This story was edited somewhat on 08/17/07 for grammar and other fixes.
Finding Love by Gina
Setting: Season 7, (Same time, Same place)
Disclaimer: I own nothing but enjoy trying to play with the characters a bit.
Feedback: yes please
Distribution: please ask
Summary: Willow and Anya, could it have happened like this? Season seven timeline with drama, romance and angst.
A/N A large part of the conversation, in Chapter 1, was taken from (Same Time, Same Place at the Buffyworld site)
Willow's heart is racing after having found the skinned body as well as hearing what the Scoobies had to say about it. She wants to cry, scream, vent, but most of all she wants to be seen and comforted. She doesn't blame them at all for wondering if she had done the most recent skinning but the fact remains that she didn't do it. It hurts her deeply to know that her friends have such doubts, even if they're warranted.
She is still walking fast with her head in a daze and finds herself knocking on Anya's door. Anya opens it, "WILLOW," Anya looks at her hesitantly.
"I need help," Willow says flatly.
"I don't have any money." Anya quips dryly.
"I don't want money." She walks into the apartment without waiting for an invitation and gets a frosty look from Anya.
"Come in, enjoy my personal space." Anya says grimacing as she shuts the door.
"I found a dead body near the high school. Something horrible killed a boy, took his skin right off." Willow shivers as she recalls the scene in her mind.
Anya and Willow speak simultaneously. "Was it you?" Willows shocked look matches Anya's, as they both deny having done the deed.
Anya continues speaking. "Well with the skin thing, they're definitely going to think it was you. Buffy is, anyway."
"Yeah, I mean maybe she already does. I don't know, I just—I-I have to find whatever did this. I just—I need to do something right." Willow drops her head sadly as she finishes speaking. In all honesty, she isn't sure if she will ever get anything right again.
"Oh, and so they'll think it wasn't you, right? I mean that has to be part of it. Maybe you're even thinking you kill this thing, they don't even have to know about it, won't suspect you, even for a minute." Anya says feeling a little sorry for Willow because she knows the feeling all to well.
"No, I-I don't, When did you get all insightful?" Willow asks trying to sort out her thoughts.
"I'm surprisingly sensitive." Anya says smiling. In spite of the situation Willow has found herself in, she returns the smile. This was something Willow couldn't recall happening before but felt it was nice.
"So, will you help me?" Willow asks tentatively not really expecting the help but hoping Anya will come through.
"Is it difficult or time-consuming?" Anya asks sighing.
"No," Willow says taking that as a yes. She draws the curtains in the apartment to block the sunlight. She then lights the candles, as Anya leaves the room and quickly returns. She and Willow sit on the floor, Indian-style, facing each other, with a map of Sunnydale between them.
"This isn't going to get all sexy, is it?" Anya asks with laughter in her voice.
"I'd be shocked, ok; do you have your powder?" Willow asks as Anya shows it to her. "OK, we scatter it over the map, and everywhere there's a demon, a little light appears."
"Oh, pretty! Will it hurt the carpet?" Anya asks really wanting to know that her home will remain in tact. She did not enjoy the thought of Willow causing her home harm after ruining her place of business some months ago.
"No," Willow pauses for a moment. "OK, scatter," they dust the map with the powder from their jars. Several single dots glow in various places on the map, with a thick group of glowing dots in the center.
"Hey look, that's me! Hello. What's that huge clump?" Anya points to the center of the map.
"It's the high school," Willow answers trying to concentrate.
"It's all hellmouthy. Things have been stirring there lately. Is it getting brighter?" Anya looks at Willow wide-eyed.
"Smoke!" Willow yells as the clump of lights in the center of the map get brighter and brighter until the map catches fire. They jump up fast and Willow puts out the fire with her foot.
"Ah! OK. Remember our talk about the carpet?" Anya exclaims, displaying her mood change.
Willow inspects the marks left behind on the map by the glowing lights and frowns. "Thi-this could be it. It's strong, near the body, and all by itself, hiding in the woods or-or maybe cave. There are a couple of good caves around there. Why don't you teleport over there real quick like a bunny and, uh, see if I'm right?" Willow asks dramatically.
"No, sorry, you damaged my carpet. Well, as it turns out, teleporting isn't a right it's a privilege. I withdrew a vengeance spell last week, and this is my punishment. I can only teleport for official business. I have to file a flight plan and everything." Anya says quietly.
