Title: Kinda Crazy These Days
Author: Shona (aka Mara) whiskyinmind
Request: "During season 6, after Anya and Xander break up and while Willow's still broken up with Tara, Willow and Xander get together out of a mutual need for comfort. This doesn't have to be100% angst, but nothing too fluffy for this one, please."
Setting: During the episode Normal Again (because it's actually the only point where the both of them are apart from their partners - way to limit the field there... *g*)
Notes: Written for the Old Friends With Indiscretions II Ficathon. Sorry for the delay in posting!
Bonus: Accompanying music - basically the two songs I was listening to for the entire time this was being written. Steve Carlson - Kinda Crazy These Days and Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly - Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager (Part Two). Both tracks coloured where this story ended up heading so I thought I would share them with you. If the download vanishes let me know!
"So do you really think this is going to work, then?" Xander watched as Willow handled the vicious looking spear thing they'd managed to break from the demon's arm with extreme care - and, he was a little amused to see, a very thick pair of gloves. Her nose was wrinkled in concentration.
"Huh? Oh, yes. Course it will. I think." She looked up with a rueful little smile on her face and admitted. "Maybe, I… don't really know. There isn't really a whole lot of precedent to draw on here. Nothing I could find said anything about anyone ever being successfully cured. All I could find out was that the antidote is there, so I'm kinda making it up as I go along."
"Isn't everyone?" He only realised he'd spoken aloud when her smile faltered a little and she looked away.
"I'm sure it'll work, what's happening to Buffy's just one of those things - we'll get this antidote made, she'll take it and everything'll be back to the way it was before you can say… well, before you can think about the fact that our lives aren't exactly all that normal anyway." Willow was keeping her head down, seemingly concentrating on the task at hand, but Xander could see the telltale shine of tears in her eyes.
"Hey," he walked over and rested his hand on her shoulder. "Normality's overrated. Didn't you get that memo?"
She didn't answer but she didn't pull away from the gentle touch either.
He looked over her shoulder as she poured a few drops of clear liquid from the spike into the seething liquid mass she'd already mixed together. As the drops hit, the liquid seemed to boil instantly before turning bright red in a worryingly arterial manner.
"Is that it then?" He asked.
Willow shook her head. "Nope, says here that it should be blood red. "
He frowned. "Correct me if I'm wrong, 'cause y'know, not so much with the experience here; but that looks like blood to me."
She swatted his hand, "Spent blood it says here, so I'm guessing that means it should be darker. It'll be a while yet."
"Oh, okay then, so… what do we do now?" He felt a little useless, like he should be doing something - maybe if he went out patrolling for actual demons then it would chase all his internal demons into the light, but he knew going out alone would be suicidally reckless right now. The one thing he figured he should be doing - being supporto-guy for Buffy - was the one thing he really didn't feel up to.
Willow shrugged in what she probably so thought was a light-hearted manner but the simple fact that she still wouldn't look up belied that. "Well," she managed to say, "This needs to be watched to make sure it doesn't go kablooie on us so…" an eyebrow was raised at that, "I guess we're here for the night maybe?"
He didn't draw attention to the unstated fact that it really didn't need the both of them to watch the seething liquid change colour. If he didn't particularly feel up to seeing Buffy in this condition then he shouldn't be surprised that Willow didn't either.
"Wonder what it's like?" He asked suddenly.
"This world in Buffy's head - don't you wonder what it's like? Is it… better?"
"It's an asylum - how can that be better?"
"No, I mean…" He moved away from the desk and let his hand drop to his side - only just realising that he still hadn't moved it from its resting place on her shoulder. His reaction to the absence of that touch was more than a little disturbing. "There's probably this whole world in her mind right - outside of the asylum? Where Joyce and her dad are. Without the demons and vampires and… magick. Are we there? Is there some kind of alternate Willow and Xander living their lives there? What if it's the real world? What if this is a delusion?"
He stopped his unconscious pacing and gazed out of the window. The carefully tended campus gardens stretched out below him like some picture-perfect brochure photograph. Sunnydale was probably the kind of town any parent would be overjoyed if their sons and daughters went to college there - pretty, not too big, only one nightclub to speak of and decent campus security for the most part. It was a dream town - at least until you looked a little closer at what lay just beneath the surface.
What if it was a dream though?
"Are you getting all existential on me, mister?" For just a moment, Willow sounded so much like her old self that it almost filled the void Xander seemed to have been carrying about with him for days.
"Don't you ever think that maybe, just maybe, the reason things got so bad is 'cause it's all part of someone else's nightmare?" He didn't give voice to the hope that if it was the case that the dreamer would wake soon and this would life would finally be over.
She came to stand beside him and wrapped both her arms around one of his and did her best to rest her head on his shoulder - the height differential meant that she was actually leaning against his left bicep, but her intention was clear. "Oh honey," she said sadly. "It'll get better - it's just going to take some time, that's all."
"What if Anya never talks to me again? What if she hates me that much?" He shook his head and dropped his gaze to his shoes. "Not that I'd blame her."
He half expected her to punch him on the arm - or at the very least, kick him in the shins - but she just moved her head a little and sighed.
"I really screwed up this time, didn't I?" He'd spent the last few days just trying to figure out how things had gotten so bad and had come up with the inevitable reason - because he'd let them get that bad. It was as simple as that, but knowing it and doing something about it were two very different things. Standing here in this mostly anonymous dorm room with Willow on his arm, he couldn't help but wonder why this felt so much more like home than the apartment had for the last year.
