Chapter 1: Willow
tiny season one Willow has a crush on tiny season one Buffy. warnings for homophobia
i didn't have a computer in 1997. i wasn't alive in 1997. my first computer experience was webkinz in 2006. i remember accidentally finding my way to a chat room entirely in dutch once. i didn't speak dutch, but that's the entirety of my chat room experience. so anyway, sorry for inaccuracies.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Willow had met a lot of girls in her life, but she had never really wanted to kiss one before. Well, if you didn't count Princess Leia, at least, and the time in kindergarten when she had asked Cordelia to marry her (she tried to forget about that as often as possible), and maybe that really cute exchange student in eighth grade, and, okay, Willow had wanted to kiss lots of girls. But she hadn't noticed it-- she hadn't had the presence of mind.
Well, now she was fifteen, and she knew herself a lot better. She knew what it felt like to want to kiss a girl, because of past experiences, and also because it felt a lot like wanting to kiss a boy, which she knew she had felt before. But there was nothing wrong with wanting to kiss a boy, and there was a lot wrong with wanting to kiss a girl. Or, at least, that's what her mom said when she came home at night; she had to talk to teenagers about their problems, and she talked to girls who kissed girls, and boys who kissed boys, and she came home and told Willow that she was lucky that she had only ever liked boys, because all the girls who kissed girls had terrible lives.
Once, Willow had asked who had caused the terrible lives, and her mom said that it was the girls themselves, but Willow thought maybe it was the parents of the girls. Well-adjusted girls who kissed girls wouldn't go to a therapist, and girls who kissed girls and had good parents definitely wouldn't go to a therapist who didn't like them solely based on who they kissed. Willow couldn't figure out anything bad about kissing girls, except maybe the not getting married thing, but that was okay with Willow.
But she had never admitted to herself that she liked girls. Not until, one day, she looked at Buffy Summers and noticed the way her hair bounced, the way her body moved in a fight, the way she laughed whenever Willow made a joke (and sometimes when Willow was being perfectly serious).
She went home that night and asked her mother why girls who kissed girls were bad. Her mother gave a laundry list: no one likes them, they get abused, et cetera, et cetera.
Willow went to her room and thought that over while lying on her stomach on her bed, doodling. She liked herself just fine, so it couldn't be true that no one liked her. And Buffy liked her, if not in a kissing way, and Xander liked her, with the same footnote. Giles liked her, and she was useful for his research, and Miss Calendar liked her, because she was good with computers. Lots of people liked her. And abuse wasn't the fault of the abusee; Willow thought that was fairly intuitive, actually. So the girls who liked girls weren't bad themselves; other people were bad, and therefore there was nothing wrong with liking girls, just something wrong with being a bad person.
That settled any doubts, and Willow tossed her doodle, which had begun to look quite a bit like Buffy's hair, to the side. She went to her computer. She'd have to be sneaky, so her mom couldn't hack in and see what she was doing, but she knew her mom didn't know that much about computers. She was just paranoid. She checked all of her firewalls anyway before she loaded a search engine and took her time typing, "girls who like girls."
This brought up a chat room titled "gay girls!!!" Willow smiled. Gay meant happy, and she could be happy. She knew what happy felt like.
She clicked it. She set her name to "WillowTree" and her color to lilac, and then she hesitated over the button that would take her to the chat room. Was she ready?
WillowTree: Hi everybody.
RoseBud: hi, willowtree!
beJeweled: Welcome, WillowTree
WillowTree: So... I'm new to this. Gay means girls like girls?
RoseBud: yeah that's the idea.
beJeweled: It can also mean a boy who likes boys
WillowTree: So, if I want to kiss my best friend, that's gay?
beJeweled: Yes that sounds pretty gay to me
WillowTree: That's nifty!
She talked to RoseBud and beJeweled for most of the evening. She learned lots of cool things. Mostly, though, she learned that not all gay girls led terrible lives, and the ones who did just were around bad people. Willow was around good people, and anyway, she wasn't going to tell anybody. Not yet.