"Oh, I'm sorry. That must be hard." Willow says sympathetically.
"Yeah, it bites a pretty big one. And the vengeance itself, I-it's not as fulfilling as I remember." Anya says sadly.
"Really, cause I got the impression that you enjoyed, you know, inflicting." Willow says timidly, as she looks at Anya's expressions. She makes a mental note that they told Anya, in fact, didn't enjoy inflicting pain at all anymore.
"Well, causing pain sounds really cool, I know, but turns out it's really upsetting, didn't use to be, but now it is." Anya walks around pretending to be fussing over the carpet.
"Is it like you're scared of losing that feeling again? Having it be OK to hurt people, and then you're not in charge of the power anymore because it's in charge of you?" Willow asks knowing the answer already. She still experiences those feelings and it scares the life out of her at times. It was, however, nice to have someone who understood her feelings and possibly, they could help each other.
"Wow, that was really over-dramatically stated, but, yeah, that's it." Anya shuffles her feet while she looks at Willow.
"I get it. Believe me." Willow says and drops her head with an immense pang of shame coursing through her body over the things that she'd done.
"I'm sorry, Willow. I wish it were better for you." Anya puts her hand on Willow's arm to show her sincerity.
"You too," Willow feels oddly relaxed to Anya's gentle touch.
"It did get a little sexy, didn't it?" Anya smiles trying to break the tension that had found its way into the room.
Willow nods, looking into Anya's eyes for a second before catching herself and walking away. "I have to find this monster."
"Willow, um, isn't there another spell? I mean, you're trying to find Buffy and Xander. Couldn't we use a spell to do that?" She points to the candles both wanting to help and not being ready to end the first ever at ease conversation the two had shared since their meeting.
"I did, I-I tried, and something went kaflooey, and it didn't work." Willow shrugs as she speaks. It said they don't exist." Anya looks perplexed at that statement as Willow walks out of the apartment and closes the door behind her. She blows out the candles and wonders what she could do to help. She also wonders why she wanted Willow to stick around.
(SUMMERS LIVING ROOM)
Buffy, Xander and Dawn are at the Summers home looking for the culprit in the skinning. Though they feel they know who did it and that it was Willow. Spike had told Willow what they thought during the little encounter earlier in which nobody but him saw Willow. Buffy sighs, stands up, and walks to a corner of the room with Xander following. "What's up?" He asks knowing the answer.
"I have this feeling in my gut that we know exactly who did this. That all of this work we're doing is just a way for us to convince ourselves that Willow's ok." She looks at the others with frustration showing on her face.
Dawn vigorously points to Buffy and Xander, "oh, guys! I got a good one. A demon called "Gnarl. He's a parasite with these nasty long fingernails. He secretes something through them and uses that to paralyze his victims. He then cuts strips of their skin while they're still alive. It takes hours." Dawn looks excited to have found something other than Willow that may have done this recent skinning.
"We didn't find any strips of skin," Xander says glumly.
"You wouldn't, he eats them. That's why he's a parasite. It's like his natural food." She gives him a look that says go back to school.
"I think we know who did this but, to make you feel better, we will follow up on your lead." Buffy says to Dawn with a certainty in her voice that she is wrong but hoping, just this once, Dawn is right.
(CAVE, NIGHT TIME)
Spike is babbling in an insane fashion while leading Buffy and the others to the cave, as Willow decides to go inside it. She squeezes through the small opening on her stomach. Though there is light from a fire, the cave seems empty. She hears noises and then, something speaks to her. "All alone," Gnarl says though she can't see him.
She stands still, trying to see who is there. She does not notice that Buffy and crew have entered the cave because she can't see them, nor they her. "Look at the shorn lamb. See how he trembles. Is it the cold wind? Or is it that the flock is nowhere to be seen?" Gnarl speaks, as Willow tries hard to figure out what he is meaning.
The gang can hear Gnarl speaking, but can't see Willow. "Poor little lamb all alone." He continues speaking to Willow, then jumps out and scratches Dawn and hides again.
"I can't move!" Dawn shouts frantically.
"Let's get her out of here," Buffy says. "We'll come back for him later." They race out carrying a paralyzed Dawn.
