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Faded

by Karen U.



Part One

Lita pushed her hair back from her face as she looked at the other woman out of the corner of her eye, watching her but not wanting anyone to know she was watching her. The young woman was a cause of much speculation in the WWF, most of which leaned towards how long it would be before the little redhead got up the nerve to tell Vince McMahon to shove it. Some thought she was too meek and mild to do anything but what the boss told her to, but Lita wasn't so sure of it. There was something about the girl, a hidden strength that the former women's champion sensed, that told her that the younger woman was the type to bend but not break.

"Hey, Lita."

The redhead jumped slightly at the softly spoken greeting, turning to find Torrie Wilson standing there. The blonde was still a little unsure of herself around Lita, at least when it came to taking the first step and approaching to say hello, but once they had been talking for a few minutes, Torrie would open up somewhat, and Lita had to admit that she liked the former Alliance diva. She was far nicer and more intelligent than Lita had ever guessed.

"Hey, Torrie. How are you feeling?"

The blonde shrugged, making a vague gesture with her hands. "Better, I guess. Of course, seeing that horrible William Regal get forced to kiss Mr. McMahon's ass made me feel a lot better about everything," she said, and Lita nodded. Like Torrie, she knew what it was like to get unwanted advances from some rather unappealing types, and she had to admit that she would have loved to see a guy like Malenko or Kanyon get forced into what Regal'd had to do.

"It was kind of funny. But now..."

"Now we're all worried who it is he's going to call out there next," Torrie finished for her. "He even tried make Trish do it..."

"Thank goodness for the Rock," Lita said, and Torrie nodded, knowing what the other woman meant. When Vince had tried to force the current women's champion to join the 'Kiss My Ass' club, the Rock had come out and stopped it, and in the beat down that had followed, McMahon had forgotten his plans for the evening.

"That's for sure," the tall blonde replied before letting her gaze travel over the locker room, settling on the little redhead in the corner. "You tried to talk to her?"

"And say what?" Lita asked. "She's keeps so much to herself, Torrie-"

"I know. But she doesn't seem like them, Lita. You can see on her face that she doesn't want to be out at ringside with those guys. She looked horrified when Jericho pulled out that chair on the Rock a few days ago."

The redhead nodded. "I know. And I want to talk to her, but... It's like she looks right through you, Torrie. I mean, you've seen it as much as I have. She's pretty good at sending out that 'leave me alone' vibe," Lita said as she finished adjusting her clothes, then turned to the blonde woman at her side once more, changing the subject from McMahon's latest hire. "So, what's on the table for you tonight?"

"Tajiri has a match against Tazz, so I'm walking him out. Trying to stay away from Regal. How about you? You fighting?"

"Yeah. Edge has an intergender match against Test and Stacy, and he asked me to partner up with him," Lita replied, then bit her lip, seemingly trying to weigh the options of what to say before speaking, and Torrie frowned.

"Lita, what is it? Is something wrong?"

"Not wrong, exactly, but... Well, Jeff has a match tonight, and I... It's before mine, which means I can't walk out with him," she said, running her hand through her hair. "He wouldn't want me to try and interfere and possibly get hurt before my match, so... I can't go out there. I was kind of wondering... Do you think you could walk out with him? Just, you know, keep an eye on things? I'd ask Trish to walk out with him instead, but she's got a title defense against Jackie later on-"

"And I don't have a match, which means I'm more or less free," Torrie finished for her, sending the redhead an understanding look. "Will Jeff mind?"

"He shouldn't. He probably figures I'll try to find someone to walk out with him. He thinks I'm overreacting, but... I don't know. With the way things have been going..."

"You think it's necessary."

Lita sighed, hating that she felt that way. She shouldn't have to worry that Jeff's brother would come out and attack him, but that's the way things were these days. Ever since Survivor Series... Hell, since long before then, things had just gone down hill, and Lita just didn't know when it was going to stop. "Right. Look, Torrie, if Matt comes down there, I don't want you to try anything heroic, okay? Just warn Jeff."

"Lita, I can handle myself, okay?"

"I know... I just... Since I'm asking you to do this, I'd just feel really guilty if you got hurt is all."

"And I'd feel guilty if I was out there and Jeff got hurt without me trying to do anything to stop it," the blonde returned, putting her arm around Lita's shoulders as the two turned towards the door to the women's locker room. "Come on, Lita. Let's go find the guys and Trish and let them in on what's happening tonight."

