"The same place she was the last time you asked ten minutes ago," Wesley replied with a small smile.
Buffy looked at him and saw the smile, realizing he was making fun of her. She stuck her tongue out at him before replying, "You are not in the least bit amusing, Wesley."
"No need to get insulting," he said with a laugh, his eyes watching her move to the next table. "I find it commendable that you all care so much about Willow, but there is no need to worry. The Devlins will not allow her to be harmed."
"I'm not worried, silly," she said with a roll of her eyes. "I'm just not used to her not being here."
"Change is good, Buffy," he said quietly, his eyes flashing with mixed emotions as he looked at the table.
"I love the Devlins, Wesley," Buffy said, stopping her cleaning to face him. She leaned against the table, struggling to put her thoughts into words. "It's just strange, Willow being married and gone. I know she'll be back, and I really hope she enjoys this trip. She deserves to be happy. It's just, I can't explain it. Since I've been here, she's only left twice, returning after five days. She won't be back until spring, if their plans don't change. Spring! That's many, many days with no Willow. I fear that I miss her so much already, and it has only been three days."
"I understand, in a way," he said quietly. "The Devlins have been my family for years. They have never left me until for more than a few weeks until this last year. I did survive, though. I grew from the experience, as we all do. Willow is happy. The Devlins are completely devoted to her and I dare say she will have a wonderful time on her honeymoon. She will return faster than you know with presents and tales of her adventures. Do not dwell on where she is, what she is doing, or time will move slowly."
"Yes, sir," Buffy said with a laugh as she thought over his words. He was right, but it was easier said than done. It would take her time, it would take them all time. Willow was part of the Rose, and now she was gone. Even when she returned, she would be different, they would all be different. She looked at the table and wiped the rag over it, wondering if the other girls felt as lost as she did at the moment.
Wesley watched her clean and smiled, saying, "I wonder where she is."
Buffy stopped, looking at him in surprise before smiling a large smile and laughing as she tossed the rag at him, "Somewhere in Missouri, I'd expect."
They both shared a smile and laughed as Wesley stood and handed Buffy the rag, moving back to sit down, their conversation moving away from Willow and the Devlins.
"I just cannot believe that it is nearly over," Cordelia Chase said softly as she looked out the window. The streets were nearly empty, a white blanket of snow covering the dirt.
"It does seem rather sudden," Graham agreed, his eyes moving over the brunette. "It seems as if the year had just begun."
"So much has happened this year, I almost hate to see it end," she said with a small smile, thinking back over the year. "Willow is married, Faith is having a child and planning to marry, Anya and Xander are rebuilding their relationship, and I'm happier than I've ever been."
"You've no regrets?" he asked quietly, asking the question that he often wondered.
She looked at him and replied sincerely, "The only regret that I have is that I did not leave them sooner. I belong here, at the Rose. My family, my true family, are part of me. I have no regrets about leaving it all, Graham. I truly love it here."
He gave her a small smile before noticing her shiver. He frowned as he said, "You're cold."
She laughed softly, answering, "Just a bit. The fire has not yet warmed the room. It has stopped snowing, though, so it shall not get much colder today."
Graham watched her turn to look back out the window, noticing that she was rubbing her hands over arms. She was wearing a pretty dress this morning, simple yet elegant. Everything that Cordelia wore was elegant, in his opinion. She would be striking wearing a brown canvas bag, he was certain. While the dress was pretty, a nice light blue that went well with her dark hair, the material seemed to do little to protect her from the cold chill in the air. He, himself, had been awake since dawn, having gone out in the snow early to chop wood for the hotel. He glanced down, glad that he had worn an extra shirt that morning. He unbuttoned the long sleeve shirt, slipping it from his shoulders.
Cordelia jumped slightly when she felt Graham move behind her. She was constantly aware of his presence, her body on edge whenever he was near. She sucked in a breath slowly when she felt his warmth so close. She looked at a horse that was tethered down the street, not wanting to look at Graham for fear that he would be able to read her emotions in her eyes. Over the last months, they had become friends. She did not wish to lose him from her life by betraying her affection and growing love for him. Her eyes closed half way when she felt his hand on her shoulder. It was the briefest of contact, yet her heart nearly stopped. The back if his hand brushed across her lower cheek as he lifted her hair. That fleeting touch would never remove itself from her memory. She inhaled sharply as she felt his fingers in her thick hair, his scent completely surrounding her. In surprise, she looked down to find that he had put his shirt around her. She glanced at him, watching as he backed away from her slightly, his eyes on the floor.
"I didn't mean to touch you like that, Cordelia," he said softly, knowing that it had been improper to touch her face. He'd been unable to resist, though, she was so pretty.
"It's all right, Graham," she whispered, her hand moving to trace over her cheek as she looked back outside. He hadn't meant to touch her, hadn't wanted to touch her. Disappointment entered her eyes as she pulled his shirt tight around her.
"I'd better get to work," he said as he moved out of the hotel lobby and into the hallway to go to the saloon. Midway down the hall, he stopped, leaning against the wall and sighing as he ran a hand over his face.
End of Chapter 2
Read the concurrent story of Willow/Spike/Angelus & Drusilla on their honeymoon - Discoveries