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Summary: AU season 4. Riley wants to help Willow after Oz leaves. Series complete.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > GeneralLucindaFR1375,5000123,36210 Sep 0318 Feb 04Yes

Fumbled Words

Author: Lucinda
pairing: Willow/Riley #16 on QPC)
sequel to 'Vanishing Words'
Disclaimer: I do not hold any legal rights to the show or characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Distribution: WLS, NHA, Quickie Challenge, Yourmission, Bite Me please? anyone else ask first.
set AU season 4. There is no Initiative. Buffy and Riley were NEVER involved.

Riley Finn was determined that this time, he would say something. Something more than a 'good morning' or 'how'd the reading go' when he saw her. Because he was really starting to worry about Willow. She was bleeding inside, emotionally if not physically. He had only heard whispers and rumors, something about a guy, and a musician, but he didn't know the details. Didn't know what had stolen the joy from her life, the color from her cheeks, the sparkle from her eyes. But he wanted to find out, to help her get better.

There she was, her once bright hair seeming a bit less vibrant, almost dull, hanging limp around her face. She was swathed in long sleeves, long skirts, as if she was trying to hide from the world. She was just shuffling along the sidewalk, not quite looking at anyone although paying enough attention not to run into the various moving people.

"Willow..." Her name emerged, half greeting, half a plea for something.

She looked up, her eyes dark ringed, cheeks less rounded, not quite gaunt, but sunken. "Riley. Morning... class isn't for an hour."

"Can't a guy say hello?" She seemed so alone, even surrounded by so many people. He wanted to reach out, to bring her into the warmth and life and vitality of the campus, to help her live and laugh and smile.

“Depends on who he’s saying hello to. And how he’s saying it. Because… words are okay, but other ways…” The words carried threads of anger and despair, but they almost reminded him of the way she used to be. Almost carried life and passion. The words stopped as if cut away, her eyes dropping to the ground, staring intently at the tip of her shoestring, slightly frayed and tinted with dirt.

Riley felt certain that this was a clue, a hint about her pain’s source. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” She looked at him, her eyes reflecting the light, looking almost like tiny mirrors. “What are you apologizing for?”

“I don’t think it was me… I hope it wasn’t.” Riley could felt he words tangling, tripping as he spoke to her. “It’s just… you’ve been so sad, so upset. I don’t like to see you suffering, and I’m sorry. It’s not right, and I… well, sorry.”

“You didn’t do it. None of it was you… it was Oz and V… her. The other woman… I should have known better. Really, especially here.” A tear slid from her eye, meandering over her cheek, catching the sunlight like a precious gem.

He felt like a heel all of a sudden. She was still torn up inside, and he’d made her think of it again. He tried to speak, to find the words to express the jumble of feeling inside, but they just formed a tangled knot in his throat, and he stumbled into silence. “Willow, I…”

She paused, looking at him with the oddest intensity, almost as if he was a strange project brought to her attention. “You really care… That’s… Thanks, Riley. I’m not sure why, but… thanks.”

Then, the most wonderful, baffling thing happened. With a small smile, she leaned forward, her arms briefly wrapping around him in what could only be the most gentle, fleeting of hugs, and she was gone. The swirl of a long skirt, a glimpse of red hair vanishing in the moving people, and she had disappeared.

But it was definitely worth it. She’d smiled, and given him a hug. It was worth every fumbling word to see even a little smile again.

End Fumbled Words.
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