A Slice of Normal
Buffy was pacing in her rooms at the Council. She was going to visit Willow today and was nervous about what she would find. The last time Willow went dark side, Giles immediately took her to England. Buffy didn’t get to see the fall out. Watching Willow detox the very first time after her magically induced high joy ride with Dawn wasn’t all that fun, but this would be worse. In a way, Buffy was glad Draco was taking her. She was glad that someone would be by her side. Of course, she had no idea where they were going, so he was necessary anyway.
When someone knocked on her door, she quickly walked over and opened it. Draco was standing in the doorway and hadn’t even put down his hand. “Are you ready? Can we go yet?”
“Yes,” he replied warily.
Draco didn’t know what to do with all of this. He felt very bad about Willow. He didn’t even know if he would see her today. He might just let Buffy go in. Draco led Buffy downstairs and outside of the building before he apparated them to Spinner’s End.
“This is the house Snape grew up in,” Draco explained as they stepped through the door.
Someone was sitting in a chair there reading the paper and Draco didn’t think it was Snape because the person was wearing jeans. Suddenly the paper flipped down to reveal Xander Harris. Draco was sure the shocked look on his face was comical.
“Hey, Buffy, Drake. What’s the what?”
Buffy blinked in surprise. Of all the people to be in the scary bat-man’s house, Xander was the absolute last person she would have guessed. “Xander?” She walked up to him and just as he stood up, she gripped him in a crushing hug. “I can’t believe you’re here! I thought you were in Asia somewhere?”
“I was,” he said in a strained voice. “Thailand, actually. Having trouble breathing...”
Buffy let up on her hug a bit.
“I talked to Giles. Where else would I be at a time like this? Although, my host? Not the friendliest guy ever. No sense of humor and keep in mind I had Spike as a roommate.”
“Yes, Mr. Harris, I’m quite fond of you as well,” Severus said as he walked in.
“I also talked to Oz,” Xander said.
“Where was the Buffy talk? Do I not rate a phone call?” Buffy pouted. “You sit in the dark reading a newspaper but you don’t let me know you’re on the same continent?”
“I’ve actually not been out of touch with Oz since he came to the Council. Giles just told me what was going on. Oz told me to get my ass here. This is actually the first day I’ve been able to sit out,” Xander said with a sigh. “It’s worse than before.”
“Miss Rosenberg also has an unidentified toxin in her system,” Severus said. “Once I narrow it down, I can track its source. She is also showing signs of mild anemia. Someone’s been taking blood from her on a regular basis, but of course, I have not checked any places but the obvious
Her grip on Xander’s arm tightened until he yelped. She sent him an apologetic look but then looked back at Snape. Living in Sunnydale meant she heard the word anemia plenty of times and it was never because of natural causes. “So someone poisoned her and then took her blood? How the hell could they do that without her knowing? She hasn’t left the council. At all.”
Buffy’s worried meter shot up to the red zone. Someone was in the Council and seriously screwing up her people. And she knew exactly who it was. “It was Amy. It had to be.”
“It was not Miss Madison,” Snape said. “She’s never been away from Miss Hartness, but rest assured, Miss Summers, I will find out who did this to her, and they will suffer for it.”
Draco blinked at Snape. That sounded suspiciously like Snape had added Willow to his very small collection of people he looked after.
“But that’s why I like him a little,” Xander said.
Snape ignored Harris. “I am not certain, but I suspect this toxin and the bloodloss are behind her loss of control.”
Draco sagged in relief
“What, Malfoy?” Snape said. “You thought she’d tried to rip a hole in the world again just because you were being a spoiled brat in regards to her mistakes?” He moved suddenly and grabbed Draco’s arm right where his dark mark was. “Need I remind you that you do not always make the best decisions either.”
“And that’s why he makes me jumpy. He’s like a ninja,” Buffy muttered to Xander before clearing her throat and speaking louder. “Can I see her? If she’s asleep, I don’t even want to wake her. I just...want to see that she’s okay.”
“You may,” Severus said, releasing Draco’s arm. “She knew you were coming. She has been looking forward to your visit. She even insisted on getting out of bed and dressed today because of your visit. For which I am grateful.”
