Darkening My Doorstep
by Tracy (Girlie)

Disclaimer: These Characters do not belong to me. They are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, WB Network, and whoever else that has rights to BTVS.

Willow makes an unexpected visit during a moment of grief and regains a friend.

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SPOILERS: Season Three, especially 'Consequences'.
THANKS TO: Laura and Amy, my supreme buddies and beta readers. You guys can darken my doorstep anytime.

Willow is probably the last person I expect to arrive on my doorstep. After all that's happened, she's way down on the list of social callers. She's not even supposed to be brave enough to approach my house. So when I opened the door and saw her, I was peeved to say the least.

Then I caught sight of the expression on her face.

Something was horribly wrong. Cold fear rose in my chest in those long moments when I studied her anguished face. She was shifting from foot to foot, fighting back tears. My immediate thought was that something had happened to Buffy -- that some demon had finally managed to best her. And I was surprised at the appalling wave of grief that passed over me in that second. Why should that make me sad? Buffy and her freaky world had caused all my problems. Right? I have to keep telling myself that. Or else I'll miss them. But she's saved the world. Oh, so that's why I'm sad, right? I'm going to lose a protector--not a friend.

Hating myself for the lump in my throat, I find the will to say the word. "B-Buffy?"

Willow's eyes widen and she shakes her head to the negative. "No. She's fine. Can I --?" She gestures to come in, and as the fear dissipates from my limbs, I actually step back to let her in. What the heck am I thinking?

I motion for her to follow me into the living room, and sit on the sofa, waiting to see why she's come. Her eyes dart nervously across the entire room, and I realize with some satisfaction that this is the first time she's ever been in my home. She's really out of her territory.

I shake my head in disbelief when she sits beside me on the couch. Four other chairs and a second sofa and she couldn't find a seat elsewhere?

"I--You were, the only one, I could think of, to talk to," she starts. I can hear the tears in her voice and I silently chastise my heart for giving a damn. Besides Buffy, Willow's caused the most problems for me. I don't care that she's hurting. At all. Really.

"Why?" I ask, winding up to deliver the put-down on the tip of my tongue.

Her next word freezes it cold. "Xander."

Damn my heart for stopping with that word. Damn my brain for slowing down. And damn my eyes for wanting to cry. I hate him. Don't I? For the second time in as many minutes, I feel terror snake its icy path through my body. What if he's --? My mouth opens and closes, but I can't make any sounds.

Willow notes my distress and reaches over to touch me, reassuring me. "Oh, no! He's not dead or anything!"

I snap back from her hand as if I'd been burned. How dare she touch me? I bring myself up to my full height, knowing that I fully intend on intimidating her. Before I can demand to find out what she wants, she surprises me again.

Bursting into tears, she throws herself at me. I'm so shocked I forget to push her away. Annoyed with myself, I even gather her into my arms. There's something so heartbreaking about watching Willow cry. Murmuring soft sounds, I try to determine what scenario could possibly have brought her to ME. Of all the people in the world, she would never come to me. Well, before, anyway.

She pulls back after a minute, embarrassed, and brushes her eyes with the sleeve of her sweater. "You're the only one who might understand… I didn't know it could hurt this much… I'm so sorry."

Her words are barely a whisper by the time she's finished, and I have pretty much reached my curiosity limit. "About what?" I whisper back.

"The thing, where Xander and I --"

Immediately, my fury rears its ugly head. "You should be." God. Is that my voice? So cold and angry?

Her face crumples under my hard stare. I don't care. I really don't. Oh, is that my hand offering her a Kleenex?

"I'm sorry." The words are quiet. I would have had to strain to hear them if I wasn't already paying such close attention to her.

"Okay. You're sorry." I smile brightly, determined to be the malicious Cordelia until the end. "Are you leaving now?"

"Xander slept with Faith."

It's like someone has punched me in the stomach. I shake my head, hoping I've misunderstood, like, they had a nice nap in the library at the same time. But the look on her face plainly tells me the truth. I calmly note that this is the first time in my life when I've been utterly speechless. I can't think of anything to say.

Willow's chin begins to flutter, and I watch in detached horror as tears make their way down their cheeks. It's an instant before the dam breaks, and once again I gather her into my arms as she shakes with sobs. I know why she's crying. She's kissed him too. She knows the magic. And now it's been given to someone else. That hurts more than anything. I know why she's dying inside. I loved him too. I also wanted to be the one. His first.

"It was the same night when those demon-women tried to reopen the Hellmouth," she murmurs.

My eyes widen. Someone else tried to open Hellmouth? Don't these monsters have any other goals? And why am I sorry I wasn't there to help? "Geez, you guys have been busy."

"I thought I'd never see him again," she continues in a broken voice. "I- I told him, that, I loved him. And then he went and --" She can't even finish the sentence, and it suddenly seems as if tears aren't enough for her. It looks as if she's going to split in half from the pain.

I'm startled to feel my own cheeks wet. I'm crying over HIM. And for HER. Am I insane?

Her sobs slow and the sniffles take over. "I thought, when I was upset, after you and Oz found out, and he was hurting, that *that* was the most painful moment of my life. I was wrong. This is worse."

I nod dumbly. I know exactly what she's talking about. "It feels like you can't cry enough. Can't hurt enough, and then it just gets worse."

She nods in agreement. "I wanted to come and see you. To apologize for doing that to you. I'm so sorry."

I examine the hurt in her eyes for a few seconds. The familiarity between the shadowed look in her green eyes and the reflection I see in my own mirror isn't lost on me. In shock, I realize I'm not even mad at her anymore. Is that forgiveness in my heart? She's the other woman! She kissed my boyfriend! Why aren't I mad? Is it because she finally understands how destroyed I was? Is it because we're both hurting for the same reason? I still WANT to be mad. Yet, I can't stop myself from appreciating that she's made the effort to apologize, especially now that I know she's experienced it herself. "Okay. I know you're sorry."

"If I'd known, I wouldn't have ever--."

"I know," I cut her off. We sit in silence for a few moments. Xander slept with Faith. My heart aches more than I thought was possible. Xander slept with *Faith*. Suddenly, I'm sobbing again. Like I haven't sobbed in weeks. When Willow wraps her arms around me, I lean into her as if she's the only thing keeping me from drifting away into the darkness of my heart.

I really have no idea how long we stay like that. When I finally have the strength to let go of her, I back away. I hate when I cry. I know my face is all pinched and red. But Willow won't care.

She looks at me for a long second, and we share a tremulous smile. Xander's broken both our hearts. We finally have something in common. "I, um, I didn't want you to find out at school."

I nod. She's right--this is better. "Um, thanks." It's almost absurd that I'm thanking her for delivering this news. Gotta be the Hellmouth at work.

I walk her to the door, and I astound us both by initiating a brief hug. The next words out of my mouth are even more shocking. "If you need to talk…" I trail off, knowing she's caught my meaning. And that's another thing--I actually *do* mean it.

"Thanks, Cordy." Her smile is worth the effort, and I watch her walk slowly down my drive to the street.

She understands my pain. It's weird that it's Willow. The girl who helped Xander break my heart.

It'll be impossible to hate her now.

The End