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Change Your Path

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Summary: Answer to Whispers of Willow challenge. 8th-season Willow decides to change the past; 3rd-season Willow decides to join a university in DC. Before the move, Ira informs her of a different parentage, in which Gibbs is her biological father.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
NCIS > Willow-CenteredDarkenedShadowsFR183169,87216196102,36629 Mar 117 Jul 14No

Chapter One

Disclaimer: I own neither Buffy the Vampire Slayer nor NCIS. If I did, I probably wouldn't be sitting around writing fanfiction.

There was a deep well of anger within Willow Rosenberg and it only grew larger every year, every moment that she spent with her friends. The others would blame it on the magicks that thrummed constantly within her but she knew that was wrong. At least Xander seemed to know her well enough that he didn’t nag her about the magic use.

From a young age, she took things hard and her wrath had tended to double back on her. When Xander had taken her Barbie, she refused to speak to him for an entire week. After she witnessed his Cordelia-kissage, it had taken months to get their friendship back on track. Her anger was no small thing, she knew, but it was silent and deadly.

Being on the submarine made her skin itch, the sensation of metal intruding on her almost like rolling a hot light bulb on her arms. The conversation she’d managed to overhear, almost completely by accident, made the merely uncomfortable suddenly set her teeth on edge. Buffy had seen her in the far future and she had been dark. There was an unknowable amount of variables that could contribute to this but the Slayer and her Watcher wanted her to stop with the magick.

They wanted to control her.

Willow stalked back to her room, glad that Kennedy was out. Fury spiked from her aura and she sank into an uneasy trance as soon as she closed the door. The circle was complete before her knees touched the ground. The moment she felt her hands hit the very solid floor, she could see Aluwyn with a very surprised smile on her snaky face.

“Your intent is fierce.”

In the dream-state, Willow turned away from her mentor, lifting her hand in a dismissive gesture. Mist curled around her feet as she examined her surroundings. Nearby, there was a gaping chasm and she knew that was where she needed to go. She barely registered the rocky terrain beneath her feet or the chill that ruffled her hair.

It was an abyss. She stared into it, wondering if she would lose her mind in this stare. Barely a moment passed and the darkness cleared, revealing an image of herself almost six years past. Halting thought reminded her that it was after her ordeal with Faith and Mayor Wilkins, after her dreadful ordeal at the city hall.

A slithering sound alerted her to Aluwyn’s presence. “It’s the best time. You’ve already let the Slayer push you almost too far but you’ve yet to break.”
“Oz,” Willow breathed. The ache in her chest was still there, distant but throbbing.

“You can save him.” Aluwyn’s voice was gentle, something that surprised Willow considering how much she was about to change. “You can save the other Chosen One as well.”

Willow remembered her feelings toward Faith then, a suffocating jealousy tempered by what now had to be pity. She could still be helped. In that moment, the decision was made. Everything good and true, combined with the painful memories of everything that had happened since she met Buffy, flew out of her and into the past Willow, the Willow that could still grow in so many different directions.

In the next instant, she was brought out of the dream-state by a knock on her cabin door on the submarine. There were pieces of her that were hard but she could no longer hold the anger within herself. As usual, it buried itself down into a little bottle of emotion, tightly capped under her control.
In the days to come, she felt there would be more bloodshed.

~*~*~

Anticipating both the upcoming graduation and the Ascension was making Willow feel ill at ease. She couldn’t sleep but she knew that her boyfriend was already deeply unconscious in his house. Within moments, the idea of taking a walk had so overwhelmed her mind that she couldn’t have denied herself this any more than she could have denied the lure of the Books of Ascension.

Grabbing a jacket and pulling on a pair of sneakers, she quietly opened the French doors that led to her balcony. She had leaned over the railing when she turned back to reenter her bedroom. On her dresser lay a small bottle of holy water and a well-worn stake. She shoved them both into the pockets of her jacket and closed the doors behind her, quickly and quietly before she lost her nerve. Years of practice found her on the ground and walking away from her parents’ house without a scratch or heavy breathing.

There was a cemetery near her house where Jesse had been buried. It was where her feet took her now. On nights that she couldn’t find it in herself to talk to her friends, she went to Jesse’s grave and sat until the words spilled out of her. Though the first comparison that came to mind was kind of gross, it was a little like forcing pus from an infected wound. In the past couple years, it was how she had learned to deal with that pit of anger and bitterness inside that she could not let anyone else see.

This particular cemetery did get some fledgling vampires, though not as many as one would think. Before her death, Jenny had done a weak cleansing spell at the entrances. It didn’t stop vampires from being buried there but every once in a while, they died before they could reach the surface. In the last year, the vampires seemed to start thinking of this cemetery as cursed and would flee as soon as they were free of the dirt.

Willow let the grass cushion her as she curled into a sitting position in front of Jesse’s grave. She didn’t let herself think about the empty casket six feet
beneath her or the fact that his parents had taken six months to finally bury someone they still believed to be only missing to this day, something that had belated the last of Xander’s and her mourning much too long. She just stared at the headstone and let the words come to her.

The smooth pebbles still sat atop the stone, a sign that her Jewish tradition hadn’t been disturbed in the last few months. She gave the headstone a wan smile and traced the letters with a light touch.

