Back to School

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Willow smiled as she leaned against the tree. She knew it was sad, but she loved the first day of school. Her friends always made fun of her for enjoying the one place they loathed. Now, she was the only one attending college. Buffy had dropped out last term then died then been reborn and now school was the last thing on the slayer's mind. Willow sighed, her good humor fading slightly as she realized that she was truly alone for the first time in longer than she could even remember. She'd always had Xander and Jesse then Buffy and Xander then Buffy and Oz then Buffy and Tara. Now, Tara was gone, transferred back east and Buffy was dealing with the last few months. So many things had happened. Willow still didn't really understand many of the changes.

Tara had left in July. Willow couldn't blame her ex-lover. After Glory had finished with her, Tara hadn't been able to really trust Willow again. Willow knew it wasn't really her fault, but, in a way, it had been. Either way, by the time Tara had left, Willow hadn't been that unhappy to see the girl go. Spike had left after Buffy had come back. For the months after her death, he had been wonderful, helping her take care of Dawn. Willow knew that he still had feelings for Buffy, and she knew how difficult it would have been for him to be around someone he loved without her feeling anything except friendship. She didn't blame him at all for leaving. She had received a phone call from him last week, learning that he was in LA of all places helping Angel. She smiled as she imagined what that relationship must be like.

Willow started walking across campus, her eyes looking at all of the students. She could easily spot the freshman, smiling slightly as she remembered her first day at college. Everything was so new and exciting and hopeful. Now, in her third year, she still felt that same excitement. Actually, she also felt a bit of guilt. She had spent two years taking random classes that were required for various majors. Now, she had to finally declare a major. She had no idea what she wanted to study. For all she knew, she wouldn't even live to see mid-term, so majors had not really been a concern. Now, though, she was faced with the impossible task of choosing just one area of interest and concentrating on an uncertain future. It was strange, in a way. During high school, she'd always assumed she'd major in something having to do with computers. Now, she was leaning towards history. Since becoming involved with Buffy, she had found herself becoming fascinated with the past along with mythology and occult history. Unfortunately, UC Sunnydale didn't offer a major in occult studies. So, she would probably settle on history in general and maybe take some more specific classes in post graduate studies, if she lived that long. It also didn't hurt that she had had two history classes so far taught by the same professor who made the subject come alive. Dr. Barton was fantastic at turning dry subject matter into something that kept everyone's interest.

With a determined smile, Willow knew she would declare history as her major. She could do absolutely nothing with a degree in history, but she could help in slaying. Maybe she could work in a museum or something. Nah, she'd just work with Giles at the magic store. She continued walking to Flesher Hall where her first class of the day would begin in a little less than an hour. For this term, she'd chosen more mandatory classes to complete a generic degree, taking a lighter class load than normal. She knew Buffy was dealing with a lot as were most of the gang. She could do with a little less time at school and a little more time with them. She was walking up the stairs to Flesher when she heard her name being called. Turning, she smiled.

"Speak of the devil," she said with an easy smile.

Dr. Barton smiled, "Should I take the devil comment as a compliment?"

Willow laughed, "I was just thinking on my walk over here that I'm going to major in history, in partial to your fantastic teaching ability."

Teresa Barton laughed, "Willow, I'm pretty sure I didn't see your name on any of my class lists this term."

"I'm taking a world history class with Professor Allen," Willow said.

"Allen is good," Teresa said with a nod. "So, Willow, the reason I called out to you...I have a bit of a favor."

"A favor?" Willow asked, studying the teacher. "What?"

"I have a new student starting this term," Teresa began, seeing the weary look enter the redhead's eyes, "let me finish! He's new to the area and the school and I was hoping that my favorite student could show him around, maybe help make him feel comfortable here."

"Favorite student?" Willow repeated dryly, having to laugh. "Or the one you happened to see first?"

"I'll have you know that you came to mind instantly when I met him," Teresa said with an easy smile. "You're from this town, you're an excellent student and I now find out you two share the same major. Who better to help make him feel at home?"

A skeptical look crossed Willow's face, "Dr. Barton, I'm a bit worried about *why* you feel he needs someone to look after him. There are a lot of freshmen here without their own personal tour guides."

Teresa smiled, "Ever doubtful, Willow. A majority of the freshmen here have an option of having a student tour guide. I just thought I'd rather have someone I trust with him. I understand if you're too busy."

Willow felt guilt nag at her as she sighed, knowing she would give in, "I'm actually taking fewer hours this term," she smiled, "I'll tell you what. If I agree to show the freshman around, will you sit with me and help me choose the remainder of my classes for my major?"

"It's a deal," Teresa said with a nod. "Can you come to my office at noon? I'll find him and set it all up."

"I'll be there," Willow said, smiling as she turned and entered Flesher hall, wondering why she was such a pushover.


Willow left her British lit class, a smile on her face. She knew she was going to enjoy it. The professor was a crazy old guy with ragged white hair and a tendency to ramble. She already liked him. She stopped in the hall to talk to a girl from her old dorm, catching up as they both walked past the numerous students. She left the girl to head downstairs, glancing at her watch and seeing that she had half an hour before her meeting with Dr. Barton. She still couldn't believe she hadn't said no. True, she really did have the free time and helping a freshman wasn't the worst favor someone could ask. Well, depending on the freshman. She kept having flashes of the worst people she had ever met, wondering why her teacher felt it a special mission to find him a tour guide of sorts. What could possibly be wrong with him? Or, nothing was wrong with him. Maybe Dr. Barton knew his family or something. That was the most logical explanation. Some friend's son away at college for the first time.

Willow liked that idea more than most of the ones she had considered. He was probably just shy and Dr. Barton had felt a need to help him. Willow could understand that. She was still shy, though she had become more extroverted after meeting Buffy. Maybe she'd invite him out with her and her friends for a night at the Bronze. Thinking of how their nights usually ended up, she decided that explaining about vampires and demons might not be the wisest way to welcome him to Sunnydale. Thinking it over as she walked, she decided that it would take a week tops. A couple of days to show him around school, get him aquainted with where everything was located. Then, a quick tour around the safer areas of town. That wouldn't take an hour, but she could stretch it to fill a day probably. She wondered where he was from, knowing that if he was used to a very small town, Sunnydale might seem huge, but that it he was from a city, Sunnydale must be the most boring place on earth.

At least she was going to get Dr. Barton's advice on the courses she needed to take for the remainder of her terms. She had a feeling that she would be taking longer than the usual four years to complete her degree. She had been rather lazy so far, taking no specific courses for her major. She had some friends that were already half finished with required classes. She'd always been one to plan, to see every detail and make sure it was perfect. Since graduation and the mayor, she'd loosened up. Sure, she knew she was still a bit of a planner, but nothing like she used to be. It was a good change, less stressful, but thinking of extra time in college made her wistful for times before. She'd have gone to summer school and been near graduation probably. How boring, she decided. Nope, she was glad she had taken her time. She deserved a bit of laziness.

