Summary: When did life become so lonely?
Timeline: Pre-series, shortly before Buffy arrives.
Word Count: 1,834
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership over these characters. I am merely borrowing them from Joss et al.
Distribution: whichwillow, my site, my LJ, anyone with previous permission. Anyone else - just ask.
Feedback: Yes please! It makes me happy and keeps me writing.
Thanks to velvetwhip & kallie_kat for looking this over.
Note: This is written for the Which Witch Ficathon. My assignment: Would anyone notice if Willow started to fade away over time (like in Out of Sight, Out of Mind)?
- I admit that I took this in an unusual direction, but it was the only way my muse would let me write it.
Willow sat in the La-Z-Boy chair in Jesse's living room, feet tucked under her, history book open on her lap, watching her boys play a video game. Jesse had just gotten some kind of new Playstation and Xander had not stopped bugging him about trying it out since he'd heard about it. It's not like his parents would consider spending money on something like that - not when the money could buy booze.
"C'mon, no fair," Xander exclaimed, fingers moving faster on his controller.
"Never said I'd go easy on you," Jesse said, face tightening in concentration.
Willow smiled fondly at their antics. She shook her head and turned back to her book. They had a test at the end of the week and she would have to be prepared if she was going to give these guys a crash course on the material.
The game ended when Xander's hedgehog died a spectacular death and he threw the controller on the ground with as much gusto as he dared. (He didn't want to get in trouble for breaking Jesse's new toy, after all.)
"A defeat like that calls for sugary goodness to lift the spirits," Xander announced, getting to his feet. "Whatcha got in the kitchen?"
"Usual," Jesse answered, standing. "I'll come with. I think Mom went shopping yesterday."
"Hey, can you bring me back a soda?" Willow called after them as they left the room, trying to guess what goodies Jesse's mom could have bought.
Silence answered her.
Sometimes it sucked being the only girl in a threesome of friends with two teenage boys.
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon at the beach; blue skies, a slight breeze and not a cloud in sight.
The boys were tossing a ball back and forth while not-so-subtly checking out the girls in their bikinis.
Willow sat on a towel in shorts and a tank top over her one-piece bathing suit, applying sunscreen to every bit of visible skin. She wore a baseball cap to keep her scalp from burning, ponytail pulled through the opening in the back.
Hearing a name she dreaded, Willow looked up, squinting against the bright sun.
"Cordelia…looking hot," Jesse leered, missing the ball Xander had just tossed to him.
"Of course I'm hot, it's 95 degrees out," Cordelia retorted. She knew she looked good. She didn't need this waste of space complimenting her when there were football players up the beach.
"That's not what I--"
Cordelia cut him off. "Why are you still talking to me?"
With a flip of her hair, Cordelia and her groupies moved down the beach.
Willow went to retrieve the ball Jesse had ignored and took it over to him. "I don't know what you see in her," she mumbled.
Jesse absentmindedly took the ball from her, staring after Cordelia. "She's just perfect," he sighed.
"Yeah, if you like mean girls who treat you like crap," Willow commented.
She looked at Cordelia flirting with the quarterback or linebacker, or whatever position the guy played. For a moment, Willow envied the other girl's body. They were the same age, so why hadn't Willow's body filled out the way Cordelia's had? Maybe if she looked like that Xander would look at her the way Jesse always looked at Cordelia.
Just then, Xander jogged up, slapping a hand on Jesse's shoulder. "Dude, she is so out of your league."
"Ya think?" Willow muttered.
"So what? She's Cordelia," Jesse said, stressing her name. As if that would make everything clear.
"She's smokin' hot, I'll grant you that," Xander said. "But once you get past the body, what are you left with? The Queen Bitch."
"You're just jealous that she talked to me and not you," Jesse said, petulantly.
Xander laughed. "Yeah, you keep telling yourself that."
Willow smiled to herself. At least Xander wasn't taken in by Cordelia's beauty. Maybe there was some hope for her after all.
Still laughing, Xander grabbed the ball out of Jesse's hands and took off towards the water. "Catch me if you can," he called back over his shoulder.
That seemed to pull Jesse out of his trance. He grinned and took off after his friend, leaving Willow to watch them cavort in the water.
Willow felt like she hadn't talked to anyone for days. No, that wasn't true. She felt like no one had talked to her for days. She'd tried talking to people, but they always seemed to ignore her.
Especially Xander and Jesse. Her two bestest buds in the whole world.
She wasn't really sure what had changed. She felt the same, looked the same, and behaved the same way as she always had. Perhaps that was the problem, though. She still looked like a child that got treated like an adult. Not like the other girls at her school. Not like Cordelia and her ilk. Why would Xander and Jesse want to hang out with their oldest, best girl friend when they could chase after girls like Cordelia who demeaned them?