Lita nodded in response, allowing Torrie to lead her towards the door, taking only a moment to look back at the other occupant in the room, not all that surprised to see that the smaller redhead was still studiously ignoring them, probably thrilled that they were leaving so that she could be alone again. Not for the first time, she found herself wondering what went on in that girl's head, but instead of lingering on the thought, she shrugged it off, following Torrie out of the room, letting the door swing shut behind them.

And Willow was left alone.




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Part Two

Once the other women had left, Willow calmly continued to get ready for the show that night, looking as if she hadn't heard a word that had been said or even noticed the presence or departure of Lita and Torrie, but in truth, her mind was racing, thinking over the things they had said. She was glad to hear that Edge had gotten himself a female partner who could actually wrestle - she couldn't stand that dipstick Stacy Keibler and wanted to see the Alliance diva put in her place. Stacy reminded her too much of Harmony. Well, except for that whole vampire thing. Although the term 'bloodsucker' did seem kind of fitting for the leggy blonde. She was also glad to know that Torrie would be walking out with Jeff Hardy. Willow was certain that Matt was planning to do something tonight... He almost always was. How someone could behave that way towards their younger sibling she didn't know. Buffy would never say or do such horrible things to Dawn...

But she didn't want to think about that. Didn't want to think about Sunnydale.

"That's in the past, Rosenberg," she muttered to herself, then cringed slightly. Due to her excellent hacking skills, she wasn't Willow Rosenberg here. She was Willow Calendar, assuming the last name of Jenny Calendar, the computer teacher at Sunnydale High that had turned out not to be Jenny Calendar at all but a Romany gypsy who... Oh, once more, she let her mind wander and it went right back to Sunnydale. She really needed to stop doing that.

Sighing, Willow stood up straight, squaring her shoulders as she glanced at herself in the mirror. The heavy eye makeup made her eyes look even larger than normal, mysterious somehow, and she had to thank Cordelia Chase for taking the time to teach her that little trick before she'd disappeared. It had been a very good thing that Angel and company were too busy with eighteenth century vampire hunters and prophecy-fulfilling babies being born to notice how different her behavior had been during her visit. Not that Gunn or Fred would have noticed anyway, since neither one of them had met her before now.

Shaking her head to once more clear her mind of the thoughts of home that she couldn't seem to escape, Willow stepped a little closer to the mirror, taking in her clothing. She wasn't quite like the other divas, refusing to wear the ass-baring short skirts people like Stacy wore, instead choosing a pair of low-slung leather pants and a tank top. If that jerk-off Jericho didn't like it, he could kiss her ass. He might try to get her to change into something he deemed 'more appropriate,' but what he didn't realize was that he didn't have a chance in hell of intimidating her. She'd faced mayors that turned into massive demons, rogue slayers, a vampire version of herself, a psychotic god named Glory, and even Principal Snyder, who hadn't been a demon but had sure acted like it. A whining, overbearing, self-righteous, self-involved wrestler didn't even faze her.

Even if she wasn't quite at her best these days.

Frowning again, Willow adjusted the hair sticks that held her semi-French twist in place, then sighed. Well, this was it. She was dressed, ready to go. No more excuses not to head over to where Vincent K. McMahon and all his lackeys would be, waiting for the show to start so they could try to pull a fast one on Ric Flair and his friends... She hoped they failed. She hoped they got their butts kicked, each and every single one. Damn it, how she wished that she could just tell Vince to shove it, she wished she could just nail Jericho in the head with one of his stupid titles, or maybe Regal's brass knuckles...

"But then he'll tell," Willow murmured, meeting her own gaze in the mirror.

She had no idea how William Regal had known Wesley Wyndham-Pryce back when they were in England - she didn't want to know, quite frankly - but he had. Perhaps they had kept in touch for awhile when it had turned out that they were both in the States, which wasn't all that surprising considering Wesley's tendency to be a pansy-ass when he'd first come to be Buffy's Watcher. Of course, now that he had been fired from the council and was working for Angel, he had loosened up quite a bit, and Willow figured that his correspondence with Regal had tapered off. But-

"Hey, Lita, are you- Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know you were in here. Have you seen Lita? She's my partner for tonight, so..."

Willow kept her gaze on Edge as he trailed off, the tall blonde man standing in the doorway, leaning his shoulder against the doorframe. He should have been intimidating, she supposed, a guy from 'the other side' who stood a good six foot four and weighed about two hundred and forty pounds, but Willow knew he wouldn't hurt her. He wasn't the type.

