The Rose by Kirayoshi

Disclaimers; Joss is da man! He owns all, save this particular story, and the song. I don't own the song either. Don't sue, it ain't worth it. 
ALERT; major WAFFiness below, and if you hold out long enough, some smut.
Feedback; Like mochas, yes please. Jim_D_Means@prodigy.net
Archive; Want, take, have. Just let me know first.
Spoilers; If you know the show, you're in. If not, what are you doing here anyway?
Tonight's episode features music by Bette Midler and Bell Book and Candle.
Summary; Buffy thinks about her rose.

@}---,---`-------

The Rose

By Kirayoshi

@}---,---`-------

Some say love, it is a river,
That drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor,
That leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger,
An endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower,
And you, it's only seed.

It's the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance.
It's the dream afraid of waking
That never takes a chance.
It's the one who won't be taken
Who cannot seem to give,
And it's the soul afraid of dying
That never learns to live.

If the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long,
If you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that, with the sun's love,
In the spring becomes the Rose.

--Bette Midler
"The Rose"

From across the school park, I see my Rose for the first time.

Cordy introduces me to her. Tries to warn me about the nerds and losers, using the redhead as a prime example. It's right about there when I decide I don't like Cordy.

Shortly after ditching Cordy, I go back to the redhead (Willow, that was the name Cordy gave me. A nice name). I ask her if she could help me with my math homework. She tries to warn me away from the school computer geek. I look at her, at her green eyes again. I can see the hurt, the pain of being left out. Like the rest of the world is holding a party, and her invitation got lost in the mail.

I don't have an easy life, and I can't afford to let others like that stuck-up Cordy pick my friends for me. If that makes me a nerd or a social pariah, then lah-de-flippin'-da!

Later, I look at her eyes again, after she is forced to see a friend of hers, Jesse, lost to her forever. She and her other childhood friend, Xander, were terribly plunged into my world, a world I would have given anything to have prevented them from seeing.

But instead of blanching and turning away, she stands by me. She and Xander start to call themselves the Slayerettes. They know now what lurks on the streets of Sunnydale at night, and rather than slink back into safe and comfortable denial, they choose to join me in my fight.

As she sits by my side, researching the latest demon or whatever I have to face, I look again at Willow Rosenberg.

I see the first true friend I ever had.

@}---,---`-------

I look across the racks at the costume shop and I see my Rose.

Willow looks like she wants to run away from this place. I practically have to strong-arm her into coming with me, hoping she'll decide it's worth the effort. Earlier that day, she, Xander and I were 'volunteered' by Mr. Snyder to escort some kids on their trick-or-treating tonight. I find myself fantasizing that Snyder's been Turned, and that it's perfectly okay to stake him. Nah, no vampire's that hard up for company!

Willow tries to blend in with the wood paneling, but I won't let her. I just caught Angel chatting up Queen C, so I decide to dress as a woman of Angel's time. Just to show him how well I can fill a dress. I try to convince Willow to crack that shell of hers a little, to let her hair down, to get wild.

I manage to convince her to try a biker-chick costume I find on the rack. "C'mon Wills," I try to convince her. "You're missing the whole point of Halloween."

"Free candy?" she asks hopefully.

"It's come as you aren't night," I explain to her. "A perfect chance for a girl to get sexy and wild without no repercussions."

"Uh...I don't get wild," she says meekly. "Wild on me equals spaz."

After much procrastination on her part, I finally get to see her in her costume. Man, is she sexy. Willow is so beautiful, even if she doesn't know it. Damn Cordy and her flock! They managed to brainwash Willow into believing she was a mousy computer geek, when, once she applies herself, she can be as drop-dead gorgeous as any one of them. Even my heart skips a beat when I see her in leather and spandex. And last I checked, I was straight!

I think I'm straight, anyway. Yeah, I'm sure of it.

