More pieces to her puzzle
Part 1 of 4
Summary: A sequel to " All the little pieces", this is a rewrite of "More pieces to the puzzle". I guess a bit of a re-titling too. Set after the series, the slayer and the witch have finally 'found' each other. So, things should be smooth sailing from here, right? Happy every after. But, what little secrets are hiding under the surface? Stay tuned.
Spoilers/ setting: This story is set after " Chosen", the end of the BtVS series. There are possible spoilers from any of the seasons. However, if your reading this, I'm taking it you're a fan and have seen the entire series. If not, you might want to stop reading now( I hope you won't).
Rating: R for some sexual content, and some controversial themes.
Warnings: This story contains scenes of child abuse and it's consequences. The author does not find it amusing in any way, it's not for 'entertainment' purposes. Unfortunately, all too often it happens. If you suspect child abuse is occurring, I hope you will find help for the victim. Once such resource is the National Child Abuse hotline at 1-800- 4 A Child.
Author's note: I really liked this story. Thing is, it was an early work, and is a bit rough(some say… should be buried deep somewhere off the coast of Africa). It needs some reworking. Ok, lots of reworking. So, if you have read the original, I hope you'll take time to read the new, improved(?) version. I hope you find it worth it. For anyone who hasn't read " All the little pieces" I would read that first. It's short, won't take long, I promise.
"OOOF" Willow grunts, as she's taken into a very powerful hug by her friend. But the resulting kisses and snuggles were well worth the almost rib-cracking grip of Buffy. It's been nearly two years since she's last seen her friend, and she's overjoyed to be here in her arms. Even if it is snowy, cold and feeling like she's in the jaws of a nutcracker. The look on Buffy's face was priceless: Jaw dropping surprise followed by a smile that could rival the sunrise. Then the sudden avalanche of kisses and hugs that made Willow feel all warm and squishy inside.
When she'd received Buffy's letter in San Francisco, Willow had been at a low point in her life.
Professionally, she'd been doing reasonably well. After her descent into the dark side of magic after Tara's death, Willow decided that she needed to find something other than magic to devote her life to. Even now, three years later, she still feared losing control. She'd gone to hell, and came back; she never wanted to walk that road again. After the defeat of The First and the destruction of Sunnydale, she turned to what she knew best: computers. She completed her education at UC Berkeley, and after experiencing first hand the sexism that seems to still be entrenched in the IT field(thought things are changing), she decided to pursue an old love, teaching.
One of the better parts of High School for her had been when she'd been allowed to substitute for Ms. Calendar. The first time she did it, she'd been so worried she'd hardly slept the night before. But once she got up in front of the class… and experienced the joy of sharing her knowledge, she was hooked.
Though the circumstances that led to her taking over Ms. Calendar's class had been tragic, she still found a love of teaching she never would've guessed. Naturally shy, the thought of being in front of so many people, everyone focused on her, gave her a major case of the wiggins. But she when she actually got there, it was totally different. She felt… fulfilled, as if something inside her craved the attention. Also, having a little power over the students was a nice bonus. Willow had always been a target of some of the … well, less friendly crowd at school( headed up by a girl who shall remain nameless… but it rhymes with Smordelia). Ok, not the noblest of reasons for teaching, but it wasn't her main reason, not even close. It was just a nice little side benefit.
So, after graduating, she looked around for a teaching gig. She finally found one at a small technical college in the North Bay area. While working days at teaching, she worked nights( and weekends, and every other bit of free time) to complete her masters in Education. It was tough work, and she spent a lot of nights with way too little sleep. But it finally paid off, because the school she taught at offered her a tenured position after she obtained her degree.
Not to say that was all she did. While she enjoyed teaching, the pay really wasn't going to make her rich. So, slowly, she started consulting, using her past hacking knowledge to develop a networking security system that was really secure. Better than most available on the market. Seeing an opportunity, she applied for a patent. The resulting royalties she earns from a major software firm that bought exclusive rights to the security suite has made her very comfortable, indeed. This allowed her some flexibility in her teaching schedule. Time to do other things that interested her.
