TITLE: Mind games
AUTHOR: Angelina (email@example.com)
DISCLAIMER: All characters belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
SUMMARY: What if Willow had something she didn’t want Buffy to hear during ‘Earshot’?
SPOILERS: Earshot - some dialogue has been borrowed and the plot is basically the same
AUTHOR'S NOTES: All feedback welcome. "Mochas?" "Yes please!" Thoughts are shown by <<…>>
“Ah, Willow, Oz…I think Buffy’s looking for the pair of you.” Giles spoke without lifting his eyes from the book he was reading.
“Oh, did she get her demon part yet?” Willow asked, apprehensively.
Giles snapped his book shut. “Yes she did.”
Willow and Oz looked at each other. “Well…?” Willow prompted.
“Oh, sorry, yes, she can read thoughts.”
“Cool.” Oz, straight to the point as ever.
“Not cool!” squeaked Willow before she could stop herself.
Oz regarded her with the slightest hint of a raised eyebrow - this indicated that he was surprised. “Not cool?”
“Well, I..I mean, I suppose…it’s sort of, a little cool, slightly…kind of.” Willow stammered. “B..b..but maybe she doesn’t want to hear what people are thinking.”
“Well, she seems to be enjoying it so far,” said Giles. “And I do think it will enhance her capabilities as a slayer.”
“Yeah, but…” Willow whined.
“Hey guys. Oh Will, did you hear what my ‘aspect of the demon’ was?” said Buffy rushing over and grabbing her friend’s hands. She gave Willow a wicked smile. “Wanna go find out what Xander thinks about?”
Willow panicked and blurted out. “Can’t …gotta go…got class.” She pulled her hands out of Buffy’s grip and practically sprinted out the door. Buffy was surprised by the abruptness and couldn’t help feeling a little hurt. This stuff going on in her head was exciting but a little scary too and she wanted her best friend to be there with her. Best friend was something of an understatement - the all-consuming love of her life was more like it - but she really tried not to think in those terms. She was with Angel and Willow was with Oz and that was how things were supposed to be. She shook herself out of her reverie when she heard Oz thinking.
<< Hmmm, Weird. Will doesn’t have a class just now. >>
“She doesn’t?” Buffy asked, trying to keep the hurt out of her voice. Willow had lied to her, this was a devastating feeling but Buffy attempted to brush it off, thinking there must be a good reason for the deception.
Oz was slightly taken aback, he had forgotten about Buffy’s new gift. “Uh, maybe she’s doing one for extra credit.” << But I don’t think so. >>
“Right.” Buffy felt a lump forming in her throat and swallowed it down hard.
Just then Xander burst through the doors looking decidedly unhappy. << What does he have that I don’t have? Except a stupid accent, no dress sense and the courage of a mouse? What the hell does she see in him? >>
The subject of Xander’s thoughts entered the library, closely followed by Cordelia. << Wesley has the cutest Adam’s apple. >> “You have the cutest Adam’s apple Wesley.” Cordelia cooed.
<< Everything about you is cute, Cordelia. >> “ Ah, yes, thank you Cordelia.” Wesley answered in his clipped British tones. He turned to Giles. “Are we any closer to finding Buffy’s ‘aspect of the demon’ yet?” << I’d like to be a lot closer to Cordelia. >>
“She’s found it.” Giles answered.
Three heads turned expectantly towards Buffy.
“I can hear people’s thoughts.” Buffy said with a shrug. Wesley and Xander both paled slightly.
Cordelia sighed. << I don’t see what this has to do with me. >> “I don’t see what this has to do with me.”
Xander was in quite a state of agitation.. < >
“Well Xander you’ve just proven that the one track mind does exist.” Buffy smirked at him.
Xander looked up frantically. “Bye.” And ran out of the library.
<< Hmmm, this is something of a double-edged sword. On the one side Buffy has all these doors opening up to her. But on the other, her two best friends have just run out the door as fast as possible. >> Buffy looked at Oz, thinking that she’d never actually heard him string that amount of words together out loud, but realising he was right. Wesley speaking interrupted her.
“Xander has just demonstrated something. We’re all going to be thinking what we least want Buffy to know. It is, of course, a question of mental discipline.” << Dear God Cordelia looks good in that outfit. >> Buffy smiled knowingly at him. “Excuse me.”
<< She really knows how to empty a room. >> “You really know how to empty a room, Buffy.” Cordelia pointed out helpfully.
“Yeah.” Buffy looked at the empty seats. “I kind of need to talk to Willow.”
<< Probably not a good idea. There’s obviously something she doesn’t want Buffy to know about. >> Buffy stared at Oz and he realised his error. << Shit >> He got out of his seat to leave.
“No, stay, I’ll go.” Buffy jumped off the table and headed for the doors. But not before hearing Cordelia thinking << Great, now I have to make conversation with Mr Personality. >>
“So Oz, what’s new?”
Buffy wandered the halls, idly listening to snatches of thoughts here and there and wondering if anyone in the entire school was happy. Eventually she spotted a familiar head of red hair at the far end of the corridor. Willow was reading the notice board, something she only did when she was killing time. So Oz was right, Willow was avoiding her. Buffy walked up and placed a hand on Willow’s shoulder.