But Willow just looks so ogle-worthy in that outfit---

But my efforts, alas, are all for naught. When Xander meets us at my place, commenting lasciviously on my outfit("Buffy, Lady of Buffdom, Duchess of Buffonia. I am in awe. I completely renounce spandex," are his exact words), Willow comes downstairs, her biker costume covered entirely by a white sheet with two eye-holes and the word "BOO!" scrawled on the front.

Poor girl. I decide that my life's mission, outside of slaying vampires, is to convince her that she is truly beautiful, to undo the mental damage done by Cordy and her followers. I will remind her she is beautiful so often and so loudly that, in time, she will have no choice but to believe it herself.

As we head out to the school to escort the horde of trick-or-treaters, I look again at Willow Rosenberg.

I see a caterpillar weaving her cocoon, and ponder what the butterfly will look like.

@}---,---`-------

I look across the street, and I see my Rose. For the last time, I tell myself.

She's in a wheelchair, and I'm the one responsible for putting her there.

It all went horribly wrong on my seventeenth birthday. I finally gave in to the man I loved, my Angel, and we made love for the first time. Too late, I found that my loving him had cost him his soul, releasing the demon Angelus. His true nature as a vampire was laid bare for all the world to see and fear. And the first order of business was to torture me and the ones I loved.

Before his reign of terror ended last night at my hands, the damage was done. Jenny Calendar, teacher and friend, was dead. Kendra, fellow Slayer, was dead. Giles, Watcher and surrogate father, had been tortured. I had been expelled from both my school and my home. I had to strike an alliance with my enemy, Spike, to take down Angelus.

And worst of all, at least for me, was this; Willow, hacker and best friend, was nearly killed in her efforts to restore his soul.

Somehow, she still managed to restore his soul with the Orb of Thessula, but it was too late. He had already summoned Acaltha, and the only way to stop the demon lord from destroying the world was to send Angel, my beloved Angel, to Hell.

So I told him to close his eyes, I told him I loved him, and I ran a sword through his mid-section with all my strength.

So the world is safe. My friends will live. Willow will continue to bless the world with her life and her sweet innocence.

And the only way I can think to keep that innocence alive is to leave her. Leave them. Leave Sunnydale.

The Greyhound to L.A. arrives. I show the driver my ticket, find my seat, sling my bag into the overhead compartment, and take one last look out the window.

As the bus pulls away, I look again at Willow Rosenberg.

I see someone who would have been better off if she hadn't known me.

@}---,---`-------

Across the library, I see my Rose.

And I am afraid.

I don't know how it happened. Earlier that day, she had been coerced by Snyde-man into 'tutoring' one of the school jocks(for tutoring, read; "doing his homework for him"), and my efforts to cheer her up didn't work. I called her 'reliable', which didn't sit well with her. My attempts to explain myself just got me in deeper, to say nothing about Xander's efforts. I finally had to tell him, "I beg you not to help me," but it was too late. She had left in a huff, and made it clear she didn't want me following her.

Later, Xander and I saw her at the Bronze. The first thing I noticed was how the leather corset she was wearing accentuated her curves in just the right way to make her look especially alluring. The second thing I noticed was that she was actually wearing a leather corset. I tried to forget the shortness in my breath as I considered how sexy she looked, and began to apologize to her for once again sticking my foot in my mouth earlier.

She just looked at me blankly and said, "Bored now."

Xander and I tried to stop her from leaving, but she turned her head to us. And Changed. Her features, her brow, her eyes--

Dear God, she was a vampire!

Somehow Xander and I get to the library. I just sit there, numb to the world. I can't feel anything. Arms, legs, anything.

Then Willow walks in. And I am afraid of my best friend.

Xander leaps to his feet, grabs a cross and shouts, "Get back, demon!" Willow just stands there, her expression saying, "Xander, I love you, but you're nuts!" Xander looks at the cross, shaking it like it was a remote control with a dead battery.