But for all her professional success, Willow's private life had been less than happy. She'd never really gotten over Tara's death. Put simply, Tara was Willow's 'everything'; lover, friend, helpmate, soul mate. She'd taken a shy, retiring hacker cum Wiccan, and with her love and affection transformed her into a vital, strong loving woman. For that, Willow had given Tara her love and devotion, helping Tara break out of her own shell. More than most, they were made for each other.
Like all couples, they had their bad times, too. They fought, even breaking up for awhile. But they patched it up; each knowing their life was better with the other. They looked forward to a long happy life together.
But then tragedy struck, in the form of an errant bullet that was meant for Buffy, but struck Tara. She was dead almost before she knew what happened. Tara's life, and Willow's heart were snuffed out that day. Willow went mad with grief and rage, and her life was inalterably changed. She walked the dark path, taking vengeance on the man who killed Tara, and nearly destroying her friends and herself in the bargain.
Even after she recovered and returned to Sunnydale, Willow was never the same. Her innocence was lost, her view of the world and its people was darker, more suspicious. Her beliefs had been shattered. Even her friends, Buffy and Xander, had drawn back from her. She'd never felt so alone.
Maybe that's why, when Kennedy put on her frontal assault for Willow's attention and affections, she'd fallen for her. It certainly wasn't because Kennedy reminded her of Tara. If two people could be more different, Willow didn't know them. Where Tara was shy, quiet and retiring, Kennedy was bold, out front and in your face. In her relationship with Tara, Willow had been the bold , aggressive one. It hadn't been until Willow declared her love for Tara that they'd gotten together. Kennedy on the other hand had made no bones about her interest in, and feelings for, Willow. She jealously guarded what she considered 'her' territory, and used her charm and brashness to sweep Willow off her feet.
Unfortunately you have to come back to earth sometime. It took awhile, nearly a year after they defeated The First, but Willow came to realize that while Kennedy cared for her, and had affection for her, she simply didn't love her. Kennedy was too young, too rebellious to settle down with one woman. It started with small things; then small things turned into big things; finally Kennedy one day told her that it was over, and left.
Willow was deeply hurt, but she wasn't altogether surprised. She'd known for months that Kennedy was restless. She figured it was only a matter of time that something would break, something that couldn't be fixed. Knowing it was coming didn't make it any easier, however. She cried a lot of tears, ate a lot of comfort foods, and still had a large hole in her heart.
She had no one to turn to. Xander had moved to Seattle, had married and was frankly trying to forget his life as a 'scooby'. The final battle had taken a physical and emotional toll he was still recovering from. She didn't want to add her burden to his. As for Buffy, she'd taken off right after the final battle with The First. She claimed she was going to ' find herself, find out who she was now that she was no longer " The Chosen One" '. The only contact she'd had from her was an occasional phone call, and a monthly letter. Willow had mentioned her breakup with Kennedy in a letter, but Buffy had never picked up the thread, and it had become a moot subject. A distance had grown between them, one greater than the miles that separated them, and Willow couldn't overcome it.
Willow threw herself into her profession. She started volunteering to do seminars on advanced computer programming, exploring the more esoteric and complex use of programming languages. Nights would often find her working away in her office, strategizing and developing new challenges to bring to her students. Her 'downtime' was spent improving and upgrading her security suite, which led to favorable reviews in Technology Today and Net World. She was well on her way to becoming a major force in the computer world. But all of her success professionally didn't fill the emptiness she felt, nor dull the ache in her heart.
It was then that Buffy's letter, THE letter, arrived.
Willow sits staring down at the letter in her hand, her mouth open in disbelief. She reads over the letter again, just to be sure she isn't hallucinating. The words remain the same, just like they did on the last three readings. Finally, convinced that she's not losing her mind, Willow lets the letter drop from her hand.
She feels a flush rising in her cheeks, to match the anger building in her heart.