<< Oh no >> “Hey yourself…listen, I made a mistake earlier…I didn’t have a class at 11…I’m tutoring Percy at 11.30…which is now…so …bye!” Willow started to move away but Buffy grabbed her arms and gently backed her into the wall.
“You don’t have class and you’re not meeting Percy at all, are you?”
<< No >> “Yeah…I am…” << I’m such a bad liar. >>
“You are a terrible liar. So tell me the truth.” Buffy paused and looked down, afraid to ask her next question. She looked back at Willow. “Do you not like me? Do you go around thinking what a bitch I am or something and you don’t want me to hear that?” Tears had formed in Buffy’s eyes.
“Oh, Buffy…” << Could she be more wrong? >>
“What do you mean?” Buffy asked. “Tell me Will, please.”
Willow sighed. << I hate this, I hate that she can hear my thoughts, I hate that I’ve made her worry about our friendship, I hate that she looks like she’s about to cry, I hate that I can’t stop thinking about her…no, no, no! >>
Buffy looked at her in surprise. “You don’t want me to know that you think about me?”
“I…well…I…” << No you idiot, I don’t want you to know that I’m head over heels in love with you. >>
“You…you’re in love with me?” Buffy’s voice was barely more than a whisper.
“Oh God, Buffy, I’m sorry, I never wanted you to find out, I…” Willow’s words were swallowed by sobs which shook her whole body. “I’ll go now,” she managed to choke out. But Buffy caught her before she could leave and enveloped her in a tight hug.
“You’re not going anywhere.” Willow resisted at first but then gave in and cried into Buffy’s shoulder. Buffy rubbed the back of Willow’s neck with her thumb and allowed Willow’s jumbled thoughts to flow out uninterrupted.
<< Good one Rosenberg…do you think she’s gonna want to be friends with you now…she’s probably trying to think of a way to let you down gently…this feels so nice…like I fit into her body perfectly…God Rosenberg give it up…she hates you now… >>
“No!” Buffy pulled away and made Willow look at her. “I don’t hate you, I never could. Willow, I…we will always be friends no matter what.” Buffy took a deep breath and continued, “I could tell you that you should have told me earlier but I’d be a total hypocrite if I did.”
Willow sniffed and furrowed her brow. << She’d be a hypocrite? What does she mean by that? >>
“I thought you were supposed to be the intelligent one? OK, I’ll spell it out for you. I’m in love with you too.”
Willow was dumbstruck. << Is she just saying this to make me feel better? >>
“Willow!! OK maybe this’ll convince you.” Buffy leaned in and softly kissed Willow’s lips. Willow whimpered and then responded. The kiss deepened, both were lost in the wonder of the new sensations sweeping over them. When they finally parted neither one spoke but Willow’s mind was working overtime.
<< That was…wow, I think I’ve been doing it wrong up till now, or maybe just with the wrong person. I hope she liked it. Can’t have been much fun with all my tears and snot and everything. Oh no, what if I’m not a good kisser.. >>
Buffy silenced her thoughts with another kiss, attempting to convey everything she felt into that one gesture. When they broke the kiss this time Willow’s mind was at ease. She pulled Buffy close and buried her face into her neck, hardly able to believe what was happening.
“I’ve wanted this for so long,” whispered Buffy.
“Me too,” came the muffled reply. They stood there holding each other until a piercing voice invaded their cocoon.
“You two, stop that, you know that this is no longer a touchy-feely school” Snyder shouted. “There will be no showing of affection here.” He carried on walking. Willow looked at Buffy, whose expression was one of disgust.
“Umm, let’s just say that the image of us together is giving Snyder impure thoughts.”
“Tell me about it, you didn’t have to hear them!” Buffy took Willow’s hand. “Come on, let’s see if Giles has found out any more about this mind-reading stuff.”
And still holding hands they made their way happily back to the library.
For the first time in a long time Buffy felt happy. She had a cool new power and she had finally told Willow how she felt about her. OK, that made it sound like she’d bit the bullet and poured her heart out. In reality she had waited, and waited, and waited until today when, by chance, she had acquired the power to read thoughts and under duress Willow had ‘thought’ that she loved her. Then, and only then, did big, brave Buffy find the courage to admit her own secret feelings. But the way it happened was irrelevant now. All that mattered was that they loved each other. And yeah, there were probably going to be some tough times ahead - the names Angel and Oz kept popping into her head - but for now she was content to be walking along, holding Willow’s hand, hearing her think along much the same lines as herself, only with slightly more babbling involved.
They smiled at each other before pushing through the doors to the library.
“Hey guys! Find anything?” asked Buffy. Giles and Wesley jumped in unison and spun around wearing matching guilty expressions.
“Uh, no, no not yet,” said Giles. “But I wouldn’t worry, I’m sure we’ll find something soon.” << I’m Henry the 8th I am, Henry the 8th I am I am, I got married to the widow next door… >>
Wesley merely nodded. << Cordelia, Cordelia, Cordelia, Cordelia… >>
Buffy looked at the two men perplexed. “Ooooookay, I’m glad to see you’re both really focused on the task in hand here.” She shook her head at Wesley, noticing beads of sweat on his forehead. “I think we’ll leave you alone with your deep thoughts. Lunch, Will?”
“Sure,” said Willow happily. << Anything you want Buffy >>
“You’re lucky I’m a lady and I won’t take advantage of that thought!” Buffy whispered as she pulled Willow behind her out of the doors.