It dawns on me then. We were wrong, it wasn't Willow at the Bronze. Not our Willow anyway.

I approach her, gasping, "Willow, you're alive!"

"Aren't I usually?" she asks, still not comprehending.

I don't care. My terrible pain has left me, and I can't contain my joy. I hug her hard, never wanting to let her go. I am vaguely aware of Xander hugging the both of us, but for the most part, all I can feel is the most wonderful person in the world in my arms.

Finally, she says, "Uh, guys, oxygen becoming an issue," and we break off the hug. Just in time for Giles to hug her himself.

We begin the process of sorting out what is happening. Soon, we return to the Bronze, to stop Willow's vampire twin from killing the hostages she and her crew have taken.

As we set out to save the world again, I look again at Willow Rosenberg.

I see my lifeline, and I pray that she never leaves me.

@}---,---`-------

Across the lawn, I see my Rose.

Willow is walking toward me, in a bright summer dress. She is a vision of happiness, and I wish I could be happy with her. She has been fielding offers from more than a few prestigious colleges, while I know I'm stuck here in Sunnydale. As long as the Hellmouth is active, I can't leave it alone. I'm the Slayer, I know what would happen if anything got out.

Willow sees my distress, and starts to talk to me. Her babbling is as sweet as I remember it. God, I'll miss it when she's gone.

"Must be tough," she starts. "Here I am, I can do anything I want. I can go to any college in the country, four or five in Europe if I want."

"Please tell me you're going somewhere with this," I beg her.

"No," she announces brightly, "I'm not going anywhere." She shows me a piece of paper. Her acceptance letter from U. C. Sunnydale. She happily announces that she'll be matriculating with the class of '03, then innocently asks, "Say, isn't that where you're going?"

I'm amazed. I'm thrilled. I'm happy. My best friend will be staying with me in Sunnydale, going to school with me -- then the realization sets in. She's condemning herself to a life of misery here in Demon Central. I insist that I won't let her throw her life away, but she just looks at me crossly; "Of the two people here, which one's the boss of me?"

I try to convince her to find a better school, a safer school. I tell her not to throw her life away because of me.

She corrects me gently, and without any condescension; "Actually, this isn't about you. Although I'm fond, don't get me wrong, of you. The other night, being captured and all. Facing off with Faith, things just kinda got clear. I mean, you've been fighting evil her for three years and I've helped some. And now we're supposed to decide what we want to do with our lives. And I just realized that's what I want to do. Fight evil, help people. I mean, I think it's worth doing. I don't think you do it because you have to. It's a good fight Buffy, and I want in."

After that declaration of her devotion to me, to the cause, there is only one thing left for me to say; "I kinda love you." As the words leave my lips, I realize that they're the truest words I've ever spoken.

She adds that Sunnydale would be the perfect place for her to learn to become 'a bad-ass wiccan'. I have to agree with her there.

As we head out for the Espresso Pump to satisfy our mutual need for more sugar than the human body can consume, I look again at Willow Rosenberg.

I see the butterfly emerge from the cocoon. And it's more beautiful than I ever imagined.

@}---,---`-------

Across the dance floor, I see my Rose.

She is lost to the rest of the world, hovering six feet above the ground, in the arms of her newfound love, Tara McClay. They are dancing together, and I have never seen my Willow looking so happy.

And all I can think is, it should be me up there with her.

She's been riding an emotional E-ticket ride ever since last November, when Oz left her. She was miserable for so long, before that incident with the Gentlemen. I later learned that she had met someone, a fellow witch named Tara. They became spell-casting buddies while I was too wrapped up in Riley Finn and the Initiative to notice.

Too wrapped up. That's where it went wrong. Now the Initiative are history, but I'm still with Riley. And more frequently, I wonder if that's a mistake.

