volcanoes melt you down
by winter baby

[ one: don't hold yourself like that ]

She likes London, more than she expected. She was afraid that the big city would ruin her pastoral image of England, but once she arrives she realizes that London and Westbury are two different worlds, and yet both still belong to Giles. As odd as it was to see him riding horses last year, he seemed at home; and in London too, he's comfortable.

She had to travel halfway around the world to realize that Giles never really did fit into the California scenery. She wonders if he felt out of place for all those years and thinks how hard it must have been to keep that silent. It's something else she finds she never really knew about him.

A man can be your teacher but he's never your friend. And he's never, ever your lover.

Or so she tells herself.


[ two: 'cause you'll hurt your knees ]

Dawn reads ancient texts like it's her job, and Willow suspects that's exactly what it is. No one has said it aloud yet but Dawn is a Watcher in the making - the first of the new generation, because it's a clean slate not only for the Slayers but for their Watchers also. It's just a matter of days before Giles officially takes Dawn under his wing, and Willow tries very hard not to be jealous.

It's not what she wants anymore, although remnants of that schoolgirl fantasy will rear its ugly head whenever she sees Giles and Dawn in the new Watcher's Council Library, hunched over books and discussing fervently in hushed whispers the grand history of the Slayer line. Her high school daydream was exactly like this, except that instead of Dawn, Willow was the doe-eyed ingénue; and instead of this British library, it was the Sunnydale High one; and in the end, instead of an encouraging pat on the back, it was a kiss.

She stopped secretly aspiring to be a Watcher when she started her magic.

And she stopped secretly being in love with Giles when she met Tara.


[ three: well i kissed your mouth and back ]

Tara's voice still comes back to her at the most inappropriate moments. Like when Kennedy is kissing her, or going down on her, or running her studded tongue over her breasts. So pretty much, whenever Willow feels a soft, non-calloused hand on her body.

Translation: whenever she feels a woman's hand on her body.

She won't tell Kennedy about the male hands that find their way onto her body also.

Not one of those hands belongs to Giles, whose voice is the one she hears at those times. She knows there's irony hidden there somewhere, but she's a science geek and literary symbolism escapes her.

She tries not to think about it.

It never works.


[ four: but that's all i need ]

She digs through her closet but everything she pulls out is too pink or fuzzy or cutesy. She magically removes the teddy bear patch off her black miniskirt and grabs Kennedy's blue halter top. It's too tight, but then she supposes that's the way it's meant to fit. She zips up the so-not-her leather boots she had bought, mostly due to coaxing from Buffy and Kennedy, during their L.A. shopping splurge after that Sunnydale-crater incident.

Live a little, they said.

When Buffy disappeared into the clearance section, Kennedy ran a hand up Willow's thigh and kissed her in the secrecy of the size 7 shoe aisle. Willow tensed a little, fearful of someone catching her making out with her girlfriend while standing in boots not yet purchased.

You look so fucking hot in those, Kennedy murmured into her ear as a hand slipped under her skirt. Willow gasped, only because at that moment she heard Tara's voice whisper, Be bold.

Willow let out a moan as Kennedy's fingers slide inside her and afterwards she bought the boots.


[ five: don't build your world around ]

She's putting on her make-up, dramatic eye shadow and shocking lipstick, when there's a knock on the door and then Giles' voice telling her that they're all having a late-night snack. She answers him through the wooden barrier that she's not feeling well, nothing serious but she doesn't think that she'll be able to keep anything down. He's worried but after a few reassurances he walks away and Willow can hear him calling out to Dawn at the other end of the hallway.

She stands dead-still for a moment, staring at the door and imagining the spot where he stood. Without realizing it she's conjured up a kua alaya, the deepest shade of pink, and she leaves it on her dresser for him.

Later, when he kicks down the door because she's not answering, he'll find the flower and won't understand what it means.


[ six: what i am to you is not real ]

She finds teleporting a lot less headache-y than the last time she attempted it. And a lot more accurate. The alley where she ends up is empty and she waits for her white roots to turn back to red before stepping out into the street. The lights and sounds are a million times brighter and louder than anything near the Bronze but the electric glow hums along her skin in a familiar way and she welcomes it.

She hears catcalls, because she can be sexy when she wants to be. Men notice her because of her skimpy clothes and swaying hips and wild-fire hair. Willow follows their whistles.

There's a club at the end of this street that she frequents because the people there are beautiful and the drinks are yummy- fruity. The bartenders there call her Red because she won't tell them her real name and it reminds her of Spike. She smiles, thinking the vampire would have loved seeing her like this. And something tells her she wouldn't have minded too much either.

Cute guys come up to her and she'll pick the cutest one to lead into the back hallway. The one she couldn't get in high school and now has dangling on a leash. He'll hitch up her skirt and press her against the wall, one rough hand on her thigh and the other crawling up her shirt. Her breathing will become heavy as he pulls down her thong and soon he'll be inside her, moving to the techno beat that pulsates throughout the club.