" You've so got to be kidding, Buffy Summers!" Willow growls to herself, " You really expect me to buy this?" She picks up the letter again, and crumples it, tossing it in the trash. She sits at her table, thinking about what she read in Buffy's letter. She wonders at the raw nerve of that woman, the gall. Who the heck does she think she is? Willow fumes. To upset to sit, will stands up and begins to pace. She runs away from me two years ago… to "find herself" she says. Now she says it's all bogus, that she's madly in love with me, and couldn't be around me because she couldn't admit it to herself. That she was afraid that with how she and Kenny got along, that it'd go bad, and I'd side with Kenny. So she runs. Just like she always does. Run, run, run, Buffy. That's your answer to everything. When Angel went bad, and you had to send him to hell, what happened after? You ran. Riley, he needs you to say that you want him, you pull away, run. Spike…let's not even go there. You run in, you run out. It's a constant back and forth with him. When it comes to fiends and monsters, you're the first in line, defending your friends, and the world. But when it gets really tough… when you gotta start living, and dealing on a day to day? You're so outta there! You don't try; running is so much easier!
Willow stands still, head down, looking defeated. She moves again, going to the trashcan, retrieving the crumpled letter out of the trash. She walks back to her desk, sits and smoothes out the sheet, reading the letter again. Her face softens, becoming bewildered rather than angry.
Why do I give you such a bad case of the wiggins, Buff? Am I that scary? Willow reads over the letter again. I don't understand it, Buffy. I know we drifted apart. I guess when your best bud goes all dark and veiny, that's going to happen. But I really thought we could tell each other the important stuff. Are we like strangers now? I've gotta wonder if you really love me, or if it's some image of me that you love. Some long ago Willow, who doesn't exist anymore. I'm not that shy little geeky girl anymore Buffy. I've grown, and changed, don't you see that? I know you know that. I forced you to see that, back when I went all dark. It was even true before that, Buffy. I know it was. So, who do you really love? Me, as I am now? Or the Willow you remember from high school?
Why didn't we talk about this, Buffy? Why'd we wait til now? If I'd even had a clue about your feelings, don't you think I would've responded? Do you think I would've laughed at you? Don't you know how much you meant to me? I guess you couldn't have known, Buffy. If you had, you woulda known that … Willow shakes her head. Thinking about what mighta been is kinda stupid. We're strangers now, Buffy. You've kind of proved that with this letter. You're in love with what I was, not what I am now. I think you're lonely, I understand that. I'm lonely too. You want something to hold onto, something from your past that makes sense to you. This living in the world is strange to you, because you've had to live so long in a strange and deadly world. One of monsters and demons. But at least there, you could tell the monsters from the good guys. It was easier… real life is so hard. I can't be that something, though, Buffy. I can't be just a touchstone, a rock. I need too. I need you to see me for what I've become.
Willow goes to her desk, and sits down. She knows what she has to do. She can't lead Buffy on, it wouldn't be fair to either of them. She opens her laptop, as if she's going to compose the letter on that, then decides against it. Too impersonal. Gotta write this out, like she did. She reaches into her desk, getting a pen and some stationery. She settles down, puts a sheet of paper before her, and stares at it. She does that for a number of minutes, wondering exactly what to say, and how to say it. God, this is going to be so much harder than I thought. I don't want to hurt her, really. Ok, probably no way to write this letter without hurting her, but … I don't want to come off like a meany. I care about her, I've got to let her know that. Just… the other. Gotta let her down gently. She sits, trying to organize her thoughts . Finally, she starts to write.
I got your letter, and while I understand your feelings, I can't share them.
Grrr.. are you writing a letter here or a proposal?! That's awful. She crumples up the sheet, and tries again.
I read your letter many times, and while I believe you're sincere in your feelings, I can't help but wonder if it's really me you love ?
Sure, call her a liar. Yeah, that's a great start! Willow crumples it up, and throws it away. She sighs, and tries another one.
I read your letter ,and it touched me deeply.
Ok, not a bad start. Go on.
You say you're in love with me, and I admit that I've had feelings for you too, over the years.
Ok, that's also true. No denying that.
We've been friends for a very long time, and I know that at times I've considered you more than a friend.
At times, we've been very close. Almost more like sisters, than friends.