After a long, awkward moment of just staring at each other, the slender redhead turned back to her mirror, pretending to check her jewelry as she spoke. "She was in here earlier with Torrie Wilson. You'll probably find them with either Tajiri or Jeff Hardy," she said calmly, and because Edge was reflected in the mirror, she saw him nod.

"Thanks," he said quietly, staring at her for a moment longer, something Willow wasn't entirely unused to. It always seemed as if people were trying to assess her. Who she was, her motives for staying with the side she was on, but no one knew...

No one except Regal and Vince.

Willow wasn't sure what Wesley had told Regal about Sunnydale, but it had been enough for Regal to know who she was. Maybe Wes had sent Regal a picture of where he lived and worked and she had been in it, she didn't know. The point was, he'd known who she was, and he hadn't hesitated to tell Vince that she wasn't who she claimed to be. So, unless she fell into step with them, going from dealing with the WWF's computer records and overhauling the whole computer system to actually managing Vince's coalition of wrestlers, the phone call to Wesley would be made, and everyone in Sunnydale and Los Angeles would know where she was and more than likely come running to try to make her come back.

And she didn't want that.


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Part Three

"You know, I really should go try to find Edge," Lita said as she shoved her hair out of her face, looking over at the others, and Jeff nodded.

"It would probably be a good idea to talk over strategy for your match," he said, then added at Lita's look. "Hey, I know it's only Stacy, and you can handle her easy, but Test will be out there, too, you know. I don't want you getting hurt by that clown."

The redhead smiled slightly. "I know, Jeff. And I'll be careful," she told him before turning to the door, a small frown coming to her face as she saw Edge was standing there. "Oh. I was just about to come looking for you."

The tall blonde man smiled. "Well, look no further," he said in reply, then shrugged as he walked into the room. "I stopped by the diva locker room, and Willow told me you'd gone off with Torrie, so I figured I'd find you here."

The two divas exchanged a surprised look at that, and Lita pursed her lips slightly before speaking. "Willow told you?" she questioned, and Edge nodded.

"Yeah. You know, little redhead, works for Vince for reasons I sure as hell don't understand-"

"And she spoke to you?" Torrie questioned. "With words and everything?"

The Intercontinental champion laughed softly. "Yes, Torrie, with words and everything. She even looked at me."

"As opposed to looking through you?" Lita put in wryly, crossing her arms over her chest as she cocked an eyebrow at Edge. "Are you sure you're talking about Willow?"

Edge gave the redheaded diva an odd look. "Yeah. I think I know who Willow is. She would be the poor, unfortunate soul who just so happens to walk all of McMahon's lackeys to the ring."

Jeff scowled at that. "I really don't get that, either," the young man stated, tugging at his earring for a moment, then shaking his head. "You can tell she can't stand the man."

Tajiri spouted off with a stream of Japanese then, and Torrie listened carefully, preparing to go into the role of translator. While the Japanese Buzzsaw could understand every word they said, he obviously spoke much faster in his native language, and the blonde diva was fluent in both Japanese and English, as well as French, so as a group they had decided that it was just easier for her to translate, partly because Tajiri got extremely frustrated when he couldn't think of the English word for something he could easily say in Japanese. After a moment, Torrie nodded, then turned to the others.

"He said that at first he thought she was scared of them, but now he's not so sure. If she were afraid of Jericho, she wouldn't look at him the way she does. She looks like she hates him, and she doesn't care if he knows it." The blonde paused as Tajiri began speaking again, then rapidly translated. "She doesn't look at Regal or Vince that way, at least not when they're looking at her, so he thinks that maybe she's afraid of them."

"But why would she stay if she's afraid?" Jeff asked, and Lita sighed.

"Maybe she stays *because* she's afraid," the redhead said. "I mean, think about it. I stayed with Essa because I was scared of what he'd do if I left him. Only when you and Matt saved me did I realize I *could* leave. She doesn't exactly have any allies here. Willow hasn't made any friends."

"*Or* enemies," Torrie put in. "She's just kind of there."

"Which means that if she were to try and leave or whatever, she wouldn't know if there was anyone who would help her. I mean, think about it. If she turned on Regal or Vince or someone, and they started going after her, would anyone actually save her?" Lita asked, looking from person to person, and Jeff frowned.

"I would. No man should hit a woman. I mean, an intergender wrestling match or something is a little different, 'cause the woman's supposed to be a trained wrestler and knows what she's gettin' into, but-"

"A wrestling match is very different from a beat down," Lita finished for him, nodding. She knew the risks when she interfered in one of Jeff's matches, just like she knew the risks that were involved in the intergender tag that she was teamed up with Edge for tonight, and it was a whole hell of a lot different to have someone that you were supposed to be able to trust go and smack you around.

