by Brian/bkwrm 79
Disclaimer: I don't own the shows or even (alas) Isabel and Willow.
Summary: Isabel goes to Sunnydale University and meets her new roommate.
Isabel smiled as she payed her tuition, cash. She was now a university student. She turned to go find her dorm. She turned as the attendant called her name. "Your room mate is over there. The red-haired girl. Might as well get acquainted, and she can help you get settled in."
"Thanks." Isabel set off towards her target at a swift, long-legged pace before she lost track of her. The campus was a bit large and confusing to a small-town girl.
Willow looked at the assignment slip in dismay. "I was promised a single room."
"We don't have enough... seniors took them all. You're with a first year student. A history major, non-smoking... apparently a great student. You'll get along fabulously."
"You don't understand. I can't room with anyone, it isn't fair to either of us. I'm attracted to..." Willow was interrupted from her frank declaration.
"Yes. Willow, that's me." With an effort she closed her mouth, prevented babble, staring at the tall, voluptuous brunette. She didn't usually react that way to anyone... male or female. And besides Tara she hadn't had that many strong attractions to girls. Just to Buffy... who she'd never told, and now it was too late. Willow had pretended interest in attractive strangers only because Tara was so cute when she got all jealous. With a start she realized she'd missed something in her musings on Buffy and Tara. Also that she was staring. "Sorry, I was just thinking about someone. What was your name again?"
"That's your room-mate," the clerk chimed in. "You were explaining your problem..."
"No," Willow said slowly, not taking her eyes off of Isabel but forcing herself to release the other girl's hand. "No problem. I'm sure we'll get along fine. I spend most of my time in the library anyway."
Isabel wondered absently what the problem had been, but had an awful lot on her mind. As, apparently, did her new room mate. Isabel couldn't fault her for thinking of someone and getting lost in the past for a moment. "I have to put away my luggage, if you could help me find our room..."
"Sure. Sure." Willow looked at the room number again. "Right this way. You have everything?"
"I'm fine," Isabel assured her. "You know your way around?"
"My third year here. Plus I grew up right here in Sunnydale."
"Great. You can show me around, maybe." Isabel's smile faded. "I don't want to impose though, if you have plans"
"No! No plans. Well my best friend and his fiance have plans and most of my other friends aren't around any... right now. I'd love to show you around. There really isn't very much to see."
Isabel caught the correction. Maybe she had more in common with the vivacious red-head than she'd supposed. "Thanks. I'm really hoping to keep busy."
Michael looked up in annoyance as his door flew open and Max stormed in.
"Do you know what my parents just told me? Isabel left for university today!"
"Good for her," Michael answered calmly.
Max slammed the table with his fist. "She can't do this! I don't even know where she is! Do you know?"
"No Maxwell, after the way I acted last spring she doesn't trust me anymore."
"This is dangerous for all of us. What if we need her here? Or she needs help there?"
"Yeah, it is dangerous."
Max regarded his remaining Alien companion for a moment. "Find her. She has to have told someone. I'll work on my parents. You see if Maria or Liz knows." He left without a good bye, letting the door slam shut.
Isabel was very glad to be at university. Here the memories, if no less pressing, weren't as bitter and full of regret. Here she was away from fighting with Max and Michael over her right to run her own life, and away from their bickering as well. Finally being on her own gave her an amazing feeling of freedom.
New and strange as everything was, she was enjoying being at university. Her room mate was more than willing to show her around and help her adjust to university. Willow was fast becoming the kind of friend Isabel had always wanted but had never dared allow herself to have. They did stuff together, normal human stuff. They didn't fight evil Aliens, didn't spend all their time running from the law.
In the evenings, they sometimes watched TV together in their dorm room, sometimes went to the Bronze to socialize. If Isabel wasn't ready to let any guy get too close so soon after losing Alex, Willow didn't seem very interested in guys either. They danced just for the fun of it, often together. Isabel didn't see anything strange in this. It was just dancing. She'd done the same back in Roswell.
Willow introduced Isabel to her best friend, Xander, and his fiancee, Anya. Both seemed very nice, if a trifle strange.