“You’ve been keeping her here undressed,” Draco said before he could stop himself.
Snape’s wand was out instantly and Draco was hexed and spilling across the floor.
“And henceforth he will be known as Ninja Wizard, Hexer of Draco,” Xander said.
Severus glared at the Muggle, but made no move against him. The boy had been very helpful in dealing with Willow. He seemed to just have this natural ability to calm her. It was through the most inane collection of verbal diarrhea, but it worked.
“If you must know, Malfoy, it is because she has the most deplorable and eye twitch inducing collection of sleepwear I have ever seen.”
Buffy snorted and tried to cover it up when Draco glared at her. She leaned over to Xander. “Remind me to show you the pink-haired Draco pictures. You’ll get a kick out of them.”
“Miss Summers, if you’ll just go to the room at the end of the hall,” Severus said. “I’ll make sure the gentlemen behave themselves.”
“Bloody hell, Harris, don’t you own a comb or a brush? You look like Hagrid,” Draco said, knowing Xander had met the half-giant before and would get the reference.
Giving Xander’s hand one last, gentle squeeze, she followed Snape’s instructions and walked to the end of the hall, lightly knocking on the door that was already halfway open. “Room service,” she quipped, continuing her trend. She could hear the boys bickering in the living room.
“Buffy, you’re here,” Willow said.
She was very glad to see her friend. She had been worried that no one would ever want to see her again after this, and she would be regulated to sitting in Snape’s guest room forever.
“In the flesh,” she said lightly. “I made Draco bring me as soon as I could. We’ve had a busy few days. “
Buffy took a few steps forward, not sure if Willow was open to them sitting right next to each
other just yet.
“Draco’s here?” Willow smiled, knowing she was a bit too thin and too pale, but she didn’t want to scare Buffy. “Did you see Xander? I thought I was dreaming him. Snape told me Pevensie and Theo are all right, but is that true? Are they really okay?”
“Yeah, he was just sitting there, reading a paper when came in. I thought I was dreaming him too.” Buffy took a deep breath and finally sat down on the bed next to Willow. “They’re both fine. Draco warded Theo in the infirmary so he didn’t...get to the cemeteries. He had some mild burns on his hands, but those are gone now. Pevensie is training as usual. Draco can give you a more detailed report.”
Buffy bit her lip, looking over Willow. “Snape told us about the poison and blood thing. Are you okay?”
“I don’t know,” Willow answered honestly. “I haven’t been around that many people, and I can’t imagine any of them wanting to hurt me.”
“Well, we have a small list to choose from, and we’re already weeding that down. We’ll find whoever did this. We’re also actively looking for Ethan. I called Angel and gave him a heads up about Dana, just in case she tries to head back home. We’ll get them.”
That made Willow’s eyes water. Ever since her breakdown, she had not been able to feel any of the slayers. She felt so empty, like a huge part of her was missing now.
“I don’t know where she is, Buffy. I didn’t even know you were here. I couldn’t feel you. Not like usual. I don’t know what’s wrong. I used to not like how crowded it was in my head, but it’s so quiet without all of you there now.”
“Hey,” Buffy replied soothingly, running her hand up and down Willow’s arm. “Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe you need to have just Willow up in your head for a while. I mean, it can’t be good to have anyone but yourself in there, right? Focus on being you for a while. Yeah, you knowing where everyone was is nice but it’s not necessary. I just want you to get better and be whole.”
“I feel a lot better. Snape... he’s actually been nice to me. He believes I can do this, Buffy. I want to believe he’s right. Giles had mentioned binding my magic. Please don’t let him do that to me unless there’s no other way. I would be too scared to try and be ordinary Willow. I don’t think I could. It would be like when you had your slayer powers taken away. I don’t know if I could retrain my mind to be a regular person again.”
Buffy could see how the prospect of losing her magic was really upsetting to her and she pulled her friend into her hug. Even when Faith had gone dark-side, Buffy internally tossed the idea around of using the drug to get rid of her powers, but that would leave them with an even angrier woman who would eventually get her powers back and be thirsting for vengeance. While Willow’s situation wouldn’t be as extreme, she couldn’t stomach doing that to her friend.
