the bunny warren v. Faith

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Means of Survival

Author: Venus Blue
Written: October 21, 2004
Rating: PG
Pairing: Willow/Riley, with a cameo by one of Willow’s past lovers, and their new love.
Summary: Follow-up fic to “Value to Survival”. Willow and Riley have been going strong for two months, and someone from the past is about to find that out.
Disclaimer: Vote for Kerry! So says Joss, who owns this all, along with 20th Century Fox and the like.
Author’s Note: Again, as with the first, not one of my pairings of choice. But there was something I wanted desperately to put into the first fic, but it didn’t fit, ergo sequel.

“So, have you told Buffy yet?”

Willow sighed and set her salad tongs to the side.

“Not yet. I’m still a little scared.”

Dawn put the lid back on the vegetable soup and grabbed a potholder. As she slid the baked rolls out of the oven, she eyed Willow and asked, “Do you plan on telling her?”

“I want to. I mean, I can’t keep it from her forever, but when we talk, I can never find the right way to bring it up. ‘Hi, Buffy! How’s Italy? How are Giles and the slayers? Oh, by the way, I’ve been dating your ex-boyfriend for two months now. Call you later?’”

Dawn laughed and sipped her wine.

“Well, I hate to break this to you…”

“What?”

“Buffy’s planning on coming back to the states next month.”

Willow dropped into a chair and stared at the other woman in disbelief.

“You’re kidding me.”

“Nope. They want to set up some schools over here, since the one in Italy is doing so well. Giles is going to New York to see about setting some up there.”

Willow looked up at the clock, and sighed.

“Riley’s gonna be here in twenty minutes. I’ll talk to him about it, and worry about it, then.”

Standing, Dawn picked up her purse and said, “I need to get home, anyway. Got a date tonight.”

“With Graham?”

Dawn grinned widely.

“Have I mentioned I love you for introducing me to him?”

“Couple hundred times,” Willow said, walking her to the door. “It’s still nice to hear, though.”

They hugged, and Dawn said, “Good luck. Have a good night.”

“You, too. Not too good, though.”

Dawn laughed and headed to the elevator.

*********************

“Hey, pretty lady,” Riley said, kissing her softly and handing her a bouquet of wild flowers.

“Hi,” Willow said, closing the door behind him. “How was your day?”

“Long and tiring. I missed you.”

“Missed you, too. Are you hungry?”

“Starving.”

“Come on.”

They went into the kitchen, and Willow handed him a bottle of wine. As he poured them each a glass, she served out the soup, salad, and rolls. Pulling a vase from her cabinet, she put the flowers in with water, and set it up in the center of the table.

“Music?” Riley asked.

“Nah. I don’t like chewing in time with the beat.”

Coming around the table, he pulled her into his arms and gave her a long sweet kiss.

“Mary Tyler Moore?”

“Yes, but it’s very true.”

Riley chuckled and held a chair out for her to sit. As they ate, Riley told her funny stories about the customers who’d called into the computer company where he worked.

“How’s the soup?”

“Delicious. I’m glad you talked me into staying in.”

“There’s only so much takeout and restaurant food you can eat before it gets old.”

“Yeah, but it’s fun.”

Willow laughed and leaned over to kiss him again.

“So, Dawn has another date with Graham tonight.”

“Really? You know, I’d never have believed those two could get along. Graham’s so quiet, and Dawn’s so…not.”

“They seem to be getting along great, though. We’re great matchmakers.”

“We should start a business.”

Willow kept trying to find a way to work up the nerve to broach the Buffy subject, but every time she looked up, Riley was smiling at her and her spine went out the window.

Their plates were both nearly empty when Willow set her fork down.

“Riley?”

“Yeah?”

“I need to tell you something.”

Setting his own fork down, he said, “Sounds serious.”

“Dawn was here earlier, and she said…well, she said Buffy’s going to be back in the states next month.”

“Really?”

“Yeah,” she said, studying his expression.

“How do you feel about that?”

“Scared. Nervous. Worried.”

Riley frowned and asked, “You’re worried she’ll be mad that we’re dating?”

