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'Cause Falling Just Happens

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Her “British Lit” text getting too Ye-Olde-English-y, Willow couldn’t help reflecting—something she did a lot lately. Her shy, younger, extra-babbly self would be scandalized. Tiring of schoolwork? Impossible.

That was "Rosenberg 1.0," who used to thank her lucky stars for Buffy Summers. An awe-inspiring, assured superhero who’d forsaken popularity and social standing to be her friend. But who was she kidding?

Willow still thanked those stars. Because if it were her making the decisions, she wouldn't be living in Buffy's house, occupying Buffy’s once room and bed. Wouldn't have given herself another chance.

Good thing she wasn't Buffy. Her best friend wanted to move past all she’d done, and help her deal. Except Willow wasn't positive she deserved it.

See, the shy girl had become a mostly confident, extremely powerful witch. A witch who’d torn her best friend from heaven, gotten seduced by magick and strength she’d never had...strength she abused.

Several versions took her there; she was trying to patch the latest bugs.

Willow loved that circumstances had switched, that she could crush all the people who made her life hell for sixteen years, without breaking a sweat. She never thought she would, of course, but then Tara died. The loss of her girlfriend and lover sent her catapulting over the edge, and she became a willing puppet of the dark magick she'd flirted with.

She brutally murdered Tara's killer, very nearly her friends. Her family. Also, there was that whole attempt at world destruction.

But none of it seemed to matter to the people who cared about her. Xander risked his life to reach her. Afterwards, Giles flew her to England to study under a coven, and she'd come to some realizations. Realizations she wasn't ready to voice.

Upon returning to her native shore—even though Buffy was rightfully wary—she was welcomed back into the house she considered home. And it truly did feel that way. Even more so than the structure she spent her childhood in.

She was grateful for everyone, she was. Except they couldn't help. Not yet. She needed to discover "Willow" again first. Maybe update the version a little.

 

______

 

Brought out of her reflection by sudden ringing, she sighed, put down her book, and moved to answer the bedside phone.

"Hello?" Hearing who it was, her eyes slowly narrowed as she tried to keep calm. "Oh, h-hey ... Nope, I'm just ... Huh? How'd you hear...?"

Her eyes widened while she listened. "Uh, I think I'll pass... Yeah, I'm sure. Fame-schmame... I won't change my mind, trust me."

She was getting tenser as the conversation continued, her anger becoming frustration. "That's not what happened! It wasn't like that. A-and it's gone, so ... No! I wouldn't. Never, ever again. With a capital ‘Never’ ... You have no idea...it so isn't something you should mess with ... I don’t care if you're bored! ... Look, I don't do that kinda stuff anymore, and I don't have to explain, and...just leave me alone."

Forcefully slamming the phone into its cradle, she closed her eyes, inhaling slow, deep breaths. "She's wrong."

"Who is?" Buffy had been standing in the doorway, sort of eavesdropping.

She felt guilty about it, but was desperate for her best friend to let her back in. She walked further into the room when she wasn't acknowledged.

"Will?"

"Amy," Willow opened her eyes and answered. "She wanted to know if I was free tonight, because..." She turned away, looking to the window. "...Because she wants to see the temple."

Buffy was confused. "See, this is where you’re oranges and I’m...mangos. You were all about ‘temple knowledge’ in high school, and I was all about the best ways to behead and decapitate."

"Don't those both mean the same thing?" Willow's brow furrowed as she directed her gaze back to Buffy.

"Technically. But, if you were a slayer? You’d 'decapitate' if you had time, which is cleaner, and 'behead' when you didn’t, which, sloppier." Buffy's tone was light and conversational. "It’s a ‘cleanliness’ issue. All depends how much 'demon' you wanna wear on your clothes."

Willow absorbed this. "I usually don't like any."

"Then, uh, decapitate whenever possible." Buffy was frightening herself. "Back to my non-gross point, the only temple I know is the one with those kids and the psycho cult that Harrison Ford..."

As soon as she said it, she was left feeling like a moron.

"Okay...too many 'Summer Movie-Fests' with Xander," she smirked, but then Willow looked back at her, and she frowned. "Oh, we-we were always thinking of you...Dawn ate your share of the popcorn every time."

Seeing a weak smile, she ungracefully abandoned her tangent. "So we're obviously meaning Sunnydale's own, 'Underground, World-Ending, Temple of Evil.'"

‘Not Doom,’ she silently yelled at herself.

"For the record, I knew that."

Willow nodded supportively. "Well, Amy wants to, 'Go have fun with it,'" She rolled her eyes, "but she needs me to raise it. ‘Cause I'm, yunno, the Huge, Nasty, Uber-Bad. That's what's 'going around,' anyway," she sarcastically spoke, sighing heavily. "I'm worse than the Wicked Witch now."

Buffy smiled. "Munchkins beware."

"She doesn't get it, Buffy."

"I know."

"But you don't. Not totally." Willow got off the bed and went to the window. "No one does." Her voice lowered. "Magick is..."

"I wanna get it, Will." Joining her, Buffy put a hand on her arm, which was shrugged off. Despite the pang of hurt she felt, she kept going. "I can't understand if you don't talk to me—that thing you avoid doing. I mean, since you've been back, we've had...what? Three conversations that didn't involve some random baddy dumb enough to make a move? And they barely lasted."

