrew Bowles

"We have become desolate."

It was a rainy September afternoon in Sunnydale when Willow Rosenberg walked into the diner. She made her way to a corner booth, far from the other customers, and sat down.

It was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and Willow had used the religious holiday as a convenient excuse to skip the day's classes at UC-Sunnydale. This was supposed to be a day of sacrifice, a sundown- to-sundown fast, but she stopped believing in sacrifice some time ago. Her best friend had sacrificed herself, and as far as Willow could tell, all sacrifice got you was a shiny new tombstone, leaving everyone around you to pick up the pieces. She had had enough of sacrifice, and she had damn sure had enough of picking up the pieces.

A waitress--her nametag identified her as Dottie--made her way to Willow's booth. "Can I get you anything?" she offered, with the slightest hint of a Southern accent.

"Just a Pepsi," Willow replied, barely glancing up from the table.

In a few moments Dottie emerged with a chilled can of Pepsi, a glass of ice and a straw. Placing them on the table as she passed, she drawled, "Let me know if there's anything else you need."

Willow didn't bother with the glass, opting to sip the Pepsi straight from the can. The soda, a clear violation of the Yom Kippur fast, was less an act of blatant defiance than a response to a basic need. She wasn't capable of defiance anymore. She could barely do need.

It wasn't always like this for her. Before Buffy's death, she had cared so much about so many things. About her friends, the world, herself. But now it seemed pointless, downright frivolous, to care. After all, she was living on a Hellmouth, and Buffy, the Slayer, the one person who stood half a chance against the forces of evil that swarmed around Sunnydale was long gone. With Faith in prison and very much alive, there wasn't even hope of a new Slayer being called. Willow knew that they would all die, just as Buffy had. It was only a matter of time.

She finished the Pepsi and left a couple of dollars on the table for Dottie, enough to cover the price of the soda plus a generous tip. Even in her current state Willow refused to be discourteous. She carried the can with her as she left the diner. Once outside, she crumpled it with her hand and threw it on the wet sidewalk, disgusted.

It reminded her too much of herself. Empty.


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