“Among other things?”

He continued to look at her, and she asked, “More soup?”

Standing up, she walked to the stove, busying herself with ladling more soup in his bowl. He placed his hand on her wrist, and she paused.

“Willow.”

She looked down at him, and he said, “Come here.”

He stood, taking her hand, and leading her into the living room. He sat down and pulled her into his lap, stroking her hair and rubbing her arm.

“You’re worried that my old feelings will resurface.”

Smiling weakly, she said, “Well, you two do have heavy history.”

“Yeah, and so do you and Oz, and Kennedy, and Tara.”

Willow’s face crinkled slightly, and he smoothed his hand over her forehead.

“Can I tell you a secret?”

“Of course.”

“Do you remember,” he asked softly, shifting and wrapping his arms around her waist, “the first time we met?”

“In the bookstore? The concussion?”

“Yeah. Do you have any idea how beautiful I thought you were?”

“You…you were attracted to me? But-”

“Well, I wasn’t about to ask you out right then and there, that’s not my style. Then I found out about Oz, and…”

“You moved onto Buffy.”

“Yeah. I mean, I didn’t figure you and Oz were breaking up anytime soon, and then when it happened-”

“You were already into Buffy.”

“And you were so torn up. I wasn’t about to push it.”

Willow stroked the back of his head and said, “You were really interested in me?”

“Oh, my god, was I. I get knocked in the head, and when I manage to regain my composure, there’s a gorgeous red head standing in front of me. Then, not only is she a knockout, she’s smart as hell, too.”

Willow felt her face growing red, and she said, “You weren’t too bad yourself.”

“The bump on my head added mystery?”

“Something like that,” she murmured, moving in to kiss him.

*********************

That night, as Riley slept soundly, one arm draped over Willow’s waist, she stared up at the ceiling, her brain going haywire.

Sliding out of the bed, she pulled her robe on and went into the living room. Sitting on the couch, she picked up the phone, hoping they were still awake.

The phone rang four times before a soft, hoarse voice picked up.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Oz. I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“Nah, we’re just watching a movie.”

“Oh, I don’t want to interrupt.”

“Don’t worry about it. I can only see the South Park movie so many times before…”

“Xander’s night to pick?”

“You guessed it.”

Willow smiled and looked toward the bedroom.

“I’ve got a problem, and I need to talk to someone about it.”

“Go for it,” he said, and Willow heard the distinct flick of a lighter.

“Buffy’s coming home next month.”

“That’s good,” Oz said, his voice tight with smoke. “Right?”

“Yeah, except she doesn’t know about me and Riley.”

“Ah. Not good.”

“I’m really scared.”

“That she’ll be mad?”

“There’s that, and there’s the thought of Riley and Buffy seeing each other again.”

“What did Riley say?”

“He put me at ease, a little. I mean, I know he cares about me, but there’s so much history there.”

“Didn’t you tell me something about history being in the past?”

Willow smiled despite herself.

“Riley know you still talk to me, and to Tara?”

“Yeah.”

“And he’s fine with that?”

“Very.”

“Then you should trust him like he trusts you.”

Willow sighed.

“You’re right. You’re always right.”

“Not always. But I try.”

Looking at the clock, Willow said, “It’s late. I’m going to try to sleep again.”

“Alright. One more thing?”

“Yeah.”

“Call Buffy. Don’t let her find out when she gets home.”

Frowning, she said, “I’ll think about it, but I’m just not sure.”

“Alright.”

“Thanks, Oz. So much.”

“Anytime.”

“Give Xander my love.”

“I will.”

“Bye.”

She hung up the phone and sighed. Going into the bedroom, she picked up Riley’s shirt and pulled it on, sliding back into bed and pulling the blanket up. Riley rolled over and pulled her to him, kissing her shoulder and hugging her close.

“Where’d you go?” he asked sleepily.

“Needed some words of wisdom.”

“How is Oz?”

Willow smiled and kissed his forehead.

“He’s good.”

Taking her face in his hands, he kissed her gently.

“You still scared?”

“Not as much. Got a little perspective.”