She entered Martin Hall where Dr. Barton's office was located, heading to the stairs. Barton's office was located on the third floor, and Willow rarely used the elevators, knowing that they were rather old and they always creaked, which scared her a bit. She could just imagine reenacting that clip from Speed and having the elevator crash to the floor. She'd be smashed Willow. Nope, not this girl. She stopped on the landing of the second floor, adjusting her book bag. It was heavy and she still had two more books to buy. It seemed that the higher she got in school, the fatter the books got. And the more expensive. Two books had cost her over $150. The two she was waiting for would be nearly another $200. If it kept getting this expensive, she'd have to start having Giles pay her for helping at the store. Luckily, her parents had saved enough money to pay for her expenses. Now that she was living with Buffy and Dawn, she didn't even have rent. True, she helped with the food and utilities, but it was much cheaper than housing had been.

She finally reached Dr. Barton's office, knocking on the closed door. She smiled in welcome as Dr. Barton opened the door, "Sorry, I'm a little early."

"Please, come in Willow. I want to thank you again for helping me like this," Teresa said, moving to let the girl inside.

"It's nothing," Willow said, her smile freezing as she found herself caught by beautiful blue eyes. This was the freshman? Why hadn't she said no? Could she turn back time and leave?

Teresa said with a smile, "Willow, I'd like you to meet the freshman, as you were referring to him, Lindsey MacDonald."


Lindsey watched as a faint blush covered the pretty redhead's face. Amazing, he thought. He didn't know that anyone blushed anymore. He found himself fascinated by this girl, shaking his head slightly before he got caught staring. With an easy smile, he said, "Freshman? What did you tell the poor girl, Teresa?"

"It's Dr. Barton to you, MacDonald," Teresa said with a wink as she went to sit behind her desk. "And I simply told Willow the truth. That I had a new student that I wished for her to show around campus and town."

Lindsey rolled his eyes, looking back at the girl and saying, "You'll have to forgive my cousin. She considered psychology before settling on history and still loves to play mind games. I'm Lindsey, by the way."

"Willow," she said softly, struck by the blueness of his eyes. Frowning, she looked at Dr. Barton, "He's your cousin?"

"Distant, several times removed," Teresa explained. "I ran across the scamp when he came to LA a few years ago."

"You don't have to show me around, if you don't want to," Lindsey said, his inner voice kicking him for giving the pretty girl an out. Down boy, he scolded, reminding himself that she had to barely be twenty. Too young, too good for someone like him. He looked into her green eyes and felt a wave of apprehension. With those eyes, she had to be able to see into his very soul. He couldn't lie to eyes like that. For his sake, he almost hoped she would leave.

"Oh, no," Willow said, laughing as she came out of shocked stupor. She felt foolish, smiling wryly, "I was just a bit surprised, if you must know. I was expecting some kid that had never been away from home before....not someone like you."

Lindsey felt a smile cross his lips as he watched her, "Someone like me? Oh, you mean an old man."

She snorted, forgetting her nervousness and the slight attraction she was feeling for the handsome man, "Old? You're not a day over 27."

"Twenty-six actually," he said, wanting her to know he was one year closer to her age. Good grief, if he kept on thinking this way, he'd be asking her out before they left the damn office. Why did that sound like such a good idea?

"See?" Willow pointed out, "not old at all. I've got a woman in my Lit class that is at least fifty. She told me that her husband died and she was lonely plus she always wanted to go to college. Why are you here, Lindsey MacDonald?"

He froze at her question, resisting the urge to be completely honest with her and tell her every bad thing he had ever done, knowing that he would drive her away before he did something stupid, like fall in love with her. Instead, he shrugged, "I got tired of my job and decided to make a change. I've always been interested in history and thought it might make an interesting major. Teresa teaches here so I knew that I'd know someone if I came here. Besides, I've heard about Sunnydale before. Sounded like a good place to make a fresh start." He failed to mention that he had chosen the town because he knew what dangers lurked in the dark; that Sunnydale had a slayer that kept things a bit safer than some towns he could have moved to; that he knew that this was a Hellmouth and that his chance of survival was much better than in some unknown town. If he mentioned those things, Willow would think he was crazy. Slayers and Hellmouth? She'd run and never look back.

"A fresh start in Sunnydale?" Willow repeated, wondering if he'd survive long enough for a fresh anything. She would protect him, she decided. That decision had nothing to do with those wonderful eyes or that handsome face or the lovely smile that made her tingle. Nope, not at all. He seemed like a nice guy. They might be able to be friends. That was the only reason she would keep him safe. She smiled at him, "Well, I'll be happy to show you around campus and town. Not a lot in town to see, but I can take you around."

"Why don't we go get some lunch and we can finalize our plans," he suggested smoothly, hearing a snort from his cousin and glaring at her amusement.

"Lunch would be nice," Willow said, looking at Dr. Barton, "I'll make an appointment to meet you later in the week."

"Of course," Teresa said, smiling as she watched her handsome younger cousin steal glances at the pretty redhead. "Take good care of him, Willow."

"I'll do my best," Willow said, smiling as she turned to leave the office, Lindsey close behind her.


Willow walked in front of Lindsey as they left Dr. Barton's office. She had no idea what to say. Making conversation with handsome men was not something they taught in school so she was at a loss. A small smile crossed her face as she imagined such a course, thinking that it would be very helpful for girls like her. She moved past the elevators, glancing behind her as Lindsey stopped. He was looking at her with an unreadable statement. Amusement mixed with fear? What could he possibly be frightened by, she wondered. She shook her head slightly, speaking finally, "Time for your first lesson. The elevators here are old and unreliable. They tend to get stuck several times a day, though not for very long. They can make you late for class though. The stairs are the best choice."

"Got it. Elevators no. Stairs yes," he repeated with an easy smile, moving towards her and the stairs. He reached her, not able to resist asking, "What else are you going to teach me, Willow Rosenberg?"

Willow caught her breath at his words, seeing the flirtatious look in his eyes, feeling his closeness much too vividly for them to have just met. She knew she must be blushing, wondering what it was about this man that had caused the irritating habit to reemerge. She straightened, looked him directly in the eyes and smiled, "Can't keep up, MacDonald? Would you like to take notes?"

Lindsey laughed softly, forgetting that they were in a school hallway, actually forgetting that anything existed except for the two of them. He leaned forward, pleased that she didn't pull away. He moved his mouth to her ear, saying, "I can keep up, Willow. The question is, can you?"

Willow gulped, feeling the warmth of his breath against her ear. She ran her tongue over her lips, wanting to run far away from this man that seemed to give off a sexual energy her body seemed too willing to acknowledge but knowing that she couldn't back down. Impulsively, she moved her hand, running her fingernails along his neck. She felt him stiffen, heard his intake of breath and a feminine smile crossed her face at his reaction to her touch. She leaned up and whispered in what she hoped was a sexy tone, "Guess you'll have to hang around to find out."

With those words, she turned, a satisfied yet frightened look on her face as she started down the stairs. She didn't look back to see if he was following, knowing that he would. For some reason, she didn't think Lindsey MacDonald was the type of man to resist a challenge. And she, foolish girl that she was, had just issued one. A challenge? Hell, she'd issued a blatant invitation. She was a wanton hussy, she realized. She had met the man not even thirty minutes before and was already whispering things in his ear. And she'd thought this was going to be a dull, quiet term of school. Showed what she knew.


