Buffy and Her Friends belong to Joss Whedon and a bunch of suits. I'm altering their realities for fun, not profit, as I own nothing and have the credit report to prove it. Original characters, on the other hand, belong to me, so ask if you want to play with them.

Willow threw herself onto Buffy. "Please help me. Please," she sobbed.

It was a few moments before Buffy's arms closed around her friend. She was conflicted. Dawn was hurt and it was Willow's fault. Buffy herself was hurting, and that, too, lay at Willow's feet. For all that, it was Willow, who always...and when the Slayer thought that word, her hands settled on her friend's shaking back. "Ssshh," she comforted. "We'll fix it, we always do."

Hours later, Dawn slept in her bed. Willow was turning restlessly and moaning a low keen. Buffy sat cross-legged in the dark on her bed. She was exhausted, but the sound Willow made raised the hair on her neck.

She got out of bed and headed down the hallway. Buffy checked on Dawn and found her still on her back with the casted arm resting on a pile of pillows.

Willow was a different story. She huddled, uncovered, in the middle of the bed. She rocked herself and made that noise. Buffy touched her shoulder and Willow froze.

"Wills, what's wrong? God, you're freezing." Buffy reached for the discarded comforter, pulled it over her friend.

"I want it, Buffy. I need it."

"No you don't." Buffy laid across Willow's back to comfort and warm her. "You promised me."

"It hurts not to."

"I know. Just breathe. In. Out. In. Out."

"It hurts."

"It'll stop, Wills, I promise."


Before she could answer, Willow was pushing her up, away. Buffy followed her to the bathroom, pulled Willow's hair back from her face when she fell to her knees in front of the toilet.

It felt to both of them that they stayed there forever. When Willow's heaves finally stopped, Buffy dampened a washcloth and wiped Willow's face. She rinsed it out and set it aside while she pulled Willow up to sit on the closed toilet. "Shower or bed?"

"Shower, maybe it'll help me get warm."

"Okay." Buffy started the shower, adjusted the water temperature. "Need help?"

Willow shook her head.

"Yell if you do," Buffy told her, and left.

Ten minutes later, she was back. "Wills, you okay?"

When she didn't get an answer, she entered the bathroom. The shower was still running, but she didn't see her friend. Buffy pulled back the shower curtain and steam billowed out. She leaned in and turned off the water and saw Willow curled into a tiny ball in the corner of the tub. She was red and shaking. Buffy was gentle when she pulled Willow to her feet and out of the tub.

Buffy wrapped a towel around Willow. "Willow?" she asked quietly.

"Yeah." Willow looked everywhere but at Buffy.

"What's going on?"

"It's just the magic." Willow tried to downplay her situation.

"It didn't used to do this to you."

Willow shrugged and Buffy let it pass.

"I put clean pajamas out for you. And I changed the sheets."

Willow tried to smile. "Thanks."

"C'mon, let's get you back to bed."

Willow let Buffy lead her into the bedroom and help her into her pajamas. She sat obediently on the bed while Buffy brushed her hair, the whole time staring at her fingers interlaced in her lap. Still only because that was what she concentrated on.

"Think you can sleep now?" Buffy asked, sliding off the bed to stand beside it.

Willow turned and looked up at her. "I'm so, so sorry."

"Not a good time, Will."

"It's never a good time. But I need to tell you anyway. I'm not sorry you're back. I missed you so much. No matter what happens, I'm happy that you're alive."

Buffy tried to smile but it came out as a grimace. She couldn't think of any answer that didn't sound angry or stupid. She shook her head and backed away from the bed. "Try to get some sleep."

"Will you stay? Please?"

Buffy closed her eyes, rocked back and forth on her feet a few times.

"Please?" Willow repeated.

"I'll be right here," Buffy relented, pointed at the armchair by the window. She knew she wasn't going to get any sleep.

"Thank you." Willow climbed into the fresh sheets. Buffy turned out the light before settling into the chair.

Willow quickly fell into a light, restless sleep. Buffy watched her twitch and listened for Dawn and wondered just when everything in her life had gone to pieces. Things hadn't been right before she died, she remembered, and coming back had been worse. Through it all, Willow had stuck up for her. She had been there, and continued to take care of things without being asked. Without asking for anything in return.

