DISCLAIMER: The Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters are the property of Mutant Enemy, Joss Whedon, and Fox Studios. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2002 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.

One Fun Little Hobby by Djinn

Willow trembled as another cramp took her. She stopped for a moment and bent over, panting deliberately until the pain receded a bit. She looked up in time to see Tara disappear around a corner. Afraid she would lose the other witch if she gave in to the pain, Willow straightened with a small groan and started walking again.

She wasn't exactly sure why she was following Tara. She hadn't planned to. She was supposed to be in class, but hadn't been able to concentrate. The withdrawal pains were holding on with a vengeance. Magic had been a lot easier to learn than it was to give up. She had thought she was making progress when she was investigating Buffy's sudden invisibility. But now it looked like that had only distracted her. Her need to do magic was practically screaming inside her. She had left class, hoping that the walk and fresh air would do her good. It hadn't. She'd finally decided to tough it out at home when she saw Tara out walking. And without even an idea why, she had set off after her ex-girlfriend.

And the other woman was leading her a merry chase. Willow couldn't remember Tara ever walking this fast or this far. Fortunately she was also making a lot of stops, giving Willow time to catch her breath and fight the pain. She rounded the corner and saw Tara head into a bakery. Willow touched her stomach, pushing in and trying to will the pain away. She felt the magic respond and pulled her hand away quickly. It would be so easy to stop this, just one little spell.

Tara came out of the store holding a piece of paper. She sat down on a bench and began to write. Willow realized that her ex was looking for a job. She'd never really thought about how Tara would live now that she had moved out. She remembered Tara saying her scholarship had paid for tuition and books. And the dorm room had been covered too. But the dorms were full now and she'd have to pay the rent for an apartment herself. And for that she needed money. "Oh, Tara," Willow whispered. "Come back."

"Yeah and this pathetic stalking routine is sure to entice her."

Willow turned quickly and felt the cramps overwhelm her. She could just make out a person through the pain. "Go away, Anya."

"Scarier people than you have said that to me." Anya frowned at her. "Cramps?"

"Yeah. How'd you know?"

The ex-demon shook her head. "When is it going to sink in with you people that I've seen a lot in my time?"

"What do you want?"

"I don't want anything. I was taking the deposit to the bank and saw you here. And saw Tara too. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what's going on."

"Because if it did you'd never get it." Willow whispered the insult; she was in too much pain to talk louder.

"I heard that." Anya reached over and pulled her up. "Come on. I'll make you some tea. It'll help."

"But Tara will see me."

"Doubt it. She's halfway down the block now."

Willow struggled. "I have to follow her."

Anya's grip was like steel. "I really don't think you do." She pulled her down the street. "Come on. You'll feel much better if you just let me help."

"Why are you being so nice?"

"I'm not. I just thought if you felt better you might stop being such a whiner. Between your little problem and Buffy's attitude, nobody is focusing on the important issues, like me, and my wedding."

"I should have known you wouldn't be doing this out of the goodness of your heart."

Anya didn't answer. Just unlocked the door to the Magic Box, removed the small note that said "Back in ten minutes," and guided Willow to the table. "Sit. Don't move. And don't talk."

"Yes, ma'am," Willow grumbled. She clenched her teeth as another wave of pain rolled over her, then said, "And I was doing fine, you know. Tara wouldn't have gotten so far ahead if you hadn't distracted me."

"Oh right. Like you would have been able to keep up with her much longer anyway." Anya plugged the electric teakettle in and measured out some herbs.

"Hellebore? You're using hellebore? And that better not be rue!"

Anya didn't turn around as she replied. "Look, if you think you can make a better infusion, you're welcome to try. Oh wait, you gave this up, didn't you?"

Willow didn't answer. When Anya brought her the cup she drank down the nasty concoction without a word.

"That's better," Anya said with satisfaction as she stuck a little bag of the herbs into Willow's book bag. "In about ten minutes you'll start feeling better. This is for later. Use a scoop per cup, every four hours."

"Thanks," Willow muttered.

"Yeah, you're welcome." Anya said as she walked back to the counter and began to check the herbs, making notes for restocking.

Willow watched her for a while, then began to notice that the cramps were lessening. "Hey, it's working."