Lindsey followed Willow down the stairs, his eyes memorizing the sway of her hair, the lines of her neck, the swell of her ass, the length of her legs. By the time they were on the first floor, he was doing his best to conceal his erection, wishing he had worn baggier jeans. Good grief. They hadn't even touched yet he was more aroused by the promise in her voice and the teasing in her eyes and the curves of her body than he had been in years. If her were honest, he couldn't remember ever wanting a woman this badly, and they'd only just met. It had to be the Hellmouth, he decided. Something had to be in the air. That was the only explanation that he could come up with that made any sense.

Lindsey shifted his backpack, feeling like a schoolboy in more ways than one. He moved slightly, glancing around as he untucked his shirt. Thankfully, no one seemed to have noticed his erection. Of course, it was college. Maybe people ignored things like that here. He had graduated from college early, finishing law school at age 21. He had been so busy studying and working to become the best that he had never really enjoyed the college experience. Most of his classmates had been years older, forcing him to act older to avoid ridicule. It had been more difficult when he was younger, lacking the height and finesse it took to become mature. When he had reached sixteen, though, he had had a bit of growth spurt and grown into himself. He knew he was handsome, often using his looks to further his advancement. He'd perfected the charming smile and untouchable aura early on, making it through years of school in half the time needed without any complications arising. Now, he was twenty-six, back in college for the first time in five years, and he was in lust with a beguiling redhead. He honestly wasn't prepared for this, had no idea how to handle it, wasn't sure what to do without fucking it all up. He hated being caught without a plan. He looked up and saw Willow waiting for him by the door, her eyes studying him. He glanced down, smiling in relief when he saw that his shirt easily covered the crotch of his jeans. She had no idea what had caused him to stop. He hurried over to catch up with her, throwing her the perfected smile.

"Sorry about that," he said smoothly.

Willow shrugged as she turned to walk outside, "No problem. I have time before my next class."

"I didn't mean to make you wait," he continued, a bit irritated that she didn't seem interested in what had caused him to pause.

"You didn't," she assured him with a smile before heading towards the cafeteria. Before he could say anything, she made a sweeping gesture, "These are the commons. The school has several nice areas set up with benches and trees for studying outside on nice days. There is a fountain at the other end, near Brighton Hall. Tradition says that it is good luck to toss a coin into it. Needless to say, there are lines around it come finals week. Overall, it's a nice place to relax between classes. Just, try not to be out here after dark. With all the trees and bushes, it can be dangerous."

His earlier irritation had left him as she had spoken, his eyes on her pretty face bathed in sunlight. The rays of the sun set her hair on fire, making her even more beautiful than before. He smiled sheepishly, wondering if it was possible for a man of twenty-six to develop something as juvenile as a crush. "Dangerous how?" he asked, not wanting her to realize what he was really thinking about.

She shrugged, not able to tell him about the demons and vampires that loved to hunt around campus. Instead, she gave him the stupefied Sunnydale version, "We have lots of gangs of crack addicts and stuff like that. Several students have been found dead around campus. Just, be careful."

He nodded, studying the area as they walked. He could see where vampires would have an advantage hunting among the grounds. Plenty of places to hide. He looked back at Willow, "Promise me that you'll listen to your own advice and stay away from this place after dark."

She gave him a surprised look then smiled, "Don't worry about me. I'm not stupid enough to get myself killed."

"Good," he nodded, seeing the cafeteria ahead of them. "Looks like we've finally made it."

"Good, I'm suddenly famished," she said with a smile.

"Me too," he repeated softly, his eyes moving over her again as he followed her into the air-conditioned hall.


"You're really going to eat all that?" Willow asked, staring at the food on Lindsey's tray as he paid the cashier.

"No, I just thought I'd buy it so I could look at it," he said sweetly before rolling his eyes. "Of course I'm going to eat it."

"Men," she cursed, "you can eat all that food and still look that great."

"You think I look great?" he smiled flirtatiously, watching with amusement as she blushed.

"You know you're in great shape, quit fishing for compliments," she said, moving away from the line as her green eyes swept the room looking for a table. Finding one, she started off, easily dodging the roaming students and professors. Sitting down, she watched as Lindsey waited for an opportunity to pass, reminding her that he had no idea how to perform the cafeteria run.

"This place is too crowded," Lindsey decided as he sat down across from Willow, his knee brushing against hers. Well, maybe not too crowded, he thought with a smile as he deliberately moved his knee again.

"There's a big freshman class this term," Willow explained, doing her best to ignore the small tremors his casual touch was causing. "And there really aren't many places to eat around here if you have a short time between class. Hence, this place is a madhouse most days."

"So, get here early if you have a time limitation?" he asked, opening his bottle of soda. Glancing down, he laughed, "Good grief. I've regressed ten years in ten minutes."

"What?" she said, liking his face when he laughed. He didn't strike her as someone that spent a lot of time laughing.

"I rarely drink soda, would never think about eating a bag of chips, two slices of pizza and a piece of cake all at the same time, and usually stay away from greasy, fatty foods," he explained, gesturing at his tray. "I should have gotten a salad or some vegetables."

"Oh, please," she rolled her eyes. "It's not gonna kill you, Lindsey. Besides, I'm sure you'll work off most of the calories. You do work out, don't you?"

"I run every morning," he said with a slight smile, "but I try to hit the gym once a week too. So, Miss. Rosenberg, you're telling me that I should forget all of my morals and health requirements and just eat whatever I feel like, content be damned?"

"Why, yes Mr. MacDonald, I believe I am," she said before taking a bite of her pizza and groaning in appreciation, "Hmmm, it tastes so good."

He felt himself hardening at her words, all thoughts of food leaving his mind as she chewed, her tongue licking at a stray piece of cheese, her amused eyes daring him. He took a healthy drink of his soda, needing something cool. He really hoped there wasn't going to be a sudden fire drill. He didn't think he could walk much less run.

"Besides," she continued when she had swallowed her bite, "you can only be in college once, well twice in your case."

"I didn't really get to enjoy it the first time," he said slowly, blue eyes watching her lips.

"There you go," she said as if that proved her point. "This time around, you need to enjoy it. Forget the silly rules you've made for yourself, be daring and give into temptation."

"Give in?" he repeated, wondering if she had any idea that she was the most tempting thing on his mind at the moment.

She nodded, her pizza close to her face, "It's just a piece of pizza, Lindsey."

He smiled slowly, his eyes catching hers as he repeated in a husky voice, "Daring, give into temptation," leaning forward towards her, watching as her eyes widened arousal flashing in their green depths. His lips moved close to hers before he veered, taking a bite from her pizza instead of kissing her. Sitting back, he smiled innocently after he swallowed, "You're right. It is delicious," before he picked up his own slice and began to eat.


"And this is my next class," Willow said, gesturing into the room they had approached. She and Lindsey had spent an hour eating lunch and flirting more than she had done in the past twenty years. It was fun, though. She'd enjoyed herself, never feeling awkward with the flirting like she usually did. Of course, it would appear that Lindsey was a master flirt so that made it a little easier.

