Pairing: Willow-centric – no real pairing, pre-shippy W/G
Summary: Willow talks about her real family.
Word count: 1,551
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership over these characters. I am merely borrowing them from Joss et al.
Distribution: ironfic, 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 kallie_kat and velvetwhip for looking this over.
Note: This is written for ironfic. The secret ingredient was 'family'.
"Tell me about your family."
Willow made a sound that could be construed as either a snort or a mirthless laugh. She momentarily lifted tired eyes to glare at the therapist the coven 'recommended' she see as part of her rehabilitation, before returning them to the spot on the floor she'd been staring at.
"Didn't we talk about my 'parents' yesterday?" she countered peevishly.
Willow jumped at a gentle touch on her arm, not having seen her therapist move. She quickly pulled away, knowing she didn't deserve to be touched in comfort. She didn't deserve to be touched ever again.
"I wasn't asking about your parents," the doctor continued, the frown she was wearing at Willow's retreat obvious in her voice. "I asked about your family."
Willow looked at her shrink, or Penelope as she insisted Willow call her, trying to figure out what game she was playing. This was her tenth session with Penelope and Willow knew she was being stubborn, but she couldn't help it. She had a natural distrust of therapists, having grown up with such neglectful ones for parents. She was having a hard time accepting the open atmosphere that Penelope was trying to create, despite how patient she was being, and the fact that she was a fellow witch.
Seeing Willow's confusion, Penelope continued, "Tell me about the people you care about. The ones you've chosen to keep close to your heart."
"You mean my friends?" Willow asked.
"Is that all that they are?" Penelope asked knowingly.
Willow thought about it for a moment before replying. "No. I guess they're more than that." A barely discernable smile tugged at her lips.
"Let's start with Xander. According to your file, he's the one who...stopped you from ending the world."
This time a smile did make its way onto Willow's face, before quickly being squashed. "What can I say about Xander? He's been my best friend since forever, the brother I never had. Although, given our illicit smoochies in high school, that's kind of an eww-worthy comparison. I'm really not into incest. But even after the whole fluke thing, we managed to pretty much get back to how things always were between us, aside from the fact that we were now older and in relationships with other people." Willow had to close her eyes and take a deep, steadying breath before she could continue, thoughts of Tara lying dead in her arms overwhelming her. When she spoke again, it was barely louder than a whisper. "At least we were in relationships with other people."
Penelope remained quiet, allowing Willow the time she needed to work through her grief.
"Even if Tara ha-hadn't... Even if..." Willow shook her head. "Did you know that I was going to be the best man at his wedding? My little Xander was going to get married. I was so excited for him. Part of me didn't think he'd ever get married, at least to someone not me, because his parents had such a bad marriage. Guess I was right. He left Anya at the altar. I think that's one reason we got along so well, neither of us had a good relationship with our parents. We looked out for each other because we knew they wouldn't be looking out for us. I encouraged Xander to try to do better in school, and he made a big deal over my academic achievements, even if he didn't understand what they were for."
Willow paused and reached for the bottle of water on the little table next to her. She took several deep swallows, her throat parched, not having spoken so much in a long time.
"Xander and I didn't really believe that parents could be all loving and protective like they were on TV until we met Buffy. Her mom quickly became the mom we never had. Joyce set curfews and rules and chores and had expectations that we had never experienced with our own parents. When she died, we felt almost the same kind of heartbreak as Buffy and Dawn did.
"And I guess that if Xander is my brother, and Joyce my mom, then Buffy and Dawn are my sisters. Buffy is the older, special, best-loved sibling because she has an important destiny. Dawn is the neglected younger sister, but special in her own right, and more loveable because of it."
Willow paused again to take another sip of water. "Meeting Buffy really did change my life. I'd been, well, not content, but used to my life with Xander and Jesse. Buffy stirred all of that up. Jesse died, which I know, might have happened anyway given that it was Sunnydale, but the fact that he died right when Buffy arrived has always been a bit of a sore spot, even after all these years. But dwelling on things like that doesn't help. And once I knew about vampires and monsters, working with Buffy was more important than blaming her for my other brother's death. The longer we worked with her, the closer we got. Soon she was a part of our little makeshift family, and us a part of her real one."
"And how does Rupert fit into your little family unit?" Penelope asked.
"Giles," Willow stressed his surname, "Giles is the..."
Willow's mind stuttered over giving a familial title to Giles' place in her life. He was her friend, her mentor, her sometimes-crush. She had been about to say that he was the dad, but that felt even more incestuous than saying Xander was her brother. She could call him an uncle, but that didn't feel right either.
"Giles is different for all of us, I think," Willow ended up saying. "He was definitely more of a father to Buffy than her real dad ever was. He was even fired for having fatherly feelings for her. And I think Xander always saw him as a favorite uncle. You know, someone who you could joke around with, but was still an authority figure."
"And what about you?" Penelope pressed. "What is he to you?"
"He's... I..." Willow trailed off, a frown showing through her confusion. She didn't understand why she couldn't define her relationship with Giles like she could with the others. It wasn't like she'd spent more time with him than them, except for lately. And it wasn't because she'd spent less time with him, either.
She thought about how hurt she had been every time he'd talked about leaving Sunnydale, or when he actually left. How excited she'd been when he came back. Even when it was to fight her.
"Don't get me wrong," Willow eventually said. "It's not like I don't consider Giles to be a part of my family. He is. I can't imagine him not being in my life. Even when he didn't live in Sunnydale we were always talking. And living with him here has been so completely natural. Not living-with-him living with him, but you know, living with him in the same house kind of living with him, not as in sharing a bed living with him. Although that wouldn't be so bad either..."
Willow abruptly stopped speaking with a mental slap. She was babbling. She giggled. This was her first real babble since IT happened.
She giggled again. Her giggles became laughter, which quickly became hysterical until she was on the verge of tears.
"I'm sorry," she apologized. "It's really not that funny."
"It's quite alright. I'd say you were due," Penelope said, smiling. She wisely decided not to question Willow further regarding her relationship with Rupert. She had a feeling it was going to change before long, but Willow was in no position to see it right now. "I think this is a good point to wrap things up for today."
"Already?" Willow asked, surprised at how quickly the hour had flown by. She carefully uncurled herself from her chair and stretched as she got to her feet. "Same time tomorrow?"
"Same time tomorrow," Penelope confirmed. "Have a good evening, Willow."
"You too," she politely responded as she opened the door and stepped into the waiting room.
Giles looked up from the manuscript in his lap when the door opened, a smile lighting his face as Willow emerged, looking a bit more relaxed than when she'd gone in.
"You waited," she said, surprised, despite the fact that he'd been waiting for her every other session.
"I told you I would," Giles responded.
"Still...thanks," Willow said.
Giles awkwardly cleared his throat, suddenly uncomfortable with Willow's need to thank him.
"My pleasure," he told her honestly. He cleared his throat again. "So, um, what did you talk about today? If you don't mind me asking."
"Family," Willow answered. "About how you guys are my family and what roles you play."
"And how do I fit into your family?" Giles asked, hoping she wouldn't say she thought of him as her father.
"Honestly, I don't know," Willow said, stealing a quick glace at him. "You don't seem to want to fit any of the conventional roles you could. At least, not for me."
"A-and what unconventional roles do I fill?" he nervously asked.
Willow shrugged. "I don't know. You're pretty undefinable."
Without looking at Giles, Willow carefully linked arms with him.
"Let's go home," she said.