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A Change of Tactics

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Willow wandered around the halls, trying to find Buffy. Unsure what she’d say to her if she saw her.

“Quite the supportive friend I was,” she muttered, thinking it was to herself.

Only it wasn’t.

“You’ve got that right.” Jesse emerged from between the lockers to step in place with her. As he’d never been gone. As if he hadn’t been dead for two years. “Or maybe I just wasn’t special.”

“Jesse!” Willow stammered, unsure what to do or say. Ghost? He’d already been turned into a vampire. Vampires couldn’t come back from the dead.

Could they?

“I’d ask if you missed me only I know you didn’t.” Jesse offered her his most sardonic smile. “You and Xander were only too quick to throw me over for a hot little blonde.” He leaned closer. “Guess you preferred someone a bit more femme. Wonder if wolf boy knows?”

Heat rushed to Willow’s face while her mouth dried up. “That’s not true.”

“What’s not true? What part?” Jesse brought his fingers close to a nearby locker without touching it. “That you replaced me with a hot blonde? Or that you really did miss me?”

“Neither. Both.” Willow frowned at her former friend. The truth was she’d never had as easy a time talking to Jesse as she did with Xander. They’d known each other since they were children, but she simply didn’t click with Jesse as naturally as did Xander.

Or Buffy.

“I’ve seen you smiling with little Ms. Summers. Heard you laughing with her. You never laughed like that with me.” Jesse withdrew his hand, cocking his head in Willow’s direction. “And why not? After all she made you Slayerettes. You’re not just a loser any more.” The smile died on his lips. “You’re the support team to a superhero.”

“We are her support team.” Willow raised her chin a little higher. “You’re right. We do feel better being with Buffy. Do you know why?” It was her turn to advance on Jesse. “We’re doing something about being losers, stuck on a Hellmouth. We’re seeing that fewer people get killed the way you were.” She reached out to touch his shoulder…

…only her hand passed right through him.

“Well, bully for you.” All traces of a smile vanished from Jesse’s face. “Can you keep up, Will? If your superhero had something to hide, would you still be her support team?”

“We’ve all had something to hide.” Willow withdrew her hand. “You’re right. I haven’t been moping about you like I might have if Buffy hadn’t been around. I’m doing something to stop the monsters that got you.” She looked down at her fingers. “What could I have done, Jesse?”

Something wasn’t right. Other than Jesse standing in the hallway as a ghost. Yes, it was all kinds of wrong. There was something else.

“The vampires nearly killed Xander and I. Darla grabbed you. She was stronger than all of us.” Willow shook her head. “We couldn’t stop her.”

“Maybe you didn’t try hard enough.” Jesse bit his lip. “I didn’t deserve to die, Will. I didn’t deserve to be replaced. I didn’t do anything you didn’t do. I just let a vampire lure out a date, same as you.” Jesse lifted his own chin. “Unlike Buffy, I didn’t know my date was dead.”

“I never said…wait a moment.” Willow frowned. “How do you know about Buffy dating the dead? That was after you died.”

“Darla mentioned something about Angel when we were walking.” Jesse shrugged. “I’m not stupid, Will.”

“No, but I’m wondering if you don’t know entirely too much. More than Jesse would.” Willow backed away a step. “Who are you?”

“Who am I? You know who I am. I just happen to be smart…aw, heck.” Jesse grinned. “To be honest, I’m getting bored with this act.”

Jesse shrank while his hair sprung out in curls. Kendra, dead vampire slayer stood before Willow. “I think I’ve managed to spring a link in your trusty team spirit.”
“Why would you want to?” Willow shook her head. “Why did you pretend to be Jesse, trying to get me to feel guilty about his death?”

“I suppose I overplayed it. Maybe I should have been Theresa instead.” Kendra grew slight, taking on the slightly withdrawn countenance of another dead girl. “Whatever face I wear, I’m here for the same thing.” She grew taller, flat chest and abs revealed, jutting out of a leather pair of pants. “To talk to you, pet. To let you know what a bunch of losers you truly are.”

“Why?” Willow eyed Spike leering back at her, head cocked, strutting while he walked.

“Well, I was going to go after Angel. I thought I might drive old Peaches nuts with the faces of the people he’d killed.” Spike shrank down into Jenny Calender. The former smiled with poisonous sweetness at Willow. “Maybe he’d lose it and attack Buffy when her guard was done. Good plan, don’t you think?”

“Evil plan.” Willow pressed her fingers together, lowered in front of her. “Way too evil for Jenny.”

“There’s no such thing as too evil. Only too good. Which is why I abandoned that plan.” Jenny made a face. “I had this nauseating vision of snow falling over Christmas, blocking out the sun, while Buffy and Angel enjoyed a day together happening if I followed it.” Jenny grimaced. “Disgustingly sappy. I decided to change tactics.” Jenny morphed back into Kendra. “Why not try to Slayer against Slayer by exposing all of the complex feelings lurking within Buffy and Faith’s little rivalry?” Kendra grinned, shot up into someone taller, curls disappearing. “Only why limit it to Slayers? Why not try to turn everyone against Buffy and on each other while I’m at it?”

“It won’t work.” Willow felt her lip quiver. “Buffy helps people. She’s helped too many for them to turn on her.”

“It only takes one.” Jesse winked at Willow. “Plus I’ve only stirred the pot of one Slayer so far.”

Jesse vanished, leaving an afterimage like a mouth with teeth shimmering in the air.

“Buffy,” Willow whispered. “No, Giles. I should talk to Giles.”
She took off running in the direction of the library.