Shades of Winter
by Whisper2AScream

Disclaimer: Ok, no, Buffy, Willow and Joyce don't belong to me, they belong to the evil almighty one known as Joss. Oh, and um, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Productions, Twentieth Century Fox, and the WB affliates. No, these lyrics don't belong to me, they belong to the talented chanteuse known as Tori Amos, off her album, Little Earthquakes, and Atlantic Records.
Spoilers: Midway through fourth season, after Wild at Heart.
Summary: A song brings out introspection in three different women, Buffy, Willow, and Joyce.
Author Notes: Yep, it's a songfic. Based on Tori Amos' Winter. One of my fave songs, and it's been on heavy rotation in my noggin for a while, so… Anyway, cue the hankies, folks, it's dripping with angst.

Buffy glanced down at one of the few pictures she had left of her father. She was four, and he was taking her to the ice show. She loved the sounds, and the sights. She remembered the soft shirring, slightly scraping noise that the metal skates made as they glided through a top layer of ice. The bright costumes on the ice skaters, with colors that were so glorious, it was though they were painted with rainbows. The dome overhead seemed to stretch to the heavens as her toddler-sized head glanced up. She had smiled at the little puffs of breath that emerged from her mouth, the cold instantly condensing the water vapor. Her fingers brushed against the smooth glass surface of the picture frame, almost expecting it to disappear like her father did. She glanced up at Willow who was idly fiddling with the tuner dial on her stereo. It was placed on top of the dresser in their shared dorm room. After finding a suitable station, Willow slumped back down on her nearby bed. The two girls shared a look, and then glanced away as the softly played piano solo was heard on the radio.

Snow can wait, I forgot my mittens.
Wipe my nose, get my new boots on.
I get a little warm in my heart when I think of winter.
I put my hand in my father's glove.
I run off where the drifts get deeper.
Sleeping Beauty trips me with a frown. I hear a voice,
"You must learn to stand up for yourself 'cause I can't always be around."

Buffy glanced back down at the picture. The lyrics seemed to reach out to her own pain of missing her father. He said he loved her, but after the divorce, the visits were less frequent. She couldn't remember the last time she got a card from him for any reason, much less a holiday or her birthday. It's all she could do to stand up for herself, since her father has been gone for so long.

He says, when you gonna make up your mind?
When you gonna love you as much as I do?
When you gonna make up your mind?
'Cause things are gonna change so fast.
All the white horses are still in bed.
I tell you that I'll always want you near.
You say that things change... my dear.

Love her? Did he ever? Maybe when she was small, but not the stubborn woman she turned into. A lot like her mother. Giles never minded her headstrong attitude, he not only accepted it, but welcomed it. In a lot of ways, he sort of stepped in, when Hank Summers stayed in LA while she and her mother moved to Sunnydale. At first, she resented the idea of her father being replaced, but now. Well, her father probably would have trouble with the whole Slayer business, but Giles knew of it even before she did. It was his job as a Watcher to know of Slayers, but then he grew closer with her, adopting her as a daughter. She wasn't sure when she started seeing as him as a surrogate father, it sort of grew up slowly, like a flower.

Boys get discovered as winter melts.
Flowers competing for the sun.
Years go by and I'm here still waiting,
Withering where some snowman was.
Mirror, mirror where's the crystal palace?
But I only can see myself.
Skating around the truth who I am,
But I know, dad, the ice is getting thin.

Buffy stared at her pale reflection on the glass. One of her brief trysts when she dreamed of being an Olympic skater, she lost her footing, and due to faulty maintenance of the ice, she almost slipped through a patch of thin ice. Perhaps she hadn't lost some of that skater. Wasn't she skating around the truth with Riley? Wanting to admit who she really is, but terrified of what might happen if he knew. And maybe part of her was terrified of becoming like her mother, putting her faith in a man who will ultimately desert her. Hadn't Angel deserted her?

Nearby, Willow was likewise thinking of desertion as she tried to withhold the tears threatening to stream down her face. She glanced out the window, wincing at her red, irritated eyes in the reflection. But the reflection shifted faces to another, one with changing hair colors, and calm expression. Over, and over in her head, she could still see Oz as he said those horrible words. Watch him vanish. Oh, her rational mind knew why he left, but her heart was still screaming as it fell into the pit of her stomach, shattered into a thousand pieces. For a long time, she was waiting for love. Waiting for Xander to finally notice her as the beautiful woman she is, not just the comfortable childhood friend that he grew up with. Only while she was waiting, Oz discovered her beauty first. And by the time, Xander came to his senses, and realized that yes, he loved her, it was too late. Now, she wondered if she had made the right choice at the time, to stay with Oz. If she had stayed with Xander, then he wouldn't have slept with Faith, and Oz wouldn't have cheated on her, and left her. She thought she and Oz loved each other, but it wasn't enough for him to stay by her.