“I promise that will be the absolute last resort. I trust everyone to find a solution way before that.”
Willow just nodded.
“Snape tells me Amy’s here. I saw her with Miss Hartness. I remember that. She wants to see me. I don’t know, Buffy.”
“She is being watched very closely and I gave strict instructions that she is not supposed to show up anywhere near the council until her presence is cleared beforehand. I don’t trust her and I don’t know if I ever will, no matter how much she helps us.” Buffy sighed. “Don’t even think about it for now.”
“She’s been helping?”
Buffy gave her this look.
“I know, I know, but I’ve known Amy a long time. She messed up and did some bad stuff. Who would I be if I didn’t at least give her a chance?”
“You did give her a chance. She threw it right back in your face, remember? She claimed she was helping and healing then cursed you. I mean, I didn’t see it because I was helping Spike, but I heard all about it. Does she really deserve another one?”
“Do I?” Willow asked softly. “Irulan and Miss Hartness and the others made it pretty clear what would happen to me if I lost control again, but here I am.”
“And Snape said that the poison and blood loss are more than likely why you lost control in the first place.” Buffy hated seeing her friend so defeated. “You are trying, Willow. You have been trying for years. Every time you took a step back in healing, other people have been manipulating you. Amy claimed to want to be better, but she never tried. If she wants me to believe that she’s going to try this time around, she’s going to damn well work for it.”
“If she’s studying with Miss Hartness, believe me, she will be.” Willow paused to smooth her blanket down a bit. “Has anything... is the slaying okay? Have there been things? You know, that needed slaying and stuff.”
“Nothing out of the ordinary, not counting the group of trolls that crashed the Halloween bash.”
Willow raised an eyebrow. “Trolls? But wasn’t Draco planning his big Halloween dinner? He didn’t invite trolls, did he?”
“Wait, you didn’t hear about the trolls?” Buffy asked in surprise. She would have thought somehow Willow would have known. “Draco had his dinner all right. Just as we settled into eat, a group of trolls crashed--literally--the dinner and the movie night for all the other slayers.”
She pouted. “I ruined a pair of shoes getting rid of one.”
Willow tried not to, but she started laughing and realized it had been way too long since she had laughed.
“I’m almost sorry I missed it.”
“Apparently, during Theo and Draco’s first year at school, one of their evil teachers released a troll in the dungeons on Halloween. They kept bitching about how the whole thing reminded them of their first year in school. Me? Just another Halloween, although I’m going to beat Giles over the head for ever getting my hopes up that nothing big happens on Halloween all those years ago. He jinxed us. We’ve been cursed ever since.”
Willow giggled again. “How is he, Draco, I mean?”
“He’s good, I guess,” Buffy replied. “Working closely with Pevensie. He’s a bit ticked that she was bait for a troll while other slayers got weapons and that she didn’t go to the training room like she was told, but he’s secretly proud of her. He seems to be in better spirits now that his friend is back with Hannah. They’re all chummy now.”
Willow nodded. “Good, that’s good. I’m glad Hannah and Blaise are okay. I’m glad Draco... I’m glad he’s okay now.”
Really she just wanted things back to the way they were, but she kept seeing Draco’s face when she had been controlling Pevensie. He was ready to fight her for his slayer. It haunted her. He’d been angry about Hannah, but now he was never going to forgive her.
“Hey,” Buffy said, hating to sound like a broken record. “He’s outside talking to Xander. Want to see him for a little bit? I’ll kick him out of the window if he upsets you.”
“Only if he wants to,” Willow said.
“What is it you told me about Theo? You need to talk things out with this bunch because the longer they set, the worse they get?” Buffy stopped. “I just made a rhyme. Ooh, we could make t-shirts with that saying.”
Willow chuckled again. She was glad Buffy was acting like nothing was wrong instead of like Willow had tried to go nuclear again.
“It’s just last time we tried to talk... it... it was bad.”