She squeezed her shoulders. "We're all here, and we worry. Talk to us. About anything."

There was a long stretch before Willow said anything, crickets the only sound. "It's complicated."

"That's great, because 'complicated' and I have a long history. When you make it go away, you usually find out it was hanging around to just be an ass," countered Buffy, semi-jokingly. "I listen to your problems, you listen to mine—it’s what we do. We're the model of 'Best-Friendness' everybody else wishes they could copy."

She smiled sadly. "Used to know what was goin' on in there," She poked Willow's head gently with her finger, "and these past couple years I...I forgot how lucky I was. I miss it. I miss you."

"I miss you, too," Willow said sincerely, facing her best friend. "I can't, though. I don't know what's going on in there, either. It’s scary. There's a bunch of different 'Me's' fighting. Some aren't nice, and I have no clue who's gonna win."

Tears began falling from her eyes. "The power that's inside me...it's there all the time, Buffy. Every spell I did, I thought, 'If this was bigger, then I could really show off my mojo.’ It was never enough, and I'm...still tempted," she admitted.

She hoped Buffy didn’t run.

"Oz told me once that every day he isn't...being 'wolfy,' he hears like, a-a humming. Always. It was hard for him to concentrate sometimes, and that's how it feels when I'm not doing magick. Some days it's pretty quiet, other days it-it gives me headaches."

"Slayers have the same sorta deal," Buffy revealed, much to her friend's surprise. "When I'm fighting, part of me just...shuts down. Wherever my power comes from, whatever it is, that's what I'm mostly running on," she carefully explained. "And I can't just switch it off after patrol. Doesn't work that way.

“It's this ancient force—if I completely let go, it'd be dangerous. Also creepy. I tried pretending it wasn't there, and, probably shouldn't have—at least not as much as I did—‘cause it’s part of who I am. What I am.

"Was a huge reason why I kept going to Spike. 'Primal Slayer Buffy' got sick of being ignored, so when we’d...I’d eventually stop feeling anything, and she’d take over for the rest of the night. Later came the guilt and the shame. Life didn't exactly matter, only had to convince myself I was still dead. Wasn’t hard."

Her stomach twisted as she recalled those escapades. "I had sex of the disturbing kind, slayed, ate, and slept. Faith actually had the right idea, not blocking it out and all. Except she went too far, and, guess I did too.

"I think it's about balance, Will. All those 'You's'? They're pieces of the whole person I happen to kinda love, that don't wanna share."

She smiled, because it dawned on her that, "Hey, talking."

Willow genuinely smiled in return. "I'm glad Tara was helping you; she was great at helping people. She...that day she said," She breathed deep, wondering why a day so perfect had to end so tragic, "how much better you were. 'Idiot Me' didn't even realize there was something wrong."

She was pulled into Buffy's strong, non-hateful arms.

"I wish she was here, Buffy. So much. If she was..."

Tara became a great friend. Someone who Buffy discovered was pretty uniquely special—which Willow probably knew already. Without Tara to lean on, she most likely wouldn't have survived the previous year.

Buffy cried now, hugging her best friend tight. "I'm sorry I couldn't stop him...I'm sorry I couldn't save her for you," she meekly offered in apology.

"It's not your fault; don't think that," Willow ordered her embracer, the emotion draining from her words. "I blame myself. The whole 'myself.'"

 

_______

 

"I'm going to Kit's!" Dawn loudly announced from downstairs. "If I make it to her house alive, I'll call—promise! See you, guys!"

Buffy didn't want to stall the progress she and Willow were making, but she had to temporarily assume the role of "Responsible Older Sister." Wiping her eyes, Buffy looked at Willow apologetically and then hurried to the steps.

"Wait a sec!"

Dawn had sort of snapped Willow back to reality; she'd opened up, accepted comfort...she didn't want to do that. She couldn't. Her self-punishment wasn't over yet. No healing or happy thoughts. It was too soon, and it wasn't right.

In the foyer, Dawn sported her best, pleading, "Come On!" expression for her more aged sibling. "You said I could! Xander was there...ask him!" She crossed her arms over her chest. "I knew I should've gotten it like, notarized."

Buffy's eyebrows rose. "Just wanna know a few details. Minor ones. This is me taking an interest in your life, here," she said calmly, preparing to lay on the sarcasm rather thick. "So how ‘bout dropping the 'I Live in a Prison' act, answer my pointless, annoying questions, and then you can escape to go tell your friends how I don't feed you. ‘Cause I'm such a troll."

"Well, you do have that hammer still." The glare the teenager received stole her thunder. "’Kay...I-I can handle that." She lowered her arms to her sides.

"Good." Buffy firmly nodded. "Now...who's gonna be there?"

"Just me, Kit, and Carlos. We're gonna order Wrestling off Pay-Per-View," Dawn told her. "They got me into it. It's really athletic and," Buffy's disbelieving grin made her scowl, "it has really hot guys who hate wearing shirts," she sighed, caught.

"Carlos isn't...sleeping over, is he?" Buffy dreaded the response.

