Disclaimer: I do not own these characters nor do I claim to own them.
A/N: Written as a fill for Snogged at the LJ community Buffy Genfic for her prompt:
Magic vs. Technology: Magic
With: An herb with a name that is difficult to pronounce, an aquarium, an unusual scent for a candle
Without: Rack or Amy
Beta'd by Spuffy_Luvr.
Special thanks to Zab Jade for being patient and coming up with the title.
Riley enters the Magic Box with Dawn in tow and Willow isn't sure which of them she feels worse for. "Hey, Dawnie," she greets and smiles. She'd wave if her arms weren't full and her shoulders weren't thinking of falling off her body while she waits for Giles to come back up the basement stairs and relieve her.
"Hi, Willow," says Dawn, with a sum of absolutely zero of her usual excitement about getting to come and look at all the 'magicky stuff' or the chance to talk about the books she's reading in English class with someone who actually remembers them (or even read them). She slinks over and sits at the new table, shoulders down.
Anya appears at the top of the steps and holds out her arms. "Give me that."
Hello? Rude much.
Willow shifts the aquarium into the ex-demon's arms anyway, hurrying before hers go numb. What does the a magic shop need an aquarium for anyway?
Oooh, unless Giles is going to stock live newts for magic users to pick out on their own! Like the little lobster tank in the grocery store.
(She feels bad for the lobsters but also, how cool!)
As Anya takes the tank down the stairs to be stored with the other things Giles ordered but isn't ready to set out yet, Willow turns back to the newly arrived Scoobies (or semi-Scoobies, anyway) and shakes the blood back into her arms. "How are you feeling, Riley?"
He doesn't look up from studying the candle display, which Willow really should ask Giles about. Most spells don't require specific scents unless the scent is associated with the spell caster's memory or something, but there has to be a reason he'd stock scents like Essence of Slug and Lavender Toad.
"Good as new," says Riley. He raps his knuckles on the shelf and straightens to look at her. "And new means useless and benched."
"Well, hey, a fresh start," says Willow, even though she can hear the almost desperate perkiness in her own voice. She can't make herself stop trying to make things be okay, even though Riley looks… well, compared to all the other guys out there who had heart attacks two days ago, Riley probably looks pretty good. Or compared to other guys who got shot in the leg with a crossbow two days ago. And he probably looks really good compared to the other guys who also got both shot in the leg with a crossbow and had a heart attack two days ago. He just doesn't look as good as he usually looks. Looked. Riley doesn't look good. "Fresh starts are nice. You know, they're all fresh. And starting. Everything's gotta start, so starts are good."
She can't really imagine what Riley's going through. To have all that power, to be that strong, and then, poof, gone. Just like that. Back to weak little sidekick mode.
It's gotta be awful.
"Yeah," says Riley. "Start. I'm starting over."
Dawn picks at the tape on one of the boxes Willow hasn't opened yet and mumbles, "At least you got to be on the team at all."
Willow retrieves the box cutter she's been using and heads back over to the table. "You wanna help me organise the merchandise, Dawnie?"
Dawn looks up at her with a glare. "I know what's going on," she says. She looks back over her shoulder at Riley and folds her arms. "I know what all you guys are doing."
Yeah, Willow knows what's going on too. Like when she knew what was going on when it was always a sitter who would pick her up from school until she was old enough to walk herself home and like she knew what was going on when her parents would leave her to sleep over at Xander's and she'd end up staying for a whole week.
But what was going on then, to her, isn't what's going on now, to Dawn. Not really. It's not like that for Dawn, because they all love her and they do want her around. Just, sometimes there are places she can't be going or times when it's better for her not to be there.
"Buffy just doesn't want you getting hurt," says Riley.
"I'm not doing anything," says Willow, which is mostly the truth. "I'm just helping Giles. And wanting you to help me. We could make the organising into a game." She uses the box cutter to slice through the tape of the box Dawn was picking at and opens it up. "A game where you get to learn about herbs."
Dawn's still pouting, but she looks back at Willow anyway. "Magic herbs?"
"Yeah, magic ones," says Willow. "With really long names."
"Okay," says Dawn. She stands up to look inside the box with Willow.
It's really not because they don't love Dawn that she's here with Willow instead of out with Buffy or at home right now. It's not because they want her gone, but because it's not safe, because it's not the place for her.
But, hey, for a while it wasn't really the place for Willow either. And now it is and she belongs. She fits in and contributes and is helpful and it's amazing, and someday it'll be like that for Dawn too.
"I'm going to go work out in the back," says Riley.
Dawn points to one of the packaged herb bundles. "How do you say that one?"
With a small smile to herself to celebrate her success, Willow leans in to help.