She'll fill her mouth with his tongue and wrap her legs around his waist for more leverage, and the whole time Giles' voice won't stop whispering in her ear, My good girl.


[ seven: what i am to you, you do not need ]

Who knows if she ever reaches orgasm. That's what Kennedy is for. These boys serve a different purpose, though she isn't quite sure what. She thinks their pricks must be some other form of addiction, like magic, except this habit she can wash away in the shower and then discreetly take a morning-after pill.

Diseases she doesn't concern herself with. There are spells for that, because what is she if not a witch in tune with all living things on this earth?

Bacteria are living things, she learned in sophomore biology, but viruses are not so simple. Living and Nonliving, her teacher said, which was too easily correlated with Undead, another term she had learned sophomore year, but this one against her will.

She found out later viruses are living in the Wicca sense, if not in the biological one, and are as easily manipulated as everything else.


[ eight: what i am to you is not what you mean to me ]

She is careful to teleport back into the laundry room, the only real empty one in the whole building. The flat is teeming with girls, and it feels like those final days in Sunnydale. Except the war cries that ring out from the training rooms aren't coming from confused, frightened girls, but from Slayers. Brand new shiny ones that she helped create.

Buffy races across the States every time Giles contacts her with a new location, and Willow can imagine her explaining to those newly empowered girls, in her most Buffy-serious tone, what it means to be destined.

And then she'll tell them that they aren't. They aren't destined, fated, locked, or trapped in any way. Buffy will give those girls the one thing she never had, a choice, and they will all take it for granted. They always do.

A few turn down Buffy's invitation because after hearing about her two (maybe three) deaths and countless apocalypses, they find their ordinary lives of shopping and watching TV a lot easier to deal with. But most girls accept, because deep down they always knew they were meant for something more than what they were given.

And they come, and they're curious, and they're eager to train. She's not jealous when some of them look at Kennedy with admiring eyes during their daily workouts. She is when others look the same way at Giles.

It's not right, the way this has all worked out.


[ nine: you give me miles and miles of mountains ]

Her morning-after pills she hides behind an unopened box of condoms Giles keeps in his medicine cabinet, for just-in-case. Xander explained this male concept to her on the day after they had moved in, when they accidentally came upon it while searching the flat for some aspirin.

This was before she started going out to clubs, before she needed pills.

In the four months they've been living here she has never seen Giles bring home a woman, so she thinks behind the neglected box of contraceptives is the safest place to hide her own version of contraceptives. Kennedy would never stumble upon it there, because she keeps their own bathroom well stocked in aspirin.

Giles may happen upon it while reaching for the condoms, because despite his tacit celibacy, this is Europe, Willow thinks, and eventually everybody gets laid. He might even be grateful for the extra protection that magically appears in his bathroom.

When she glances into her bedroom, Kennedy is sleeping as heavy as a rock. Bad instincts for a Slayer, she thinks. The knocked- down door is propped up against its frame, with Xander's tools scattered around it in a neglected mess. The flower is gone from her dresser and it's just like she knew it would be.

She sneaks into Giles' bathroom using the hall door and stops herself from gasping when she sees her morning-after pills blatantly standing on the middle shelf, along with a petal from the kua alaya.

Giles acts normally in the morning although she notices that he won't look her in the eyes.

He's all English and proper and sometimes, especially at times like these, she just wishes he wouldn't be.


[ ten: and i'll ask for the sea ]

Willow hardly hears from Buffy, but from her brief phone calls and the new Slayer recruits that fly in, Willow pieces together that Buffy is alive and healthy and only slightly in grief. She travels alone, cross-country, on a motorcycle because it reminds her of Spike, although Buffy would never admit it.

But Willow knows her better than that, and there's a secret shame in her voice for maybe falling in love with another vampire or for maybe using another man in order to feel complete.

Willow can tell that Buffy is just as confused as her, so she decides that burdening her best friend with tales of her second sexual revolution isn't the most sensitive thing to do. She keeps her late-night outings to herself and instead tells Buffy to keep safe and to call more often.

I will, she answers but neither of them believes it and Willow wonders when lying to each other became so easy.


[ eleven: don't throw yourself like that ]

The other veteran Slayers, the ones who survived Sunnydale, sometimes return to the London flat for some downtime. But most are out in the world, doing the same work that Buffy is, except on different continents and in different languages and not alone.

After recuperating post-crater in L.A., everyone scattered. They all went in different directions, each with a mission. Except for Willow, who followed Giles to London because she really didn't know what else to do with herself.

Even Faith had a purpose. Before the new Slayer recruiters could even get a hand on a map, Faith claimed Mexico and pulled Wood onto a plane destined for Cancun, with only a wink and a wave for those she left behind.

