If you have not read my other story, Passoins: Another Choice, Another Foe, I strongly suggest you do. Otherwise, this will make very little sense and seem like a complete violation of Buffy cannon.
Well...it kind of is. But if you've read Another Choice, it'll seem less so.
In case you don't have that kind of time, here's the short version. I wrote twenty-nine chapters on what would have happened if, in Passions, Buffy had left Giles to die while she killed Angel. The end result was that Giles was turned by Spike just before he died and ended up taking Angelus' place as Season Two's "Big Bad".
However, this story actually takes place during Another Choice. Specifically, it goes into more detail of Chapter Seven ("Trying Times"), where I glossed over other not-quite-plot related episodes. But I suddenly started to think about how Giles would handle things differently than Angel, and...
...here we go again.
This does go against a bit of what I wrote in Chapter Seven. But I like to think of it has having been refined.
Of course, you are the ones who must judge.
"Hey! You bailing?"
Buffy glanced around as she descended the step's from the Bronze's catwalk, to see Willow hurrying over. Buffy managed a strained smile in greeting. "Yeah. I'm gonna patrol, close up the library, then head home and sack it."
Willow frowned at her, her brows knitting in faint worry. "You've been doing that a lot. Patrolling and sacking. In fact, you've kinda been All-Work-And-No-Play Buffy."
Buffy put on her very best mock-offended expression. "I play! I have big fun!" She gestured around at the vast, dimly lit, noisy interior of the club. "I came here tonight, didn't I?"
Willow nodded, but her half-worried, half-reproachful expression did not change. "You came, you saw, you…rejected."
"You mean that guy? Just…" Buffy shrugged helplessly. "Not in date mode right now."
Willow suddenly brightened at this. She nudged Buffy conspiratorially in the ribs. "Maybe you need to date to get in date mode?"
"I don't think I'm ready for that, Will."
"You're thinking too much. Maybe you need to be impulsive!" Her friend gave her an encouraging smile, which Buffy thought was rather ironic. She remembered a line spoken by Willow the first day they'd met, something along the lines of "that way leads to madness, and sweaty palms!"
"Impulsive?" she demanded, putting her hands on her hips. "Do you remember my ex-boyfriend, the vampire? I slept with him, he lost his soul, my boyfriend was gone forever and then the demon who wore his face was killing my friends. Oh, and let's not forget my impulsive solution to that! I leave my Watcher to die while I kill my boyfriend, then my Watcher gets turned and ends up being just as evil and takes over the job of trying to kill my friends! The next impulsive decision I make will involve my choice of dentures."
Willow heaved a sigh, but Buffy knew the memories of the last few months were just as vivid for her. After all, Angelus had taken a special pleasure in threatening the shy redhead. "Okay, the Angel thing went badly. And the Giles thing went worse. I'm on board with that. But those things weren't your fault! And besides, love isn't always like that! Love can be…" She glanced over her shoulder, and Buffy knew she was scanning the crowd for any sign of Oz, who had finally agreed to accompany them on their nights out. Buffy spotted him holding a table for Xander and Cordelia, who were both busy getting their groove on. "…nice!"
Sure enough, as Oz caught his girlfriend's eye, he smiled at her. Buffy could see why the werewolf made Willow go all ooey-gooey lovey-dovey, and was glad that there were at least a few romances still going well.
"Bye, Willow," said Buffy, putting a hand on her friend's shoulder. "Catch you in the morning."
Willow started slightly, then turned back to face Buffy. "Right! Yeah. Morning. But Buffy…"
"…I know you've gotta do the patrolling thing and all, but d'you think you could spend a few hours in the library afterwards or…maybe beforehand?" Willow's expression was suddenly a thunderous scowl. "Y'know, maybe finally find out who's been making off with all the books!"
"Sure. I can crash for a while. No guarantees, though. Whoever's playing cat burglar is pretty dang sneaky."
"I know." Willow bobbed her head in agreement, then suddenly prodded Buffy in the chest. "But no more all-nighters! No staying past one, okay? You're not getting enough sleep!"