Giles and Wesley breathed a sigh of relief once they were gone. Wesley brought out a handkerchief and wiped his brow. “Mental discipline certainly takes a lot of effort.”
“Yes,” agreed Giles. “Look, we have to find something to help her, quickly.” And they both hit the books intently.
“So, what are our fellow students thinking about right now?” Willow whispered as they waited in the lunch line.
“Well, the girls are like Ally McBeal en masse - neurosis city!” said Buffy. “ And the guys are all perverted.” Buffy glanced at the person standing next to her.
<< Why is she looking at me? I bet she doesn’t even know my name >>
Buffy frowned. She was no longer hearing single thoughts. Thoughts, voices were overlapping in her head. Two, three, four voices at a time. She couldn’t even tell who was thinking what anymore. She walked away with her lunch tray, trying to clear her head. Willow followed, alarmed by Buffy’s behaviour.
<< Why do I… >> << …know she’s such a… >> << …won’t he give me… >> << …my life is so… >>
<< THIS TIME TOMORROW I’LL KILL YOU ALL. >>
Buffy dropped her lunch tray. The students around her applauded and whooped.
“Wow, that’s a really mature response.” Willow reprimanded them. “Buffy are you OK?”
But Buffy wasn’t listening; she was accosting random members of the student body, trying to ascertain which one of them was having murderous thoughts. But it was no use. Thoughts were becoming so intertwined that she couldn’t think straight. She put her hands over her ears to block out the noise but it didn’t work. The last thing she heard clearly was Willow calling her name as she fainted into blackness.
When she awoke, even before she opened her eyes she heard thoughts. It wasn’t as bad as it had been in the lunchroom - there were fewer people around her now she surmised.
<< Come on Buffy, please wake up, you’re scaring me. >> Willow’s mental plea pulled at her heart and she opened her eyes to find a pair of green ones directly above her. She was rewarded by a torrent of relieved thoughts from Willow.
Glancing around she saw Giles, Oz, Xander and Cordelia. All were thinking variants of << Phew, thank God she’s OK >> Well, all except Cordelia who thought << Finally, can we go in now? My hair’s getting all messed up >>
Buffy slowly sat up, supported by Willow. “Are you alright Buffy? What happened in the cafeteria? You fainted.” Giles was very concerned.
“I…I heard all this stuff, all mixed up together.” Buffy tried to remember. Then it came back to her. “Oh God, there’s a killer in the cafeteria!!” she blurted out. “I heard them, they thought ‘This time tomorrow I’ll kill you all.’”
“Are you sure it was a serious threat?” asked Giles.
“Yeah, I mean, I’ve thought that a couple of times but I’ve never actually done it!” said Xander. Everyone stared at him. “Oh, come on, are you telling me that you’ve never….” His voice trailed off. “OK, shutting up now.”
“They meant it, I’m sure of it,” said Buffy, firmly.
“Did you recognise a voice?” asked Willow.
“No…no it was all distorted, so full of hate and loathing. I don’t even know if it was male or female.” Buffy abruptly stood up and headed toward the school building. “I have to go back and find them.”
She only got so far before a wall of noise appeared from nowhere and she reeled back covering her ears. Giles caught her. “Come on, I’m taking you home.”
“No! I have to stop the killer,” said Buffy.
<< Poor Buffy >> << This must be so weird for her….hey, I can see down Cordy’s top >> << Now my hair is wrecked AND I’m freezing >>
“SHUT UP!” Buffy screamed. She looked at the stunned faces around her. I’m sorry, it’s just, could you guys not think so much…or at all?”
“Come on Buffy, the others can handle the situation here, you need to be at home.” Giles urged.
“OK,” Buffy relented. “You guys have to make a list of everyone in the cafeteria, and pick out the suspicious ones.” She turned to Willow. “Will you come home with me?”
<< Do you even have to ask? >> “Of course I will.” Willow linked her arm through Buffy’s and turned back to the others. “E-mail the list to Buffy’s mom’s computer. I’ll do some cross-referencing and try to come up with suspects for you.”
“Sure thing Will, feel better Buffy.” Xander added, nodding to his friends. Then he, Oz and Cordelia turned back and walked toward the school.
“This thing is getting scary Giles, I can’t turn it off,” said Buffy as they headed to Giles’ car.
“She’s gonna be OK though, right Giles?” Willow looked at Giles with such trusting eyes that he couldn’t bring himself to tell her the whole situation.
“Oh, yes, I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about,” he said forcing a smile. << If we don’t find a way to reverse this soon she’ll go insane. >>
Buffy stopped in her tracks.
“What’s the matter?” Willow asked, concerned.
Buffy tried to smile for Willow’s benefit. “Nothing, I’m fine, let’s go.” Willow made a mental note to ask Giles in private. “No don’t!”
“Why not? Buffy please don’t keep things from me.” << She doesn’t trust me >>
Buffy sighed, “Of course I trust you. OK, if you really want to know….Giles thinks that I’ll go insane if they can’t reverse this.”
Willow was shocked. “Oh.” Her eyes filled with tears but she blinked them back. “Then we’ll just have to find a way to reverse it because there’s no way you’re going crazy without taking me with you!” Resolve face was firmly in place. Buffy smiled and pulled Willow into a brief hug.