"Oh my god—Buffy! No! His brother's picking him up at eleven, and we don't even like him like that. Geez." Dawn's face reddened. "Besides, Kit's parents are there."

She was still in shock. "Just because you have this creepy, bizarro sex-life where a pulse is, y’know, optional, doesn't mean—"

"How's RJ?" Buffy cut her off, and watched the cringing. Though she was more than a little embarrassed herself. "Sorry, but I have to check these things."

She waited a couple seconds, then—

"You have your phone, right? And stakes?"

The events of last week were fresh in their minds. They tried not to mention it, and Willow—who was currently descending the stairs—was the most ashamed. She'd wanted to use magick to turn the boy into a girl.

Sure, funny, but it also stemmed from loneliness. She was supposed to be grieving, punishing, yet she desperately wanted companionship. Someone to find solace in that would ease her pain. How could she do that to Tara?

Because she was a horrible person, that's how.

"Double yes." Dawn was getting antsy. "Can I please go now?"

"Not stopping you," Buffy half-smirked. She wasn't exactly upset that the sixteen-year-old was going to be someplace else. "Have fun, and be careful."

"I will." Dawn kissed her cheek. "Bye, Willow!"

With backpack strapped securely to shoulders, she flew out the door. And then two people were left to stare at each other. Buffy at the foot of the staircase, Willow stalled near the middle, alone.

 

______

 

Fifteen minutes later, Buffy was in the kitchen searching for something eatable to have for dinner. Half-because she and Willow were hungry, half-because they were avoiding conversation, despite that it’d been going so well. She was supposed to be the distant one in the family, not Willow.

There had to be more going on than grief and guilt. It had to involve the two of them; otherwise this didn't make sense. Shutting the fridge door, she left the kitchen, wondering if she was the cause.

There was a time she resented Willow for bringing her back to life. Perhaps if she hadn't, and felt like she could turn to Willow rather than Spike, she wouldn’t have...done the things she did. But that period was long past.

She was happy to be alive, happy to be helping kids, happy to see Xander successful and Willow living in the house again. The dread that it would all fall apart remained, but that was a slayer thing, not a "Post-Resurrection" thing.

Though that wasn't the issue here. The issue was, had she ever told Willow she was grateful? She suddenly wasn't sure. Wait...

Turn to her rather than Spike? Well, yeah, in a friendly way. That was the friendliest thought of thoughts. Wasn't like she would've wanted what the vampire tried to give her, from Willow...right? Right.

Willow was Willow, she was who she was. At this stage, certain things were in stone, including that they "consorted" in different camps. And again, she was off-issue. Thankfully, upon entering the living room, her brain quit it out.

"So, we have leftover sort-of-spaghetti, or..."

She lost her place when she saw Willow sitting Indian-style on the floor, meditating. Deep in, eyes closed. Buffy hoped this wasn’t for getting emotions in check. She didn't want to have to break through an even thicker wall. Crying was a step in the right direction, retreating from wasn't.

Watching Willow peaceful like this, Buffy could see how physically appealing other women of happiness might find her friend. Hair semi-styled and curled/wavy near the ends, falling down around her face in this really sexy...what the...? Where the hell was this coming from?

"One, you're Buffy. Very Completely Arrow-Like Buffy. Two, best friend,” she told herself. "Guys, guys, guys."

Buffy then went in, despite her brain's suggestions to the contrary. She copied Willow's position on the floor, clasping their hands together. They'd done this once before—it seemed to help.

Willow knew she wasn't alone anymore, yet she didn't move. She smiled just a little, lids still shut. They stayed like that for several minutes at least, until two sets of eyes met at the same time.

"Help?" Buffy asked gently, to which Willow nodded. Seconds evaporated. "You shouldn't blame yourself, Will. It's Warren's fault, and only his fault."

The smile was gone as Willow stiffened. "Nobody mattered to him, and he didn't matter to anybody else, so I made him pay. Because he was sick," she said with no emotion at all. "Maybe I'm sick, too."

She tried to separate herself from a slayer’s grip, to shy away from the comfort, to no avail. "I don't—"

"You don't get to do this," interrupted Buffy, squeezing the hands she held. "I'm not gonna let you. You aren't him. You're better; way better."

"How?" Willow desperately questioned. "We both killed people. All right, I was more creative, but..."

"Easy. He was psychotic, you're not," Buffy answered simply, before elaborating. "You were under the influence of powerful magick. He didn't have an excuse."

"But I-I asked for the power. I was, 'Damn the Consequences Girl.' I wanted to hurt him."

"But you were hurting, and god, so lost. Duh, of course it took control—power does that. Especially when vulnerable. What the magick made you do...that wasn't the 'Willow' I'm looking at. Who I've known...pretty forever, since my memory 'Pre-Sunnydale' is kinda gone anymore.

“I wouldn't let that 'Willow' sit here like this; I'd probably ban her from the house. Except you have to live with her pain, and...I wish you didn't. She's not all you are," came Buffy’s soft, sad response. "Did you wanna hurt us too?"