"Well of course it's working. Just because I'm not a demon anymore doesn't mean I've forgotten everything I learned." She opened a jar of damiana, gave it a suspicious sniff. "This smells off to me." She walked over and held it under Willow's nose. "What do you think?"

Willow took a deep whiff. The scent filled her nose. And Anya was right. Something was off. "I think it's old." Then she realized what she had done and began to panic.

Anya dumped the herb out. "I'll have to check the other jar downstairs. Make sure it hasn't turned too." She turned to Willow. "You don't have to freak out. That wasn't magic you just did."

"It wasn't?"

"It was knowledge. You knew what it should smell like and it didn't so you knew it was off. Like chemistry."

"You did that on purpose. Made me smell it."

"Uh huh." Anya walked over to the case that held the more valuable items. She picked up a ceremonial dagger, admired the scrollwork. Then, she turned to Willow and threw the knife at her.

Willow didn't think. She only reacted. Her magic deflected the weapon before she had time to blink.

The dagger clattered to the floor and both women stared at it for a moment, then Anya walked over and picked it up. "Nice reflexes." She inspected it for damage, then satisfied carried it to the case and went back to her inventory.

Willow could feel her heart beating rapidly; she gulped in several large breaths of air. "You stupid bitch. Why the hell did you do that?"

"To show you something."

"What? That you're a complete psycho?" She grabbed her bookbag.

Anya took another jar down. "I just think you're missing the whole point."

"Which is what?"

"That there is a difference between using magic and abusing it." She turned to the other woman. "Who told you that you had to give it up?"

Willow looked at her in confusion. "Well Tara said..."

Anya shook her head. "Tara said you were using too much magic. Not that you shouldn't be using it at all."

Willow put her bag down. "But what I did with Amy, and Rack..."

Anya rolled her eyes. "For such a smart person, you really are dense, you know that?"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"What do you think it means? Magic is a tool, Willow. But it's a powerful one. Either you control it, or it controls you. And it's not like you aren't a person who is driven to excess."

"Meaning what?"

"Hello, remember that vampire self you had to go and conjure and wreck my spell. Even undead you're an overachiever. You couldn't just be a bloodsucker, you had to be the most monstrous vampire out there."

"That's hardly the same thing. It wasn't even me."

Anya raised her eyebrows. "And it's not like you turned out anything like her?"

Willow frowned. "Well I don't drink blood."

"Whatever. I'm just saying that maybe you should rethink this whole, 'I suck and I can't ever use magic again' routine. What happens if we need you to use it?"

"Well I can't."

"Why not?"

"Because I can't control it."

Anya laughed. "You mean you aren't sure it won't control you again."

"Look everyone else agrees that me using magic is a bad. Where do you get off telling me to keep on it?"

"It's not a drug, Willow. It may be convenient to think of it that way, but it's not very accurate."

"Oh like you know."

"I do."

The phone rang and Anya answered it leaving Willow momentarily alone with her thoughts. Could Anya be right? Maybe she didn't have to give magic up? Then Willow remembered Rack and how he made her feel. How good it felt to give up to the power like that.

Anya hung up the phone. "That was Cordelia."

Willow couldn't keep the dislike out of her voice. "What did she want?"

"Some advice. On demons." Anya's smile was strangely smug. Then she turned serious again. "You think you can't handle magic, that you will become evil or something. Well that's just lazy, if you ask me."

"I didn't ask you."

"I don't care. I have a stake in this."

"Now I'm supposed to believe you care about me?"

Anya stepped closer. "I know you don't like me. And you know I don't like you. But what I do like is living. And loving Xander. And last year, you and your magic were instrumental in making sure I got to keep on doing both."

"I don't need magic to help."

Anya sighed. "Sure you solved this latest crisis with your brain. But you were taken prisoner, Willow, by a bunch of geeks. You. Witch girl. Prisoner. You could have taken them out. Why didn't you?"

Willow looked down.

"Why didn't you? They could have killed you. Or any of us."

"You said it yourself, they're geeks. They aren't going to kill anyone."

"They almost killed Buffy. If you hadn't noticed the setting was wrong..."

"But I did. The Willow who doesn't use magic and is in major pain did notice that. I don't need the magic." She winced as a cramp hit.

"Ok. But maybe the magic needs you." Anya walked back to her inventory.