“Are you two coming?” shouted Giles from the car, and arm in arm they walked across the grass, ready to face whatever they had to. Together.
Buffy was in bed being fussed over by her mother and Willow. However, her mother was acting somewhat strangely - always disappearing to get something. Finally Buffy couldn’t take it any longer.
“Mom, come sit with me, please?” Buffy put on her nest puppy-dog eyes. She noted that Willow started thinking gooey thoughts when she did this and stored the information for future use.
“But honey, don’t you want a drink?” Joyce asked, hovering nervously.
“I’ll get her one,” said Willow bounding off the bed before Joyce could protest.
What’s wrong mom?” asked Buffy, upset that even her own mother didn’t want to be around her.
“Nothing’s wrong, it’s just…well, it’s unnerving knowing that someone can get inside your mind and know your every thought…” said Joyce, wringing her hands.
Buffy sat bolt upright in bed. “You had sex with Giles?!?” Willow was just entering the room, stealing a drink of Buffy’s orange/grapefruit juice which she promptly spat all over Joyce and then went into a coughing fit. Buffy was still in shock so Joyce thumped Willow’s back while using her sleeve to wipe the worst of the juice off her face.
“You had sex with Giles?” Buffy demanded again. “Twice?”
Satisfied Willow wasn’t going to choke to death Joyce made a beeline for the door, muttering the pitiful excuse “It was the candy, we were teenagers.”
“On the hood of a police car?!” Buffy fell back onto her pillows in despair. Willow was now almost fully recovered and was wiping her streaming eyes.
“Buffy, I really think you should calm down. All this stress probably isn’t helping.” Buffy looked at her in disbelief.
“Calm down? Did you hear what I just said? She had se…”
“Yes, I heard, very clearly. But come on, what difference does it make? They’re both adults…OK so they weren’t technically adults when they did it but still there must have been some underlying…”
“You’re not making me feel any better here, Will.” Buffy pouted.
“Sorry.” Willow climbed onto the bed beside Buffy and pulled her down so they were both lying flat and Buffy’s head was resting on Willow’s chest.
“This might help with the calming down process though,” said Buffy.
“Glad to be of service,” said Willow, running her hand through Buffy’s hair. “You realise that I’m never going to be able to look your mother in the face again don’t you? Or Giles for that matter.”
“Me neither. But you’re going to have to do it right now.” Buffy glanced up mischievously at Willow. “You have to go get her lap top and dig up some suspects for the guys.”
“Now?” Willow protested “But, I want to stay with you.”
“It’s a lap top, Computer-genius, you can bring it up here.”
“Oh yeah, but I don’t want to ask your mom for it”
“Too bad Will, we can’t slack off on this killer thing, that’s the last thing Sunnydale High needs.”
“OK” said Willow sighing and untangling herself from Buffy. “But only coz you asked me nicely.”
Buffy smiled, but the smile faded quickly. “Willow, come back here for a sec.” Willow complied and found herself in a crushing hug.
“Ugh, not that I’m complaining but what brought this on?”
Buffy loosened her hold and looked into Willow’s eyes. “In case they can’t reverse this, I want you to know that I love you more than anything in the world…”
“Buffy don’t talk like that..”
“No Will, I left this too long as it is, I just want to be sure that you know how I feel. I love you.”
“I love you too Buffy, more than I can explain in words.”
“Well, don’t use words then.”
Willow smiled at Buffy’s words and then kissed her, tenderly, lovingly, urgently. They parted, no words were needed. Willow rose silently and walked out the door and downstairs, safe in the knowledge that she was loved. Buffy felt exactly the same. Only she was anxious because she was starting to hear thoughts which could only be coming from outside. It was getting worse.
Willow walked tentatively into the kitchen where she found Joyce pacing like an expectant father.
“Hey Mrs Summers,” said Willow, unsure of how to talk to a woman whose sexual escapades she’d just been hearing about (and whose daughter she’d been kissing about two minutes previously).
“Oh, Willow.” Joyce’s eyes flicked back and forth, resting anywhere but Willow’s face. “Do you want something to eat or…”
“No, no, I’m fine thanks, I just wanted to ask if I could borrow your lap-top…the guys are supposed to be e-mailing me something and I want to see if I can find anything to help Buffy, coz you know me, computer-nerd girl…”
“Sure Willow, come on we’ll go get it.” Joyce looked relieved to have something to do. They walked through to the living room in a very uncomfortable silence. Joyce located the computer and took it out of the case, all the while looking like she wanted to say something. She held the laptop out to Willow but withdrew it just as she was about to take it.
Willow, accustomed to babbling but not usually being on the receiving end was taken aback to begin with but quickly decided that she didn’t want to hear anymore so she interrupted.
“Mrs Summers really, you don’t have to explain anything to me, your sex life is none of my business, just like mine is none of yours, not that I have one right now but I will someday, I hope, and then it won’t be any of your business and I’ll be being quiet now.” Willow clamped her mouth shut.
Joyce was unsure how to respond. “Thank you Willow” she said after a moment. “It’s just that Buffy seemed …not to take the news very well.” She finished euphemistically.
“Well, I uh, think that it was just the initial shock of the thing, she’ll calm down soon, I mean no-one likes to think of their parents having sex, especially with the school librarian who also happens to be her Watcher and…OK quiet is good.”