For Willow, the first weeks of school were wonderful and dreadful. Mostly Wonderful, because her new room-mate was as eager for friendship as she was. Neither of them spoke of their losses, but they both seemed to understand the other, and gave space when it was needed. Both wanted more fun than they'd been having, and both were capable of that without messing up school.
Slightly dreadful, because she hadn't told Isabel she was attracted to her, and every day they spent living together would make the inevitable revelation harder and more awkward. Willow felt guilty, but she just had had to get to know this girl. One look had decided her on that, but every day made Isabel's beauty less and less important. Isabel was smart. She liked the same music, the same television shows, the same activities.
Not that Willow didn't steadily become more enamored of Isabel's looks. It was impossible to avoid that as they shared a room. Willow got to see Isabel wrapped in just a towel after a shower, changing in the mornings if they woke around the same time, lounging in her red silk pajamas in the evenings. Willow could only fight the lumps that caught in her throat and try to forget that she knew how to cast a love spell. (Okay so they never worked exactly as you wanted anyway, but the temptation was enormous, the desire so wrong yet so powerful.) Willow noticed that Isabel never mentioned a current boyfriend, and if she'd had one in the past well so had Willow. No matter how many times she told herself not to allow herself to hope, she couldn't stop.
The first scare came near the beginning, the first time Willow took Isabel to the Bronze.
"This campus is dead," Isabel complained. "It's as bad as Roswell. I don't even have any work I can get ahead on to use all this free time." She threw her politics textbook across the room.
Willow started. She hadn't felt bored, pretending to read her psychology text while actually sneaking peeks at Isabel every other sentence. "Well... actually, Sunnydale U isn't the liveliest university into the country. I just came here because of my friends... anyway, I know. Let's go visit the Bronze." She stood up and grabbed Isabel's hand, tugging her to her feet, anxious to get moving before she started getting depressed by her own thoughts.
"Hey," Isabel protested, laughing. "Must be a great place."
"Better than here, anyway. It's really the only place to go in the whole town." Sometimes it, like the campus and everywhere else in the vicinity of a Hellmouth, got too exciting... but things had been quiet lately. Which was good, now that Sunnydale lacked a Slayer... proud as Willow was of her occult abilities (another thing she'd kept from Isabel) she knew she wasn't Buffy.
Xander and Anya were already at the Bronze, and came over to greet Willow as she and Isabel entered.
"Hey!" Willow smiled at them. "This is my new room-mate, Isabel. Isabel, this is Xander, my best friend, and his fiancee Anya."
"Oh!" Anya exclaimed brightly. "Room-mates? Are you two to.."
Xander, correctly interpreting the panic in Willow's eyes, kissed Anya suddenly, cutting off her words. "I had a sudden urge to do that," he explained lamely.
"Let's leave," Anya suggested, losing interest in Isabel.
Willow grinned at Isabel, guiding her away. "Aren't they sweet?"
"Sweet?" That hadn't been her initial impression, but she thought about the way they looked at each other. "Yeah, they are."
Willow returned to their dorm from a brief, uneventful patrol to hear Isabel talking on the phone.
"Tell Max I love him."
Willow watched Isabel listening, heart beating fast.
"I know you wish I'd talk to him, but I can't right now... we don't have anything to talk about. I really can't explain." Pause. "Love you and dad." Isabel seemed surprised to find Willow there. "You were out late."
"I didn't mean to overhere.... is everything alright? Who's Max?" Willow immediately wished she hadn't asked. "Sorry I don't mean to pry."
"That's alright... just my brother." Isabel scowled, thinking about him.
Willow rested her hand briefly on Isabel's shoulder in apology and to offer support, then tried to hide her relief as she went over to her side of room, making sure Isabel wasn't looking before locking up her weapons again. If she was looking all my secrets would be impossible to keep, I shouldn't feel so disappointed she never is. Willow turned back around. Isabel was still sitting by the phone, but now she was looking in Willow's direction. If she'd noticed the stakes she didn't comment on them.