Last year, when I should have been concentrating on my Willow, I was busy chasing demons with Riley and the Initiative. When the Initiative tried to have me killed, when Adam rose from his slab and killed Dr. Maggie Walsh, when I was making love to Riley, Willow was bonding with Tara. By the time I realized how deeply the bond reached, it was too late for me. Too late for me to express the feelings that I had tried to deny for so long. Too late to tell her that I loved her. She loved another, and I would only hurt her if I said anything to disrupt that happiness.

And besides, I like Tara. She's good for Willow. She makes her happy, she keeps her safe. She loves her. That's what's important. Right?

And besides, I have Riley. And we're happy together.

Aren't we?

As the dance ends, and the two lovers slowly alight to the floor, I look again at Willow Rosenberg.

I see what might have been.

@}---,---`-------

Across the table at the Bronze, I see my Rose.

Oh God, what do I do? I know she doesn't want to see me. May never want to see me ever again after today.

After a two-year relationship, Tara had left Sunnydale and Willow three months ago. She had transferred her credits to U.C. San Francisco and had given Willow custody of Miss Kitty Fantastico. Willow told me that the split was amicable, and that while she was unhappy about it, she had accepted it. I tried to buck up her spirits. Told her there'd be other girls. Or guys if she decided she was bi instead of gay. She smiled at the sentiment and told me it was okay.

We had finally gotten our groove back, had reaffirmed our trust in each other. I had my best friend back. I was happy with her.

So why the Hell did I have to ruin it today at the Espresso Pump?

I asked her if she had considered dating again. She muttered something about not being ready. I tried to convince her that Tara would want her to find happiness. She just looked at me, and asked, "Then why have you shot down every guy who's tried to get close to you ever since Riley took off?"

That stung a little. I thought I could take being ribbed about Riley. I realized shortly after he left that he was right, that I never really loved him. I could have kept quiet, but I didn't. I had to open up my mouth. I had to say it;

"Because none of them are you."

I thought I had said it under my breath, or too quietly for Willow to hear. No such luck. She looks at me, those green eyes looking at me and through me, like Superman's eyes. "Buffy," she asks calmly, "are you in love with me?"

I glance at her face, afraid of what I will see. Yep, Resolve Face. I look around for the exit, but Willow takes my cheek in her hands, and draws my face back to hers. Oh God she is so beautiful. And now she knows it, and she is becoming aware of the power she has over me.

I gulp hard, and unable to think of a good lie, tell her the truth. "Yes, Willow. I am. don't know when it happened, or when I figured it out, but by the time I couldn't hide it any longer, you were with Tara and I was with Riley."

"And you didn't tell me why?" I can sense the hurt in her voice, the sadness in her eyes. And I am the one who caused that sadness. I again manage to betray her.

"I couldn't break you guys up, Willow," I blurt out. "And when you two broke up, I thought I had my chance, but you were still hurting, and I just got my best friend back and I wasn't going to blow that." I stop to breath, then continue; "I guess I blew it anyway, huh?"

I don't give her a chance to respond, but head out the door. I don't know how far I run, but I know that Willow isn't following me. I finally stop, lean against a tree and start to weep. I know that it's over. I know that Willow will not forgive me for running out on her, even if she does forgive me for loving her. Oh God, I don't know what to do. My lifeline is gone, the one person who has kept me sane ever since I became the Slayer. And I blew it again!

I sit alone at the Bronze, sipping on a cappuchino. I don't taste it. I am vaguely aware that there is music playing in the background. I stare blankly at the revelers around me, dancing with their significant others, and make my plans. Tonight, I'll sack out at Anya's place, she'll be at Xander's all night anyway. Tomorrow, I'll ask Mom if she can put up with me for a few nights while I wait for the dorm offices to grant me my own dorm, away from Willow's.

As my plans form, I see her. Willow walks toward me, and all other sensation around her falls away, leaving only Willow. She is wearing a clingy red dress, slit up the right leg, and a gold chain around her neck. She looks at me, and smiles. I don't deserve that smile, but I try to smile back.