The next day in school, she caught herself staring at Buffy for far too long. What would it be like to kiss those lips? Didn't that skirt fit Buffy perfectly? Listen to the adorable way Buffy pronounced her R's!
After a while, Buffy caught on. She was talking, and Willow was staring, and suddenly Buffy stopped and asked, "What? Do I have something in my teeth?"
Willow shook her head. "No. Your teeth are a food free zone."
Buffy gave Willow a hard stare, then shrugged. "Well, as long as I look okay."
"Don't worry," Willow told her. "You look great."
That night found WIllow sitting at a table in the Bronze, watching Buffy and Xander dance. Buffy was dancing on her own, in one place, and Xander was doing his thing where he bounced around, trying to find a girl willing to dance with him. Willow would have danced with him, of course, but he was convinced that it didn't count because they were only friends.
Maybe it didn't.
Buffy didn't even want anyone to dance with her; she had just jettisoned herself to the dance floor, claiming a "serious need to feel the music." Willow would have danced with her, too, if she were brave and actually some semblance of a good dancer. Willow wanted nothing more than to dance with a girl on that floor, feeling the music herself, and maybe feeling something (someone) else. But Buffy was lusting after Angel, and Willow was lusting after Buffy, and she knew she would never have what she wanted. Buffy had a shot at Angel, maybe; but Willow never had a shot at Buffy.
Xander came back and sat with her, following her gaze to Buffy. "She's particularly radiant tonight, don't you think?"
Willow smiled and nudged him. "You think she's particularly radiant every night."
Xander shrugged. "It's true, isn't it?"
Willow shrugged back. "Maybe it is."
Three years later, Willow stood in the same spot in the Bronze, watching her girlfriend open birthday presents. Girlfriend! How nice it had been to finally use that word out loud, for Tara, the most beautiful woman in the world.
She had shown Tara her Sunnydale High yearbook from sophomore year a few days ago, just out of some urge to feel nostalgia for her past. "That's what I looked like," she had said, pointing at her own picture and giggling. "Me with that hair?"
Tara pointed at the girl a few rows down. "Is that Buffy? She's changed."
Willow stared at the picture. "Yeah, I guess she has." She grinned. "You know, I had the biggest crush on Buffy that year. It was embarrassing."
And now they were sitting in the Bronze, and Tara had had a hell of a day, but Willow was going to make sure that her night was perfect. There were streamers everywhere, and Anya and Tara were getting along, and everyone was getting along, actually, and Willow knew what she had to do. She pulled Tara out of her conversation and to the dance floor.
"I believe this is my dance."
And they came together, slowly, perfectly, in the exact spot Willow had seen Buffy dancing years ago, wishing she could have one beautiful dance with a blonde girl who loved her.
How wonderful it was that she had gotten her wish.
i love tiny willow
this was in the new york times in the greatest and most absurd achievement of my life so if you're coming here from there i hope you enjoy a break from your serious news
Chapter 2: Buffy
When Willow comes out, Buffy has a revelation about her own past feelings.
So... this fic was never meant to have a second chapter. If you're coming here from the New York Times or from the Sunnydale Fanfic Club (god, when did I get more of a resume for my fanfiction than for my actual real life?), this chapter did not exist when the article was published or when the podcast came out. But now I think I'm going to expand this fic into something with chapters for multiple different Buffyverse ladies. Faith maybe will get something set around s7? Cordelia, anyone? Winifred "Love of my Entire Life" Burkle? Tara, pre-Willow? Anything is possible.
Willow was a lesbian. Willow liked girls. Buffy was rolling those two thoughts in her mind, over and over, until they started to make sense. Willow had a girlfriend, and that was fine, but if that was so fine, why was Buffy still a little bit freaked?
Willow had started being more affectionate with Tara around the Scoobies. For some reason, Buffy got a little warm feeling in her chest every time she saw them holding hands. She was happy that Willow was happy, really.And yet, she felt like she was missing something.