“He’ll behave,” Buffy said sternly, standing up and walking to the doorway. She had left the door cracked but opened it all the way. “Hey, fire-boy, get your butt in here!” she called out.
Both Xander and Snape looked at Draco. He took a deep breath and walked towards the back. He really didn’t think this was a good idea.
“Buffy, I really don’t think-”
She put a hand over his mouth.
Aware that they could still be heard, she took a step forward and closed the door slightly behind her. “You will behave,” she hissed. “That is your friend in there and she is in pain. She doesn’t need to be reminded that she screwed up because she is doing a bang-up job beating herself up over it. Right now, she just needs to know there are people who aren’t going to abandon her because she slipped. Now, if you can’t do that, then go back with Xander and Snape and I’ll let you know when I’m ready to leave, but if you think you can man up and just be her friend for ten minutes, we’d like to have you join us.”
Buffy removed her hand and slipped back into the room, leaving the door cracked again, an open invitation for Draco. She resumed sitting on the bed next to Willow.
Draco was actually starting to sweat. He didn’t know what to say. He knew he’d been too hard on her, but she was supposed to be better than him. Perhaps he had been holding her to too high of standards. Sometimes he did that with people.
“My gods,” Draco said in a joking tone. “Isn’t he letting you outdoors at all?”
Willow gave him a half grin. “I suppose an ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t cut it?”
“I’m still not the one you need to apologize to,” Draco said as he took the chair that was sitting near the bed. “You’re really trying to out-do me on being the most trouble, aren’t you?”
“Not possible,” Buffy said firmly. “Dawn takes the cake in that category, although I hope for your sake that nothing happens during my Thanksgiving dinner. If you show up and something happens, you are no longer invited to my parties.”
Draco gave Buffy a look. “First, that was my party, not yours and second, you do know that we’re not in America, right? We, as a British people, do not celebrate the day. Just so you’re aware and everything.”
Willow was just smiling. This was nice, and it was making her feel good.
Buffy glared at him. “That is exactly why we are still having Thanksgiving for all the Americans in the Council. Just because we are away from our home country doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t celebrate the holidays. If you stuffy Brits don’t want to eat all the yummy food with us, then you can go eat your fish and chips somewhere else.”
“I thought it was turkey.” Draco looked at Willow. “Is it not turkey?”
She nodded. “It’s turkey. I just hope no spirit Native Americans attack us this time. I don’t think Xander wants syphilis again.”
Draco made a face. “What?”
“And Spike would not shut up about the bear. Or getting shot multiple times, but he deserved all that,” Buffy replied flippantly.
“I’m suddenly feeling like perhaps I should not be getting so much lip about my Halloween troll-fest.”
“Yeah, holidays get a little wonky with us,” Willow said. “Oh you had a crazy Halloween, that just means you’re really one of us now, Draco.”
He was making this face at her.
Willow decided to try. “I think this calls for a hug.”
His lack of hesitation made her feel much better. Draco was up instantly and putting his arms around her.
“I’m glad you’re on the mend,” Draco whispered in her ear when he was hugging her. “Stop saying you’re sorry to me. I’m not angry and I forgive you.”
Willow instantly started crying and held onto him tighter.
“There now,” he said. “Let’s not cry. You know I don’t do crying.”
Draco did not set back down in the chair. He just sat on the other side of the bed.
She was glad that Draco had joined them. “You chose the wrong profession, then. You’re working with teenage girls. There will be crying.”
“Yes, well, no job is perfect.”
Draco was at a loss for what to say. He knew he needed to seriously talk to Willow, but he didn’t want to with Buffy there.
Willow gave his hand a pat. “We’ll talk later, okay.”
“All right then.”
Buffy would have offered to leave, but she wanted to keep things light at the moment. They could have their private chat later when Willow was feeling better.
“Do you know how long Xander will be here? I’m half tempted to chain him up in one of the bedrooms to prevent him from leaving.”
“Just until I’m ready to come back to the Council,” Willow said. “He’s still... it’s hard for him.”
Draco made a face. “Do not tell Nott you talked about chaining another bloke up. He’s liable to piss on you just to mark his territory.”