"Nice room," he said, looking inside as students slowly filed in. He looked at Willow, hating that it was over. He'd enjoyed their lunch, his problems forgotten as he delighted in making her blush or in getting her to respond to him. He could see that she wasn't very used to that kind of attention, though he wondered if every man in Sunnydale must be blind not to see what a prize she was. He knew he shouldn't be getting involved, but there was something about her that made him forget everything except making her smile.

"Well, I'd better go on in," she said, hesitating. Had he fulfilled his promise to his aunt by having lunch with her? Would he now go his separate way and just wave if he passed her on their way to class?

"So, about the rest of this promised tour," he began, watching her smile at her words. Oh yeah, he had it bad.

"Well, I showed you a lot of the campus today," she said, drawing her bottom lip into her mouth as she struggled to think of enough places to show him for several more days of his company. There just wasn't all much in Sunnydale.

"I wasn't really paying all that much attention to the campus," he said with a sheepish smile. "I was too busy watching you."

"Oh," she blushed at his admission, wishing she could come up with some flirty comeback, but she was too startled at his honesty to say anything.

"When is your last class?" he asked, leaning against the wall.

"Two thirty, but I'm meeting my best friend at three," she said, having almost forgotten her plans with Buffy.

"How about tomorrow?" he suggested, feeling slightly jealous of her friend.

"I don't take classes Tuesdays or Thursdays," she said with a small smile. "How about Wednesday? We could meet for lunch and take another tour."

"Wednesday would be good," he decided. "I can meet you at the trees by the cafeteria at eleven?"

"That's good," she agreed. "I guess I'll see you then."

"Count on it," he said, moving to kiss her hand before winking, "You can't get rid of me that easily."


Buffy looked up as Willow came towards her, a smile crossing her face for the first time since walking on campus. She stood, asking, "And how was your first day of school, young lady?"

"Well, Mom, it was swell," Willow said, rolling her eyes as she joined her friend. "You're early."

"Proud?" Buffy asked with a smile. "And don't call me Mom!"

"Quit acting like one, then," Willow teased, moving as Buffy attempted to hit her arm. "Seriously, school was great. Of course, I love school. My classes all seem like they're going to be pretty fun plus I've finally decided on a major."

"Fun?" Buffy repeated with a wrinkle of her nose. "Only you could use such a great word in connection with school. I worry about you, sometimes."

"Just sometimes?" Willow asked, starting to walk.

"Wait. You've figured out a major?" Buffy smiled, eagerly asking, "What? I didn't think you'd ever pick anything."

"History," Willow said, "and I was always planning on picking something. I just wasn't sure what."

"History?" Buffy repeated, a thoughtful look crossing her face. "I can see you enjoying that. Normal people? Not a chance in hell. But you, it fits."

"I'll choose to take that as a compliment considering the source," Willow shot back, not able to dodge Buffy's aim that time, rubbing her arm as she glared at her friend. "Ouch."

"Serves you right," Buffy said with a smirk. "You know, it doesn't feel weird at all to be here and not be going here. I thought it might feel funny, to be on campus but not be a student. Instead, it's rather relaxing. Knowing that I'm not rushing to finish some paper or to attend a lecture on junk that has nothing to do with my life or my future."

"College isn't for everyone," Willow said, smiling. "But you don't miss it?"

"I miss being part of it," Buffy said with a shrug, "I miss meeting you for lunch and between classes. I kind of feel that I've lost a connection with you, somehow. You're part of this and I'm not. But I don't miss the homework or the lectures or the papers or the sheer amount of boredom I was forced to endure. Besides, I know that you're coming home after class and then Dawn and I can monopolize all of your free time. Plus, I get you Tuesdays and Thursdays."

"Yeah, you've got me Tuesdays and Thursdays," Willow said, glad that Buffy was okay with being at the school and rather touched that her friend missed being part of this aspect of her life.

"So," Buffy said in a teasing voice as she faced Willow, asking the question she had meant to ask all along, "any cute boys?"

"Some," Willow said, her mind bringing forth Lindsey's face. She wasn't aware of the small smile that crossed her face, but Buffy noticed and pounced on it.

"By that smile on your face, I'd say one in particular stands out," Buffy said in amusement as Willow blushed. "Gotcha!"


"You're crazy," Willow said, rolling her eyes as Buffy giggled.

"We've been best friends for six years. I know you, Willow Rosenberg. Now, tell me about the cute boy," Buffy demanded.

"There is no cute boy," Willow denied, deciding that it wasn't really a lie since Lindsey was most definitely not a boy.

"Willow," Buffy whined, knowing how to get the information without begging, "you have to tell me. I'm home alone every day. I have to live vicariously through you. I can't live vicariously if you won't tell me about the cute boy."

"You're grasping, Slayer," Willow said, giving Buffy an amused look.

"Fine. Don't tell me. I can see what being best friends means to you. Keeping secrets and not sharing details about meetings with cute boys!" Buffy thrust her lower lip out in a pout as she waited, figuring by ten Willow would be talking. She'd made it to eight before Willow finally broke.

"It's nothing, really," Willow said. "My professor asked me to show around a new student this morning. I had lunch with him. He isn't a cute boy, though."

"Then why that smile?" Buffy asked, watching her friend and recognizing the signs that proved Willow was affected by the student.

"Okay. His name is Lindsey. He's gorgeous and sophisticated and charming and intelligent and he used to be a lawyer but quit to go back to college and he is definitely not a boy," Willow said, giving Buffy a pained smile, "He's also way out of my league."

"He was a lawyer? Exactly how old is this guy?" Buffy asked, wanting to make sure he wasn't some dirty old man.

"Around twenty-five," Willow said.

"Oh, that's not dirty old man status then," Buffy said with relief. "So, he's out of your league. Why do you say that?"

"Because," Willow made a gesture with her hand, "I don't know. He's just practically perfect. And I'm just Willow, decidedly not perfect. He's a GQ guy, Buffy. One of those guys you pass on the street and do the double take. He's got the best smile and his eyes are great and he doesn't deserve to be as smart as he is considering how good looking he is."

"Oh," Buffy felt herself smiling as she continued to deny that anything had happened, "I can see that he didn't make a lasting impression at all."

"We just had lunch together, flirted a bit. I'm just the geeky kid his aunt assigned to show him around campus," Willow said, voicing her concerns.

"You flirted? I'm so proud!" Buffy laughed as Willow stuck her tongue out at her before her statement grew a bit more serious, "Willow, you're the best person that I've ever met. You're beautiful, smart, funny, and this guy would be damn lucky to have you in his life. If I hear you ever say that you're just some geeky girl again, I'm going to do something drastic. What? Well, I'm not really sure so the threat does probably lose something, but know that I will find something suitably terrible and it wouldn't be fun. Got it?"

"Got it, Mom," Willow said, laughing as Buffy tried to hit her at the teasing comment. She was lucky to have a friend like Buffy, but she really wished the slayer hadn't found out about Lindsey. Willow was convinced that he was only meeting her to please his aunt, and wouldn't be at all surprised if he forgot about the plans they had made. There was no way a man like Lindsey MacDonald would ever be interested in her.


Lindsey saw his cousin and smiled, making his way to her table. He sat down, greeting her as he moved his chair, "Hey, Terri."