"No!" Willow exclaimed, hoping Buffy didn't believe anything of what her darker half had said. "Goddess, Buffy...I love..." She swallowed the words. "You guys. We're family; you're my people. Y-you believe me, don't you? You hafta believe me," she pleaded, her fear having grown exponentially.

"I do. Besides, s' not a family without you," Buffy assured her, and smiled when Willow stretched out to rest her head in her lap.

She stroked strawberry-scented locks gently, recalling the many times when they’d done this before, and how simple it was. Slipping into this comfort zone with one another. They hadn't returned to it often in recent years.

"Thanks for bringing me back into it."

Willow's teeth got happily exposed. "Thanks for coming back." She fiddled with the laces on Buffy's shoes. "I'll help you better, I-I promise. You shouldn't've had to go to Spike...wasn't doing a very good job of being best-friendly last year."

What did that mean? Nothing. There was absolutely nothing underneath that sentence at all.

"Forgive me?"

"Can't even forgive myself," Buffy revealed, her stomach queasy. Her big attempt to feel something left her disgusted and empty. "I can't believe I went that far towards 'nut-ville.' And anyway, also not your fault. I should’ve told you, I wanted to—badly. Except we were all busy dealing on our own."

It was quiet for a long minute.

Willow then wondered, "You think Tara would forgive me?"

Buffy sighed at the loss of progress again. They'd moved forward.

Willow’s eyes went wide as it dawned on her what she'd asked in the ease of the moment, and where it could lead. She stood up and went to the sofa, nervous.

"Oh, uh, I didn’t mean...any-anything. Nothin’ at all. No more sad talk. Cheery, see?"

"Uh-uh. No," disagreed Buffy, going to her and kneeling. "There's something you're hiding, and it's an 'Us' thing. I can tell. Magick, Tara...they don't factor.

“So spill. Because I wanna be tension-free. My toes can't handle another day of tip-walking."

"It'll be worse after," said Willow, but Buffy would hear none of it.

If she couldn't redirect the conversation...fine then.

"Tara should've factored, that's why I'm all self-blamey," she frowned, then nearly laughed at Buffy’s quizzical expression. "Part of me knew you weren't in a hell dimension with pitchforks and ugly goat-people. Heroes don't go to places like that, portal or no portal.

"But I still spent all summer researching how to make you alive again. All summer. Me and Tara...there was no me and Tara. It was just me and books. ‘Cause I'm selfish, and a bad girlfriend. I needed you to be here more than I...needed to be with her."

It was wrenching to say that aloud.

Buffy finally spoke. "What're you saying? I mean...why?"

This was territory she insisted on, and she was beginning to regret it.

"She tried to get me to leave you alone, to let you rest, but I couldn't," Willow continued, skirting the question. "She started saying stuff...crazy stuff, so I pretty much told her, you know, 'That's crazy.' It-it had to be. But so, we were kinda rocky before I ever did any spells.

“Then when you were back, I wanted everything else back. How it used to be. Instead everything went bloof. I needed to pretend because...because I knew you'd never..."

She turned to look at the curtain covering the large window, her push to lay all cards on the table suddenly not so strong.

"Never what?" Like a moth to a flame, Buffy wanted to hear something she was better off being deaf to.

"You don't wanna know, Buf."

 When she faced her once more, Willow saw that Buffy had risen so they were at eyelevel.

"I don't?" Buffy countered in a low voice, debating whether or not to mention that their heads were going to bump if they got any closer.

"Nope. No."

"Oh."

"Hey, back door's unlocked," said Xander, strolling into the room. "Might wanna fix that. I could've graduated top of my class at 'Burglar U' and emptied out this joint clean and easy."

Buffy quickly got to her feet so it didn't look like they were doing...what they'd almost. She couldn't play dumb, and the near-miss only compounded her confusion.

"Lucky for us defenseless girls you couldn't steal the money for tuition, huh?" she joked weakly. Unable to avoid Willow's fixed gaze, she chose being a coward. "I gotta patrol." Abruptly out the front door she went.

Willow was left with a lump in her throat that wouldn't get gone, as she hugged a pillow to her chest.

"Ooo...kay." Xander had no idea what he'd walked in on.

 

______

 

Was that real back there?

Buffy mulled it over as she trudged through the cemetery. She didn't want to tackle vampires; she just came here out of habit. She wanted to think about how a supportive chat between best friends had led to her admiring areas of Willow she hadn't until tonight, and how Willow could mean...what she didn't get to say.

It had to boil down to loneliness in the romantic sense—for both of them. Sometimes loneliness made people cling to other people they wouldn't normally. She could testify to that.

The Spike of several months ago wasn't healthy for her, but at least she'd had someone to go to every night. No matter how much she hated herself afterwards, she still liked knowing that she had a place where she was wanted and where she didn’t have to act okay.

She wanted companionship and wouldn't mind sex, but the difference between then and now? She swore she’d love the next person. Guy. As it stood, Angel remained the only one who fit the “Love” bill, so to speak.

She didn't want that to be true forever, but Willow...Willow and her...she didn't know. Didn't trust herself. Willow could read her so well, and Willow was a great reader.

She worried about making a mistake that couldn’t be fixed. Especially because they were both kind of in recovery. Though maybe they could recover together. Maybe she was in denial.