Buffy reached around Willow and slapped Draco on the arm. “And you better not let it slip, either. It was a metaphor, anyway. Xander’s like my brother. There are no lusty feelings there. So Theo has nothing to worry about.”
“I’m so glad you guys are here today,” Willow said. “Not that Xander isn’t great company and not that Snape isn’t helping, but I kind of miss how noisy and full of life the Council is.”
“I don’t,” Draco said. “I could actually use a vacation.”
“I don’t recommend my method,” Willow said.
“Mine wasn’t that awesome either,” Buffy said. “Staying with Dawnie was, but considering the topics of discussion, not that fun. Didn’t Hannah and her beau go on a getaway or something? Why don’t you do that?”
“They went to Greece, and I don’t have anyone to be romantic with.”
Willow frowned. “What about Luna?”
“Oh we’re great friends,” Draco said sarcastically. “She’s driving me bloody mad. I’m trying to be a gentleman and not freak her out utterly, but that’s getting really difficult.”
“What in the world are you talking about?” Buffy asked. “Why is she driving you mad and how would you freak her out, besides the obvious pyrotechnic tendencies and short fuse?”
“Buffy, when she was sixteen my father kidnapped her and locked her in our dungeon. She could hear me being tortured. It took me ages just to get her comfortable around me. She’s the loveliest most oblivious creature I have ever met, and I’d like nothing more than to just kiss her for several hours. She keeps touching me. Innocently, yes, but it’s so not on my end. I’m really to the point where there could be grabbing and oral assaults.”
She raised her eyebrow at him. “Yes, because that will totally not freak her out,” she replied dryly. “Ever consider just talking to her? Asking her what she thought about your feelings?”
“What?” Draco said looking highly offended. “No. I can’t do that. Then I’ll ruin everything, and she’ll quit the Council library and everyone will hate me.”
Willow frowned at him. “That’s a bit extreme, don’t you think?”
“That’s way extreme,” Buffy confirmed. “She’s not going to quit just because you admit to liking her. You are giving yourself way
too much credit. And no one will hate you. You are so stubborn. Just tell her you like her and go from there.”
“This is different. She’s not normal.”
Willow opened her mouth to say something.
“In a good way. I mean, she’s not my type. I have to be delicate here, and I’m horrible at that. I’m not subtle. I don’t think I even really know how to be. Other people just enter a room. I tend to crash through the door and set my pants on fire or something.”
“Well, apparently you’re better than you think if she has no clue that you like her and you get as flustered around her as you are now. She’d have to be blind to not see how much you’re crushing.”
“She doesn’t think of herself like that. I think she thinks I’m just being a good friend.”
“Well, I think you should just tell her,” Willow said. “You’ve already kissed her.”
“Yes, well, she thought that was because of the books.”
Buffy looked between Willow and Draco. “Is this some wizard or witch thing? Because my first kiss with Theo had nothing to do with books.”
“I didn’t tell you about that?” Willow said. “The dark magic books we had, some of them went a little wonky and tried to attack Luna and Draco.”
“And Luna freaked out, and was going into shock, so I, um, kissed her. A little.”
She just stared at Draco. “How do you kiss someone... a little? We’ve kissed before and there was nothing little about it. You don’t do anything half-assed.”
“Well, I suppose it was mild for me,” Draco said. “Though she most definitely did not go into shock, and my hand was bleeding, and I did smear blood all in her hair on accident.”
Buffy groaned and fell back onto the bed. “I would have snapped your hand off.” She sat up on her elbows. “Although if this didn’t make her run screaming, what else that you do would?”
“And we’re back to the part where Luna’s different than anyone else I have ever met in my entire life. How did a visit to check on the patient turn into a gab session about my love life, or distinct lack there of?”
“We’re girls,” Buffy replied, falling back onto the bed. “We could talk about my love life, but I don’t think you really want to go there. We could also talk about Willow’s love life, but that would turn into a bashing session for you so we’re really not going to go there. That leaves you.”
“Can’t we talk about the weather? Or shoes, at this point I would even be willing to discuss shoes.”