For the second time in my life, I am afraid of my best friend. I am afraid that she will try to let me down gently, to tell me that she will always consider me to be her friend. Funny, when guys use that line, it's shorthand for, "We'll avoid each other in the hall, and never speak to each other again." Will Willow actually want to be my friend after tonight? Can I risk ever loving again after ruining her life like this?

She walks up to my table, and stands by my chair. She extends her hand toward me, and says, "Dance with me, Buffy."

I don't believe that she means that at first. But the smile on her face, coupled with the determination in her eyes, convinces me. I stand up on uncertain legs, and let her take my hand in hers. She leads me to the dance floor, and we begin to move.

Okay, I think, no new ground here. We've danced before, we've even danced together. Nothing sexy, just dancing. I can do that.

She is still holding my hand. She leads my hand to her shoulder, and places it there. She takes my other hand, and leads it around her waist. I am holding her. I am holding the woman I love in my arms. The music is suddenly slow. I feel Willow leaning into my body. I can't believe my good fortune. I fear that I will wake up alone, and this will all turn out to be another dream.

The song she paid the deejay to play is on;

Yeah, I wanna have the time and I wanna see you cry
I wanna feel your body and I wanna get closer
gotta rescue me, rescue me, rescue me, let me have a good time,
And I wanna see you laughing and I wanna feel rain
I wanna get inside you and I wanna feel pain
You gotta rescue me, rescue me, rescue me, let me have a good time

.

She senses my mood, my apprehension, and she leans her head to mine, her lips to my ear. She whispers, "You're not dreaming, Buffy. Unless I am, in which case, I'll kill whoever wakes me up." I want to laugh at her remark, but I end up crying softly. "It's okay, my beloved," she assures me, and my heart melts. I am her beloved. I am happier now than I ever have been.

And I wanna feel you moving and I wanna feel good
I wanna feel your love for sure.
Let your, let your, let your amazement grow
Let your, let your, let your amazement grow
oh whatever you do, I can't leave you
Don't ever let me go, don't ever let me go.

Ten seconds later, she says the words that make me even happier;

"I love you, Buffy. I want to make love to you."

Yeah I wanna be hungry and I wanna ask why
I wanna be dreaming and I wanna satisfy
You gotta rescue me, rescue me, rescue me, let me have a good time
And I wanna be love it and I wanna be high
I wanna feel you touch me and I wanna hear you sigh
You gotta rescue me, rescue me, rescue me, let me have a good time.

I want to hold her closer, to meld with her, to become one with her. I never want to let go of this incredible woman, this angel who tells me she loves me. I look into her eyes, and see her smile at me once more. She then takes my face in her hand, and pulls it toward hers.

And I wanna feel you moving and I wanna feel good
I wanna feel your love for sure
Let your, let your, let your amazement grow
Let your, let your, let your amazement grow
Oh whatever you do, I can't leave you
Don't ever let me go, don't ever let me go

Her lips are electric against mine. There is no more doubt. She pulls away from me, long enough to say, "Dorm?"

I nod my head rapidly. "Dorm. Definitely dorm."

As we head back to the dorm, I look again at Willow Rosenberg.

I see my greatest fantasy about to come true.

@}---,---`-------

Across my bed, I see my Rose.

She leads me to my bed, kissing and groping me all the way, then she pulls away to my wordless protest. She backs away slowly, grabbing something from her side of the closet. "Just stay there, I'll be back in sixty seconds," she promises, then ducks out of the door.

I look at the walls, the ceiling, the floor, trying to keep my mind off of my heightened arousal. I find myself counting; one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi.

By fifty-nine-Mississippi, the door opens. Willow stands before me in a terry cloth robe. "Had to duck into the dorm showers to change," she explains. She tosses her street clothes onto her bed, grinning; "Won't be using that bed tonight." She stands before me, and slowly undoes the sash of her robe. She lets the robe fall open, then off.