No. They weren't considering with clarity, and any decisions shouldn't be made lightly. Considering with clarity? Cemeteries were not helpful.

"Guys, guys, guys," Buffy repeated like a mantra, seeing which grave she stopped in front of and exhaling tiredly. "Tara, what's wrong with me? It came outta nowhere. You know how great Willow is, you loved her. I do, too...but it's not the same, is it? I mean, why would I? And how would I know if it was?"

She asked as if she expected an answer, and felt ashamed.

"’Kay, suddenly thinking I shouldn't be talking to you about this. Because I respect you and what you guys—"

"Sounds like the Slayer's conflicted, fellas. I remember being conflicted once.”

As a result of her being distracted, she’d allowed six vampires to encircle her, and they only registered because their spokesdemon wanted them to.

It snarled. "Think it was when my heart used to work. That's her problem right there. I say we make it stop; should solve everything."

"Thanks for the offer, but I've tried that a couple times, and..." She reached for stakes she didn't bring, paling. "...third time's the charm."

They all smirked, moving in as a pack would on a trapped animal.

"Great. When I do wanna die, I'm prepared. When I don't..."

She sighed and got into a fighting stance, praying she could find a tree branch or something.

Yet before there was a single blow, each vampire burst into flames around her. She viewed the sight with horrified fascination, the slayer in her thrilled. The fire’s orange glow danced brightly in her eyes, enticing and wild. She wondered if she ought to bother shielding herself, but it consumed the evil in mere seconds, leaving her unscathed.

Her savior stood a foot or two away, and they stared at each other. Willow's black, angry eyes eventually softened. She looked ready to cry again. By the time Buffy was hugging her, she’d blinked, and her eyes turned glassy and green.

Buffy didn't care how thrown she was, she shouldn't have walked out. The witch she held became one in order to fight on her side. She owed her so much.

"You're incredible, you know that?"

Willow sniffed, a cynical retort set to go. "Yeah, now that I'm not—"

"Kicking my ass?" Buffy smirked. "Nah, was pretty incredible too. Still, glad you're back on the team. Being on the receiving isn't exactly fun."

"I like our team," said Willow sincerely. "Veiny Willow's was lonely. She was a stupid, evil...grouchy-face dumbo. Uh huh. I'm twenty-one. Really."

"Plus, the all-black? Major cliché. And she shoulda hired someone to write her villainous quips—tacky and unoriginal," Buffy joined in the bashing. "It's good she's gone, I couldn't take her. Kinda made me look bad, and my image is plenty tarnished enough. Giant Slut for the Undead, right here." She raised her hand.

"She'll stay gone," Willow promised, and they were back in a line-crossing situation somehow. "Because I..."

Lips inched closer and closer, but she stopped this time, removing herself from Buffy's body for two reasons: Buffy seemed scared, and she could see her deceased girlfriend's grave.

"Um, Xander went home because Spike called and couldn't find the remote for his TV, so now he thinks his apartment's all a big shamble, and you're not a slut."

"That isn’t what’s ‘going around,’” Buffy repeated her friend’s earlier words, finger-quoting, “Willy’s lately. But thanks."

"Comes with the job," Willow shrugged, the corners of her mouth fighting to smile back.

Buffy coughed and kicked the grass with her foot. "Listen—"

"Told you you didn't wanna know." Willow slowly knelt by Tara's grave. "England gave me time to have a whole bunch of thoughts, and...she was right. I chose you over her because I," She resolved to finish this, so the aftermath could ensue, "love you more, and I'd keep bringing you back. Even if my brain and everybody else tells me not to...I'm sorry."

She ran her fingers over the letters of the carved name.

"I know it isn't fair, but it just happened, and since it can’t go away, I will. I'll-I'll move, and you won't hafta hide that you’re freaked."

'Why would I?' Buffy thought again, staring down at the woman bearing her soul in a graveyard, unable to carry the burden another step.

Willow cared enough that she was willing to walk away, which Spike couldn’t manage until it was too late.

'Because I do.'

Because Willow was Willow, and at some point, admiring her went beyond friendly. Could've been gradual, could've been recent. It could've been that hanging with Tara and spending months replaying her failed, often disastrous relationships with men, a stray thought crept in—

Would it be different or is it me?

It could've been a passing, jealous thought that left as fast as it arrived, when Willow said she'd fallen for a girl.

All speculation that, in the larger picture, didn't count for anything. She pulled Willow upright, and guided her head up so she could see her face.

Willow was greeted with an accepting expression she hadn't anticipated. She had to be dreaming it. Yes, this was all a dream that went nightmarish, and she'd wake up not having jeopardized their friendship. Eyebrows lifted questioningly.

"Am I freaking?" Buffy asked gently.

"You-you could be pretending not to. You're sweet and 'Buffy-like' that way," Willow complimented, her mouth drying when a blond head shook in the negative. "Then, uh...what're you doing?"

"Waiting."

"For more vampires?"

Another shake of the head.

"For..." Willow pointed to herself. Now a nod. "Oh." Her voice went up an octave.

Many feelings threatened to overwhelm, but every muscle she claimed ownership of was being held at bay by one thing: her not wanting to hurt Tara anymore. Then, as if the sky was trying to get her attention, it started to rain.

