Being dead isn't so different. It might seem like it, but on the inside she's still the same. Still wants everything she ever did before. What's changed is that now she knows how to get it.
Moonbright night, wind singing through the trees and she wanders. Familiar streets, childhood haunts, all tilted and sharpened to the power of a thousand. Bushes full of flowers and she trails her fingers along and through them, catching what she can. Pollen staining her fingertips, wreckage of stamens and petals. A biology lesson. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. The word tickles through her mind and that's the craziest thing of all, how she still has all these books living there, homework knowledge filling her brain right beside this pounding want, this total, shining lack of fear. Pulls a whole blossom off to rest in her palm, the half-closed sleepy shape of it. She teases it open with her fingers, bends it into its blooming, daylight self. Something weirdly, delightfully obscene in the act.
She'd woken up hungry, hungry and confused. Curled up in the corner of a room that looked like a cross between a warehouse and a Victorian madwoman's boudoir. Which, it turned out, it was. Opened her eyes to see a row of solemn faced dolls watching her. Glassy eyes and bouncing curls. Bands of silk in the same shades as their dresses around her wrists, her ankles, filling her mouth. Enough to hold her before, but not now. In another corner someone was whimpering, a guy she might know from school. The steady beat beat beat of his heart a lure pulling her to crawl across the floor, make a clumsy mess of his neck, eager and inept.
In the doorway behind her there'd been a pleased growl.
"Good girl," said the lady, white dress and English accent. "I knew you were the right one. So much prettier. All those black butterflies crying inside you to get out." She'd hummed, a wicked sound, and under Willow the boy moaned.
She's fed since then, gotten better at it. Not hungry now though, not like that. She's got new clothes on, different, leather and velvety castoffs, silk wound around each wrist. It makes her feel bolder, walk with a swagger. With purpose, which is what she has. A purpose.
Xander's dad opens the door with barely a glance at her. Halfway back to his recliner while she loiters in the doorway, best uncertain look on, when he snaps an invitation over his shoulder.
She wants to kill him so much it tingles. Won't, though, doesn't. Not now. It's her present, or will be. The saving of it.
Xander bolts up from his comic book when she slips in. Lets its colored pages fall to the floor, distracted worry on his face.
"God, Willow, where have you been? Everybody's been totally freaking -- and hello to the new look."
She can smell him, like never before. Ducks her head, fake little girl innocence. Tucks hair behind her ear.
"Do you like it?" she asks and he swallows, eyes big, up and down her.
"I -- it's ... it's new," he says. That twist of his lips, her favorite nervous grin.
She's still got the hibiscus. Holds her hand out, open and offering. The brush of his fingers on her palm as he takes it, confused.
"Xander," she says. Walks toward him and he backs away, eyes on her face. "Xander," she says again, and it's coming out a growl, as the back of his knees hit the bed and he sits down abruptly.
"Xander," she says, and it's almost a purr, while she straddles him. Rests her weight on his lap and he's frozen, mouth open and closing. Oh, these things she's wanted to do and now can ... ! Trails her fingers down the sides of his face, teasing the moment out and out.
And kisses him, finally. The way she's been thinking of since she was thirteen. Mouth hungry against his, and he's shocked and salty. The insistent movements of her lips, flutter of her tongue, and he's finally, finally kissing her back. Warm wet surge of his mouth. Hands rising to settle on her hips, big and uncertain, crushing the flower against her skin. Half-conscious brush of his thumbs over her hipbones as she pulls away.
"Willow?" he says and his voice is caught between awe and fear, and oh there are no words for how very definitely she's going to make him like her. Just the thought of how he'll taste, hot and dying, makes her wet. And then they're going to be together forever, her and him and him and her.
But not now. Because first. She has to kiss him again, it's a very high priority, and again and again. He's going to want her, she'll make sure of it. Going to tease him out of his clothes, get him to touch her where she's soft and wet and wanting. Show him these new, bright things she's learned, the way she can take him inside her, right here on his faded bedspread, under posters of cartoon explosions. And it'll be so so good because it's Xander, eyes on her face. Looking the whole time.