“Yes, I suppose it was rather a bolt from the blue” said Joyce, getting a far away look in her eyes. At that moment in time Willow was very grateful that she couldn’t read minds. Joyce shook her head to clear her thoughts, she handed the computer to Willow. “Thank you for being so understanding and open-minded Willow. It’s good to know that my daughter has such a well-adjusted person as her best friend.”
Willow gulped. “Best friend, that’s me. And open-minded is a good thing to be, I bet you’re really open-minded what with your daughter being the slayer and all. I guess there’s not much that could shock you now huh?” Willow asked hopefully.
“Probably not, but I can live without many more shocks in my life thank-you very much. Maybe this little surprise will give Buffy an inkling of what it’s like to have a huge revelation inflicted on you.” Joyce said, raising her eyebrows in a motherly superior way.
“Um, yeah I guess, and as far as you and Giles are concerned, it’s all in the past, right? I mean, as long as you were careful there’s no reason to…you were careful right?” Willow turned forty shades of red in under a second and ended up an interesting variation of purple. “I’m so sorry Mrs Summers, it’s nothing to do with me, I…”
“No, it’s a very sensible question Willow, yes, we were careful.” Joyce’s colour had also deepened and eye-contact was being avoided again.
“Well, that’s great. And thanks for the laptop. I’ll be upstairs if you need me.” Willow put her head down and walked briskly out of the room trying not to think thoughts like <> She turned into Buffy’s room and saw Buffy holding a pillow over her face.
“Buffy? Buffy are you OK?” Willow put the laptop on the floor and hurried to the bed where she gently removed the pillow to be met with a sight that broke her heart. Buffy was crying. “Oh Buffy.” Willow tenderly gathered the slayer in her arms and pulled her into her lap. She sat and rocked her sobbing friend, stroking her hair, wiping her tears until the crying began to subside.
“I’m scared Willow.” Buffy stated simply. The fear was obvious in her huge, expressive eyes.
“I know Buff, so am I, but we’ll find a way to get through this, we always do.” Willow tried to smile reassuringly at Buffy and was granted a watery smile in return. “Is it getting worse?” she whispered.
Buffy nodded. “It’s like there’s a big meeting in my head and everyone wants their opinion to be heard but no-one’s listening to anyone else. I can’t even hear most of the words now, everything’s all mixed up.” Buffy burrowed her face into Willow’s neck. Willow swallowed against the lump that had taken up residence in her throat. She had never seen Buffy this scared. Buffy had very rarely allowed her vulnerability to show. Willow felt privileged that Buffy was comfortable enough with her to let her guard down and show her true feelings. But this very same fact brought home the severity of the situation. Her thoughts were disturbed when she realised Buffy was mumbling something into her neck.
“I asked if you had e-mailed the guys yet.”
“Umm, no, I was talking to your mom for a little while.”
Buffy looked up, apprehension on her face. “About what?”
“Oh, you know, usual chit-chat. She asked if I wanted a snack, I asked if she and Giles had been careful when they…”
“You did what?!?” Buffy was aghast.
“I didn’t mean to, it just sort of slipped out.” Willow said lamely. “Oh, and by the way, I think your mom might be OK with us being together.”
“Oh my God, did that just ‘come out’, so to speak, as well?” Buffy demanded.
“No, nothing like that. She was just saying that being open-minded was a good thing and that relationships can be difficult for outsiders to understand…stuff like that.”
Buffy thought about this for a moment. “A relationship? Are she and Giles having a relationship?”
“No, it was a one time thing.”
Buffy stared into Willow’s eyes for a long time before a smile finally broke through her stern exterior. “You’re incredible, you know that?”
“In a good way?” asked Willow, hopefully.
“In the best way.” Buffy pulled Willow’s head down so that their lips could meet in a short, but very sweet, kiss. “Now, you have to get on that thing and help the gang find the cafeteria murderer.” said Buffy.
“OK, but I’m doing that quickly then I’m looking for some way to cure you,” said Willow fetching the laptop from the floor. She settled back down on the bed with the computer on her lap and Buffy’s head on her shoulder and started cross-referencing the list Oz had sent her with files she had hacked into. << Oz. Now there’s something to look forward to. >> she thought as she finished identifying prime suspects and e-mailed the list back to the school where she knew the faithful would be waiting even though it was night. She immediately brought up a search engine and started looking for anything that might help Buffy. As she searched her mind crept back to Oz. The last thing in the world she wanted was to hurt him. She knew he loved her, and in some way she loved him back. Just not the right way. He was the first (non-robot-demon) guy to pay any attention to her in a romantic way. He was a cool guy. He was in a band. He had forgiven her after her little , ahem, indiscretion with Xander.
Xander, he’d have to be told too. Despite his frequent allusions to lesbian fantasies Willow doubted whether this meant that he was ready for his two best friends (one of whom he’d had a crush on since her arrival in Sunnydale, the other he’d had a fling with) to start dating each other.