It wasn't torrential, just a light, evening shower. Drops poked the top of her head until she craned her neck. The stars that peeked through the clouds appeared to twinkle a little brighter. As she remembered what they formed, a tear traced a path down her cheek.

'The Big Pineapple.' She viewed the constellation with a smile, and soft laughter. 'Thanks, baby.'

Done resisting, Willow dragged Buffy onto the glistening asphalt road and let the happiness flood in. She placed her hands on the sides of Buffy’s face, and as the rain fell, kissed her deeply, grinningly, and thoroughly. In case this was a dream.

How did Buffy know she wanted this? Because once the surprise left, she gave as good as she got. She pulled Willow to her, and ran her hands through dampening red hair.

When they separated for air, her breath hitched as her neck was assaulted with tiny, feverish kisses.

"I feel cleansed, don't you feel cleansed?" Buffy managed to croak out, biting back a moan. Something was mumbled into her skin, which she took for agreement. "Yay, then let's," A whimper escaped, "go home."

 

______

 

They slowed down just long enough to slip off their shoes when they got inside, and then Willow brought their mouths together again. The only non-kissing sounds were giggles. Buffy tried to direct her towards the stairs, but inducing voluntary movement was a hopeless goal. She had no choice but to lift her up, holding tight with one arm.

Willow wrapped her legs around Buffy's waist so she didn't fall, and encircled neck with her arms. This was going to happen. It was happening.

 

– Come away with me in the night –

 

They ascended the stairs, kissing the entire time, Willow's hands sliding beneath Buffy's shirt to roam along her back. Just to feel it. So she didn't lose her balance, Buffy steadied herself with the railing, courtesy of her free arm.

They made it to level ground without injury.

Turning down the hallway, Buffy pushed Willow up against the wall, causing the mirror in the bathroom to rattle. She thought she could even the field somewhat, but her soon-to-be lover knew what she was doing. God, this was...

 

– Come away with me

And I will write you a song –

 

Unhooking herself from Buffy's smaller frame, Willow unabashedly leaned forward into it. This forced Buffy backwards, and put space between Willow and the wall. She proceeded to show Buffy's double-pierced ear the same affection she’d shown her mouth, while trying to undo the snap on Buffy’s pants.

With an approving groan, slayer competitiveness kicked in, and Buffy’s hands began to grope and massage Willow's chest through an inhibiting shirt and bra. In the midst of curtailing Willow’s collapse, it wasn't an accident that the unwelcome shirt was torn off.

 

– Come away with me on a bus

Come away where they can't tempt us

With their lies –

 

Lifting again, Buffy delivered Willow to a bed and tossed the unlucky apparel somewhere in a corner with her own. She was in charge now. Climbing onto the mattress, she planted kisses on the tops of Willow’s breasts and the inviting cleft in between.

Hands were sailing through her hair, trying to communicate need. Buffy got the message without them. Noises of satisfaction and frustration told her everything.

She grinned and worked her way down, nipping and marking a beautiful, flat abdomen, awfully pleased with the throaty cry elicited when she arrived at navel.

 

– And I want to walk with you

On a cloudy day

In fields where the yellow grass grows knee-high

So won't you try to come? –

 

Willow looked so gorgeous right then. And hearing her name in short gasps, hearing the desire behind it, was like being in heaven. They were both trembling. Buffy because, once she discarded the pants, the only barrier preventing her from knowing Willow in the most intimate of ways was a thin piece of fabric.

Willow because, well, she knew what was in store. She clutched at the sheets, feeling the temperature change. Knuckles whitened as Buffy's breath tickled the trimmed hair delicately covering her folds. She sighed, braced for fingers that...just barely brushed her there. It was agonizing.

 

– Come away with me and we'll kiss

On a mountaintop

Come away with me

And I'll never stop loving you –

 

She bit her lip. Buffy returned above to remove the last piece of clothing, causing a thigh to be, to rub, where a mouth still wasn’t yet. It was torture. Hot, wonderful torture she didn't want to end (and that Buffy was going to pay for), but torture nonetheless.

She was suddenly amazingly more sensitive. Her nipples stood swollen on her chest. Every taste and flick of the tongue sent sparks speeding to her clit. She caressed up and down her torturer's arm until the torturer got the hint, and they kissed greedily.

 

– And I want to wake up with the rain

Falling on a tin roof

While I'm safe there in your arms –

 

Just prior to Buffy taking pity, three words were whispered into Willow’s ear, only heightening her tumble over the edge. She spasmed and clenched precise, talented fingers...a new sensation for Buffy. One that merely served to increase the slayer’s own arousal.

Buffy rode out the vibrations, sending shivers down every inch of her perspiring skin. Now that she'd given in, she didn't ever want to stop touching the person below her. Nothing else existed.

She tasted her for the first time seconds later. Until she figured out how to make Willow vibrate again.

 

– So all I ask is for you

To come away with me in the night –

 

Willow loved being desirable, but turnabout was fair play, so once Buffy let her move, she basked in the afterglow only briefly. She still had plenty of strength left, and hours to go yet.