When you gonna make up your mind?
When you gonna love you as much as I do?
When you gonna make up your mind?
'Cause things are gonna change so fast.
All the white horses are still in bed.
I tell you that I'll always want you near.
You say that things change... my dear.

The fact is, she couldn't make her mind what to do. Part of her still wanted Xander to be near, and part wanted Oz. Now she had nobody. And she never realized how empty she could possibly feel. Though, Xander had also left for a while, during the summer. She had heard almost no word from him, but then she was with Oz, and perhaps he was respecting her need for distance. But she didn't want distance, she wanted closeness. It seemed like there was always too much distance with the ones she loved. Even Buffy had been getting a bit distant this semester. Parker didn't help matters with his little one-night-stand bit with her. She couldn't blame Buffy for feeling as bad she did. Why is it whenever any of us try to prove how much we love someone, they always push us away?

Elsewhere in town, Joyce was pondering the same thing as she remembered Hank. She had the radio in the kitchen tuned to the same station as well. She listened as she sipped some tea. She had a headache earlier and since things have been quiet at the gallery of late, she figured she would take the rest of the day off to relax. Quiet, the house was so still, she could swear that at times you could hear the dust motes gently floating in the cross-streams of the circulating air through the two-story home. She couldn't remember a time when it was this quiet. Empty nest syndrome, she supposed why she felt like this. The time when the kids move out, ready to be on their own. She was proud of her daughter, having grown up into such a strong and responsible adult. She still worried for her. All mothers do, though she knew most mothers didn't have to worry about many of the things that she did. That some strange creature could ultimately be the death of her daughter. But Slayer matters besides, she knew the day would come when her little girl would grow up, and leave her. She was just expecting to have someone to share her feelings with when it happened. But no, Hank decided that the way his career was moving that he was being bogged down with wife and child, not to mention the fact that it was getting to the point that neither of them could even look at each other. They just drifted apart. If one came into the room, the other would leave. One would sleep during the night, the other the day, just so they could avoid each other. The most stressful times would be holidays when they had to face each other. Finally, they just gave up.

Hair is gray and the fires are burning.
So many dreams on the shelf.
You say, I wanted you to be proud of me.
I always wanted that myself.

Joyce thought wistfully of her father. Buffy never really had a chance to know her grandfather. He died from a heart attack when she was only three. Was he proud of her? There were times of late she wasn't sure. He was a little suspicious of Hank when she decided to marry him. After all, he was rebellious in his youth, well, both of them were, wanting to make a difference in those days. The war was winding down finally, but there were still battles at home. Hank had supported her involvement in the Women's Liberation movement. Neither of her parents really understood the importance of equality between genders, and women getting the same rights as men. Though nowadays, her father turned out to be one that was right. It got to the point of Hank almost treating her like a second class citizen, her being reduced to being the supportive one, only there to be shown off and introduced to his circle of contacts at parties and business gatherings. Always backing up her husband, but never speaking for herself. Her father had warned her that Hank was just using her, and much to her chagrin, it was true. *Are you proud now, Dad? I'm free and successful, and I have a perfect daughter? * She glanced at her reflection from a mirror on a nearby shelf, and winced, noticing another gray hair peeking out of the blond waves.

When you gonna make up your mind?
When you gonna love you as much as I do?
When you gonna make up your mind?
'Cause things are gonna change so fast.
All the white horses have gone ahead.
I tell you that I'll always want you near.
You say that things change... my dear.
Never change, all the white horses aha, mmm...

And three points were drawn together for one single plane of thought. *I can make up my mind. *
Buffy thought, *I'm gonna tell Riley the truth, and then we'll see. If he loves me, my Slayerness won't matter. *
Willow thought, *I'm gonna be ok. I'll get through this, but on my own terms. If Oz or Xander don't want me, that's their loss. It's not my fault. It's theirs. *
Joyce thought, *I'm gonna keep going. I don't need to have a man to justify my own existence. I can be strong on my own. *

Then, other thoughts crept in, not wrong ones, but ones whispering patience, stalwartness, and hope.
*Well, maybe tomorrow. It can wait. *
*Well, if Xander did mention something tomorrow, I might consider. *
*Well, if I do meet someone else, someone nice, and would want to support _me,_ I wouldn't mind. *

And the three women silently mulled over their thoughts, as they glanced at reflections of themselves. Their minds swirled with the past, present, and future like snowflakes swirling in a winter wind.

The End