Part Eight: Secrets and Lies
What a stupid question. “We?” Are you asking me or one of my sixteen personalities? Or do both of us have sixteen personalities? Why did people ask that instead of what they really wanted to ask?
“Will, you have to answer me some day. I’m not going away.”
And I’m not talking. Not till you’re honest.
“You have to talk.”
On the one hand, she resented it----the therapy, the benevolence, all the forgiveness they offered, because it came with a catch: if she’d just toe the line and whimper. I liked it better when they hated me. At least that was a strong emotion. They’re trying to turn me back into good old boring Willow. Good old Willow. Old Willow. Nobody ever had strong feelings about good old me before. Not Xander, not Oz, not Buffy. Why pretend now? Never going to be boring again, dammit. Not gonna happen.
On the other hand, there was the guilt. Great way to honor Tara, there, champ; murder people, and try to kill two other people, and my friends besides.
Buffy tried it.
Buffy was infected by demon poison.
That explains the whole fucking Spike thing, too. Oh, wait....No it doesn’t.
It’s not fair.
Maybe not. But maybe it’s...appropriate.
It’s just not fair.
Her mind gave up when she tried to come up with something that was fair. I was so good for so long, I meant well, doesn’t that count? Can’t you let me go? Can’t you understand? It’s not fair. Oz left me and Xander never loved me back....except for that time, which we totally did not mean to hurt people. I mean, when Oz did that to me, I understood then.
I never apologized, though.
Yes, I did.
I apologized so I’d make myself feel better.
No, I meant it. I really meant it.
Like you brought Buffy back for her own good. Yeah, right, like that was what you wanted. You liked being the Slayer for a while, then it got to be too much, too often, too ugly---all that slaying, all that violence. Not the kind of power you wanted. Leadership was power. Leadership-----oh, that was fun. That was so fun.
Making decisions. Giving orders. Being Buffy for a while, not just the sidekick.
I did not just think that.
Xander sighed and sat down in his chair next to the door for their daily avoiding eye contact contest. “You know, I can see what you’re thinking.”
Bullshit. If you could see what I was thinking...
What am I thinking?
Gee, what would have happened if Buffy hadn’t come back?
Better not think about it. Better not remember.
Oh, that summer. Even though she had to kill vampires and demons every night, and it wasn’t as easy as Buffy had made it seem, she had relished the power for a while. Even though Giles’ glances in her direction began to make her feel rather uncomfortable, she could avoid that stare easily enough. It just got so complicated, so onerous. After all, power was one thing...but Spike kept flinching every time the Buffybot so much as opened her mouth, and she’d found Dawn watching TV with the bot more than once, cuddled up against the thing with her head on its shoulder. Then there was the stuff she hadn’t expected about Slaying, even though she’d been the Slayer’s friend for ages. Had Buffy never talked about it, or had she managed to ignore it? There were the bruises, the sprains, the cuts that always made the fight so much more difficult when the vampires smelled the blood....No, it wasn’t the way she thought it was at all, and she began to look back at Buffy’s memory a little uncomfortably. Once she’d been rather jealous, and hadn’t she always admitted it?
No, actually, I didn’t.
No, power was fun, but the stuff that came with it....That wasn’t fun. It stopped being fun in some way and that was when she decided to bring Buffy back. It became even less fun when Buffy was actually back, and whose company did she seek out but Spike’s? She’d probably told him everything, and what happened? He tried to rape her and took off...
Just like Xander. He took off, too, just not literally. That’s how you avoid it. You take off.
I should have just killed Warren and Rack and left. That would have worked. Not having to look at them, and see that they didn’t see the Willow she thought she was, the Willow she wanted to be.
She’d expected more from Buffy. Sure, she slayed, she tried to act normal, but then they found out where she’d actually been, and that was where Willow had begun feeling her own anger. Buffy couldn’t tell her best friend where she’d been, what she was doing? And finding out about the affair with Spike...when had they stopped talking?
About the same time I started relying on magic instead of my friends.
Not true. Definitely not true.
I only used magic because I couldn’t get what I wanted from them.
And what would that be?
I don’t know.
I don’t want to know.
“Will...” Xander said heavily, and she heard it then, heard the judgment in his voice. If she ever broke her silence, it would be because she’d finally had it from him, finally had it with his judgmental take on her actions, like he was a choirboy himself. Dating a demon? Summoning another one? Getting people killed? The way he treated Anya?
The way I treated Tara?
No, that was different.
Because it was different. It really was. I never said the sort of stuff he said...
A mental image of the Bronze, looking for Dawn, and Tara calling her on her magic usage, and her own angry response...Oh, God, forgot about that...
Not the same as Xander. He said things....and I did things. No, that’s not true. Because I was trying to make things okay. Xander just wanted to get what he wanted.