She is wearing a blue satin teddy. She arches her back ever-so-slightly, accentuating her slight but sexy curves to maximum advantage. She regards me with a sly gleam in her eyes. "See anything you like?" she chuckles.

"Oh, yeah," I answer breathlessly. It occurs to me that I'm overdressed. I start to reach for the bottom of my T-shirt, but Willow leans forward, and takes my hands. "No, Buffy."

"Willow?" I ask worriedly. Has she changed her mind? Was this all just a come-on? Was my dream about to become a nightmare?

She smiles at me, reassuring me. "Buffy," she coos, "your love is the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. And tonight, I'm going to unwrap my gift." Her smile takes on overtones of pure lust, and I know that the expression on my face matches hers.

She takes my T-shirt in her hands, and lifts it gently over my head. I lift my arms and the shirt is tossed onto Willow's bed. She then slowly leans toward the front clasp of my bra, takes it in her mouth and unclasps it with her teeth. The bra falls off, and I feel cool air mix with Willow's warm breath on my breasts. Delicious sensations course through my nervous system, as Willow caresses my breasts with expert hands.

She stops her actions, and looks me dead in the eye. "Are you sure, Buffy?" she asks me. "Is this what you want? Because if you're uncomfortable with this, we can stop now."

"Willow," I say to her, "I don't ever want to stop. I want you so much. But I don't know what to do, I've never been--"

She silences me with a quick but unchaste kiss. "Don't worry about it, Buffy. Class is in session." She grins broadly, continuing, "Tonight we'll go over the basics, tomorrow you'll be quizzed. Then, if you're willing, we'll begin the advanced studies. I warn you, though, these will be extensive, and will take many weeks to finish."

"Don't worry, Wills," I laugh, "I've signed on for the entire class. I'm majoring in Loving Willow."

She laughs with me, saying, "I've no doubt you will be an attentive student." She winks at me, then the light tones of her voice are replaced by passion. "Tonight, let me love you. Just relax, and let me take you there." I nod, and for the rest of the night, no words are needed.

She slowly removes her nightie, revealing the nude body about which I have fantasized for longer than I could admit before. She leans forward, and I feel her body press against mine. Her tongue licks the edges of my ear, the outline of my cheekbone, and then slowly pushes past my lips. Our tongues meet and dance together. I am so caught up in the sensations she is engendering in my upper body, I am unaware that she has removed my jeans and panties, until I feel her fingers tapping lightly between my legs. I arch my back, lifting my pelvis to give her unrestricted access, and she takes full advantage of it.

She slowly descends my body, kissing my chin, my neck, my breasts, my lower breastbone, my belly button. I let her set the pace, and am now awash in erotic sensation.

Five seconds before her talented tongue and fingers send me over the edge into a series of the most intense orgasms I've ever experienced, I look again at Willow Rosenberg.

I see fireworks.

@}---,---`-------

I look across my body and see my Rose.

I am holding her languidly in my arms, her head pressed against my breasts. I am so spent by our marathon lovemaking session that I can't move. Not that I want to. Just the feeling of Willow cuddling to me, my breasts pillowing her head, is indescribable. As she drifts off to sleep, I can see her smile wickedly.

Tonight is the culmination of something that started over seven years ago, when I first met a shy young woman named Willow Rosenberg, and asked her to help me with my homework. I had no idea how much she would mean to me, how much I would depend on her.

How much I would hurt her. How much I would love her.

How much she loved me.

I have made so many mistakes, Willow Rosenberg, since we met. I ignored you, took you for granted, tried to push you away when you offered so much of yourself so freely.

Never again. Now that I know so well what we are to each other, I will never let you forget that. Now and forever, you hold my heart and soul, and I will never give them to anyone else but you. You are everything to me.

Before I drift off to sleep, I look again at Willow Rosenberg.

I see my soulmate. My love. I see everything that ever mattered to me encapsulated into one person.

I see Willow. And that is all I need.

FINIS

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