Isabel looked over at Willow putting something away. Her eyes remained focused on the girl herself, not on what she was doing, as she pondered Willow's strange behavior lately, especially all the late-night walks. Isabel wasn't afraid to walk at night, but she had special advantages that kept her safe.
Then there were the candles. Lots of them. They seemed to go with all the occult books that seemed to be Willow's main hobby, but Isabel had seen them lit, and Willow didn't seem to have any matches, or a lighter. Probably Isabel had just never seen it.
But just maybe I've found someone like me. I can't say anything... not yet, the evidence is too circumstantial... but just maybe.
Willow looked up. "Hi Xander. Sit down and tell me what brings you on campus." She waved to the other side of the picnic table she was studying at, taking advantage of the good weather.
"Just wanted to see how you're holding up." Xander looked at his friend with concern. Buffy dying and Tara leaving had taken a huge toll.
Willow sighed. "Xander, I'm fine... I keep busy with school, I'm making new friends. I'll never stop missing all of them, but you don't need to worry. I'm glad you're here though."
"I won't either." Xander sat down. "So what's up with your beautiful room-mate? She doesn't know does she?"
Willow played dumb. "Of course not! She'd think I was crazy if I tried to tell her about vampires and stuff, especially since it's been weeks since I've seen so much as a single fledgling."
"That's not what I meant. I don't mean to meddle in your life, Willow, I just don't want to see yourself get hurt, and I'll bet she's broken a lot of hearts."
Willow shook her head. "We're just friends. I should never have let them put us in the same dorm room, but now I don't know how to tell her that I like. I really like her, Xander, she's every bit as smart as she is beautiful, she has an attitude sometimes but it's never aimed at me..." Willow sighed deeply.
Xander nodded sympathetically. "You don't want her to find out from someone else, and a lot of people know. You and Tara were a lot more discreet than, say, Buffy and soldier-boy - "
"Or you and Anya."
" - but there are people on campus who know. Sooner or later someone's going to mention it. So tell her how you feel, and that you want to at least stay friends... maybe she'll want to move out. Maybe she'll be fine with it. It's the only way you'll ever know how she feels. Listen to Xander now, I have a lot more experience with girls than you do. Be careful with rebound crushes. Don't let yourself get carried away."
"I am a girl," Willow pointed out, but she couldn't reject her friends advice. "I'll think about it. Now how's the planning going for the wedding? You decide on a date yet?"
Isabel had been trying not to overly rely on her powers, to deal with others without knowing their dreams, but she could no longer resist the urge to visit Willow's subconscious. Despite being slightly out of practice the connection came easily.
Willow studying, looking up to find Isabel looking at her, Isabel leaning down and kissing her.
Isabel wasn't really that surprised. She'd found other girls dreaming about her before. It didn't necessarily mean that they felt the same way awake.
Willow approached Isabel, an Isabel wearing a red dress. "You had something to tell me?"
Dream-Isabel looked sad. "I'm leaving you. Just like Oz, and Tara."
"No!" Willow flung herself forward, wrapping her arms around Isabel. "I can't lose you too."
"Then why didn't you ever tell me?"
Isabel blinked. This dream looked like more than lust. And it looked like Willow hadn't had a much more successful love life than her own. Isabel went to sleep, woke towards morning still pondering, and decided to try a third dreamwalk. Not that she'd learn anything. Nobody dreamed about her all night. Only Alex had ever thought about her that much, even when she'd dated Grant he'd mostly dreamt about other things.
Isabel no sooner realized the figure next to Willow was herself than it changed into a wolf and sprang. Isabel sat up to see that Willow was awake too. "You can turn on the light if you want... I'm awake too. Bad dream huh?"
"Yeah... pretty bad, but I feel silly." She did turn the light on though. "What did you dream about?"
"A wolf," Isabel answered without thinking.
Visits the next few nights convinced Isabel beyond a doubt. Her room-mate, her best friend in Sunnydale, had a crush on her.
Isabel couldn't stop visiting her dreams.
Isabel didn't know what to do. Willow liked her, she knew that. She was even pretty sure that she felt the same way. But how could she bring it up without revealing how she'd learned?