Dating Buffy. Willow got fluttery feelings in her stomach when she thought these words. It was actually happening - except for the fact there had been no dating yet. Mostly because Buffy was incapacitated due to contamination by demon blood but hey, who said the path of true love was easy? And there would be dates, Willow was sure of it. Once they had beaten this mind-curse thing, told their respective boyfriends and informed their close friends of this new development in their relationship there would definitely be time for a coffee or something. Willow forced herself to concentrate on the screen. She scrolled through pages and pages of text, until…
“Ah hah!” she exclaimed out loud. << This is it, this is the cure! Go Net-girl! Yay! OK, ingredients: sage limestone, heart of the demon, rose petals…heart of the demon?? Great, how are we gonna get that with Buffy out of the game?………..Oh no……Angel, that’s not going to be awkward or anything. >> She thought as she eased her shoulder out from under Buffy who had fallen into a fitful sleep. She made her way to the telephone and called Giles, he could call Angel, Willow was sure that she’d inadvertently let something slip <> or something along those lines. Giles said that he would get right on it. He would mix up the rest of the potion and meet Angel at Buffy’s house with the vital (and very gross) ingredient. No doubt the demon would be unwilling to part with said ingredient, Angel would have to get tough. Willow shuddered at the thought of this and really hoped that their little revelation wouldn’t do anything to Angel’s fragile soul. She had been on the receiving end of Bad-Angel and couldn’t imagine being someone who’d stolen Bad-Angel’s girlfriend.
Hanging up the phone Willow returned to Buffy’s bedside. She was talking in her sleep - making no sense. Willow guessed that she was responding to thoughts only she could hear. Buffy thrashed around on the bed, ripping at Willow’s heart with every movement. She tentatively reached out and grabbed Buffy’s arms, quickly drawing her into a tight embrace. Willow’s presence seemed to calm Buffy down somewhat although she continued to mutter and her body still jerked violently every so often.
<< This is gonna be a long night >> thought Willow.
Giles was keeping himself busy mixing up ingredients, double checking the spell, doing anything to avoid conversation with Joyce. << Where is Angel? >> he thought. His prayers were answered by a knock at the door. A slightly well-done Angel stumbled in under a blanket. The sun is not a vamp’s best friend, and sunscreen just doesn’t cut it. He produced a jar of something icky and handed it to Giles.
“Where is she?” he asked.
“She’s upstairs in bed,” said Joyce, not exactly thrilled at the sight of the man who had deflowered her only daughter. Angel turned to head upstairs and then caught himself.
“Is it OK if I go see her?”
“I don’t see why not, Willow’s with her.” The unspoken implication was that with Willow there there would be no fornication.
Angel climbed the stairs and opened Buffy’s door a crack. He saw Willow lying in bed with Buffy, stroking her face while Buffy writhed and mumbled. He experienced conflicting emotions - arousal and jealousy being the main players. He had noticed some time ago that Willow had a crush on Buffy. He could sympathise with the girl, he knew how intoxicating Buffy could be, she could invade the senses and not leave a person alone. He felt grateful that Buffy was his and a little sorry for Willow that she would never know how it felt to have Buffy return her love. A bittersweet smile appeared on his lips as he thought that Buffy would probably be better off with Willow than with him. He had to feel guilty; too much happiness wasn’t good for the health of those around him.
He knocked the door softly and Willow looked up. When she saw who it was he saw the usual jealousy in her eyes but there was something new there too that he couldn’t quite read - panic? guilt? sympathy? smugness?
“Angel, hi!” said Willow with forced brightness.
“Hey Willow” Angel replied. He stepped into the room and immediately flattened himself against the wall. “Do you think you could close the curtains?” he asked nervously.
“Oh, sure, I can do that.” Willow gently extracted her body from underneath Buffy’s. Buffy’s muttering became more agitated at the loss of contact. Willow closed the curtains and turned to see Angel kneeling down by the bed and brushing Buffy’s hair from her brow. Willow found herself entertaining very bad thoughts about throwing the curtains wide open.
<< No-one would know. I could just sweep the ashes under the bed and say he left. No, he’s your friend. Sure he’s held you by the throat and threatened your life, killed your favourite teacher and your goldfish and made Buffy leave you for months…but he’s good now. And it’s not his fault that he loves Buffy, it just shows that he’s got good taste. If he doesn’t get his hands off her I’ll… >> Willow forced herself to let go of the curtains and walked nonchalantly back to the bed and sat on the edge of it. Angel looked at her strangely, like her was wondering why she was still there. She stared back at him defiantly - she know he would never be so forward as to tell her to leave, Buffy’d stake him. He was so whipped. That was an image Willow did not want in her head so she was relieved that Giles walked in at that moment with a strange looking concoction in a glass bottle. Angel rose and took the brew from Giles and proceeded to lift Buffy’s head and pour the disgusting liquid into her mouth. Willow thought this was very presumptuous, what if someone else had wanted to do the honours? OK so he’d fought the demon and got the heart in the first place…but did he want all the glory? Immediately Willow felt awful. She'd never been the jealous type before. She was roused from her thoughts by the sound of coughing and spluttering as Buffy drank the antidote. Her body started convulsing in a very worrying manner. Willow moved to help Angel pin her down. He relented and let Willow take an arm. The pair of them held on tight and rode the storm out as the convulsions passed and Buffy became still again. She was no longer muttering or flailing around. She appeared to be sleeping peacefully now. Willow and Angel were each holding one of Buffy’s hands.
“Now what?” asked Willow, turning to Giles.