He forced a lighter tone into his voice and tried to change the subject, "So you and Tara seemed to be getting on pretty well at the…" he forced himself to say the word, "wedding. How's the reconciliation going?"
She didn't answer but the grip she had on his arm tightened almost imperceptibly. He looked across and saw her bottom lip trembling as she fought the tears threatening to fall.
"Hey?" He disentangled his arm from hers turned to face her. "What's the matter?" Willow shook her head, clenching her jaw in a vain attempt not to cry. "Did she… did something happen?" He asked.
"No. I…" Willow finally met his eyes and the pain he saw there was a mirror of his own. "I saw her with someone this morning. She's… she's moving on, away. I messed it all up and now I think I've lost her for good." She didn't try to stifle the sob this time and his arms went around her automatically. It was what he did after all - someone he loved was hurting, he tried to make it better. "I'm sorry." Willow's voice was more than a little muffled by his shirt but she didn't seem to want to release the tight hold she'd established around him so he held her close.
"Don't be silly." He spoke into her hair. "You've got nothing to be sorry about."
She nodded against him. "Yes I do. I wasn't going to say anything 'cause you've got enough going on right now and it's kinda…"
He lifted his head and she looked up at him with red-rimmed eyes.
"You thought it'd be kinda close to the bone, right?" She nodded. "Well that's where I start thinking it's probably just as well you're going to UC Sunnydale instead of one of those fancy-pants colleges 'cause you're really not too smart, are you?"
This time she did punch him in the arm but it was a half-hearted attempt at best - or maybe it was the fact that she didn't seem the least bit inclined to break the now slightly awkward embrace that meant he barely felt the blow.
She buried her face in his chest again and as he rested his cheek against her hair he marvelled again at how 'right' it felt to be holding her like this.
"It'll work out, you'll see. It's gonna take some time. She'll be back." He said, echoing her earlier advice and hoping it would sound more reassuring to her than it had to him.
Willow seemed to sigh a little and he figured it probably hadn't.
"What if… what if I don't want her to?" She asked in a tiny voice. "I mean… I love her but… we just seem to fight all the time, I don't want that to be all there is. The fighting. Shouldn't there be something… more?"
He thought for a moment before answering, Willow's question was so like the one he had been asking himself about Anya that he didn't know if he trusted himself to give an honest answer. Maybe she'd been right to avoid telling him - after all, who'd take romantic advice from someone who'd left his fiancé at the alter just a few days ago? He took a deep breath and gave himself a mental shake; this couldn't be about him. Willow was hurting and he had to fix it. Simple as that.
"The making up part's fun though, or so they tell me." He smiled as he spoke to take any sting out of the comment. "Will, anyone who even looks at you knows you two are meant to be together. It takes time, and commitment - and yes, I am fully aware that saying that guarantees me lifelong membership to Hypocrites R Us."
"It wasn't that long ago that you said that about me and Oz." She reminded him. "There were even people who said it about me and you once upon a time. I'm not meant to be with anyone, it's just better if I'm alone." She tried to pull away but he wasn't about to let her go. He didn't have an immediate answer for her so he held on and tried to come up with something that would make a difference. The utter desolation in her voice almost broke him - especially when he heard the echo of his own pain in there. What seemed like an eternity ago they had joked that living on the Hellmouth automatically doomed any chances of romance any of them had. The joke just didn't seem funny any more.
She was sobbing uncontrollably now, her tears soaking through the cotton of his shirt, and he blinked rapidly as he realised his eyes were burning with his own unshed tears. He stroked her back lightly and murmured nonsense platitudes into her hair.
He couldn't say for sure who had instigated it, all he knew was that one moment she looked up and met his eyes and the next they were locked together in a frantic kiss. There was nothing sweet or gentle here - it was all about need. Pure sensation, frantic, desperate.
Finally they broke apart - again he wasn't sure who had been responsible - but as the automatic apology came to his lips he saw her shake her head and take his hand in hers. He frowned a little but she reached up and placed her free hand on his cheek drawing him back down. This time there was nothing frantic about the kiss - it was all soft breaths and gentle caresses. Like coming home.
It was a blinding light that broke them apart the second time, both spun round like startled rabbits. On the desk the cauldron had stopped boiling and the liquid inside now truly resembled blood - and it worried Xander more than a little that he knew the difference between the bright red arterial blood red and the much darker, almost black colour of blood from a vein.
"I guess it's ready then?" He managed to say, a little grateful for the distraction since his mind was still reeling from what had just happened.
Willow nodded in reply, apparently was as lost for words as he was.
"So… we should get this to Buffy then." He continued.
"Huh? Oh, yeah, absolutely. Only…" She bit her lip and smiled. His heart melted just a little more. "We don't have to do that… right now. Do we?"
He smiled back and shook his head. "Not if you think of something else we should be doing?"
"Oh I can definitely think of one or two things."
It had been Tara who had saved them all; if not for her he would have been dead within moments and the others would have followed soon after - and Buffy would be… lost. He could never repay the shy witch for his life and the lives of every single person in the room.
When Xander saw the way Willow looked at her though, the hope in her eyes, he couldn't help the twinge of hatred that boiled up in him. Right at that moment he wanted Tara gone.
But he was better than that. He bit his tongue and stood back, didn't say a word.
Willow and Tara were meant to be together. Whatever had happened last night… well, maybe the madness in Buffy's head had been contagious. He'd been deluding himself that anything could come of it. He couldn't hurt Tara like that - or Anya. Or Willow.