It came to her in the middle of the night, just as she was trying to get to sleep after patrolling. It was just a flash of memory that rose, unbidden, to the top of her mind: waves of hair, dark lipstick close to her ear, a rush of fluid motion and a high five after a synchronized kill… and suddenly, Buffy realized what she was missing.
A few weeks before, when she had been in Faith’s body, Buffy had been-- surprised-- at how much she had enjoyed it. She hated Faith. She had tried to kill Faith. And yet, somehow, the easy way Faith’s body moved, the way her hair bounced around her shoulders, and even the low song of her voice all felt right , somehow.
And now, lying in bed, Buffy remembered the year before. Patrolling together, dancing at the Bronze, even fighting on that cold and lonely rooftop… she remembered casual touches and suggestive jokes and a heart drawn in frost on a science classroom window. And she remembered her responses, leaning in and blushing and leaving class for a gal pal and a slay.
Eventually, Buffy fell asleep, and she woke up confused. The previous night’s revelations felt like a dream, and maybe she had dreamed them, but there was something there. Something… she didn’t know what. She didn’t know if it even mattered. She had Riley now, at any rate, and she definitely liked him.
Still, she couldn’t stop the questions from running through her head, a constant thread of what might have been. Finally, she got up and went to breakfast. Willow and Tara were already in the dining hall, halfway through their meal, and Buffy joined them with a banana and some yogurt. Part of her wanted to say something, but she didn’t know what, and she didn’t feel like explaining the whole Faith thing to Tara.
And Buffy didn’t even know if there was anything to say yet. So what if, dancing in the Bronze, she had wondered what would happen if she just pulled Faith a little bit closer? What if she had thought about what Faith’s lips would feel like on her skin? That didn’t necessarily mean anything. Buffy had those thoughts about everybody. Hell, once she had had thoughts like that about Cordelia .
Except… oh. In a world where Buffy didn’t like girls, having those thoughts about Cordelia was ridiculous. But in a world where she did… maybe it was just inevitable.
Suddenly, Buffy was looking back at her life in a whole new light. The way she had watched the older ice skaters at her rink as a kid. The way she had hung posters of men and women on her wall indiscriminately, not really caring who she was looking at. God, even the way she had looked at Willow sometimes in their sophomore year and seen how sweet her smile was and how big her eyes were. (Was that weird? She didn’t feel like that about Willow anymore, and Willow turned out to like girls anyway, in the end.)
So, she had always liked girls. And she had always liked boys. She could easily go into daydreaming about Angel’s eyes, and she was definitely enjoying Riley’s company. So that meant she liked… both? She liked girls and boys. Was that even a thing?
She went through her day in a daze. That night, Willow was back, and Buffy asked, “Hey, Willow?”
“Yeah?” Willow answered. She was at her desk, doing some homework. Buffy was lying on her bed, trying to read, but not having much luck.
“How’d you know you like girls?” Buffy asked. A moment after she said it, she was kicking herself for being so blunt. But the question was what it was.
“I liked Tara,” Willow said.
“Yeah, but, did you know before you met her?” Buffy asked.
Willow hesitated. “Yeah,” she said, quietly. “I mean, I thought I did.” She pushed her work away from her and turned to face Buffy. “I had a whole crisis about it a few years ago, and then, with Oz, I wasn’t sure, but now I’m pretty sure.”
“You liked Oz, though, right?” Buffy asked.
“I thought I did,” Willow said. “But now, with Tara-- it’s just so different. It’s softer, and, I don’t know. It’s closer to what I want, I guess.”
Buffy thought about that. “You didn’t tell me,” she said. “When you had the crisis a few years ago.”
“It wasn’t a big thing,” Willow said. “I mean, it wasn’t like I was actually dating a girl, like now. And I didn’t know how anyone would react, and I wasn’t sure yet.”
“I get it,” Buffy said. After all, she wasn’t telling Willow about her crisis now.