Willow was grateful to see her go. She thinks Faith sometimes brought out the worst in her. Or, at least, the non-homicidal worst. Faith had an affect on her that she suspects wasn't too unlike Spike's affect on Buffy, and having that kind of impulse inside of her wouldn't have helped at all.

She wants all the wrong people. They never want her.


[ twelve: in front of me ]

Kennedy reprises her role as head drill sergeant for the new Slayers. Willow catches her kissing the one from Australia, who runs out of the training room looking horrified.

That night they fuck like they're trying to kill each other and maybe they are.

Kennedy tells her that it doesn't hurt as much as she thought it would. She knew that Willow never really belonged to her but she was surprised to find out that she had lost her to boys.

Men, Willow says but even to her it sounds like a weak excuse.

She doesn't ask Kennedy how she found out. When she opens up their medicine cabinet, she finds her morning-after pills standing unassumingly between the q-tips and extra tube of toothpaste.

Kennedy moves to another floor in the building and that night Willow cries, but for all the wrong reasons.


[ thirteen: i kissed your mouth, your back ]

Giles apologizes to her, saying it was none of his business but he felt that he owed Kennedy the truth.

And what about me? she wants to scream at him. What about everything that you owe me?

Instead she answers, I wasn't exactly being James Bond about all of this. She would have found out sooner or later.

Giles settles himself next to her on the bed and puts on his most sympathetic father mask. Willow wants to rip that face off with her nails and force him to acknowledge her as some kind of threat.

I know you are going through an incredibly confusing time right now, he says in an insufferably sage tone. I thought it best to tell Kennedy because honesty is the only way you're going to get through this.

He's lying, she knows, because really he told Kennedy in order to punish her. He'll tell himself that it's for trying to kill him but she knows that's not the real reason. He's punishing her for loving him.

Giles can be more treacherous than anyone realizes.

You just wanted to hurt me, she says aloud without realizing the words have slipped out. He's taken aback by her accusation but there's understanding in his shocked face. Giles gets up to leave and she calls out after him, You don't need Kennedy to do that.

He's practically running down the hallway and she's not at all surprised.


[ fourteen: is that all you need ]

Before she met Tara she had kissed two boys. One she had even gone as far as fucking; with the other she had come close to doing the same. She can't discount either of them because for the longest time, she thought that's who she was.

Then she kissed Tara, and she wasn't that girl anymore.

The same thing is happening now. She's not the girl that Tara fell in love with, because the person she's become is darker and older and maybe a little afraid of the world.

And definitely sadder.

She isn't happy, because she wants to kiss everyone - Tara, Spike, Faith, Kennedy, Oz, all those boys at the clubs, and sometimes even Xander, when he's looking his most grieved.

And always, always, she wants to kiss Giles.


[ fifteen: don't drag my love around ]

Xander spends most of his days rebuilding the top floor of the Council's building, where the offices and conference rooms used to be. The explosion originated in one of those rooms, obliterating the whole floor. Xander has to start from the beginning.

Willow thinks that he's throwing himself into his work to escape Anya's ghost, and she doesn't bother to tell him that it never works. He'll find out for himself sooner or later, and in the meantime they'll have a nice greenhouse on the top floor.

When he finds her in the kitchen during his lunch break, he's covered in sweat and sawdust, which on only him looks endearing. Xander turns his nose up at the mush of English food left out for him on the counter and sticks some frozen pizza into the oven.

You'd think after seven years in America Giles would have discovered the simple yet delicious brilliancy of cheeseburgers, Xander jokes.

Willow shrugs and finishes her Caesar's salad without saying anything. Xander sits down next to her at the table with a Coke in his hand.

So does this mean you're not gay anymore? he says bluntly. She can feel her face flush and Xander looks at her with slight hope in his eyes.

Willow doesn't know why she never noticed before the insecurity on Xander's face whenever he saw her and Tara together. He must have wondered all that time if he had something to do with her gayness.

Low blow to his already fragile masculinity.

She wants to reassure him that girls were the last thing on her mind when they shared those secret kisses behind everyone's back, but she doesn't know how to do that without making it sound like another excuse.

She's so bad at explaining everything, she thinks.

I don't know what I am anymore, she finally answers but it doesn't feel like enough. Xander grabs his pizza before heading towards the door.

I think everyone's feeling like that lately, he says and then disappears up the stairs.

She's left feeling worse than before, and she can't say with certainty that wasn't his intention all along.


[ sixteen: volcanoes melt me down ]

Don't think I'm completely blind, Giles whispers angrily. He presses the wilted kua alaya into her palm with rough hands and hisses, Whatever silly notions you have about you and me, forget them.

She backs up against the wall of her bedroom and can feel the tears that are threatening to fall.

I'm not going to apologize, she defends herself and locks angry eyes with him.

