DISCLAIMER: Another day, another…they don’t pay me anything at all. I just do this to amuse myself and you. That’s what allows me and mine to slip under the radar while playing with characters created by those more fortunate than us.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to Howard Russell for all of the lovely commas.
ARCHIVING: A master list of my fiction can be found here. Please do not archive or distribute without my permission.
FEEDBACK: valyssia[at]gmail.com

Cross Words
By Valyssia


Willow is a master of deception.

Anyone who knew her and knew me and heard me say that would assume I was trying to be cute.

I’m not.

We’re at that point right now. The point where anyone else—a normal person—whatever that is—would be lying through their teeth. Not Willow. She’s so wound up she’s actually making me twitchy. Tension so thick I could slice it with a spork. It’s like the next ‘uh’ to vent from her head might result in its explosive decompression.

She’s a bomb and I’m the bomb squad. That’d be so cool if it wasn’t for the whole ‘feeling like a heel’ part. I want to know what’s wrong, so…

I need to ask her again. Not that I remember the question. Buffy asked me what was up with Will. I told her I didn’t know, adding the obvious reminder. A reminder that pointed out that we were talking about the one person who is almost completely incomprehensible to both of us. I don’t get Will and I’ve known her nearly all of my life. Her logic in no way resembles the patterns embraced by the majority of the species.

Needless to say I’m lost. I have no clue what I said to set her off. The only thing obvious about the subject I can’t remember is that she doesn’t want to talk about it.

See? Masterful.

The most masterful thing of all is she doesn’t try to do it. She just does. She’s a virtuoso in the art of deception, misdirection, the full array of ‘sneaky’ without a single thing being anything but over about her handedness.

I s’pose it’d be different for someone who didn’t care about her. For those of us who do—

I sigh. I picked the most boring thing I could possibly fixate on. My tennis shoes haven’t changed a bit in the last, uh…minutes. I wiggle my toes, hoping to improve the view.

Nope they’re still boring. They stand out like Smurf guts against the wooden picnic bench. That is assuming, as I often have, that Smurfs would bleed day-glow orange.

Buffy thinks that something’s wrong. I think that something’s wrong. Willow isn’t talking. That means there’s something wrong.

A second sigh gets me the same thing the first one did. That is to say nothing. Something would be better.

Here’s something: “What happened?” Nice. Vague. The anti of accusatory.

My question snaps Willow’s attention up. She’s so snappy the picnic table even shudders. She blurts, “Nothing,” like I’ve just accused her of something. “We went out. We had coffee. We saw a movie.”

“Yeah,” I reply, trying to sound reassuring. “That’s good, but why—?”

That just makes her snappier. “Because we’re friends!”

It’d be nice if she let me finish. I rub my face starting at my eyes and ending with the hollows beside them. Or ground zero as they’re otherwise known. Several moments pass, my head doesn’t explode and my face doesn’t slide off in my hands. “Yes, Willow, we’re friends,” I say, more patiently than I should. “I’m your friend.” I pat my chest open palmed. “And Buffy’s your friend. That’s why we don’t understand. It’s not like you had a bad date.”

Her expression says otherwise, not by openly saying otherwise but by looking so aghast. I struck a nerve.

My mouth falls open. I put it to use. “It was a date?” Probably a mistake. “But Buffy doesn’t date girls. She’s too pretty to be gay.” Definitely a mistake.

Of all the pigheaded, closed minded, male…!

“What makes you think that there’s a corollary—” I stammer, the thread of a thought slipping away into the murky, hot, prickly, volatile fog in my head. I grab at it, force it. “—that prettiness has anything to do with gayness?” It’s a wonder I manage. He totally skips over her smittenness. Something so obvious, like her being head-over-heels infatuated with Angel doesn’t even enter into the picture, probably because admitting that—examining that would call his claim into question. Instead, he goes for the spurious, abstruse, random assumption that aesthetics have anything to do with—

He’s such a boy!

Okay, that’s just silly. Of course he’s a boy. He’s a dejected, whipped puppy sort of a boy.


He’s a dejected, whipped puppy who stammers too. That’s useful.

Did I just admit to being gay? But I’m not sure that I am gay. I’m—

Xander seems unconcerned. Like it isn’t a huge shock that I’m—he couldn’t care less that I—

Am I?