The next day, she went to the library and logged on to a computer in a secluded corner and typed into a search engine, girl likes girls and boys?
Hits loaded, and Buffy started clicking. There wasn’t much out there that accurately described what Buffy was feeling, but what there was made her absolutely sure that she was feeling it. She was bisexual.
What was she supposed to do with this information now ? “Great timing, Internet,” she muttered. “Could’ve used that a year ago.” Although, what would she have done differently?
Kissed Faith before everything went wrong, probably.
Would that have changed anything?
Probably not. Faith had still been unstable. Hell, Buffy might have made her even more unstable. And Buffy hadn’t exactly been a paragon of mental health, either.
That night, Buffy went to Riley’s room. Cuddled up against him, not even really meaning to say it, Buffy said, “I think I like girls.”
Riley let go of her a little bit. “Where does that leave me?” he asked.
“Boys, too. Don’t worry,” Buffy said, smiling up at him. She looked down. “Maybe it’s not important. I’ve just been thinking about it.”
Riley’s arms tightened around her again. “Any particular reason?”
Buffy paused. “Remember Faith?”
“No way.” Riley laughed. “Her?”
“Before she got all evil,” Buffy said. “She was pretty nice, all things considered. We danced together at the Bronze, and we killed vampires together…”
“How romantic,” Riley said.
“Hey, I kill vampires with you, too!” Buffy protested. “Anyway, it’s not like it went anywhere. It’s just, with Willow, I started thinking-- I don’t know. It’s really not important.”
“I get it,” Riley said. “It’s just another piece of the Buffy puzzle.”
Something in Buffy relaxed as he said that. She hadn’t realized how important Riley’s reaction would be, but now that she had it, she felt a lot more okay about this whole thing. “Thanks,” she said.
“Understanding, I guess.”
Buffy’s life hadn’t changed. Not really. She had a loving boyfriend, a group of incredibly kind and loyal close friends, a doting mother, and… Giles, wherever he fit in.
Giles. God, she had to tell Giles about this. He was like her dad or something. He would act all like it wasn’t his business, but it was totally his business.
So one day during training, in the middle of a handstand, Buffy decided to go for it.
“Hey Giles?” she asked, kicking her legs back to the ground and stretching her arms.
“Yes?” Giles answered.
Buffy kicked back up into another handstand. “What would you say if I told you I liked girls?”
“I’d say it’s none of my business, certainly, and you should be focusing on your training.”
“Okay,” Buffy said. “Just checking.” Her legs hit the ground again, and she straightened up and stretched her arms.
“This isn’t really a hypothetical, is it?” Giles asked.
“Nope,” Buffy told him, moving to a punching bag. “Just thought you should know.”
“I’m honored,” Giles said. It was only barely sarcastic. Buffy stopped punching and looked at him.
“It’s not a big deal,” she said.
“You say that,” Giles said, “but, ah, I know firsthand how big these things can be.”
Buffy tilted her head. “Huh?”
“I’d prefer not to go into any more detail about my sordid past than you’ve already unearthed, thanks.”
A grin spread across Buffy’s face. “You and Ethan! I knew it!” She punched the air and bounced back into a handstand.
Even upside-down, she could hear Giles’s sigh.
So that was that. Buffy was bi, and no one really needed to know about it. She was still Buffy, still the Slayer, and still really confused about what she thought of Faith.
Chapter 3: Faith
Finally, she lets herself think the word. She’s a lesbian. Faith Lehane is a real live bona fide only-likes-girls lesbian.
She breathes easier, knowing that.
Faith sleeps with men, but she doesn’t really like them. They’re just something to do while she’s on the run, something in her life that she has perfect control over. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knows that what she does with men is unhealthy, but she ignores that part of her mind. Lots of things she does are unhealthy.
When she gets Called for real, after a few years of training with Diana, she turns her attention to vampires-- she loves the power that she feels coursing through her when she plunges her stake into their heart, that feeling that she’s winning and they’re losing and she can do anything. It’s the ultimate form of control: who lives and who dies. Even if it’s just with demons.
