Five Other Lies
by Rebecca Lizard


She's woken at night by the soft creaking of her mattress, the sudden dip of weight at the foot of the bed. Only a week has passed since she crashed the car and broke Dawn's arm, and Willow is still wearing the ring around her wrist-- a present from Anya, from the Magic Box, a thick iron circle that will glow an angry red if she makes any attempt at magic. The ring is cool, now, and heavy on her forearm. She sleeps with her arm above the blankets, exposed to the night air.

It's winter, and not too cold in California. But the air is clearer, somehow, sharper than usual. It only takes a moment to shake her mind loose from sleep.

Dawn's sitting at the foot of her bed. Her face is level and blank in the moonlight, eyes staring straight at Willow, body sitting at an angle and broken arm hidden behind her back.

She says, "This is a dream, Willow."

Her hair is long and smooth and catches the light from the window.

The blankets of the bed are warm around Willow and she almost nods and lets her eyes close again, but something is wrong. Dawn shouldn't be here.

Willow sits up. The room isn't cold, but she shivers anyway. "Dawnie, what are you doing up?"

Dawn tilts her head to the side, and moves closer, glides almost bonelessly across the bed. She takes Willow by the wrist and examines the iron ring, and then pushes it back, gently, until Willow's arm is pinned behind her and the ring knocks against the wooden headboard.

She tries to say, "Dawn, what are you--" but the words stop in her mouth.

Dawn murmurs, "This is a dream, Willow," and her lips are cool and her hair swings forward and brushes against Willow's face.



"And that's the other thing," Amy says. "Sunlight. Crosses, stakes, and sunlight, that's all that can hurt us. Today is really overcast but you still can't be sure, so that's why I have these blankets. They're thick, we can walk around under them and be safe. We'll look a little weird, but it's just temporary." Pauses. Makes her voice a little whinier. "Willow, please pay attention."

You don't look up. "What about holy water?" you ask. "Can we cross rivers? If your necklace breaks, will I have to count every little bead?" Now there's an idea. You stop stirring your fingers in the dirt. "Hey, can I break your necklace?"

She makes a tiny sound of unhappiness.

"Then can we go get new clothes now?" You pick at your sleeve. "You kind of ripped this. And... I don't know. I think I want some different colors."

You remember being pulled into the bushes, on the way to the high school, early morning. You imagine how it might have appeared to some observer: your little kittenish limbs flailing for a moment, her arms tight around your ribs, the desperate shock on your face as she pressed the fangs inexpertly into your throat. It took you a while to die.

You remember waking up. The cool weight of another body on top of yours, someone's tongue against your neck. You'd never admit it, but your first thought was a happy, drowsy Xander? Your second thought was, This is not my bed.

Now: your skin is cold. You're sitting under the bower in a neighbor's flower garden, middle of the day, wearing the remnants of your own pink fuzzy sweater. Examining the flowers and listening to Amy talk.

Your throat's still scarred. You can feel it. Rub your fingers over the lines.

You stroke the long stalk of Mrs. Floesen's tulip, slide your fingers down next to the ground and break it off neatly, at the base. Proffer it to Amy, who scoots back imperceptibly. You know she had a crush on you, but really, she should have never chosen a girl who could make her so nervous. You think about telling her this; but you are, after all, sitting in a flower bed with a wooden frame (it's a good thing Mrs. Floesen works mornings), and you're not exactly sure how good Amy is with a makeshift stake.

You think about finding Xander, also. You wonder if Amy'll do him too. You wonder if biting his sweet, pale neck is something you could do yourself.

You maybe think so.

But Amy's looking around, looking like she has some definite ideas about what the two of you are going to do next, and so you don't bring that up. Instead, you look down at the tulip in your hands, consider its smooth green stem, its soft petals. "This is the most poisonous flower in the Western Hemisphere," you tell her. "It's so red. See? That yellow piece is a warning stripe to bees. It says, do not taste this flower or you will be killed. The nectar's so sweet you'll ache when you drink it. It says, if you touch this flower, you will die wanting for more." You show her the velvety petals, the soft red inner parts, then place the tulip's head into your mouth. Sever the stem with your neat, sharp teeth, chew once or twice, and swallow.