He kisses her with lips that are cruel and unforgiving. She must taste like grief to him because when he breaks away, she's crying and gasping for air.

Is this what you want? he demands and she shakes her head, tears staining her cheeks.

I don't know what I want, she cries desperately and winces when he leans in.

Don't play mind games with me, he whispers dangerously into her ear. You won't win.

I never win, she answers matter-of-factly and he backs away from her, a slight look of surprise on his face. She's being more honest than she has in a long time. His brow furrows and his mouth becomes a stern line.

You always were a foolish girl, he sneers, maybe because he doesn't know what else to say, and she can't bring herself to look at him as he storms out of her room.

He will never stop punishing her.


[ seventeen: and i'll ask for what i give to you ]

Buffy calls in the middle of the night, and she picks up immediately because she's not sleeping.

Buffy is sobbing and Willow sits upright in her bed.

I can't do this anymore, Will. I can't pretend that I'm all right and that it doesn't hurt... because I'm not as strong as everyone thinks and I feel like I'm suffocating. You don't know how hard it is, just getting through the night.

But she does. She does know how hard it is.

Buffy whispers plaintively, He's everywhere I go and my hand won't heal and I just can't be alone anymore. Please. I don't know what to do.

You can come home, Buffy.

And where's home? she almost begs.

Willow honestly can't answer that.


[ eighteen: just what i'm going through ]

Giles plays mentor to the new Slayers and says nothing about the other night. He treats her like he always has and for once she is grateful for his strict sense of decorum.

Some of the girls, mostly the younger ones, leave before they complete their training. Willow resents them for Buffy's sake, for having the option of calling it quits and going back to their safe, comfortable homes.

Buffy won't come to London. She wants to finish her job and Willow hides her disappointment well. She's had a lot of practice.

One afternoon, a note materializes on her bed and it's from the coven in Devon, inviting her to join them. They had felt her Slayer spell and were thoroughly impressed with her show of power and control. What they didn't mention in their note was the reason it took them so long to contact her. She knows it's because they're still afraid of her.

Willow folds the note into quarters and places it in her desk drawer. She probably won't accept their invitation, but after the kind of life she's lived, she decides she likes having options.


[ nineteen: this is nothing new ]

At the club that night she fucks a skinny boy with bleach blonde hair because she's in London and she wouldn't have sex with a Spike look-alike anywhere else. He tastes like cigarettes and feels like hard edges inside her and that seems about right.

When he snarls and calls her Red, she comes and bites down on his shoulder to keep from screaming.

She knows Buffy wouldn't mind this vicarious betrayal, but Giles might. Willow revels in that fact more than she should.

She leans up against the wall, still shuddering from her orgasm, and his voice whispers in her ear, Wound me.


[ twenty: and oh, she's still too young to treat ]

Giles avoids her, locks himself in the library, never resurfaces from the stacks of books. Whenever she enters a room, his back is leaving through another door.

She doesn't know how long this can go on, but it being Giles, she thinks in terms of years.

He can't forgive himself for kissing her, or maybe for wanting to kiss her again.

She finally understands the meaning of irony, because it's too ironic that he wants to kiss her but he won't let himself, and she wants to kiss him but he won't let her either.


[ twenty one: i kissed your mouth ]

Willow corners him in the library and kisses him with soft lips. His mouth is still hard and ruthless, but this time she's not left crying. He roughly pushes his tongue into her mouth, and it's not at all like she imagined it.

This isn't forgiveness, not in the least, but he's a man and she's a woman and sometimes it's as simple as that.

Even when she gets what she wants, it's not what she wants at all. Things never work out the way they're supposed to.

Giles presses her up against the stacks and she gasps when she feels him slide into her. He comes too soon and leaves her exposed in the demonology section.

When she's sure he's gone, she pulls her jeans back up and pulls herself back together.

She's not disappointed, because she didn't know what to expect. She didn't expect this, though -- the abruptness of his love, or whatever it was, and this strange feeling of emptiness she can't rid herself of.

If his kisses are punishment, his love must be a death sentence.

Kennedy finds her standing against the stacks like this, flushed and breathing hard and a little wet. The next natural step is for Willow to pull Kennedy into her arms and be grateful for her clever tongue.

And she does. And she is.


[ twenty two: you do not need me ]

Willow realizes she has kissed everyone she wants to, at least those who aren't dead or thousands of miles away. She can't say she's any less confused or any happier but she can say that there are no regrets and mean it, somewhat.

She decides she doesn't know what she wants anymore. She has no plans and she's a little in love with everyone she comes across and that's somehow all right.

Giles will never be the same around her and Kennedy will always want more from her than she can give. These are her messes that she has to clean up but for now she's glad for the options.

Buffy's left a message saying maybe she's coming to London for a visit and Xander makes a half-hearted joke about returning heroes and banners.

Willow only smiles.


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