And then Diana dies at the hands of Kakistos, and Faith is cowering in the corner of an old warehouse while an ancient vampire feasts on her dead Watcher, and she realizes that she doesn’t really have control over life and death.
So she runs away, riding buses and hitching rides all the way to Sunnydale, California, and as she makes her way across the country, she leaves a trail of one-night stands with men who are far too old and far too kinky for a girl like her.
Not that she’s ever cared.
They’re just something to do.
And then in Sunnydale, she meets Buffy Summers. She has a vague idea of Buffy from the Slayer dreams that come to her at night-- she wonders if Buffy’s seen her in dreams, too.
The answer seems to be no, because Buffy seems completely surprised to see her. But Faith can’t quite pay attention to that, because she’s too distracted by the way Buffy’s hair catches the light of the street lamp above her, and she’s trying too hard to seem cool to think about something as insubstantial as a dream.
Ironically, it’s listening to Buffy talk about Scott Hope that makes Faith realize that the way she sees Buffy isn’t normal.
“I just want to smile when he’s in the room,” Buffy says one night on patrol.
Check . Faith has a reputation as a bad girl, and Buffy’s kind of ruining it.
“It’s like-- your day’s okay, right, nothing’s super bad, but then he comes in and you don’t understand how you were without him.”
Check . Even though Faith doesn’t need Buffy or anything. She’s perfectly self-sufficient.
“And I miss him when he’s not there,” Buffy concludes.
Check . Faith hates hanging around Sunnydale all day when she knows Buffy is out there, having fun with her friends, smiling her bright smile with Scott Hope.
“Sounds like a party,” she says to Buffy.
Buffy smiles that bright smile, and Faith gets a sinking feeling in the middle of her chest. This isn’t how girls feel about their friends.
But if there’s one thing Faith Lehane is good at, it’s ignoring sinking feelings in the middle of her chest. She hides it behind easy grins and risque banter and a pretense of friendship, which Buffy seems only too willing to accept.
It isn’t until after everything, after she goes evil and after she’s in a coma and after she switches bodies and after she goes to LA and gets herself incarcerated, that she actually lets herself think about her feelings. That’s kind of why she’s in jail, after all, and not still terrorizing the streets of LA, or chained up in the back of a Watcher’s Council truck. She’s a Slayer; even the Watchers would have trouble keeping her behind bars.
The one person who controls Faith is Faith herself, and nothing has ever demonstrated that as much as her choice to go to prison and stay there.
But it means she has to face up to things she’s been ignoring for a long time, and one of those things is her feelings towards Buffy Summers.
She’s jealous of Buffy. That’s the first thing, and at first, she thinks maybe it’s the only thing. She wants Buffy’s perfect life, she wants everyone to listen to her, she wants millions of friends and a mom and a Watcher.
And a part of her hates Buffy, hates her holier-than-thou attitude, hates how she didn’t try to help Faith until it was too late, hates how she’s just so much better than Faith.
But a bigger (if quieter) part of Faith loves Buffy. She doesn’t forgive Buffy’s faults, necessarily-- Buffy still messed up big-time. But so did Faith, and so does everybody, when they’re seventeen. It’s just that not everybody is a Slayer, and emotions aren’t logical, anyway.
The interesting thing is, part of the whole prison thing is seeing a therapist. And even if Faith didn’t have a ton of trust issues, she still couldn’t tell a therapist anything about anything , because all her stuff is too tied up in being a Slayer. So she winds up talking about Buffy a lot, giving a heavily sanitized version of their friendship, because somehow even the sanitized version feels more real than whatever bullshit she could be making up about anything else.
That’s why it’s the therapist, actually, who asks Faith if she had feelings for Buffy. Faith waves it away, saying, “Sure, I had feelings. We were friends, and then I hated her.’
But the therapist gives her a look and says, “You know what I meant.”
