Title: 'Round the Second Bend
Prompt: Rebounds (no B/A please)
Starts out during Wolves at the Gate in S8, and moves through S8-9 until post-current canon. (So I guess there's a vague mention of the canon BA? Nothing more than a throwaway phrase, though.) Fifteen vignettes, 100 words each.
She isn’t interested in Buffy, not that way. Buffy’s her best friend and she values that too much to let herself develop romantic feelings for her.
She is, however, very interested in the slight girl standing beside her, downcast. Also, not romantically. But she recognizes the worry in Satsu’s eyes from long-ago fears Tara what are these feelings what if this is something she’d never want and do I really want it? and something within her forces out words of comfort for a girl who fell for the wrong person.
And it’s easy to tease after because it’s so fun.
It’s the day after the battle, and when Willow comes into her room, Satsu is sitting on her bed, knees pressed to her chest and her arms wrapped around herself. “How do you stop loving someone?” she whispers. “How do you shut off that switch inside you and make the feelings vanish?”
“You’re staying here.” Buffy had told Willow so earlier, alternating between crimson blushes and pale discomfort throughout the conversation.
Satsu stares at her knees. “It isn’t enough.”
Willow thinks of Tara again, of love that still burns years after Tara was taken from her. “It has to be.”
“Satsu’s over Buffy,” Kennedy announces the day she returns from her evaluation. “So she says, anyway. Guess that true love thing’s a crock, huh?”
“Good for her.” Willow busies herself with stacking books on the desk. “How’s she doing at the leadership thing?”
“Oh, she’s good.” Kennedy grins, and it’s a cat-ate-the-cream kind of smile. “Submarine and all. I was even tempted to stick around. Satsu’s pretty cool when you look past the fact that she’s dumb enough to crush on Buffy.”
“Be nice,” Willow scolds, but her thoughts are already elsewhere, a tension she hadn’t known existed finally fading.
The next time she sees Satsu, it’s on said submarine and Satsu is happily shouting orders at the same cadence as Buffy. There isn’t time to talk, not when Willow has the biggest task of them all on the way to Tibet, but she manages to make her way toward Satsu all the same and give her a warm smile.
“What was that all about?” Buffy asks later. “You and Satsu?”
“Lesbian solidarity,” Willow informs her. That’s all it is, really, nothing more. She feels compassion for the girl, and she’s glad that love hasn’t held Satsu back.
Satsu wanders in one afternoon in Tibet. “Are you milking a yak?” she asks incredulously.
“Beats tilling the soil,” Willow retorts. “Which shouldn’t you be doing now?”
“Smellier, though.” Satsu wrinkles her nose. “How’d you know that? You keeping tabs on me now?” It’s teasing, not as defensive as Willow remembers Satsu, and she thinks that Kennedy might have been right.
Willow smirks. “I think my girlfriend has her eye on you. I’ve got to stay alert.”
Satsu shakes her head vigorously. “Way too high maintenance for me.”
“You loved Buffy.”
Satsu throws a clump of dirty grass at her.
There’s a quality to Satsu that Willow can’t place but she’s conscious of all the same. It must be the reason why the slayer springs to mind at the most unexpected of times, why when she’s in the room Willow can’t help but be hyperaware of her presence, why when she speaks to her Willow feels as though it’s absolutely necessary to respond.
And Xander and Buffy and Dawn are testing out Buffy’s new powers now, and all Willow wants to do is sit with the slayers and talk to the girl who possesses Tara’s earnest uncertainty and Kennedy’s fire.
She thinks about Satsu again when Buffy’s off gallivanting with Angel and the world starts coming apart. She had run off near the beginning of the debacle and had come back when it got worse, and now Willow’s hunting for her out of the corner of her eye as she fends off demons, wondering if she’s okay.
She sees a flash of her getting zapped by one demon before another slayer cuts it down, and then Satsu’s somersaulting through the air to land on the back of another-
And then the Seed breaks, and Willow stops caring about anything else.
