Chapters 18 & 19
She was breathing deep, trying to rid her mind of the pain that Dorian’s sharp words had caused. Make herself useful? Wasn’t she always useful . . .just by loving him? Willow shut her eyes, blinking back the hurt he had caused. He was just upset, that was it. He didn’t mean to hurt her, and he would undoubtedly apologize just as soon as he was free of the stress losing the portrait had caused. He was fearing for his life, right? That gave him a right to get a little temperamental.
The witch kneeled down on the floor, a map of the surrounding area in front of her, with more detailed maps off to one side.
Over the course of thirty minutes she let her magic work its will, extracting map by map the exact location of the portrait. A hotel. Only about twenty minutes’ drive from here.
A cruel smile curled her lips as she gathered the maps up. She would go get the portrait herself, and deal with the one that had taken it. Then Dorian would shower her with the adoration she so rightly deserved. No more caustic words or hurt feelings.
And she’d go do it without him, just to prove herself. That she wasn’t useless.
Buffy looked up, eyes narrowing at the noises outside of her door. She stood quietly, slipping the object she’d been toying with only the moment before into her pocket, and slipped into the bathroom, out of sight of the doorway.
Not even a minute later the lock clicked and the door to the room opened slowly, a shadow falling in, spurred on by the light from the hallway. Buffy held her breath, feeling the first true inklings of fear running through her. She waited, watching as familiar red hair walked by the half-open bathroom doorway, before sliding out behind her.
“Long time no see, Wills.”
The other woman whirled, eyes wide and dark, the beginnings of anger curling at her lips.
“Me what?” Buffy questioned, instinctively knowing the girl that she still called best friend, despite everything that had happened, was talking about that damn portrait. The one that was hidden in the room’s safe.
“You took Dorian’s portrait?” Willow’s eyes narrowed with hurt and confusion. “Why? Why would you do that to me?”
“To you?” The Slayer scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Have you seen yourself lately, Wills? What happened to the proud Slayerette? The one that wanted to right wrongs and all that jazz? You’re a thief. I saw the papers. I saw you there that night.”
“You’ve been spying on me?” The words were hissed, angry.
”Someone needed to. You just up and disappear. Look at you! You don’t even dress like our Wills anymore!” Buffy gestured at the tight leather pants Willow was wearing, the itty bitty red shirt beneath her jacket. “Anya was right about Dorian all along – and you fell for it.”
“No!” Willow growled, taking a step forward. Buffy felt a trace of fear slide through her veins as the red head’s eyes darkened literally, fingers twitching.
“Oh, sure. He hasn’t corrupted you. No way in hell he’s done that, right? You haven’t been using dark magic?”
Even as she was speaking, the blonde was slowly inching her hand into her pocket, fingers wrapping gently around the item that had arrived, special delivery, from Giles just that afternoon. She slid the tip off of it, careful to keep her fingers away from the sharp edge of the point.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Willow screeched, moving forward suddenly, eyes blazing. “Dorian loves me!”
The syringe was out of her pocket before Willow had a chance to even realize what was about to happen. With a twinge of guilt, Buffy plunged it home in the red head’s arm, through the jacket, feeling the needle impact with skin and sink to the end. Within seconds she had depressed the plunger, shooting her friend full of sedatives.
“B. .uffy?” Willow gasped, stumbling back hard, the syringe still sticking from her arm. She reached up, pulling it out, holding it towards the blonde with a look of shocked sadness on her face. “Why --?”
“You’ll thank me one day, Wills.” Buffy muttered, swallowing back her own grief at seeing her normally strong friend so. . .bottomed out. Giles was right. This was only the beginning. Getting Willow back for real would take weeks. . .if not months. She crossed to the safe, aware that the witch had collapsed heavily on the edge of the bed, watching her through drooping eyes, and pulled the portrait out. “I love you, Wills. We all do. . . .and we can’t let this keep going.”
She raised a hand to the front of the portrait, feeling the worn canvas beneath her nails.
“Noooo!” Willow screamed, lurching drunkenly off of the bed as Buffy’s nails came down, tearing the portrait into shreds. She stumbled once, before falling to the floor, the sedatives winning out over her will.
Buffy ripped the rest of the portrait from its frame, tearing it with her hands as she strode towards the trashcan. The remnants of the portrait went in, and seconds later were aflame thanks to the lighter she’d bought just that morning from the hotel gift shop. With a weary sigh she turned back to Willow, shaking her head in sadness.
~*~Part Nineteen: Epilogue~*~
Buffy looked at Giles, meeting his kind eyes with a sigh resignation. She supposed that she needed to go in there. Just get it over with, she wanted to tell herself. The sooner she went in, the sooner she could leave.
There was no point, really, to the visits, other than to let Willow know that she wasn’t alone. That they were still there and waiting for her to get through this whole, awful mess, a month after it had all come to an end.
She twisted the knob on the door, opening it quickly and then shutting it just as quickly behind herself. The room was dimming as the last rays of the sun began to disappear through the open window. A light breeze was drifting through the room, circulating the heady aromatic oils that Giles said helped keep Willow calm.
“Hey,” she smiled at the red head, wishing that she could feel it more than she did. No matter how much she still loved Willow, and wanted to be there for her as a friend, it was hard. Especially seeing her like this, and knowing what would inevitably happen before she left the room.
Buffy sat down on the edge of Willow’s bed, watching her friend with worried eyes. She looked so pale, so thin.
Just like a junkie, trying to work through her issues, Buffy told herself. Because that’s what Willow was. A dark magic junkie, going through withdrawals. Painful, mind-bending withdrawals. She’d go back to something like normal when this was all over.
Or, at least, that’s what Giles was saying. He’d been saying it for weeks, though, and the girl sitting on the bed was no closer to being ‘her’ Willow than she had been that fateful day in the hotel room, when Buffy had drugged her for her own good.
“So . . .Xander says he might stop by later. With some chocolate from that new candy shop in town.”
Willow nodded absently, not once looking towards the blonde. Buffy sighed. “Wills, come on. Talk to me.”
The red head turned slowly, almost hauntingly, to look at her with eyes that were just this side of dead – almost. . .vacant.
“Remember how you said that one day I’d thank you?”
Buffy swallowed, nodding. “Yeah?”
Willow smirked coldly. “We’re not there yet.”
Those words felt like a slam to her gut, and Buffy reacted accordingly, rising shakily to her feet. It hurt. A lot.
But she still knew she was right. One day, when Willow was back in her right frame of mind, when everything wasn’t so raw and fresh. And the pain from suffering through a hard withdrawal were just a thing of memory.
That’s when her best friend would be able to thank her. . .for saving her life.
~*~The End – No Sequel – No Prequel~*~