She didn't understand why they would seek out that rejection. She knew first hand how much rejection hurt. It's what her best friends were doing to her, after all.
Willow slipped into the library, welcoming its comforting quiet. Once again, Xander and Jesse had run off as soon as the final bell had rung, not even bothering to say goodbye to Willow.
Willow greeted the elderly librarian as she entered the library. As expected, her greeting wasn't acknowledged.
With a sigh, Willow found her favorite study spot and pulled out her homework for the day.
About a week later, Willow was roused from her studies at the back of the library by an unfamiliar voice. This voice was male, with an English accent.
Curious, she ventured from her nook to see what was going on.
A man stood by the large table in the main part of the library, directing movers carrying large boxes.
Without even realizing she'd stepped up to the banister, Willow found herself excitedly asking, "New books?"
The man jumped and looked up at her. A thrill went through Willow; she felt like it was the first time anyone had noticed her in ages.
"I'm so sorry. I didn't realize anyone was here." He looked a little nervous, come to think of it. "What, um, are you, ah, doing here?"
"Studying," Willow answered. "What are you doing here? Where's Mrs. --"
"Retired," he said, cutting her off. "My name is Mr. Giles. I am to be the new librarian."
Willow's eyebrows rose in surprise. Retired? "But she was here yesterday and never said anything."
"Y-you were here yesterday?" Mr. Giles asked.
"I'm here just about every day," Willow confirmed.
"Don't you have a home?"
Willow's face fell. "I prefer to study here," she sullenly admitted.
"My apologies, that came out wrong. It's just that I wasn't expecting anyone to be here during the transition. I was told the library was rarely visited."
"Oh, it is. Rarely visited, that is. I'm, um, one of the few people who actually use it. Unless there's a new student or someone loses a book, hardly anyone ever comes in here. It's one of the reasons I like doing my homework here."
"Ah, yes, well, don't let me keep you from it," he said, dismissing her.
Frowning in confusion, Willow returned to her books, wondering what had just happened, and what the new librarian was hiding.
When Willow entered the library the next day she noticed that almost all of the boxes had been unpacked already. She guessed that Mr. Giles must have been there all night putting the new books away. Luckily she knew the library like the back of her hand, so she'd be able to tell what volumes were new.
Drawn to the pile of books sitting on the large table, Willow found herself looking through the titles.
Mr. Giles' voice surprised her. "Oh, you again?"
Willow smiled. "Yes, me again. I told you I come here most days. My name is Willow, by the way. Willow Rosenberg."
"You work fast," Willow commented.
"I, uh… Pardon?"
"The books. You've already put most of them away. Did you bring anything good with you?" Willow asked. "It's been ages since we had anything new to read."
"Yes, well, the majority of those boxes were volumes for my own - personal - research. Not for the students." Disappointment must have shown on Willow's face. "Those books there are the ones the students will have access to."
Willow read some of the titles. "Mythology? Folklore?"
"I was told that section of this library was rather lacking," he explained.
Willow laughed. "This is a public school. Everything is rather lacking." She paused, not sure if she should offer, but found herself saying, "I could help you put these away, if you want. I know where pretty much everything is in here."
"That's very kind of you." Mr. Giles smiled and Willow felt a little flutter in her belly. Someone might actually want her around. "I would very much like that."
Willow's grin lit up her face. Before she could reply, Xander burst through the doors.
"Willow, I've been looking everywhere for you," he gasped dramatically, clutching the checkout counter.
"Xander? What's wrong?" she asked, hurrying to his side.
"Why does something have to be wrong? Jesse and I were just talking about how it seems like we haven't seen you in weeks and I suddenly realized that we really hadn't and then I thought maybe your parents took you with them this trip, but then I realized that was as likely as my parents going a whole week sober. Jesse thought maybe you were mad and avoiding us. Are you mad at us, Willow?"
Willow looked at Xander's sad puppy-dog eyes and tried to push aside her feelings of hurt and rejection. "And here I thought you guys just didn't want me around anymore."
"Pfft. Us not want you around? That's just crazy talk. You're our Willow. The third Musketeer. What would we ever do without you?"
"Fail all your classes?" Willow joked, hoping he couldn't hear the happy tears choking her.
"Well, that too," Xander grinned. "Wanna get out of here?"
Willow looked back at Mr. Giles, who was doing his best to give them their privacy. "Yeah, let's go find Jesse."
Willow crossed back to Mr. Giles to retrieve her book bag. "I'd still like to help you get settled. Maybe another day?"
"I'd like that. Go have fun with your friends."
Willow smiled, picked up her bag, and ran back to Xander. He swung an arm across her shoulders as they left the library.
"I swear, I'll never know what you see in that place, with all the books and the quiet."
"Xander," Willow giggled, chiding her friend. She wasn't sure what had happened the last few weeks, but whatever it was, she was glad that everything seemed to be back to normal.