She’s alone now. She repeatedly tells herself all the things she'd told Buffy and Dawn when the breakup had happened, how Kennedy would never be satisfied with her as she is now, how she'd never come back from Aluwyn, how she isn't capable of a relationship as she is now. But more often than not she feels like a child throwing a tantrum, screaming out "If I can't be happy then you can't, either!", a bitter need to wreck everything that had once given her contentment.
She finds a girlfriend. She gets a job.
Sometimes she wonders what Satsu’s doing.
She doesn’t need Buffy’s permission to take the scythe and leave to search for magic, but she’s glad that she has it anyway, that things were superficially smoothed over with Buffy before she departed. It’s one less thing to worry about back home.
Here, she has other concerns. Kumiko isn’t an easy vampire to find, and she wonders, not for the first time, if Aluwyn’s connection to Kumiko wasn’t broken somehow by virtue of her vampirism. Willow has nowhere to start hunting beyond the streets of Japan, no one to help-
-And she thinks of Satsu and her heartbeat quickens.
“I won’t help you, Willow Rosenberg. You did this to us!” Kumiko is spitting angry words at them both and Satsu takes a step forward, extending her stake warningly.
Willow moves to rest a calming hand on Satsu’s shoulder. Satsu stops, but Willow can’t bring herself to break the touch. “Yes, I worked with Buffy. But this should never have happened. And this world craves magic.” I crave magic, she thinks. I can’t do this anymore. “The scythe may be the key to our power.”
Kumiko watches both of them with wary eyes. “Okay, I’ll play. Tell me your plan.”
Kumiko double-crosses them, of course, and once they retrieve the scythe Willow’s weak and useless and cursing her lack of power. Satsu slings her over her shoulder without a word and heads home.
“I’m sorry. This wasn’t supposed to be your fight,” Willow murmurs while she dresses a wound on Satsu’s side. It’s split the skin open, a long, nasty-looking slice that’s seeping blood.
Satsu shrugs. “I’ve had worse. Kumiko’s gang aren’t really impressed by the whole Harmony’s-vampire-lifestyle thing. They’re easier to deal with without magic and Toru, but they’re still a pain in my ass.” She smirks. “Or side.”
Satsu is with her when she leaves for England. They don't talk about it, and Willow doesn't call attention to the fact that Satsu's joining her when they board the flight, overnight bag slung over her shoulder. There's a part of her that's terrified that Satsu might leave if she talks about it, and it's just as strong as the part of her that insists that she isn’t, and she's better off doing this alone anyway.
"You two together now?" Faith asks when she greets them, unashamedly curious.
"No!" they say together, and blink at each other, then look away.
"I'm never going to get it back, am I?" Willow slides her drink to the end of the table mournfully.
"I don't know," Satsu admits.
It's been a month since her search began and they're out of leads, out of funds, and out of hope. "Maybe if we try Giles's old place again...?"
"No. I don't know. I can't go back to San Francisco." Bitter years are welling up in her eyes, a blank frustration she hasn't felt since Tibet. “I can’t see Buffy again without magic. I can’t hate her.”
It can’t be that simple, can it?
The first time she kisses Satsu, the slayer tastes like cinnamon and sweat and sweet surprise. She kisses her again, and Satsu’s kissing her back, grinning through it so that Willow can feel the smile against her lips.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” Willow murmurs when they separate.
“You started it.”
“I know.” She shakes her head, clears out the pleasant fuzziness that’s muffling her more practical thoughts.
Satsu’s eyes narrow. “If you tell me that you like boys now, I’m giving up on romance altoge-Will!”
This kiss lasts longer, and this time Willow doesn’t think at all. “Let’s go home.”
She misses magic, probably more than she should even now. She misses being the confident one, being able to help fight Kumiko’s gang without having to hide behind a team of Japanese slayers, without being computer gal. She misses the ecstasy of power flowing through her.
There’s still a kind of ecstasy here, though, when they return home at the end of a day and crawl into their bed together. There’s a peace that she hasn’t felt in a while, a quiet affection that she’d never quite reached with Kennedy.
Maybe she’s in love. Maybe.
Maybe she’s just finally content.
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