"It's my fault," Buffy whispered, while Willow frowned in her sleep. My fault, she repeated to herself, that Willow had followed this path, that she had stayed in Sunnydale, that she had ever found magick. Or that it had found Willow. And that meant this was her fault, too, that Willow was sick and strung out and desperate for something. It meant, too, that she had to fix it. Buffy watched Willow twitch and flail in the sheets and felt her anger drain away. Tonight was the first time Willow had asked her for anything, and Buffy resolved to herself that she wouldn't fail her friend. Her best friend.

Willow began to whimper, and Buffy went to the bed. She sat on the edge, stroked Willow's hair. "Sshh," she soothed. "It'll be okay."

Willow became more restless and Buffy continued to comfort her. Despite her efforts, Willow sat bolt upright, sweating. "Tara?" she asked, in a small, sleepy voice.

"It's all right, Wills," Buffy repeated.


That syllable nearly broke Buffy's heart. "Lay back down, you should be sleeping," she instructed, and was surprised when Willow did as she was told. Buffy moved back to the chair.



"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

Willow sat up suddenly and swung her feet over the bedside.

"You can't sleep like that."

Willow ignored her, got to her feet and headed for the bathroom. Buffy sighed, then got up and followed her.

She cleaned Willow up and put her back in bed. Then she went downstairs. The clock told her Dawn would need her pill soon. Buffy fixed three glasses of ginger ale. She took the bottle of pills and slipped them in her pocket, then got the drinks and went back upstairs.

Dawn was whimpering. Buffy put two of the glasses on the dresser. She crossed the room and put the third on Dawn's bedside. She leaned over Dawn and stroked her cheek. "Dawnie, wake up."

"Huh? What?" Dawn asked. She tried to sit up and whined at the pain in her arm.

"I brought your pills." Buffy helped her sit up. She pulled the bottle from her pocket and tapped one into her palm. She offered it to Dawn, then the glass. Dawn drained the glass, handed it back, let out a huge belch.

"'Scuse me."

"Sure." Buffy helped Dawn lay back down. Her eyes closed almost immediately. Buffy watched until she was sure Dawn was asleep.

She picked up the two glasses in one hand on her way out the door. In Willow's room, she put both on the nightstand. Willow had kicked the blankets off again and was a shivering ball in the center of the bed. Buffy covered her and took one glass with her to the chair.

She leaned back and drank some soda before sitting the glass on the floor. Then she watched Willow and thought about the past months. 'How did I miss this?' she asked herself. 'It was happening every day and I never saw it. She wasn't hiding anything. Why didn't I see?'

Buffy laid her head back and closed her eyes. She saw Willow on the day they met, and Buffy's heart ached at the loss of Willow's innocence. She thought about all they had been through, all Willow had done for her without hesitation, how quickly Willow forgave her. For running away. For dying. Twice. For every stupid, self-centered thing she had ever done. She thought about a life without Willow in it, and had to stop before panic overwhelmed her. She opened her eyes and watched Willow. For the first time since her resurrection, Buffy allowed herself to feel. She closed her eyes and focused on Willow. From their meeting, Willow had been there for Buffy, and the whole time, Buffy had done her best to keep Willow at arm's length. Everyone else she loved, Buffy pushed further away. But Willow...Buffy had been in love since laying eyes on the redhead. She had rationalized, lied, denied, and returned every time to Willow for comfort, understanding and support. The Slayer Buffy tried to hold so tightly in check inside herself had a word for the witch, too: Mine.

Buffy opened her eyes, watched Willow. Even now, sick as she was, Willow was beautiful to Buffy. Buffy decided then that she would tell Willow how she felt. About everything, but especially about her.

The decision didn't make her feel any better. Buffy sighed, laid her head back, and closed her eyes. She replayed her memories of Willow healthy and happy, and hoped she would see the redhead look that way again soon.

The phone woke her a few hours later. She was quick to answer it, instinctively noticing that the sun hadn't gotten to the tree line yet. "Hello."

"Buffy? How's Dawn?" Tara asked.

"She'll be okay."

"How are you? You sound exhausted."

"I'll be okay."

"Do you want some help? I can watch Dawn for a while."

"Um," Buffy stalled, debating. "I'm not sure, Tara."

"You need some rest, too."

Buffy sighed. "Willow's here."

"How is she?"

"I'm more worried about her than Dawn," Buffy admitted.

"Oh, Buffy," Tara said quietly. "I'll be there soon."

"Are you sure?"

"N-no. But I'll come anyway."

"Thank you."