"Aren't you afraid of what I'll become if I go back to it?" Willow's voice was very small.

"Yeah. If you go back to it right this minute." Anya turned. "Who trained you?"

Willow frowned.

"Who taught you to use it? Who told you how to be safe with it?"

"Nobody did. Well I mean, except Tara."

"And Tara knew barely more than you do now. You need a teacher."

Willow made an impatient sound.

Anya continued, "You think you know so much, but you don't. You don't know half of the things you should. You don't understand the laws or any of the things that really matter."

"Maybe I should have stayed with the Wicca group, huh? I bet I could be planning a bake sale by now."

"You can be as sarcastic as you want. It doesn't change the fact that you've been lucky so far, Willow. You found the right books and you didn't really hurt yourself or any of us too badly the times you screwed up. I'd almost be inclined to say the powers that be wanted you to succeed, to help save the day. But now the crisis is over and it's time to learn things the right way." Anya stretched for one of the jars on the top shelf. "Do you think I started granting wishes and carrying out vengeance the minute I became a demon? I had to study for a long time with D'Hoffryn before I was ready."

"Are you saying I need to study with him?" Willow thought of his talisman, which was hidden away well enough to have survived Buffy and Dawn's purge of all things magic.

"No, not him. He's basically in the business of vengeance. I mean someone who understands witchcraft. Someone way stronger and a whole lot wiser than you. Someone that knows the right way to do things."

"I don't know anyone like that."

Anya turned. "Well I do. Do you want me to get in touch with it?"

"It?" Willow gulped.

"Not everyone that matters is human, you know."

Before Willow could respond the front bell rang. Tara pushed the door open. She didn't notice Willow at first, just smiled at Anya and said, "You were right. Mr. Delpaccio is hiring. I don't know how to thank you, Anya."

Willow coughed.

Tara looked startled. "Willow."

"Hi." Willow smiled at the other witch. A gentle smile, not the forced one that she'd been wearing lately.

Tara seemed to relax a bit, although her expression was still wary. "Are you getting supplies?"

Willow shook her head. "I gave it up."

"Magic? You gave magic up?"

Anya laughed cynically. "I tried to tell her that wasn't what you meant."

Willow looked at her thoughtfully. "Was it, Tara?"

Tara looked from the demon to her ex-lover. She seemed torn. "You were using it too much, Willow. For things that you didn't need to, things you could have done for yourself. And you were using it to hurt people. You know you were."

"Yeah, ok. I screwed up. Did you want me to give it up altogether?"

Tara swallowed. "I just wanted you to be more careful."

Willow's frustration became intolerable. "Did you want me to give it up forever?" she yelled.

Tara shook her head, "No."

"But you said to go a week without it."

"Just a week, Willow. To see if you could."

"Where's the line, Tara? When is it ok to use it and when isn't it? That's what I don't understand. That's what I don't see." She grabbed her bookbag and headed for the door. "You're never happy are you? I gave it up. I'm trying to do the right thing. I'm in pain, and I'm afraid, and I'm left with nothing but that's just not enough for you. It's never enough for you."

"Willow," Tara reached for her but Willow shrugged her hand off.

"Let her go," Anya's voice was surprisingly firm. "She doesn't want your help, or mine."

Willow opened the door.

"If you change your mind, I can contact that teacher for you. Think about it, Willow." Anya's voice was reasonable and tempting.

Willow turned. "I can see why you were such a good demon."

Tara said softly, "Baby, please don't leave like this."

Willow felt the magic growling inside her. The pain was coming back. She saw the little bag of herbs in her bag; touched it but felt no relief for the anger that filled her. She looked at the two women in the store, realized how easy it would be to destroy them. To bring the roof down on them and leave them lying in a pile of rubble. Or to cause the small candle that was burning to flare up and burn them alive. She had the power. She would always have the power. That hadn't changed. Her anger receded. She would always have the power. She looked at Anya. "It's never going to go away, is it?"

Anya shook her head. "It's not like being a demon. This is yours. Whether you let it control you, or try to ignore it, or even maybe seek to master it, it's yours forever."

"That's just great." Willow spun on her heel and walked through the door, closing it loudly behind her. So the magic was hers forever. Forever was a very long time. The cramps hit again. A very, very long time.

FIN