He shrugged. “We wait”
So they waited. In a strained, silent atmosphere. Angel was wondering why Willow was acting so strangely while Willow was trying hard not to fantasise about killing him. Joyce and Giles were feeling awkward in each other’s company but felt an unspoken bond in their shared opinion that Angel was all wrong for Buffy.
Sometime later Buffy showed signs of waking up. Angel decided it was time to assert his authority and sat on the bed, positioning himself so that he would be the first thing Buffy saw when she opened her eyes. Willow felt she really couldn’t continue to hold Buffy’s hand without arousing either suspicion or rage from Angel so she stood up and backed away. She and Buffy would have plenty of time together after Angel had been told.
Buffy’s eyelids fluttered and then slowly opened, blinking a few times against the light. She saw a dark shape above her and tried to focus on it. It lifted her hand and kissed it with cold lips. Then it struck her.
“Angel!” She looked around frantically until she saw a redhead lurking in the corner. Willow flashed her a smile and waved. Buffy grinned back.
“Can you hear thoughts?” Angel’s voice brought her eyes back to him. She’d forgotten about that. She concentrated for a moment then a smile spread across her face.
Angel leaned in and kissed her on the lips, taking her by surprise. She glanced at Willow who looked down. Buffy pushed Angel away from her, mumbling something about her mother being there.
“You should try and get some rest Buffy, you’ve been through an awful lot in the past 24 hours” said Giles, not realising how true his words were.
“No! I can’t sit around here, there’s a killer at school, and I’m fine, really.” said Buffy, politely declining Angel’s attempts to help her stand up. What she really wanted to do was run to Willow and hug the living daylights out of her, but she wouldn’t, yet.
“Ummm, do you think I could get dressed now?” asked Buffy, hinting that she wanted some privacy in which to do this.
“Oh, sure honey,” said Joyce, giving Angel a look that left him with no doubts as to whether he was allowed to stay in the room. He, Joyce and Giles left the room and Willow was on her way out when she was caught from behind by two arms around her waist.
“That didn’t mean you silly!” Buffy whispered next to her ear.
“Oh, right, well, it was just that you said you were getting changed and…”
“And? You’ve seen my naked before.”
Willow was lost for words as an image of a very naked, nude Buffy danced through her head and she was very grateful that Buffy’s ‘gift’ was gone. While Willow was having dirty thoughts, Buffy had been flinging on any garment she could lay her hands on and was fully dressed by the time Willow turned around. Willow found herself both disappointed and relieved. She was unsure how she’d have controlled herself in a no-clothes situation.
“Ready to go?” she asked.
“Almost. I have something to do first.” Buffy stepped up to Willow and cupped her cheek, slowly leaning in for a kiss. Their lips were millimetres apart when the door burst open and Giles almost knocked them over in his hurry. The girls sprang apart like they’d been scalded.
“Giles! What if I’d been naked?” Buffy demanded.
“Ah, oh sorry, I assumed you’d be dressed, and you are. So I have news. There’s no need for you to go to the school. The killer has been apprehended,”
“Who was it?” asked Willow.
“The lunch lady apparently. Xander discovered her putting rat poison in the lunch special while he was stealing food from the kitchen. He was violently ill afterwards. Cordelia gave me a very graphic description which I won’t bore you with.”
“No, I think we can live without that.” said Buffy.
“Yes, indeed. Well, I just wanted to let you know, and I really do think you should rest.”
“A day in bed? I won’t say no.” Buffy raised a suggestive eyebrow at Willow who blushed.
Giles nodded and made to leave but bumped into Angel who was entering the room. Giles acknowledged him with a curt apology and continued on his way.
“Hey!” said Angel, pulling Buffy into his strong arms. “I’m so glad you’re OK.”
“Umm, yeah, me too,” said Buffy, patting him awkwardly on the back.
Willow was looking around for a pencil or some other sharp wooden object before she realised what she was doing and mentally scolded herself. The sight of Angel holding Buffy like that was making her feel things she’d never experienced before - she had to get out of there.
“Look, I’m sure you guys want to talk so I’ll leave you alone.” She looked meaningfully at Buffy when she said the word ‘talk’. “I’ll go down and make us all some lunch - no rat poison, I promise!” <> And she walked out of the room before either of them could reply.
Buffy stared at the door for a moment after Willow closed it. Then she looked at Angel; his dark eyes showed signs of confusion and apprehension. He was the first to speak.
“What did she mean about us needing to talk? Is there something you want to tell me Buffy?”
Wow, perfect opportunity. She hadn’t expected him to actually ask her to tell him. But she was still unsure exactly how to phrase the words she knew would break his unbeating heart. Hurting him was the last thing she wanted to do. She cared for him deeply; she loved him and always would. Only now was she beginning to realise that since he’d come back from Hell, she’d stayed with him out of a mixture of guilt and habit. It had been easy to fall back into a relationship with him. It was familiar and comfortable. And dating other people had been too much of an effort. And with her rapidly changing feelings for Willow there was no-one but her that she wanted. Buffy realised that Angel was patiently waiting for her to reply.
“Oh, umm, talk, to tell you, I do have something.”
“OK, that was almost English.” Angel tried to lighten the mood.
Buffy smiled sadly at him. “Angel, you know that I love you, right?”
“I love you too,” he said uncertainly, confused by her tone of voice.
“Yeah, but I don’t think, I mean, the two of us, we shouldn’t umm…”
“Oh….I see.” Angel looked down at his feet.
