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If You'd Still

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They waited together for the ambulance. Xander sat next to Cordelia and Willow hovered on the stairs, wanting desperately to undo it all, to go back in time and have it never have happened. To be bowling, laughing at the funny shoes—with Oz.

If only there was a spell that would do that. But even if there was, she wouldn’t be able to work it. Look what had happened when she tried to delust herself. Everyone had found out anyway, and now everything was awful.

She waited while the paramedics lifted Cordelia off the spike and carried her on a board up to the ambulance, while they looked at Xander’s head and packed him into the ambulance as well. She waited while the police officer who had come with the ambulance scolded her, as the only uninjured person, for playing in abandoned buildings like a bunch of reckless kids.

And she didn’t know what to say. Not to Oz, not to Cordelia, not to Xander, not to the police.

When finally Buffy came hurrying out of the dark, Willow had barely managed to gasp out what had happened, and a sketchy version at that, to judge by the confusion in Buffy’s face, before she collapsed in her best friend’s arms and let the tears take her.

Buffy got her home, got her tucked into bed, and for a little while Willow could sink into the dark forgetfulness of sleep. But she dreamt of Oz, of being held in his arms. And of Xander, of kissing him and falling. And she dreamt that she was the one impaled by the spike, only it went into her heart and she woke up gasping with the pain, only to realize that the spike was a dream but the pain was real, and it wasn’t going to go away.

On her bedside table she saw the PEZ witch Oz had given her. She slid out of bed, onto the floor, turning the witch in her hands, trying to figure out where such a simple little creature had gone so wrong.
As he always did when his mind was troubled, Oz got out his guitar as soon as he was alone. The act of tuning it, focusing his mind on doing a meticulous job, usually allowed his mind to open a path to think his way clear of the problem.

But tonight … he found his fingers tightening too much on the neck of the instrument as the picture flashed into his mind again. Willow. His Willow. On the bed with her friend Xander.

That Oz had always half expected this to happen didn’t make it any better. It only made the betrayal seem all the greater, all the blacker. He loved her—had loved her since the moment he first saw her, without even knowing who she was, standing there in that ridiculously adorable Eskimo costume. But there had been Xander, even then, Xander and Willow with a bond no one could break, Xander bewitching the entire female population of Sunnydale, Xander at her side through all the fights and the long nights in the library.

And now … and it wasn’t just once, that much Oz was sure of. Even in the brief moment before Willow and Xander had known he and Cordelia were there, he could see that there was familiarity in that kiss, a slow unhurried taking of their time—the way he wanted to kiss Willow. He had held himself back, not wanting to rush her into something she wasn’t ready for, when all the time …

He had never felt anything quite like the rage that had welled up in him at that moment. Was it the wolf? He had scented Willow’s fear just driving by the factory. Could he have scented something else? Was that what had made him so angry? He couldn’t have spoken to her in that moment if he had wanted to; it had taken all his control to keep the anger down, to think clearly about what needed to be done, to call the ambulance for Cordelia when she was injured.

What made it worse was not knowing what Willow had intended. Had she been planning to break up with him to be with Xander? Had she been planning to have them both? His sweet, innocent Willow? That didn’t seem like her, but … There she had been.

He wished for sleep, but that wasn’t coming. And for once the music wasn’t coming—everything in his mind was discordant, all the notes clashing with one another. He wanted Willow, wanted her more than even he had known, and he couldn’t have her either.

Eyes dry, mind in turmoil, he sat holding the guitar.