"You're late, cuz," she said with a smirk as she saw him glance at his watch.

"Five minutes," he said, rolling his eyes. "Are you this tough on your students?"

"The door would be locked and you'd be sitting in the hall, MacDonald," she said sweetly, only partially serious.

"And another reason I'm glad that I skipped taking your class," he said as he opened the menu.

"I ordered drinks," she said as she went back to studying her own menu.

"Tea, I hope," he said, glancing at her and seeing her confirming nod. "What's good here?"

"Anything with chicken," she said, shrugging. "They make a great salad."

"I need something healthy," he said, weighing the choices.

"Lunch that bad?" she asked with a smile, knowing what the college cafeteria offered.

"Hmm?" he glanced at her again as he closed his menu. "Lunch? Oh, it was fine."

She watched his lips twist into a smile, noting the look that entered his blue eyes and laughed, recognizing that look. Well, well, it looked like her little cousin had a crush. She sat back after their orders were taken, having to bait him a bit, to test her theory. "So, you had lunch with Willow?"

"Yes," he said, scowling as he saw the look in her eyes. "What's going through that mind of yours?"

"Well, kid," she said with a smile, "I was just wondering if it was your lunch that was fine or if it was your companion?"

"Kid?" he rolled his eyes, "It was just lunch, old woman. Nothing but lunch."

"But?" she asked, seeing that he clearly wasn't being forthcoming without some prompting.

"She's special, isn't she?" he asked, giving up any pretense of being unaffected by Willow. She'd been in his thoughts since he had left her at her room. He couldn't remember ever being this enchanted by a woman, this consumed with a desire to know everything about her.

"Yes, she is," Teresa agreed, relenting on the teasing. "She's smart and pretty and honest. A bit different from most of my students. She seems older, if that makes sense. Refreshingly innocent yet very mature. Wise beyond her years. Though, honestly, I don't know her very well. She was in my class last term, and I taught her best friend the year before."

"Best friend?" Lindsey nodded, "Willow mentioned meeting her today."

"And do you plan on seeing our favorite redhead again?" Teresa asked with a raised brow.

"That, dear cousin, is none of your business," he said pointedly as he avoided answering, feeling suddenly like a schoolboy facing a parent. He ran a hand over his face, wondering if going back to school had really been the right choice. He felt ten years younger, which wasn't necessarily a good thing.

"You are," she said with a laugh. "I knew you two would hit it off."

"You knew?" he asked, disbelief in his eyes as he sat back. "You set it all up, didn't you?"

"That, dear cousin, is none of your business," she said sweetly, tossing his words back at him.

"You're unbelievable," he said, shaking his head.

"Oh, shut up," she said, tossing a piece of her breadstick at him. "I just thought that you two had a bit in common and might become friends. That's it. Personally, I think she might be too good for you."

"You might be right," he said, thinking of his past as his eyes lost their humor and became clouded with memories.

"Lindsey," Teresa said in a warning tone.

"Sorry," he smiled sheepishly, glad that his cousin had no idea the extent of his past. He rather enjoyed talking to her, honestly.

"So, when do you see Willow again?" Teresa asked, watching as his eyes lit up again and he smiled.

"Wednesday," he smiled, "for lunch." Their conversation was halted as their food arrived, his mind continuing to replay the time that he had spent with Willow as he tried to figure out what made her affect him this way.


"That's terrible!" Willow groaned, covering her face.

"It's true," Lindsey corrected, laughing as she smiled at him.

"You just told me that so you could steal my French fries," she pointed out.

"Nah, I'd have just taken them," he said, stealing a couple more with a smirk.

Willow laughed, rolling her eyes as she looked at her lunch date. It had been nearly three weeks since they had met. They ate lunch together every day she had classes and then he walked her to her class. They spent lunch talking about classes and general subjects. She had told him about Tara and Oz, though she had kept the specifics to herself. She had heard a bit about his job at the law firm. He didn't give a lot of details, so she didn't know what had driven him to his decision to leave law and go back to school. To have spent so much time together, they really didn't know all that much that was personal. For her part, she was hesitant at sharing details, knowing that she might slip and say something that would scare him. For his part, she assumed he wanted to forget his life in LA for some reason. She didn't push, instead enjoying the light conversation and continuous flirting. "Thief!"

"You'd better have some evidence after making such accusations, young lady," he said with mock seriousness.

"You just ate the evidence," she pointed out.

"Tsk..tsk...Making false accusations. That's a serious offense," he said, shaking his head.

"Oooh, I'm scared, Lawyer Man," she said. With an impish grin, she asked, "What are you going to do, spank me?"

Lindsey's eyes flashed as he thought of her words. He cleared his throat, deciding it was time to change the topic before he took her up on her challenge, "Did you pass your quiz?"

Willow nodded, her mind still on the image of laying over Lindsey's lap with her nude bottom being smacked by his hand. It was rather warm today, she decided, trying to remember what he had asked her. Quiz. That's right. "Yeah, I think so. It's just Victorian lit. I'm pretty good in that class."

"So, when are you going to give me that promised tour of the city?" Lindsey asked casually. It had been three weeks and he was no closer to getting to know her than he had been that first day. She was guarded around him, never letting him know who she really was, always changing the subject when things got too personal. Hell, he didn't even know the name of her best friend. He liked her, a lot more than he should. He hadn't been completely honest with her, but he doubted that she'd understand what he had done in his past, much less forgive him for past mistakes. She had such a optimistic point of view that he knew she'd never grasp the evil that existed in the world. He knew it was wrong to want to be with her, but he couldn't stop thinking about her. She was beautiful and innocent and smart and made him feel something he'd never felt.

"There isn't really much to Sunnydale," Willow said with a smile. She caught his eyes and the smile faded as she saw the serious look in their blue depths. "Lindsey, are you okay?"

"Fine," he said sharply, realizing that he was being stupid. She had no interest in him. She obviously didn't want to see him outside of school. God, how juvenile did that sound?

"Sure," Willow said, trying to figure out what she had missed. They'd been fine, laughing and talking. Now, he was looking at the table intent on ignoring her. He'd asked her about the tour. Her eyes widened slightly as she wondered if he was upset because she'd not suggested a time. Tentatively, she said, "We could go tonight, if you want. It won't take long, but I could show you downtown and maybe we could have some dinner."

"It's all right, Willow. You don't have to feel obligated," Lindsey said, looking up. "I'm sure you have many other things you'd rather do tonight than show me around town. I get it, finally. You're not interested. We can still be friends, right?"

"Not interested?" she was confused. What was he talking about?

"I need some air," he said, running a hand through his hair as he stood. "Thanks for lunch. I guess I'll see you around campus."

Willow watched him leave, wondering what the hell had just happened. He hadn't stayed to walk her to class. She stood, following him without even thinking about it. "Lindsey, wait."


He stopped by the tree, turning to see her running after him. "Willow, just go back. I was stupid. I thought you might be interested in me. I can deal with being friends, but I need some time. Okay?"

"You're right. You are stupid!" she said, glaring at him. "The tour of the meant for it to be a date, didn't you?"

"I don't know," he said honestly. "It doesn't really matter."