They stared at one another, Xander resigned, Willow defiant. I’m not going to break. I’m never going to not be angry. Getting angry is good. Getting angry keeps me from thinking about Tara and how bad I was to her. Anger means I will stay angry at what happened to Tara, and not think about how easy it was to let something turn me into a killer, too. Anger means there is no place here for grief over Tara. No place to think about how lonely I am. No way to think about how I will never ever be able to make it up to Tara. Won’t have to try to make it up to Buffy and Xander. Won’t have to deal with it. Because they might not want to make it up to me. They might not want me back. Nobody might want me. I don’t want me, either.
Buffy turned around and looked at Giles. “Huh?” She gestured at the back yard. “Just me and the crickets.”
“No.” He leaned more comfortably against the door jamb. “From anyone.” It wasn’t a question.
“I get the feeling there are some people you’re not really interested in getting updates from.” Ah, she thought, I said that and even I didn’t even see it coming. Giles removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “With or without the Scotch.” This earned her a wry look, because of course he had a tumbler of Scotch in his hand.
“I do try to cling to some sense of normality,” he sighed. “But if there is some particular vampire you wish to discuss, I’ll listen.”
“And grit your teeth.”
“Allow me one prejudice, would you please? I can’t say I’ve ever been comfortable with the notion of you..and....vampires.”
“It’s not like I tried to.”
“No, no, I don’t suppose so.” He gave her another wry look and sat down next to her with a creak. She wasn’t sure if it was the porch boards or his bones; either way, her glance was equal parts fondness and worry. “However, you didn’t really try not to.”
“Well,” Buffy cocked her head at him, impressed. “That was rather bitchy.”
“Yes, it was,” Giles said with a sense of accomplisment. “I’m rather pleased. I’ve been taking notes.”
“Where? Oh, like I’m that bitchy? Nu-uh.”
“Well, I would like to point out that I was not the one who came up with that label.”
“If the shoe fits...” Buffy cocked her head at him.
“That’s a matter of debate.” Giles cocked an eyebrow right back.
“Besides, who was I supposed to date? Look what happened when I dated humans. Riley? Parker? Owen.” She sighed finally. “Never worked.”
“I thought you were fond of Riley.”
“But he couldn’t cope with both him and me.” She considered it. “All the Army stuff? I could handle that, and he might have been able to if it had just been that. But then there the Slayer stuff, too. I don’t think he could handle both things. I could because I’m the Slayer. But he didn’t like that, watching me cope. And I don’t think somebody who loves me should need me to...not cope.”
“He’s just one man, Buffy.”
“Parker?” She pointed out archly.
“I hardly think one caddish twit should spoil one for men in general.” He took off his glasses and wiped them. “I’m sorry to say, but unfortunately, there are men like Parker, although why they’re not considered to be demons, I’ve no idea.”
“Just another Counsel of Watchers slip up, no doubt.”
“At least vampires and demons just try to kill you.” Giles sighed.
“Yeah,” Buffy retorted. “People just try to break your heart.”
He glanced at her suddenly, startled. “Buffy...”
She shifted uncomfortably on the step. “Yeah, I know, I know. But...At least Angel loved me. At least Spike did.”
“Did?” Giles asked quietly. “Past tense?”
“I haven’t talked to Angel all summer. It’s not like we’re friends or anything, you know.” She looked down at her hands. “I’d like that. I’d really like that, even if I don’t know how to do it. It’d be nice to get together and talk, and reminisce about...Well, okay, about monsters and the apocalypse---“
“Shush. I’m having fun.” She sniffed thoughtfully. “You know, that’s the problem, Giles. I need people I can talk to about the stuff I know---vampires, werewolves, all that stuff. Otherwise, I have to hide. I could always do that with you and the guys.” She paused again. “But, you know, it’s like the more normal people get, the less they talk…about the stuff….they….need to talk about.” She sighed. “And it’s kind of hard to talk to people who always make you do the talking.” Buffy muttered.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I think they should try and talk to me,” she grumbled. “I’m so tired, Giles.”
“They? You mean....Oh. Do you really think they don’t...?”
“Well, no,” she said firmly. “It’s not just me having probems with this, is it? Xander didn’t really say he and Anya were having problems, did he? Boom, he walked out on her. And I didn’t say anything about me and Spike, but....Willow and the magic....” She shrugged. “So, would any of this have happened if I had talked? What about if the others had talked?”
“Well,” Giles considered. “Where would you start?”
She looked down firmly, then straight into his eyes. “With you.”
He took another gulp of Scotch, then a deep breath. “Fire away.”
“Yes,” he nodded firmly.
She was the one who shrugged. “Really? You won’t be mad?”
“Maybe at myself.”
“Okay.” She stared out at the darkness, collecting her thoughts. “Giles, don’t go away,” she said softly. “Don’t leave me. Something is wrong with me. I don’t want to live, but I can’t stand to die again. My friends.... they don’t want to hear about it. I feel like I’m frozen and I’ll never get warm again.” And Spike makes me feel like I’m melting away, she thought. “I can’t do this.”