Willow is still looking around to see who's talking to her. She's scared now, as rocks appear at the cave opening and seal her in. "What's going on? Who's there? No! Stop!" She shouts with fear in her voice, knowing she will have to probably die here or use magic to free herself.
"No way out now, no way out." Gnarl chuckles as Willow begins chanting to the Goddess. "Gnarl loves spells. He keeps them as pets. They love him. And they leave him alone." He continues laughing, as Willow realizes that her spells are no good and she refuses to go all dark-magic-girl. "Your friends left you here. No one comes to save you; they wanted me to have you."
A bit of the old Willow begins to surface, as she grows more frightened and hurt by what he's saying to her about her friends. "Did they leave you as a gifty for me? Are you a tasty little gifty? Or did they just throw you away?"
"Stop it now!" Willow yells angrily while shaking from fear. She wonders if the gang had been there and if somehow, she caused herself to be invisible to them and visa versa. Just then, Gnarl swoops in slicing Willow's stomach with his paralyzing fingernail. She falls against the wall and slumps to the floor of the cave.
Gnarl grabs her, pulls her to him and begins to lick her stomach wound. She winces in pain. "Too bad there's no one to help you." He says scratching her again, licking more blood then removes a small strip of skin from her stomach. He then eats the skin, moans with pleasure and bends over to lick her stomach again, as Willow shudders in agony.
Anya is cleaning up the shop a bit when Buffy and Xander come crashing in with Dawn. "Anya, we need a locator spell," Buffy shouts. "Look what Willow has done to Dawnie!"
"I don't think Willow would do this," Xander finally speaks up. "She wouldn't," he pauses remembering how she almost killed them all, as Spike enters.
"Someone is missing, who's got the button? I think it is the witch." Spike mumbles as he had earlier when Buffy and Xander had seen him.
"What's that all about?" Buffy asks growing very agitated at the vampire.
"I think what he's trying to tell you is," Anya stands up. "Willow is invisible to you all for some reason." She looks at them. "Where were you?"
"In a cave and Dawn had said something about a Gnarl," Xander offers.
"Xander I truly hope a demon is doing this but it has Willow written all over it," Buffy says despondently.
"While you two argue this out," Anya begins, "I'm going to go help Willow. I can see her and you can't."
She races from the magic box, leaving Buffy and Xander in shock at her boldness. "I guess that's what being a demon does to a person," Xander says. "Buff, I so hope you are wrong, we're all wrong." The two exchange sad looks, as Dawn mumbles something inaudible and Spike is going on about William the poet.
(CAVE, NIGHT TIME)
Willow is lying on the ground, crying, unable to move and in pain. She speaks without moving her mouth. "They wouldn't leave, they'll return."
"They don't want you. Lock you in, nice white skin. And if they do return, where will they find you? Inside me, you'll already be, aww love it." He speaks with a maniacal laugh, and then cuts off a couple more pieces of skin from her stomach. He eats them then licks the blood from her wounds. He then turns from her quickly. "Anyanka, the great Anyanka is here. Maybe she will perform a wish spell to show us how a wish master works." He clicks his nails together.
"Anya help me please," Willow begs without moving her mouth.
Willow fights to keep her eyes open and sees Gnarl with a sword and Anya with a dagger. They fight, trading blows with the weapons. Anya gives him a good slicing sending him temporarily off to lick his wound. "Willow, I'm here, wow, you're really hurt." She says and checks the wounds over. She knows that killing Gnarl will stop the paralysis but not the other wounds and Willow is losing blood fast. "Let me get rid of him and I'll help you, just hold on Willow."
Anya spins around and stabs Gnarl in the foot with her dagger, as he tries to pounce on Willow. She pins him to the ground. She gets her knee down on his neck to help hold him still then plunges her thumbs into his eyes. Her face looks as if she's going to vomit, not a demonic trait to say the least, but she goes back to Willow who had been watching.
Anya sits back down with Willow, who bursts into tears though she is able to move. "I hate being so helpless and you of all people saved me but I wanted so bad to use the dark magic on him but I-I-I just couldn't do it."
Anya takes a small bottle of ointment out of her jacket. She has Willow grip one of her hands as she applies the ointment. She murmurs something and a first aid kit is there. She cleans out the wounds, as Willow tightens her death grip on Anya's free hand. She then applies the bandaging to cover the wounds. "All right Willow, I can't carry you so now is when I will need a little help." Anya stands up and gently pulls the