"It does matter. I like you, Lindsey," Willow said, her eyes looking at the ground before looking back at him. "Why didn't you just ask me out?"

"I was scared that you'd say no," he said quietly.

"I'd say no?" she laughed, shaking her head. "And you think you're smart? Any idiot could see that I had a crush on you, and you think I'd say no?"

"You have a crush on me?" he slowly smiled at her admission.

"My best friend only teases me about it constantly," Willow said, smiling shyly at him.

"I'm sorry, Willow," he said sincerely. "I'm not really used to this relationship thing. I mean, I only had time for work when I was in LA, maybe the occasional fling. I've never felt like this before, and I have no idea how to act or what to do. It kind of scares me, in a good way."

"Me too," she admitted. "I really loved Oz and Tara, but it was different. Oz was my first love, the first guy that really noticed me. We were both so young, though. Things happened that couldn't be taken back. I hurt him and then he hurt me. With Tara, it was new and kind of exciting. She was there when I needed someone. I hurt her, Lindsey. I hurt them both. I didn't mean to, but it was still my fault. I think I'm jinxed, if you must know."

"Maybe neither of them was meant for you, Willow," he pointed out. "I've hurt people too. It's part of life, I guess. There are things I've done in my past that I'm ashamed of. I wasn't a nice guy, Willow. In fact, I was pretty much a bastard. All I cared about was work and getting a partnership with my firm. I've never loved anything or anyone. I'm not sure I'd know how."

"We're quite a pair, aren't we?" she had to laugh. "I'd better get to class. Can we talk about this later?"

"Willow, would you like to go out with me?" he asked, feeling fifteen again. "A real date. You and me and dinner."

"Why don't you walk to me class," she suggested with a small smile.

"Willow," he groaned, glaring at her.

"Of course I'll go out with you, Lindsey. It would be a pleasure," she said.

"You're evil, you know that?" he asked, relief spreading over him.

"So I've been told," she said innocently. "So, when is this date gonna happen?"

"Friday night?" he asked, not sure if she already plans.

"That should be good," she said, resisting the urge to do cartwheels in celebration that he had finally asked her out.

"We can talk about it Friday at lunch," he said as they began walking towards her class.

"My best friend is going to love this news," Willow laughed, imagining Buffy' s face when she heard that the crush had finally asked her out. "You do know that you're going to get interrogated Friday night. Maybe I should just meet you somewhere."

"I think I can handle your friend," Lindsey said confidently as they reached Willow's classroom. He gave her forehead a kiss before turning to go to his own class.

Willow watched him with a smile, hoping he still had that confidence when he was faced with Buffy. She shook her head as she went into her class, eager to get home and tell her best friend the news.


"Hey, honeys, I'm home," Willow called out as she entered the house.

"We're in the kitchen," Buffy called out.

Willow put her bag on the couch and walked into the kitchen. Her eyes widened as she took in the scene greeting her. She laughed, "What is going on here?"

"We're making chocolate chip cookies," Dawn smiled at the redhead as she entered the room.

"The only problem is that we don't really know *how* to make chocolate chip cookies," Buffy added, making a face as she laughed.

"I can see that," Willow said as she looked at the flour that was covering the counters and both girls. "Did any of the flour make it into the cookies or is it all on you two?"

"Ha ha," Dawn stuck her tongue out at the redhead before she said, "see if we share with you when they're done."

"They smell good, don't they?" Buffy asked, winking at Dawn as she added, "we finally figured out the right recipe and they are going to be delicious."

"I'm sure they will be," Willow agreed as she sat down to watch her friends cleaning up their mess. "You do remember that chocolate chip cookies are some of my favorites."

"We might have remembered that we all loved chocolate chip," Buffy said thoughtfully, "and we might have even remembered that sugar cookies are your absolute favorites and also made a sheet of those."

"You did?" Willow beamed as she said, "today is just turning out to be a really great day."

"We made the sugar cookies for you, Willow," Dawn smiled, "and you'd better eat them even if they do turn out to not taste that great. We've spent hours working on the darn things."

"I'm sure they're great, Dawny," Willow said.

"Wait, why is today such a great day?" Buffy asked, putting her rag down to look at Willow closely. "I mean, sure, cookies are always good, but they alone would not constitute a great day. What happened?"

"Uh oh, she's got that smile," Dawn noticed, eager to hear what had happened to Willow. "Something good happened. You have to tell us!"

"I'm going to tell you, Dawn," Willow laughed as she rolled her eyes, "You two are so impatient it's funny. I just walked in and have hardly had a chance to sit down much less tell you that I got asked out today."

"Asked out? On a date?" Buffy slowly smiled, "by the hottie? Was it him?"

"Yes, it was Lindsey," Willow couldn't stop the smile from crossing her face.

"Hot damn!" Buffy whooped, giving Dawn a high five before asking, "How did it happen? What did he say? Oh my God, this is just great."

"He was so cute," Willow said, remembering how shy he had seemed, how vulnerable. "The stupid guy actually thought I was going to say no so he was too scared to ask me and there was this big misunderstanding and then he was just so perfect when he did ask me. Goodness, I'm acting like a silly twit. It's just a date. One date. I've just never really had anything like this happen to me before. I mean, I loved Oz and Tara but they never made me feel the way that Lindsey makes me feel. Stupid, huh?"

"I think it's so romantic," Dawn sighed, a goofy smile crossing her face as she said, "I can't wait to meet this guy."

"When are you going out?" Buffy asked, pleased that Willow had found someone that made her act silly. Her best friend deserved so much and she really did seem to like this guy so that was enough for Buffy.

"Friday night," Willow said, "we're going to talk about it during lunch Friday."

"Friday? Damn," Buffy frowned.

"What's wrong?" Willow asked with concern.

"It's already Wednesday," Buffy said, sighing loudly, "that only gives me like a day and a half."

"For what?" Willow looked at Dawn and saw the teen shrug and make a confused face before they both looked back at Buffy.

Buffy slowly smiled, a wicked gleam entering her hazel eyes as she said innocently, "To work on my interviewing techniques and think of everything I'll need to ask him to make sure he's good enough for our Willow. Oh, and to come up with some new threats, of course."


Lindsey was whistling when he entered his recently acquired one bedroom apartment less than five miles from the university campus. He put his books on the table on his way into the kitchen. As he grabbed a soda from the refrigerator, his mind was still on his lunch with Willow. He was a bit embarrassed by how he had handled that entire situation, wondering if going back to school had somehow regressed every aspect of his life since he had definitely been acting like some young kid that had never asked anyone on a date before. Luckily, she didn't seem to mind. He could still remember her scolding him for even thinking that she would have said no, and the cute smile that had crossed her face as she had teased him. In the end, it had all worked out.

He entered his living room and sat on the used sofa, his feet moving to rest on the coffee table as he sat back and enjoyed his soda, his thoughts on Willow before they drifted to his new life. It was funny, in a way, that he felt happier now in this small apartment with the used furniture than he had living in the penthouse surrounded by luxurious items. He was enjoying his classes, not at all uneasy about being several years older than the majority of the other students. He'd never had much of a chance to enjoy his previous college experience so he was determined to enjoy it this time. It was a significant event in his life, after all. His fresh start. A new life and a new career and maybe a new love. That brought his mind back to Willow.