Their lives continued much as before. They went to classes. Assisted each other with assignments. Isabel tried to give Willow encouragement to speak, not even thinking of taking the lead. They smiled at each other more. Watching TV, Isabel joined Willow on the couch, declaring it was softer and more comfortable, but really so that they could sit, thighs pressed together. Willow seemed happy about it, but still uncertain.
It took a break in routine to change things.
Isabel was unable to sleep. It was a Friday, Willow was out even later than usual. Finally Isabel got dressed, choosing black leather - for some reason she felt the need to blend in with the night - and went to look for her friend.
Willow continued her night-time vigils in memory of Buffy, despite the quiescence of the Hellmouth. Xander and Anya often accompanied her, but not tonight. Tonight, for a change, Willow wasn't thinking about her lost friend as she patrolled the campus, or even about Tara. She was absorbed in trying to come up with a way to tell Isabel. She could be straightforward. 'I like you as more than a friend.' She could casually mention her ex, Tara.
The vampires were almost upon her before she sensed them. Willow flung up her right hand, flinging one backwards to fall over a bench. Willow brought a stake up in her left hand, twisted to protect her neck as a vamp grabbed her from behind. She murmured quickly, turning it to flames into ashes, then staggered from the release of power. Before she could recover she felt fangs sink into her left wrist. Her stake clattered on the sidewalk as she struggled. Willow gestured, the stake stirring and beginning to rise towards the one sucking on her wrist, but before she could free dust the vampire and free herself a hand tangled in her hair and yanked her head back. She barely had time to scream in fear before the fangs of another vampire penetrated her throat.
Isabel heard the scream, recognized the voice instantly, and burst into a run. She found two men attacking Willow a third moving towards them Something was wrong with their faces, but Isabel didn't waste time studying them. The third man turned towards her. As he lunged for her Isabel swung her hand, stopping just short of physical contact, sending her assailant flying.
Willow felt the vampire biting her neck let go, and summoned the energy to send her stake flying off the ground into the heart of the one biting her wrist, turning it instantly to dust, and collapsed to the ground. Isabel helped her up.
"Two of them are running." Isabel frowned. They shouldn't have recovered so quickly, she'd hit them with all the force she could muster, although admittedly her physical powers weren't her specialty. "What happened to the other guy?"
"Don't worry about him," Willow gasped, and fainted in Isabel's arms.
Isabel lifted Willow into her arms, keeping a careful eye out as she carried the other girl back to their room. It never occured to her to call for help. Police had always been the ones hunting her, not potential protection.
Willow recovered to find herself on her bed, Isabel trying to remove her shirt. The pain of the bites in her neck and arm reminded Willow why, and she raised her arms to make it easier, sitting up. Isabel dabbed disinfectant on the bites and soothed the pain with her touch.
"They bit you," Isabel muttered angrily as she worked, not commenting on the strange nature of the bites. "God Willow, what if something had happened to you?" As fear and anger subsided, Isabel found herself becoming very aware of how close she was to Willow, on the red-head's bed. Her gaze wandered from the bites and she remembered pulling Willow's shirt off, and blushed.
Willow noticed Isabel's gaze and blush, and smiled. Waiting simply wasn't an option any longer, not with how close she'd come to dying tonight. She cupped Isabel's face between her hands. "There's something I need to tell you." Tomorrow would be soon enough to tell Isabel that she knew about her being the Slayer - that had to be it, Isabel had overpowered two vampires - but the other couldn't wait.
"I know, me too." Isabel also had trouble finding the right words, but her hand squeezed Willow's thigh encouragingly.
Willow gave up on speaking, instead pulling Isabel's head down to hers, lips meetings softly. It was all the explanation either required. As the kiss ended they sank down to Willow's bed in each other's arms, neither needing to go further so soon, both unwilling to let go.
They lay that way for a long time before Willow's deep breathing told Isabel that she was asleep. Isabel smiled, holding out her hand to yank a blanket off her bed and she spread it over both of them. She closed her eyes as she snuggled closer to Willow.