 

Come away with me –

 

______

 

It was two-thirty in the morning when Buffy, recuperating, decided that they needed nourishment. She shuffled to the kitchen comfortable in her slight case of nudity, grateful it was just them in the house. That said, she hurried back to Willow's room with a gallon of Fudge-Nut Brownie ice cream.

Rejoining a delighted witch in bed, she handed her a spoon, and they dug in. As far as post-coital activities went, it didn't get any better than this. Buffy had no desire to bog herself down with potential pitfalls anymore. She was going to enjoy every damn second of this while she could.

Life had its crappy, low points. There was nothing she could do about that, no matter how much she might try. All she could do was soak up the highs, making the most of them. Because life was also funny.

Sometimes, occasionally, when most needed, it cut you a break. Buffy wouldn't sabotage this. Willow was too important for her shrink-worthy issues to get in the way of.

Why did she love her? In the traditional and extra ways? She just did. And if circumstances were different, she never would have known. Not that she wouldn’t undo Tara's death if it were possible.

Since it unfortunately wasn't, she refused to apologize. And Willow had apologized enough. They'd care for each other; Tara had to know that.

But enough thinking. Her new lover was currently flushed and naked, half-under a sheet, eating ice-cream. Buffy really wanted not to miss that.

"So, um," Willow fed her a spoonful, hand cupped below to catch drips, "how long have you been gay?"

Buffy comically swallowed. "Carry the 1, subtract the...how long since the cemetery?" she questioned in return, smiling. "You complaining?"

"No, no, no, no...and all the no’s I know say so," the flushed redhead let loose rapidly. "It's just...guy parts aren't girl parts, and...how'd you do that? How'd I do that? Man, Buffy, that was—"

"Steamy? Fantastic?" Buffy helped her find the words, as she fed her in mid-sentence. "Fantastically steamy?"

She said hello to "pride" when the emphatic nodding started.

"We didn't really...talk, I know—we just did. And did. And then more did."

They both grinned shyly.

"It’s not 'Horny Slayer Sex Withdrawal,' okay? I wouldn't just use you for a 'one night' thing. Or multiple ‘one night’ thing." She'd gotten that out of her system with the undead Brit. "I dunno where it came from; or when. Guess tonight it just...clicked. Before you even said anything, I was already looking and semi-ogling and discovering ‘Rainbow Buffy.'  Then we..."

"Mm. And we..." Willow let her eyes flutter shut a moment, replaying every detail, a little hum playing on her lips. "Goddess."

"Yeah." Buffy watched as some ice cream dribbled down her girlfriend's chin—her gaze locked to it. "Again?" She couldn't tell whether Willow was frightened or turned on just then. "Kidding, I'm kidding. I do believe in sleep, ya know."

"That's a good belief. ‘Cause if we're gonna be girlfriendly, you're gonna hafta start sleeping better,” Willow informed her. “A tired slayer is a cranky, grumpy slayer. Even though you're cute when you're grumpy."

She blushed as Buffy broke out into a broad smile.

"We...we are gonna be girlfriendly, right?"

"Well, I am feelin' the love," said Buffy, just before she leaned forward and kissed/licked the stray ice cream right off of chin. Then she repeated the action on the puffy lips a minuscule distance away. "For you—the love for you. Question answered?"

"Yep, lots of lovin' in this room," proclaimed Willow contentedly.

"Back to the cuteness of me." Buffy attempted to steer the conversation toward what she thought was an inexhaustible topic.

She put the lid on the ice cream, which made Willow frown. She then set it on the floor, and cuddled the disappointed witch in her arms, which improved her mood.

"But first, remember...before sleep, carton in freezer. I'll forget, and if we both do, replacing comes out of your share," she said teasingly, resulting in the "That's Unfair" face. "Fine, I'll get up and..."

"No more moving," Willow ordered. "We need a little freezer. Up here. For 'After Dairy' only. We can be greedy and eat it all ourselves—ooh, like a private stash. I can whip up a-a password spell. Like, 'ThankaYouteMissusCowusiseus.'"

The phone jarringly prohibited any further comments, and for a second, Willow held her breath.

"If that's Amy..."

"I got it." Buffy stretched and clawed for the ringing device until she had it in her grip. "Hello? ... Anya?"

They both sighed in relief.

"It's really early. Why're you calling? ... No, we weren't. You woke us."

Her and her best (girl)friend's eyes bulged. Wrong time to slip. Wrong.

"Me. You woke me ... Willow's snoring," She got smacked, "in her room. Her own, separate room. We're ... What?" She choked. "Gee, thanks for thinking I'd make a great lesbian..."

Willow had to muffle her laughter.

"...but ... Oh. Well, you can tell Xander ... Anything but that." She sighed again, this time out of exasperation. "... I dunno, yell at him? ... Okay, good night."

The phone was hung up with a noticeable finality.

"If we ever bond, I'll hafta skip town again." Buffy’s expression turned quickly serious. "We'll beat it, Will. The 'From Beneath You it Devours' Bad, the 'magick' stuff, and whatever else is coming. I don't know about the 'surviving' part, but I'm not, not fighting."