“I don’t know,” she says. “I pretty much go for the guys, you know?”
“So tell me about the guys,” the therapist says.
So Faith does-- she edits out the weirder parts, but she talks about the guy with the bullwhip and the drummer and so on. As she does, she realizes that she doesn’t care about any of those guys. Which, she knew that, but she had never really thought about it.
The difference is, she cared-- cares-- about Buffy.
She says that to the therapist, and the therapist nods and smiles and asks her more questions. Faith feels a little weird now, and she clams up a bit. She’s kind of here to get away from her Buffy issues, anyway.
But-- God. Did she do all that stuff last year because of some stupid infatuation? Somehow that’s worse than the rest of the emotional maelstrom she’s been unpacking lately. At the time, she’d been acting solely on her emotions, without thinking much about why she was having them; that strategy’s gotten her through most of her life, actually. But now that she thinks about it… did she really do everything to impress Buffy Summers?
The answer is no, of course, but Faith is still embarrassed by it.
She stops talking to her therapist about Buffy so much, after that. But when Angel comes, Faith accidentally lets something slip in an offhand joke, and she knows that Angel understands more than he lets on.
The word “crush” has been hovering in the back of her mind for a while now, but it’s not until this moment when it really sinks in for Faith that she was-- maybe is-- into Buffy. In, like, a romantic way. Faith’s never really been one for romance, except that when she was with Buffy, she found herself flirting in graveyards and drawing hearts in her breath on the windows. She thinks that maybe if she hadn’t been evil by prom, and Buffy had asked her, she would completely have said yes. (It’s a moot point, because she was evil by prom, and Buffy was all hung up on Angel anyway, but… Faith can dream.)
And that’s it. Faith carries on her conversation with Angel, plastic phone pressed against her ear, but her mind is racing.
She doesn’t really have any way to do research in prison, but she does have a lot of time to think, so that’s what she does. She moves her mind away from Buffy, because it’s not just about Buffy; it’s also about Faith, and about who she is on a fundamental level.
The problem is, Faith doesn’t know who she is on a fundamental level. She never has, and suddenly, that scares her. She figures that means she’s growing up or some crap like that.
But when Faith closes her eyes and thinks about the future, she realizes she doesn’t want to be alone anymore. She imagines her perfect life, living in an apartment in Boston, maybe, although she’s got a bunch of bad memories in Boston, so maybe she’ll just go somewhere else, but anyway, she’ll live in a little apartment, and she’ll go out Slaying at night, and maybe during the day she has a job doing-- something helpful, maybe, for kids in bad homes, because as much as she doesn’t want to get all sappy and cliche, she sure wishes someone had helped her, and so she’ll help others-- and when she imagines herself walking down the street in this new future life, she sees herself holding a woman’s hand.
It’s not Buffy specifically, and that’s how Faith knows this is real. Buffy’s special, what with the whole Slayer thing and all that. But… Faith can only see herself actually loving a woman.
That’s a big revelation. It somehow explains a lot about Faith’s life, how she had sex with men she had no intention of loving or even remembering, how she had always felt warmly towards the women in her life (until the women in her life left her or died or decided she wasn’t worth it), even just how she had never started having crushes on boys when all the other girls had.
Finally, she lets herself think the word. She’s a lesbian. Faith Lehane is a real live bona fide only-likes-girls lesbian.
She breathes easier, knowing that. It means there’s an explanation for her, for who she is. And a positive explanation, too-- this isn’t like the diagnoses her therapist has given her, things that she has to work on and fix. This is a fact about who she is, and knowing that is going to help her… do something. Probably. She hasn’t really worked out the details yet.
But she doesn’t have to work out the details yet. She just has to sit in prison and wait for the day she’s ready to go out and find that perfect life.
(And later, when she’s pulled out of prison before she’s ready and winds up in Sunnydale again, fighting alongside Buffy and trying to help the Potentials, she barely lets herself think that maybe she’s on the right track.)