She forgets herself, and draws in a quick breath by nothing more than force of habit. "Willow? Is that a lie?"



Xander's hands are wider than she'd ever thought they'd be, and callused already from the construction work. He slides them a little higher up Willow's torso and she gasps, without thinking. She considers saying something but decides against it, and instead leans back a little bit, feels Oz holding her solidly, lets him take a little more of her weight.

Willow imagines Oz's face right now. His mouth is a straight line, forehead smooth but face set with tension. She can hear him breathing steadily, carefully, slow. His hands grip her around the thighs. He's pressing into her, holding her up from behind. And Willow sinks into him. Because she's liquid. She can feel herself spreading and melting, limp and warm against Oz's skin. Xander's hands are stroking little circles around her breasts, as though he's too hesitant to actually touch them. Willow groans a little, with frustration, and he moves his fingers back up, presses his thumbs straight down on top of her nipples, hard. It's not what she'd had in mind, but it works. Willow puts a little more of her weight onto Oz.

She thinks maybe she can see it, the magic moving in circles in the smoky air, made tangible, her own power and her own excitement churning the air around them into fire. She throws her head back, but doesn't try to meet Oz's eyes.

Xander's skin is wet with sweat; his hair is falling into his face. He leans forward, slowly, moving inch by inch, and presses his lips to her chest, above the sternum. They're dry and slightly scratchy, and then he opens his mouth and his tongue curls out. He's licking her skin, and sucking it, and she can feel his teeth moving against her chest.

He's so close to her now-- it's as though there's no space of distance between them at all, not a molecule of air between their bodies. Willow backs up a little bit and feels Oz, solid behind her, tense under the strain of holding her weight. Or tense under the strain of something else. She's wrapped one leg around Xander's waist, pulling him even closer, pulling all three of them together. Xander creeps his hands forward to grasp her full around the ribs, and she feels it, feels it at the exact moment when his hands move from her back to Oz's waist, the jolt of power flung into the air, buzzing warm against her skin.



You try to close the door quietly. You don't know whether Buffy's out with Riley, or patrolling, but you want to be careful. Buffy was seeming a little odd today-- distracted, filled with the slight manic edge she gets when she's overextended with the school and the slaying. It's midterms stress, probably. Right now Buffy could already be asleep, and you don't want to wake her. Maybe you should have just slept over at Tara's.

But she's sitting on the bed, still completely dressed, no pajamas in sight. She was waiting for you. Wearing her dancing clothes-- leather pants and the black top you bought her for her third date with Riley. Did Buffy go to the Bronze, then, tonight? She'd said she'd slay after the homework was done.

You drop your bag down next to the door. If she's stayed up this late, just to talk to you, something must be serious. You shake your head slightly, just making sure the earrings you'd borrowed from her dresser haven't fallen out, then compose your face. "Hey, Buffy," you say. "How was patrol?"

Buffy doesn't answer. She stands from the bed, and starts toward you. And there is something wrong with her walk. She's stepping kind of heavily, swinging her shoulders, swinging her hips. She looks as if she might throw a punch at you at any moment. Is she drunk? Is she angry at you? "I'm sorry to come in so late," you offer. Buffy glances over at your bag, next to the door, and keeps walking.

She comes to a stop near you-- like, near you near you, close enough for you to feel her breath warm against your shoulder. And she doesn't smell like alcohol. Her body's warm next to yours, her arms still set with the particular Buffy-tension that's familiar from the moment right before the demon appears on the path before you, right before the fight begins. Maybe she didn't go on patrol at all, yet, tonight.

You wonder, suddenly, what you smell like to her. The smoke of incense in your clothes, the scent of Tara on your skin. And the thought of Buffy being able to trace the line of Tara's kisses down your neck sends a tiny spike of panic down your spine. You move backwards half a step from the heat of Buffy's body.

"What did you do, today, Willow?" she asks, although you know she knows. "Where were you out tonight?"

"It was-- just the Psych class, and then I went to Wicca group," you say, feeling foolish. Buffy smiles, and rocks forward onto the balls of her feet.