Now, that could get weird. But just go on
So I've got to wonder, why haven't you said something before?
Great. Now you sound like a lawyer, cross-examining her! Damn. Willow tears up the sheet, and starts another.
After an hour, she's still at it. She has a basket full of crumpled papers , and is no closer to writing the letter she wants to write. It all comes out wrong. It's either too cold and business-like, or it's too angry, or it's accusatory, or… Damn, it just isn't what I want to say! Ok, Willow, think. Calm down, and think it out. What do I want to say? Ok, if she were right here, sitting next to me, and told me this, what would I say to her?
" I love you, Willow, " Imaginary Buffy declares.
" Gosh, Buffy. I don't know what to say, " Willow says, " I mean, you tell me you love me, but is it me you really love? Do you know the real me, Buffy?"
"There's a not- real you, Will?" Imaginary Buffy asks, looking confused.
" Uh… no, I mean, I've changed Buffy. What you've said is you think you've loved me since we met… what? Nine years ago? Lots has changed since then, Buffy!" Willow says.
" Well, duh, Will. I know that. Remember, I was there most of the time!" Imaginary Buffy retorts." I've seen you as shy geeker Willow, and Buffy's best bud Willow, and in love with Xander Willow, and as Willow in love with Oz, and College Willow, and Gay Willow, and Willow loves Tara Willow, and addicted to magic Willow, and Willow loses Tara sad Willow, and Recovery Willow, and Willow gets Tara back happy Willow. Willow goes insane Dark Veiny Willow, and Willow comes back from England powerful but afraid of her magic, Willow. And Willow loves Kennedy Willow. Oh, and Willow saves the World by making all the potentials Slayers Willow. Ummm… did I miss any?" Imaginary Buffy asks, " I know we've been apart for a couple of years, but I think I've got most of it, don't you?" Imaginary Buffy thinks, then adds, "Sorry, almost forgot Willow is sad now because Kennedy left her Willow. There, now I think I've got them all. Right?"
"Uh… yeah, I guess, " Willow says, feeling uncomfortable, " But which Willow is it you love?"
"All of them, silly!" Imaginary Buffy says, " Didn't you read my letter?"
"Well, yeah!" Willow says, defensively, " You say you love me, but how do I know that? I mean, we've been apart for two years. Things change. How do I know you're really loving me, and not some idea of what you think I'm about?"
"Huh? What're you talking about, Willow?" Imaginary Buffy asks, " just because we've been apart a couple of years, does that mean you've changed so much I wouldn't know you now? Have you been possessed by some demon? Are you a vampire? Did you get a personality transplant?" Imaginary Buffy asks, " Thing is, Will, even with all the changes you've done, at your core, you're still the same girl I knew 9 years ago. Just because this aspect of your personality changes, or that one changes, the core person is the same. You still believe in the same basic things. Right? I know you better than you think, Will. At heart your still the same basic, loving, loyal, honest girl you've always been. That doesn't change. Even when you were scary veiny Willow, deep down, that spark was still true. It was true then, and it's true now!"
" Ok, ok, I get it, I get it. I'm basically the same girl. Got it" Willow says, wondering how the hell Buffy got so smart all of a sudden. " Tell me this, then. Why now? Why wait til now? Why didn't you tell me how you felt sooner?".
" Gee, Willow. For someone so smart, you're kinda dumb sometimes, " Imaginary Buffy chides her, " Tell me. When, in all the years we've known each other, was there a 'right' time to tell you? When, Will? When could we have talked about this? In high school? College? After college? While saving the world? When? There's always been someone, or something, in the way."
"This isn't how it's supposed to go!" Willow protests.
"Really? How's it supposed to go then?" Imaginary Buffy asks," I'm thinking you're just avoiding the issue!"
"WHAT? That's so not true!" Willow retorts, " I'm so not being avoidy here!"
" Really?" Imaginary Buffy cocks her head sideways, " Seems like it to me. So, I'm gonna ask you straight out. Do you love me, Will?"
"Hey! That's not fair!" Willow complains, " You're not supposed to be asking me questions!"