"Me either. I’m having a ‘Life Yippee’ right now. I didn’t think I could again, but I am, and I want more. Plus there's so much to do. Like my new girlfriend, an-and graduating from college. So I say, bring it on," concurred Willow toughly, then lips locked. "Oh, and you do."

Willow rolled on top of Buffy, smiling lopsidedly at her puzzlement.

"Make a great ‘Friend of Sappho.’ Darned fucking great. For-for a first timer‘n’all."

“Stop knowing how to curse, or I’m not gonna be held responsible for anybody who comes next.” But that sounded like a challenge to the reenergizing slayer. "Isn’t there supposed to be sheep and the counting of?"

"There totally are," said Willow, looking equal parts innocent and mischievous. "When I'm finished, you'll snooze with ‘em for hours. It's like, my 'Sex' guarantee. If-if I had a 'Sex' guarantee. Thank me later?"

Devouring wasn't all bad. Depended on the context.

 

______

 

It was early afternoon when the bedroom door creaked open from the outside.

"Willow, have you seen Buffy? She's not in her room and d'you know that the back door was...?" Dawn unexpectedly, but understandably, lost her train of thought. "Holy frickin' crap!"

That loud exclamation forced open the eyes of two, contentedly sleeping females. Fast. Dawn's unexpected presence in Willow's bedroom, and the re-realization that they were both quite nude, caused Buffy and Willow to do the only sensible thing—shield themselves beneath the sheets until the teenager went away.

It wasn't that they were ashamed; it was just very awkward.

Buffy considered reprimanding her sister, but she had a feeling, given her current state, that it would be less than effective. She wasn't going to take any heat for being found like this. Dawn made the decision to scour—if the girl wasn't pleased by what she'd discovered, oh well.

And Buffy was taking this firm stance under the safety of the sheet. Willow's nervous expression matched her own.

"Morning. Or, better possibility, afternoon. Not really sure about time," Buffy whispered. "So just...hi."

"Hi," Willow echoed, her eyes drifting down from her best friend/girlfriend's face. Immediately caught, she blushed. "Ooh, uh, oops...hi to those, too." 

She bent her wrist to wave on the edge of her pillow.

"Sorry, Buffy’s Breasts. Didn't, you know, mean to be rude."

They were allowing it to fully cement in. Last night had all been real.

Looking at each other, they wondered why this felt so weird. Where had the self-assuredness gone? Was it that they'd been friends almost seven years who'd jumped into the sack without thinking? Was Willow flashing back to Tara? Did Buffy decide it was a one-off?

"Are-are you guys gonna come out, or are you gonna like, live under there forever?" Dawn cautiously asked, and then they figured it out.

The source of the strangeness was out there, not in here. Dawn had interrupted what otherwise would've been a smooth waking experience. The pair pointed, still hidden by the sheet, in her direction. Relieved sighs followed.

Finally smiling, Buffy mouthed, "Did you just…?"

Then she waved and pointed at her chest. Willow had to use her palm to hold in the laughter. That started Buffy laughing, and Willow clamped her free hand over her girlfriend’s mouth.

"You can just go ‘ssh’ yourself, Buffy Anne Summers. I have to be polite back.  Remember how they were, first?  All last night first," said Willow, giggling and not all that silent. "They’re some of...of the nicest breasts ever. How-how’d you teach ‘em to say ‘please’?"

That was Buffy's breaking point. Cracking up, she rolled into her bedmate, her head finding said bedmate's own chest.

"No, these’re definitely friendlier—and cozier. Nipply-er even," she argued.

"You think so?" Willow asked. "They always looked like they might be. Not that I’m, uh, a self-scoper. Who-who goes around telling people, 'Hoo, I'm all hot, check out my hotness.’ At all, ‘cause, modest."

She needed to clarify that for reasons unknown.

"My slice on the 'pie chart of hotness' is as tiny as the Master’s."

"I dunno, I thought he was sort of..."

That just hung there a second.

"Buf, you know I always try to stay non-judgment-y, especially when, with you and vampires, but...'Eww.'" Then Willow grasped what Buffy was trying to say—poorly. "Also, 'Aww.'"

Laughter went full steam ahead, and Dawn was left perplexed. She saw shapes moving, but thankfully, her mind didn't speculate.

"Guys? Guys, c'mon! How can you be laughing? I'm here going, 'Wha-huh?' and you're over there doing...stuff, so obviously not caring, when hey, this isn't normal! Was there another evil jacket or something? ‘Cause you’re...and I know Buffy's...and I'm..." She was close to melting down. "What the hell is happening?"

Now her mind was speculating.

"Whoa—geez and crackers." Squeezing her eyes shut, she shook her head. "No, no, no, no, no, no way. I'm not imagining, d-damn it. Not imagining...not imagining..."

She opened her eyes suddenly, and they were wide as could be.

"Crap. N-n-never mind. I need to be...downstairs. In the kitchen, smacking myself with, oh, that big skillet! Then maybe I'll develop 'teenility,' and won't remember how I'm not here right now." She chuckled uneasily. "So, see ya." Dawn sped from the room. “But not really!”

During her rambling, Buffy and Willow had slowly ceased their hysterics, and now that the coast was clear, they poked their heads out.

"Jeepers," was all Buffy could say.