Jesse McNally, 1985-2001

“I miss you,” she murmured softly. “It’s hard sometimes.” She sighed, her gaze flicking up to gaze at the stars before returning to the headstone. “I was kidnapped tonight. I could have gotten away too – I killed the vamp guarding me with a pencil. But stopping the Mayor is important, I guess. I had to get a look at the books.” She chuckled softly, a sad note sliding into the sound. “I know it was stupid. And… and I was mean. To Faith, the other Slayer. I said things I shouldn’t have.” She pulled her hand away and covered her face, her eyes having darkened with emotion. “It was uncalled for. I can’t imagine her life, no matter how hard I try.”

The wind blew, whistling past her ears and covering the rustle of movement behind her. She sniffed lightly and continued.

“I wish I could apologize but she would kill me if I came near her.” She returned her hand to the headstone, feeling connected to her old friend despite the lack of his presence. “There’s something else, too. I think I had a vision or something. None of it makes sense but I know that Buffy is to blame.” She scoffed to herself. “That sounds so horrible. But I could see myself and I was… wrong. So wrong. And I can’t help but feel that she led me there.” She clenched her eyes closed, reaching for the words. “My magic is erratic at best and I know they will rely on my abilities more and more. Without someone to teach me, I know I’ll go down the wrong path.”

Finally, she stood, using her foot to urge the flattened grass to stand again. “I’ll have to leave. After graduation.” With a newly committed nod, she turned away from the grave.

To come face-to-face with the rogue Slayer she had insulted mere hours ago.

The dark-haired girl stared with hard eyes, fingering the knife at her belt. Willow gulped and took a step back. Then, almost unbidden, Faith released a weak laugh.

“Did you mean it?”

In the half-moment before panic set in, Willow noticed the sincerity and vulnerability in the Slayer’s face. There was hope in her dark eyes, something she hadn’t seen since her first week in Sunnydale. However, before she had time to comment on any of it, the panic fully took over and overwhelmed the circuit that connected her mouth to her brain.

“About Buffy? Or the other… Oh, God, I’m so sorry. I should never have said—But I guess I may have meant it a little…” Realizing that her foot was trying to shove itself into her mouth – metaphorically, of course – she began to backpedal. Literally. Into Jesse’s headstone.

She turned at the sound of the stones thumping into the soft ground. With a small gasp that sounded almost wounded, she knelt to scoop up the stones and put them back in their place at the top of the headstone. Wincing and cursing silently at herself, Willow turned to face the Slayer that she should never have turned her back on.

Faith stood still, hips cocked slightly with one hand gripping a stake in the way that only a warrior or a hunter could hold a weapon. “What’s that?” Her voice was low and her eyes were focused behind Willow.

On the headstone or the stones, the redhead didn’t know for sure. She could feel the babble erupting and knew there was nothing she could do to stop it. “The stones are a Jewish thing. You know, like bringing flowers.”

“Who’s Jesse?” She watched Faith’s face scrunch slightly. “Is this… your friend that died when Buffy came?”

Willow felt a wry smile cover her face. “Yeah, I visit his grave sometimes.” She gazed at the Slayer, her eyebrow arched as she attempted to suppress the belated fear flooding her system. “Why aren’t you killing me right now?”

“Thought about it.” Faith brushed past the girl and strode to a nearby mausoleum. Once there, she sat on its steps. “Well, not so much the killing as the scaring. Killing you would put too much of a target on my head.”

Willow was careful, especially because she could feel herself calming around the rogue Slayer. “Can I ask a question?”

Faith pinned the girl with hard eyes. “I might not answer,” she warned.

“Why the Mayor? He’s just so… ick. There’s something slimy about him.” Willow knew that was the term she had in her head when she thought about the immortal mayor, despite his clean family stance. Someone too clean was always too slimy on the inside.

The dark-haired girl laughed, leaning back against the upper steps. “Men are always slimy, somehow, somewhere. He’s the first, though.”

Innuendos flooded Willow’s mind and she wrinkled her nose at the image that inevitably rose behind her eyes. “First what?”

Faith sighed. “The first man to pretend to care without wanting something… more.” She wiggled her eyebrows, grinning when Willow squirmed.

Willow cleared her throat, shifting from one foot to the other. “So, is this, like, a truce?” she asked awkwardly.

Faith shrugged her shoulders. “Don’t get in my way, I won’t get in yours.” There was something hollow in her voice and Willow vainly hoped that there was something about the Mayor that put Faith off, something that made her want to not kill people.

Willow sighed, mentally shaking herself of the hope. “I should go home.” That said, she headed toward an exit.

Faith stretched and followed her. “Hey, I’ll come with you.” Now it was the opposite, a kind of straining hopefulness, in her voice that made Willow wonder. Would Faith have even gone a little bit dark if they weren’t so wrapped up in Buffy?

Berating herself for the thought, Willow smiled encouragingly at the Slayer. “Sure. I don’t think you’ve ever seen my house.” Maybe if she tried hard enough, she could be friends with Faith again. Remembering before the jealousy set in, she and Xander had befriended her first, Buffy following along grudgingly.

Faith could be a good person. It helped that there was a part of her that nudged along this part of her mind.

A/N: Okay, parts of this sucked a little. I don't write fear extremely well, so the characters might seems a little OOC. No flames, please. R&R!
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