She was special. He hadn't been lying when he'd told Terri that the redhead was different. There was something about her that got to him, affected him in a way that no one else ever had. She was smart and beautiful and sensual and had such a positive view of the world that she could make even him see the good instead of dwelling on the bad. That, in itself, was something huge. He'd spent years in the darkness, consumed with greed and a need to advance his career no matter what the cost. He still had that determination, still wanted to achieve, but he'd changed his goals. No longer did he care about the money and the perks that his previous life had brought him. It wasn't worth it. Wasn't worth selling his soul and losing who he really was just for a cushy office and his name on the door. He'd turned his back on that life several months before, drifting for a bit before settling on his new goals. Get his degree, find a job that made him happy, build a life that gave him pleasure and enjoyment.

It didn't matter to him that his kitchen was smaller than his old bathroom, that his entire apartment was about the size of his former office, that he had to spend hours every day doing homework and writing papers. He was happy and that's all that really mattered anymore. And now he was going on a date with Willow. She'd actually said yes. This was going to be a real date, not an informal meeting for lunch or flirting on the way to class. He had to admit that he was a bit scared, not sure what a real date meant. He hadn't been lying when he'd said that he had never really dated. His job had the number one priority in his life for so long that he didn't take time for anything else. He'd had a list of eligible women that didn't mind being seen with him at parties and were always good for a bit more physical relationship afterwards, but he was always gone by dawn and rarely remembered their names. Willow wasn't like that. She was a friend. One of the only friends that he had, actually. She was someone that he wanted to know even better, someone that he wanted in his life.

He wanted to impress her, wanted her to be glad that she had agreed to date him, wanted her to want him in her life in the same way he was beginning to want her. To be absolutely honest, he also wanted to seduce her, eventually. He wanted to taste her lips and feel her naked skin against his, wanted to wake up in the morning with her in his arms, wanted to see her face bathed in the early morning rays of the sunrise. He wanted a relationship with her, but he knew it was too soon to be thinking about sleepovers. It was just their first date after all. He'd move slowly, woo her, earn her love. Lindsey's eyes widened at that thought. Love? Where had that come from? He didn't love Willow. He'd only known her a few weeks, didn't know much about her life, hadn't shared the specific bad details of his own life. He couldn't be thinking the L word yet. Maybe he was studying too hard, not getting enough sleep.

He ran a hand over his face as his confused blue eyes looked at the blank TV screen. He couldn't love her, could he? It was definitely too soon. They hadn't even been out on a real date yet. He'd never loved anyone before, wasn't really sure what it was supposed to feel like or how it actually happened. He hardly knew anything about her, hadn't even met her friends yet. She'd warned him about her best friend, telling him to expect lots of questions and possibly a threat or two. That didn't surprise him at all. There was something about the redhead that made you want to protect her even as you were aware that she was strong enough to protect herself. That strength she possessed was one of the many qualities he admired about her. The list was endless, it seemed, new things being added every time he spent more time with her. He admired her, liked her, wanted to date her and hopefully build some sort of relationship with her.

To do that, to build a relationship with her, he was going to need to be honest with her. Okay, so he wouldn't tell her about the demons and vampires because she'd never talk to him again and would probably report him for being insane, but he could tell her the truth about his life. Tell her about the mistakes he had made, the decisions that had nearly ruined his life, the good and the bad. It was only fair that she knew he hadn't been a good guy in so many ways before she entered into a relationship with him. God, Lin, what are you doing? It's just a date. One date does not make a relationship. But it was a first step and that's what really mattered, wasn't it? His lips twisted into a slight smile as he closed his eyes, remembering all too easily the look on her face that afternoon, the way her eyes had sparkled and the smile that had crossed her pretty lips and the happiness she'd shown at being asked out by him. She was so beautiful, so intelligent, and he hoped that one day she would be his. He opened his eyes, the smile still on his face as he moved to grab his book, whistling again as he began to read his assigned chapters.


Buffy entered the living room, rather proud of herself for managing to carry two open cans of soda as well as the large bowl that was full of freshly popped popcorn without spilling any of the popcorn. She was relieved when Willow took the bowl, moving to sit on the sofa beside her best friend.

"Just in time," Willow smiled as she took a handful of popcorn before putting the bowl on the sofa between her and Buffy. "The movie is about to start."

"I can't believe Dawn would rather do her homework than watch cheesy 80s movies with us," Buffy shook her head and sighed. "What am I going to do with that girl?"

"Be proud of her for actually doing her school work and caring about her grades," Willow suggested with a smile.

"That's your influence, you know?" Buffy said with a smile. "She definitely didn't get it from me."

"Personally, I don't think it's the homework," Willow confided with a laugh. "I think she just used it as an excuse so she didn't have to watch this movie with us."

"Hey, this is a great movie!" Buffy said with a smile, "Maybe I should go up there and make sure she's really doing her homework and isn't just trying to avoid some family bonding time."

"You don't need to go up there to check on me," Dawn said as she entered the room. "I managed to finish my geometry before your stupid movie started so there!"

"It isn't a stupid movie," Willow defended before exchanging a look with Buffy. Both girls laughed as she amended her statement, "Okay, it's stupid but it's *supposed * to be stupid so it really isn't stupid."

"Oh, yeah, that makes sense," Dawn rolled her eyes before moving to sit in the chair by the couch. "Give me some popcorn."

"Say please," Buffy said with a smirk. "Don't give me that look, little sister. I've got the popcorn which means I've got the power!"

"Please may I have some popcorn, sister dear?" Dawn asked in an annoyingly sweet voice.

"Better," Buffy held the bowl as Dawn took a handful.

"I'm going to get me a soda and a bowl," Dawn decided as she stood and moved towards the kitchen. "Anyone need anything?"

"Can you bring the cookies?" Buffy asked, looking at Willow, "you want yours?"

"Yeah, a couple of cookies would make a nice sugary follow up to the popcorn," Willow decided.

"A simple yes or no would suffice," Dawn said with a laugh.

"You know, she's getting to be a smart ass," Willow observed as she looked at Buffy.

"Hmm...and I wonder where she gets that from?" Buffy asked with a pointed look at her best friend. "Don't give me that innocent look, Willow Rosenberg."

"I think I could resent my best friend hinting around that she considers me a smart ass," Willow said dryly before a wicked smile crossed her face as she added, "of course, it does make sense. I mean, if she got it from you, she'd be a dumb ass."

"She got you there, sis," Dawn said with a laugh as she came back with cookies, a soda, and a bowl for her popcorn. "Good one, Will."

"Ha, ha, ha," Buffy stuck her tongue out at both the girls, "you're both very lucky that I'm such a forgiving person."

"You know we love you," Willow said with a smile as she took a drink of her soda. "So, what are we doing tomorrow?"

"I don't know about you two, but I'm going to school," Dawn said with a grimace, "oh, joy. I so love school."

"We need to get groceries," Buffy said as she grew thoughtful.

"I need to stop by the bank to deposit the check from my parents," Willow remembered, "and then we need to pay the electric bill and the water bill. They're both due next week."