“Can we sleep then?”

Willow laughed and said, “Certainly.”

*********************

Tapping her pen on the notepad in front of her, Willow picked up the phone and dialed the number to Buffy’s apartment in Italy. A thickly accented voice answered, and Willow asked, “May I speak to Buffy, please?”

“One moment.”

Willow chewed her pen cap until she heard the familiar bubbly voice.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Buffy.”

“Willow! Hi. Did Dawn tell you the news?”

“She did, last night. That’s great.”

“You…don’t sound too excited.”

“No, I am. It’s going to be great to see you again. Finally.”

“Is something wrong? You don’t sound like yourself.”

“I need to talk to you about something.”

“Okay…”

“It’s really important, and I’m a little nervous about telling you.”

“You can tell me anything, Will. You know that.”

“I know. Doesn’t make it any easier.”

“What is it?”

“A couple of months ago, I started seeing someone.”

“Well, that’s great!”

“It is. He’s really sweet, and we get along so well.”

“Then…what? What’s wrong?”

Willow took a deep breath before saying, “It’s Riley.”

There was a long silence, and Willow began to stammer.

“I didn’t want to drop this on you right when you got back, and I hated keeping it from you for so long, but I never knew how to tell you, and I know I’m breaking a major best friend code and I didn’t mean for this to happen-”

“Willow, calm down. I’m not mad.”

“You…you’re not?”

“No. You shocked the hell out of me, but I’m not mad. Riley and I were over a long time ago. I want nothing but happiness for him, and definitely for you.”

“You don’t know what it means to hear you say that.”

“I’ve done a lot of growing, Will. I know I haven’t always been the greatest friend, but I do love you, you know.”

“I know.”

“He treats you good?”

“Very very.”

“I wouldn’t expect any less.”

Willow rested her head in her hands and sighed deeply.

“You were really worried, weren’t you?”

“Extremely.”

“Come on, Willow. Were you angry when Xander and Oz got together?”

“No. Really, really surprised, but not angry.”

“Then you should understand.”

Willow smiled and said, “Our group is really into internal dating, isn’t it?”

Buffy’s laugh was wonderful to her ears.

“I guess I need to find someone’s ex to date.”

“I think Tara’s currently single.”

Laughing again, Buffy said, “I’ll keep that in mind.”

They talked for over an hour before Buffy said, “Well, let me let you go, I don’t want to destroy your phone bill this month.”

“Alright. Call me next month, so I know when you’re arriving?”

“Absolutely.”

“I love you, Buffy.”

“I love you, too, Will.”

*********************

“You ready for this?”

“Not at all,” Willow said, wringing her hands as she stood at the arrival gate. Riley took one of her hands in his and said, “Can I try to help?”

“Exercise in futility.”

Pulling her to the side, he rested his hand on her cheek and kissed her soundly. Pulling back, he put his mouth next to her ear.

“I love you, Willow.”

Smiling so hard her face hurt, Willow said, “I love you, too.”

They kissed again, and Willow hugged him tightly, resting her head on his chest.

“Public displays of affection?” came a voice from behind them. “Riley, I do believe you’ve been a bad influence on her.”

They both turned, and Buffy grinned at them, setting her carry-on bag down and crossing her arms.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, she’s a bad influence on me.”

Buffy grinned and held out her arms, and Willow hugged her tightly.

“God, it is so good to see you again,” she said, squeezing the blonde. “You look great!”

“Thanks, so do you! You let your hair grow out again!”

“Yeah, it’s a little bit of a pain, but it works.”

Turning to Riley, she smiled and said, “And this is my boyfriend.”

Smirking, she said, “It’s so nice to meet you! Willow’s told me so much about you.”

Riley rolled his eyes and said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” as he moved forward to hug her. Willow smiled as they pulled apart and Riley came back to her side.

“Let’s go get your bags,” he said, picking up her carry-on and heading to the luggage claim. The girls followed, and Riley reached back to grab her hand.

Willow smiled, and entwined her arm with Buffy’s.

“I’m so glad you’re home.”

[The End]


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