Buffy laughed. "I won't, Will. Promise. I'll get the research done while I hang out there, then it is off to the sack for the Slayer."
"Good." Willow hugged Buffy in farewell. "I'll tell the others you said g'night. G'night, Buffy!"
Willow watched Buffy exit the Bronze. She chewed on her lip worriedly. Ever since Giles died, the three of them had each taken on bits of what he'd done. Willow had taken over the research, Xander had taken over the training, and Buffy had been doing a little bit of everything and working harder than ever. It wasn't good for her. Granted, the extra workload and decreased amounts of sleep weren't good for any of them, but Buffy was the one getting hit the hardest…and Willow knew that was partially what Giles was going for.
A soft kiss was planted on her cheek, and Willow looked around to see that Oz had left the table to join her. She beamed at him. "Hey!"
"What's with the broody face?"
Willow took his arm and together they headed back to the table before it was stolen by other enterprising club-goers. "Buffy. She's gotta patrol tonight, and I asked her to keep an eye out for the book thief, and I'm really not sure she can handle this much longer."
Oz nodded his understanding. He'd really only become a full member of the Scooby recently. This was partially because he was their responsibility, come full moon…and partially because they were suddenly short staffed and needed everyone they could. "She'll manage," he said, as the two of them sat down again.
"I wish she'd do a bit less managing and a bit more asking for help," Willow grumbled.
"I know," said Oz softly. He looked around the room, clearly searching for something else to talk about. "You hungry?"
He was rewarded with a smile from Willow. "Only a whole lot."
"Cool." Oz started looking around for a waitress. "I'll buy. Scuse me!"
He finally caught the attention of one of the employees, and she approached her table with notepad in hand. Willow immediately started rattling off her order, then froze as the music suddenly switched from the minor-key, caterwauling love song to something far jazzier. "Hey! Love Don't Roam, I love this song!"
"Is that everything?" the waitress pressed. "Will that be all?"
Willow waved her away absently. Her eyes were suddenly glued to the stage. "Yeah, yeah. That's it. Hey Oz, d'you wanna dance?"
Oz…shook his head. "Not much for dancing."
His girlfriend's face fell. "Oh. Well, that's okay. I mean, it's not the greatest song, and it gets really weird near the middle, and…"
Oz smiled indulgently at the list of excuses she was rattling off. "It's okay. Go."
He could see her trying not to look too hopeful. "You sure?"
She beamed. "Cool. See you in a few!"
With that, she hopped out of her seat and hurried over to where Xander and Cordelia were attracting quite the crowd with their unorthodox and slightly dangerous dance steps.
When Xander saw her coming, he immediately excused himself from Cordelia. Grabbing Willow in a bear hug as she ran over, he twirled her around with such energy that her feet left the floor. As he settled his laughing friend on the floor, the two immediately continued dancing to the high-energy beat.
Oz watched them together. He watched Willow's face, which had lit when Xander turned his attention to her. He watched as they talked non-stop as the song was sung. He watched all of Willow's tension evaporate into nothing as she danced with him and they both sang loud and off-key to the music.
Without even realizing it, a very small frown creased Oz's face. He tapped his fingers anxiously on the table, and watched as the dance wore on.
It was three song's later, and Willow's food had been sitting there for ten minutes, when she finally returned to their table, breathless and happy and chatty. Xander and Cordelia were not far behind.
But they sat down and Willow ate and he was included again, and before Oz even knew it the frown had disappeared without him knowing it had even been there.
"No. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what I feel."
"Then tell me you don't love me. Say it!"
"Will that help? Is that what you need to hear? I don't. I don't! Now let me go!"
"No! A person doesn't just wake up one day and stop loving somebody! Love is forever! I'm not afraid to use it, I swear! If I can't be with you…"
Buffy rounded the corner, now thoroughly on edge as the argument she'd been hearing from down the hall got progressively nastier. She saw the boy raise a gun as he held his girlfriend hard by the upper arm…
"Hey!" the Slayer barked, and charged.