"Of course," she says, and starts to walk, again, this time turning to move around you in a circle. You follow her with your eyes. "Willow, I don't know if I've ever asked you about this, but what exactly do you do in that magic little group of yours? What kind of tricks do you girls get up to?"

"Buffy, it's n...."

She cuts you off, coming slowly around your shoulder, facing you now. "I mean, I saw it coming, don't think I didn't. Thing is, are you sure that Oz approves?"

You stop right there, mouth open. What reason does she assume she has--

"Because," Buffy pauses and takes your left hand in hers, brings it up to her nose. "There we go. Think I couldn't smell her on you? Ah, Will. Slayer senses. Think."

You gasp, in indignation, and Buffy grins, showing teeth. She twines her fingers into yours, and your palms meet. Your mouth is still open, and your breath's hitching fast, but you can't force out words. You don't know what you'd say. This is Buffy, and she's holding you, tightly. Your fingers starting to ache in her grip.

Her other hand comes to your hip, touching you lightly at the waist, tracing a circle over your skin through the thin material of the shirt you're wearing. "B-Buffy," you manage to say, and think involuntarily of Tara's stutter, and then of Tara's hands where Buffy is now, and your mind may be confused but your body knows how to respond to this. You can feel yourself loosening, your weight shifting, and your legs come apart slightly when she slips her hand between them. "Buffy!" you repeat, not sure how you're going to follow that up. She laughs, a dark, rich sound, and bends her head to your neck.

"Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you," she whispers, and her teeth scrape lightly against your skin, one hand working against the seam of your corduroys, the other crushing your fingers in her fist. You move your head away but she follows, bringing her tongue up along the side of your neck. "You'd love to get your hands on that little bitch. I can see it." She bites you, not very hard, on the jaw, beneath your ear, then runs her teeth down to your chin. Using enough pressure to leave a mark. She's following over the tracks Tara made hours earlier, covering them, erasing them.

Your eyes close, and you feel her teeth close gently around your lower lip in the same instant your first finger cracks inside her grasp. You don't feel the break so much in your hand as in your whole body, the blood rushing in your limbs, the headswim, the electricity that seems to be burning around her two hands. You're powerless to do anything, make any move, begin the magic that could move her away from you. You couldn't even start forming the words for the spells. "Ah, Willow," she murmurs into your open mouth, and bites. The taste of her lipstick, sharp and plastic, mixing with your blood against your tongue.



Her hands are shaking as she casts the spell. She's done it before, she's stood in this very room and said the words, shaken the powder out of its little glass jar, but then the sun was in the sky and she had been alone. Now, she can feel Kennedy more than hear her, a silent and solid presence at the back of the room. It's almost completely dark in here but the air is tense, and she knows Kennedy's listening for noises from the other side of the door, knows Kennedy's ready with the crossbow for anything that might try to come in.

There's a clap of thunder, a bright flash of light. She doesn't flinch. He steps out of the cloud of smoke and says, "Ah, Ms. Rosenberg," very gently, and it's as though he was waiting for her call. There's a short, deep cut on his head, near his left horn, not fresh but not healing either. She hadn't known his kind of demon could be wounded. She doesn't want to think about what could have made that mark.

She tells him she's reconsidered his offer. She motions to Kennedy, says that although she has no magical training her potential is strong, and he nods his head. "I understand," he says. She tries not to show her hands are shaking. The most important thing is that they get out of here. She tries not to think of the last look on Buffy's face.

Her throat is dry, and she's afraid to anger him, but she asks the question. "When it's over," she asks, "what happens to the ve-- what will happen to us? When the side of evil wins, aren't you... don't you all become, just, redundant?"

He looks levelly into her eyes, then takes two necklaces from a hidden pocket of his robe. One's red, one's blue and black. Kennedy twitches, and the crossbow knocks softly against the wooden door.

"This is one out of an infinite number of worlds, Ms. Rosenberg," he says, as the outlines of the room start to snap and stretch, bend and twist away. "And while one battle ends another six are starting." His eyes, locked with hers, burn a dark red. "We will always be there. There will always be a need for vengeance."


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