"Fun day," Buffy smiled, "groceries and bank deposits and bill paying. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate this adult responsibility thing?"

"Not in the last few hours," Dawn said with a snicker.

"Maybe we can meet Xander and Anya for lunch," Willow mentioned, "perhaps pick up a smart ass high school student to join us for an off campus meal."

"Really?" Dawn brightened, "you guys would pick me up for lunch? I can have normal, real food instead of whatever weird creation the school has decided to serve us?"

"Maybe, depending on how nice you are during the movie," Buffy said with a smirk before looking at Willow and casually saying, "oh, and tomorrow I need to start working on my questions for your date! Maybe Xander and Anya would like to come over Friday to help me interrogate this Lindsey guy."

"Say a word to them and you're dead, slayer," Willow threatened, too easily envisioning Anya pulling out various forms of torture she observed during her thousand odd years.

"Been there, done that, twice in fact," Buffy smiled, "not such a scary threat now, witch. I think they'd both welcome the opportunity to evaluate your potential romantic other half."

"Um, speaking of potential other halves and stuff," Dawn spoke up, "Willow, you really like this guy a lot. I mean, we've seen how you smile when you think of him and the way you say his name with that little sigh and the sparkly eyes and stuff are very adorable and you so deserve to be happy and have someone to love that loves you the way you deserve which is one reason I really want to meet this guy and see if he's good enough for our Willow, but I was wondering what happens after the first date?"

"Dawn, honey, you need to pause and take a breath once in a while," Buffy said with a soft smile before telling Willow, "but I can see her point."

"What do you mean, what happens?" Willow asked with curious eyes.

"I think she means that you've only dated two other people before, Willow. One was a werewolf and one was a witch," Buffy said, noticing Dawn nod in agreement. She looked at Willow and seriously asked, "What happens if you're out walking with this guy and a vampire attacks? I mean, I want you to be happy and this guy seems to make you smile in a way that I haven't seen you smile in a long time. I just don't want to see you get hurt."

"I honestly don't know," Willow confessed, having spent quite a bit of time over the last few weeks thinking about that exact topic. If she told Lindsey the truth, told him she was a witch and that vampires and demons really did exist, she didn't know what would happen. He'd probably decide she was crazy and never speak to her again. If he didn't think she was crazy, then he'd probably still be freaked out and never speak to her again. Every possible scenario she could think of usually ended with him never speaking to her again.

"Who knows?" Dawn gave the redhead a smile, "Maybe he'll be completely cool with it and there won't be any problems."

"She gets the optimism from me," Buffy smiled as she was rewarded with a laugh from Willow. "Oh, look. It's time for the movie."

"Dawny, you're going to love this movie!" Willow said, pushing aside her worries and doubts to focus on the silly movie they were about to watch. She'd worry about what to tell Lindsey later. It was just a first date. Who knew if anything would even come from it.

"What is it about?" Dawn asked as she looked at the TV with a skeptical _expression.

"It's called the Pirate Movie and it's about pirates and singing and it's just too cute," Buffy said, settling back on the sofa and singing along with the opening theme song as Willow joined her, stopping only long enough to stick her tongue out at Dawn and toss a handful of popcorn at the teen as she laughed at their antics.


Willow had spent a majority of her evening unable to sleep. It was stupid, she knew, but she couldn't stop thinking about Dawn and Buffy's rather valid question. What happened next? She could go on a date with Lindsey, pretend that everything in the world was normal and that it was just a first date amongst friends, but it would be such a lie! As soon as they left the restaurant, she'd be looking around suspiciously, keeping her eyes open for vampires or demons, and she'd have a stake in her purse along with her normal evening accessories. Instead of a purse of make-up and other girly things that his previous dates would consider essential, she'd have a sharpened stake, a water gun full of holy water, and some various magical items she'd need if faced with some of the common threats of the Hellmouth.

How was she supposed to relax and enjoy her date with someone that had no idea what went bump in the night? She'd honestly never had a date with anyone that didn't know about Sunnydale's true darkness, about Buffy, about vampires. She'd been nervous before, because Lindsey was one of the most attractive men she'd ever met, not to mention smart and funny and sexy, and she was just plain old Willow. Now, she wasn't so sure if dating Lindsey was a good idea. She'd been so caught up in the moment, of feeling pretty and desired because this major league hottie wanted to go out with her, found her attractive, and wanted to spend time with her. She'd never even thought about the huge differences in their lives. He was a former lawyer, now a history major, and would probably not believe that vampires really existed unless he came face to face with one. That meant that he'd either think she was crazy if she tried being honest with him or he'd require visible proof and then he'd probably not want anything to do with her ever again. Either choice wasn't really a good start for a new relationship.

She liked him, though. Really liked him. He made her feel things she'd never really felt before, and she loved having conversations with him, fully content to spend hours talking about a variety of topics with the handsome student. She was selfish enough to want to try, to take a chance and at least get one amazing date with a gorgeous man for her to remember fondly. Was it wrong of her to go out with him when she had a really good idea that it would just be that one time? He seemed to really like her, too. Flirting and smiling and complimenting her, his lovely blue eyes telling her that he might honestly want a relationship with her, no matter how difficult it was to believe that she be so lucky. By going out with him once and then shying away from him, wouldn't she end up hurting him if he sincerely was interested in pursuing something with her? He wouldn't understand that she was doing it to keep him safe, that she didn't want him to become involved in the life of the best friend of the slayer. It was so dangerous and he didn't deserve to have to make a choice of whether or not to fight evil to be with her. It wasn't fair. To him or to her.

Willow sighed as she tossed and turned, unable to find the elusive sleep that was waiting for her. She liked being friends with Lindsey, hanging out at school, their conversations, and even their flirting. If she went out with him and then refused any future invitations, should he ask, she'd end up pushing him away and she'd lose the friendship that meant so much to her. The redhead frowned as she knew that there was really only one choice to make that would maybe allow her to keep her friendship with Lindsey without ruining everything. She leaned over and turned on her light, searching through her notebook until she found his phone number. She glanced at the clock, seeing that it was nearly five in the morning. He wouldn't awake and she didn't want to talk to him, knowing that she might not be able to follow through if she heard his sexy voice in her ear. She found his cell phone number, figuring that he had it turned off and that she could leave him a voice mail. God, she was such a coward.

She dialed the number, closing her eyes as she listened to his greeting asking for her to leave a message. She heard the beep and said, "Hey Lindsey. It's Willow. I'm really sorry, but something has come up and I won't be able to go out with you Friday. I really did want to go out with you, but there are some things that you don't know about my life and I can't get you involved in all that and it's just better if we stay friends. I'm so sorry. Please don't hate me. I'm sorry."

Willow hung up the phone, feeling as if she had just royally messed that up. She had rambled worse than ever and he'd probably hate her now. Or, even worse, he'd be fine with it and think she was being overly dramatic over what was going to just be a first date. Oh God, what if he hadn't really been interested in her for anything more than just company for a night on the town and she'd just humiliated herself completely? She laid back on her bed after turning the light back off, tears falling down her cheeks as she pulled her extra pillow against her chest and hoped that Lindsey would forgive her.


End of Part 16