" Oh? How come it's fair you question MY feelings, but I can't ask you about yours?" Imaginary Buffy retorts, "How fair is that?"
" But… but…!" Willow protests, but Imaginary Buffy cuts her off.
" Stop stalling, Will. Yes or no. Do you or don't you love me?" Imaginary Buffy asks, face stern, arms crossed.
" I… I… " Willow stammers.
" Not brain surgery here, Willow. Simple question, I think" Imaginary Buffy says, tapping her foot.
" I dunno, " Willow answers, evasively.
" Really? Is that your final answer?" Imaginary Buffy asks.
"Uh… yeah, " Willow answers in a small voice.
"EHHHH! Wrong answer. Sorry, but we have some lovely parting gifts for you!" Imaginary Buffy mocks her, " It was a yes/ no answer. There are no maybes here".
" BUT I DON'T KNOW!" Willow yells at her, frustrated and angry and wondering how the hell this got all turned around on her.
Imaginary Buffy looks at her with a sad expression, " then I guess you better figure it out, before you start questioning how I feel, don't you think?" She turns and walks away.
"Wait…WAIT!" Willow calls out to the retreating figure, " Wait!"
Imaginary Buffy stops, without turning around. " What?"
" Ok.. say I love you, then…" Willow starts.
" Say it, or mean it?" Imaginary Buffy asks over her shoulder.
" Mean it. " Willow says, quietly, realizing it's the truth, " I love you Buffy"
" I love you too, Will," Imaginary Buffy turns around, smiling.
"So now what?" Willow asks, needing answers.
" It's up to you, Will. I reached out to you, remember?" Imaginary Buffy says, starting to fade.
"Where you going? I need you!" Willow says, trying to catch the fading Buffy.
" Then, you know what you gotta do, don't you?" Imaginary Buffy says, disappearing.
" No…come back, don't go Buffy!" Willow calls out, waking from her daydream. She looks around, confused and disoriented. She rubs her eyes, and looks down at Buffy's letter. She reads it again, this time with an open heart. When she finishes, she's in tears.
God, I'm a moron! Willow thinks to herself, sniffling a little , I almost threw you away again, Buffy.
Carefully, as if preserving something precious, she straightens out the letter, and puts it away in her desk. She stands up, and heads for bed.
She's got an early day tomorrow… she has a lot to do, a lot of arrangements to make. She's going to need her rest.
And if she happens to dream of a certain blonde slayer, well, that's fine too.
That's just a bonus.
Willow feels Buffy lay her head on her shoulder. She feels her shivering in her arms, and… Oh, goodness, she's crying!
"Buffy? What's wrong?" Willow asks, hugging her tightly
" Silly, nothing's wrong, "Buffy says, shivering and crying on Willow's shoulder, " I'm just so happy to see you. I didn't think… I didn't think you'd answer my letter… God, I never expected you to come!" Buffy snuggles closer, trying to stay warm. She's freezing, but doesn't want to let go of Willow…ever. " Why … why did it take so long for you to answer?" Buffy says, her teeth chattering.
"I'm sorry , Buffy, "Willow says, regret coloring her voice, " I wanted to get here sooner. I wanted to surprise you… but it took me a long time to get away, " Willow looks at the small woman in her arms, and holds her closer, " I knew I couldn't just write back. I had to come," Willow draws Buffy closer, kissing her gently. She feels her shivering, and breaks the kiss." C'mon sweetie, inside now. You're gonna catch your death."
Buffy, clinging to Willow for warmth and so much more, starts back towards her house. " Yeah, kinda stupid, huh? Freezing my butt off here" She chuckles self-deprecatingly. She turns towards Willow, her face serious, " just so good to see you… to touch you" she looks deep into Willow's eyes, and asks, in an almost childlike voice, " You won't leave me, will you?"
"No, Buffy, I won't leave you, " Willow says, looking at Buffy . Something in Buffy's eyes chills her, more than the weather.
I'm with you for the long haul, baby, Willow says to herself.
They walk inside, arms around each other. The door closes behind them.
To be continued.