That’s a topic I could struggle with for days. It gets shunted aside in favor of: “You don’t think that I’m pretty!” I voice it the instant I think it. I suppose the thousands of times I’ve done that and it’s turned out badly were all elaborate figments of my imagination. Otherwise, I’d have to admit that I’m repeating mistakes because I’m—

Xander glares at me. “That’s not fair!”

“Isn’t it?” I reply, all emotion wrung from my tone. I leap to my feet—without tripping over them, small favors being what they are—hop down from the picnic bench and storm away.

Xander calls after me, “Willow!” He keeps trying. I keep going. I’m not even sure where I’m going. I pick a direction. It’s a direction that leads me deeper into the park.

That doesn’t matter. There’s another side to this park. It’s not a huge park. It’s just biggish. What matters is that his voice grows distant. There’s distance. I need distance.

Am I really gay?

’Kay, so…I asked, and now they’re both being weird. Conclusion: I shouldn’t ask. Asking is bad. Asking gets me more trouble than—


I catch sight of her as she enters the Bronze. Thankfully, the sound of my voice gets overwhelmed by the bright, cheery, thumpy din they’re pumping over the loudspeakers. I don’t know why I’m so happy to see her. She’s still gonna be weird. I wave anyway. It’s not like weirdness and Willow are some sort of mutually exclusive, unmixy, oil and water kind of combo. They go together like peanut butter and jelly. Willow not being weird would be—


She saw me. She’s approaching. Ten, nine, eight… Induced cheerfulness brims over, almost smothering my, “Hi.” I take a drink of my fruity, all-too-sweet, sparking water to wash the effects of my ‘hi’ down without gagging and utterly fail. I choke, hand to mouth, searching for a napkin.

“Hi,” she replies, her own induced cheerfulness proudly on display. Not that I so much notice—what with the gagging. What I do notice is the napkin she holds out.

Mercifully, the soda doesn’t come out my nose. I mop up. Well, isn’t this fun?

I gesture. She sits. Once she’s convinced I’m okay, her attention immediately starts to wander, distracted by anything and everything taking place in the Bronze. There isn’t much. It’s canned music night. The same odd dozenish Sunnydale High students pretend that they know how to dance.

See? Fun.

Big fun. Joy of joys. “What’s wrong?” My voice, wrought with concern, trails off, snags, ends in a croak. I hadn’t intended to say anything. That’s probably why the croak. Or it could be the lingering effects of inhaling sucrose-saturated, fruity flavored fizzy water. I hear that’s bad for you. My throat tickles in psychosomatic accord. The other shoe is about to drop. That might be kind of fun if it wasn’t the metaphorical, butt-kicky kind. A pair of Italian leather slingbacks to match my new blue skirt would be nice.

It isn’t request night. What I get instead is an evasive, “Nothing.”

I sigh. Fun.

Most of another sugary concoction later, we’re still seated at our carefully selected center, sideline table. Not quite in the middle of everything, but not against a wall. I hate feeling boxed in. We’ve been here the entire time, give or take a potty break and sticky, syrupy damage control. It’s been riveting. Instead of inhaling our beverages, we opt to sip them as we people watch, paying more attention to the crowd than each other.

Fun. What’s this town coming to? There haven’t even been any stupid vampires trolling the crowd.

Willow offers the occasional glance, but when I notice the attention, it shifts. She’s sitting right next to me and avoiding me all at once. ‘Annoying’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. I wish I had something to say, but all I’ve got is ‘what’s wrong?’ That worked out so well the last few times, I think I’ll pass.

The real funny, I want to go. Been wanting. I’m just afraid that if I do—

I’m afraid there’s something really wrong. It worries me that she won’t talk to me. It makes me think silly thoughts, like maybe I did something to upset her. I know I didn’t. That is unless being quietly concerned is somehow offensive.

I catch her watching. She looks away. I stare until she looks at me again. Her head’s propped in her hand, fingers combed though her hair. Unconsciously, she moves, caressing her neck.

I grin, just happy to have her attention. She moistens her lips with the tip of her tongue. It’s cute. My grin becomes a smile.

She glances at her hand where it rests near her drink. My hand isn’t far from hers. Her attention glazes over it before she glances at her lap. She meets my eyes. Hers flutter. It’s like body language one-oh-one.

Is she seriously flirting? Her expression says ‘yes.’ The peek she ‘sneaks’ at my cleavage says ‘hell, yes.’

Oh God. I laugh. What else can I do?

End of Part Two: Cross Words

Continued in Part Three: Cross Purposes

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