“All right, then, keep going.”
“Okay..Uh.” And she drew a blank. “Xander.” She thought about it. “You guys brought me back and I just want to sleep till I’m rested. Go slay or something. How come you’re eating so much? I do that when I’m anxious. Are you anxious? What about? Is it Anya? And stop bitching at Spike. He fought demons with you the whole summer, and I was dead, so it wasn’t like he was trying to impress you.”
“Willow.” Giles prompted.
“Don’t ever do a spell on somebody unless you ask them first, okay?” She grimaced. “It’s like....hiring somebody to do your housework when you’re not especially busy. It’s easy-er, you know? It’s getting somebody to do something you don’t feel like doing.” She glanced down. “You know, that didn’t really do anything for me.”
“What about Spike?”
Buffy sighed. “I don’t think I can say that in front of you.” Giles winced at that.
“Well,then, think about it.” She glanced out of the corner of her eye at him, and he nudged her. “I’m serious.”
“Okay.” She closed her eyes and tried to get her thoughts to do something organized. Her mind promptly brought her back to that first night, that first moment. One day, she thought, I’ll get tired of remembering that, but today is obviously not that day. The wall hard against her back, and a sudden flash of clarity, as his arms tightened around her. This is really happening, I’m really doing this, we’re really doing this. His face in her hands, her legs tightening around his waist, the clothes between them.....And then, later, tearing them off.....That was the moment, right there, she thought. That was when I should have said something. Of course, that was precisely the moment, he shouldn’t have said...
Spike, pulling her into his lap, her pulse already hammering with anticipation...The way he kissed her, the way it felt...Was that what she’d been missing? Kissing him was so different from kissing anyone else that she couldn’t figure out if the difference was just him or...them. The two of them, together. The way he kissed was almost some unspoken language, some secret communication that said things she could never articulate, any more than she could describe why having sex with Spike was closer to making love than any of the nice sex she’d ever had with anyone else. Heart and soul, she thought, but he doesn’t have a soul, so what could you call it?
Kissing him on a floor littered with debris and clothes, the only reality was that he kissed her as if he’d never kissed a girl before, as if she were the only girl in the world. It was the same way he’d touched her, too, his hands gentle and tender, almost as if he was afraid she’d shatter. If she’d let him, she was fairly sure, it would have stayed that way.
Oh, yes, there it was, the wrong fork in that road.
Spike, pulling her onto his lap, kissing her like some sweet boy, the two of them, rolling onto the floor...”I knew it, I knew the only thing better than...”
What could she have said? The Buffy then was too confused to put it all together in some way that made sense of the contrasts, the way his kisses made her feel like a virgin all over again, with no evil morning-after, the way his body made her scream at the same time. Of course, she thought, I was the one who turned evil the morning after. She winced at the thought. Spike had turned stupid, but that was hardly a change of pace for any guy who’d just had not just unexpected sex, but lots of it.
She thought about it, turning around potential retorts in her mind. It wasn’t if if she’d ever get the chance to actually say any of them: The only thing better than killing a Slayer was f---Wish I could say the same about vampires there, Casanova. If there was such a thing as blurting out a thought, that was what that was. She tried it out in her mind. She’d have shoved him aside, he’d had gotten angry---but probably not hurt----and then they’d have probably...Maybe he’d have made her laugh. Instead of stomping out, maybe, they’d have...
She shivered. “This isn’t going to change anything, Giles. I can’t go back and change things.”
“No,” Giles said reasonably. “But you can prepare yourself for things to come.”
“Which will be...?”
“What are you going to do with Willow?”
“What is she going to do with me?” She countered.
“Buffy, it’s not a treaty negotiation.”
“Well, I just want to know.”
“And that’s precisely what you can’t do with people. You don’t know. You can’t know. You can only treat them decently, and fairly, and then...You can only hope.”
“There’s no hope with some people.”
“No, there isn’t. But you have to try.”
She peered at him. “Are you drunk?”
“Buffy, really, that sort of thing must stop.” He got up with perfect--and rather careful---steadiness and went into the kitchen, where he poured her several molecules of Scotch and watched her patiently till she downed it.
“Are you sure you’re not a drunk?”
“Buffy.” He sloshed the liquid around in his glass thoughtfully, however. “It does take the edge off, I admit. I used to have a great deal more trouble drinking. I’d lie in bed and worry.”
“You, of course.” Giles said quietly. “I was back home in England, and I may as well have been in some ghastly place like....Cleveland.” He shuddered as if a goose had walked over his grave, Buffy thought. “Now, though....I drink after my day, and you and I talk, and then I sleep better. Is that bad?”
“No, I guess not.” Buffy said after a startled pause. “I guess it’s just what you find to help you deal with things....”
“Well, for me it’s a bit of a drink before bed.”
And for me it was Spike....
Continued in Part Nine: The Right Things