“What do you see?” asked Buffy.
“Buffy, I’ve been around for two and a half centuries, you think I don’t know what a break up conversation starts?”
“Break-up sounds so final.”
“But that’s what’s happening right?”
“I…I guess so…I mean yeah, it is, I’m sorry.” She didn’t want to patronise him.
“Can I ask what made you decide?”
“I…” She decided that the truth would be best. “There’s someone else.”
“Well, I can’t say I was expecting that,” said Angel, looking even more forlorn if that is humanly possible. “Do I know him?”
Buffy took a deep breath. “You know her.”
Angel brought his head up sharply. The realisation dawned in his eyes. “Willow.” It wasn’t a question.
“Willow.” Buffy confirmed, needlessly.
Angel shook his head in wonder. “I knew she was acting strangely earlier but I never…I didn’t see this coming on your behalf at all…I take it this is a recent thing?”
“Well, yes and no…what do you mean ‘on my behalf’? You mean you…”
“I knew Willow had a thing for you. What do you mean ‘yes and no’.”
“Yes, we’ve only very recently discovered that the feeling was mutual and no, I’ve been in love with her for a long time. Maybe longer than I realise myself. And you didn’t tell me that she was in love with me?”
“I thought you’d be embarrassed or act differently around her or something.”
“I’m glad you have such a high opinion of me.” Buffy’s voice was low.
Angel sighed. “I suppose I knew this day had to come. We couldn’t go on forever. I just wasn’t ready to admit it. You deserve someone who can be there when you need them, not just between dusk and dawn. You need someone who can watch the sunrise with you and see all the promise it holds, not just the promise of a fiery death. I think Willow is that person for you. I know that she’d do anything for you - she’s proven that by doing what she thought you wanted, she restored my soul, even though she loved you herself. I’m glad I’m losing you to her, she’s the only one I would give you up graciously to.”
Buffy’s eyes were bright with tears as she listened to Angel’s words. “Really?”
“Yeah.” He pulled her into a hug. “Don’t worry about me. I’m a big boy now. I don’t bite people who dump me anymore. Of course I’ve never been dumped by someone I love before.” He pulled back and looked into her eyes. “But that’s because I’ve never loved anyone before.”
Buffy couldn’t speak, tears spilled down her cheeks. She hadn’t expected this to be so hard, to hurt so much. She held on to him tightly.
After several moments they parted with a platonic kiss which they both knew would be their last. Without a word Angel turned and walked out, leaving Buffy to throw herself onto her bed and sob.
In the kitchen, Willow heard Angel’s footsteps on the stairs and her heartbeat quickened. She almost burned herself on the stove, causing Joyce to insist on taking over the preparation of the lunch.
Angel came into the kitchen and announced his departure. No one urged him to stay. All at once he started towards Willow who thought she was going to faint, but he embraced her.
“Take good care of her” he said simply, his voice thick with emotion. Willow nodded mutely and then found her voice.
“I will.” And she meant it most sincerely. He released her and fled out of the door under his blanket but not before Willow noticed his face was wet with tears. Giles and Joyce both looked at Willow.
“What was all that about?” asked Giles. Willow did her best to look clueless.
“I have no idea. Maybe I should go and find out.” And she ran out of the room and upstairs.
She found Buffy wiping her eyes. All her previous feelings of jealousy were gone, replaced with a deep sympathy for both Angel and Buffy. She knew she had no reason to be jealous of Angel. Buffy had chosen her and for that she would be eternally grateful. (Especially considering that Angel had a great set of glutes.) She went to Buffy and put her arms around her. Buffy hugged her back, enjoying the warmth after the cold experience of Angel’s embrace.
“Was it horrible?”
“Multiply that by a million gazillion.”
“How did he take it?”
“Pretty well actually. He said he knew you had a crush on me.”
“What? How could he…I never..I wasn’t obvious was I?”
“Well not to me you weren’t.” Buffy smiled at her. “He says he’s glad it’s you I’m in love with.”
“That’s nice…and a little weird.”
“I know, but anyway, that’s the hard bit over for me, you’ve still got to go through it.”
Willow groaned. “Don’t remind me.”
“OK then, forget about it, for today at least. Let’s just have a together day. I think we deserve it.”
“Darn tootin’!!” said Willow brightening. “So, do you have any ideas about what we could do for the rest of the day?” she asked coyly.
“Hmmm, I have a few.” said Buffy putting her hand behind Willow’s neck and drawing her in for a kiss. A kiss full of promise, new beginnings, the sound of a door opening…blind panic. Willow opened one eye, lips still firmly attached to Buffy’s, and saw Joyce and Giles standing in the doorway holding trays of food. Willow abruptly pulled away from Buffy who eventually worked up the courage to open her eyes. The four of them stood in excruciating silence until Giles spoke.
“We’ve brought you some lunch. We’ll leave it here and you can eat in when you’re…finished.” He laid his tray on the floor and made Joyce do the same. He then closed the door and urged Joyce down the stairs. She could be heard muttering “Bu…b…but….” all the way.
Buffy turned to Willow. “Oh well, on the bright side, that’s two people we don’t have to tell!”
Willow couldn’t think of a single thing to say. So she covered up for her lack of words by kissing Buffy again. And again. And again.