"That's for sure," Edge muttered, his thoughts going briefly to some of the things he had seen done to the women of the WWF. Things like the Dudleys putting them through tables - although many people would say that Trish's endless taunting of Bubba Ray meant she had asked for it - and Stone Cold hitting Lita with a chair and so many other things... And how many people came out to help the women then? It made him feel kind of sick inside to think about it. When Lita had been so brutally beaten the spring before, Matt and Jeff had been beaten down first, so there had been no way they could help her, but anyone else... They just didn't come. "And we all know Regal's not above going after women."

Torrie cringed a little at the thought of the man, who had powerbombed her on more than one occasion. "If he has something against her, and she's scared of him, then she'll stay. If there's no one to help her, she'll stay," the blonde said quietly, and Jeff frowned.

"But she can't be more than twenty-one or something like that. And that might be generous. I mean, what kind of horrible information could Regal have on someone that young? You know it would have to be something big for it to keep her there, and she just seems so young... And she's got that innocent, 'protect me' look about her, too."

"But looks can be deceiving," Lita reminded him, and he made a face at her.

"I still think it would be difficult for someone her age to have some terrible, horrible secret," Jeff said stubbornly, and Edge sighed.

"Well, whatever it is, something's keeping her there. I think we all agree on that. Maybe if we try to be friendlier to her or something, she'll realize that she has options, that she can leave..."

"She's pretty tough to talk to," Torrie said, and Edge sighed again, shrugging as he ran his hand through his long hair.

"Well, all we can do is try."


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Part Four

Willow ignored the looks she received as she made her way down the hallway of the arena, her head held high, her gaze never settling on one person for more than a moment. Her hands itched to rake through her hair, a slightly nervous habit she had, but that would ruin the updo she was wearing, so she restrained herself, holding the perfect appearance of calm as she made her way to the locker room that belonged to Vince McMahon and his lackeys.

"You're late," Chris Jericho said without even looking at her, and the slender redhead lifted her eyebrows at him.

"And I'm supposed to care why?" she questioned, knowing that she could mouth off to him as much as she wanted to since they were alone. Whiny bastard or not, he still didn't attack women, at least not physically. He hadn't stooped to that just yet.

v Jericho turned to face her, his wintry blue eyes raking over her. "Interesting outfit. All black. You look like some sort of whore in mourning."

"I have more clothing on than most of the women here, and you know it," she replied. "Besides that, anyone who walks out with a bastard such as yourself would feel compelled to be in mourning."

"Now listen here-"

He broke off as Willow deliberately raked her eyes over him, a slight sneer that she had perfected from years of watching Cordelia Chase coming to her face. "And as for your outfit... It's quite interesting as well. It looks like a fetish shop exploded all over you."

"You're a bitch."

"And you're an asshole. At least we're agreed about our mutual dislike for each other," she said calmly, walking further into the room, leaning lightly against the wall, eyeing the blonde wrestler somewhat warily. Part of her wasn't quite sure why he allowed these verbal duels to occur between them, why he allowed her to speak to him in such a way. Willow knew damn good and well that if he complained to Vince, she'd be forced to stop, to treat him with respect, but he never complained about it. He complained about everything else under the sun, but he never complained about that. Part of her felt that he actually almost relished the verbal sparring, that he enjoyed it or something... Sometimes, when they were giving each other their worst, she felt like he was almost looking at her with something like approval on his face, like he was proud of her or something for being able to keep up with him... Not that it was an easy task. If this had happened to her in high school, she would have run off crying before a minute had passed. But going to school with Cordelia Chase for thirteen years combined with nearly twenty-one years of living on the Hellmouth, the past several years fighting against the evils of the Hellmouth, had given her a backbone that nothing else could.

"So, my dear Miss Calendar," Jericho finally said after a long pause, going from verbal sparring mode to his more serious mode. "Did you get the chance to check on the match listing for the night?"

Willow straightened her shoulders slightly, stepping behind the blonde man and meeting his gaze in the mirror he was facing. "You're defending the Undisputed Championship against Rob Van Dam."

"That I am," he replied, and the redhead gave him another slight sneer.

"I hope he kicks your ass," she informed him, and Jericho turned around, lifting his eyebrow at her as he spoke.

"I would expect no less from you, Miss Calendar," he said calmly, and it took quite a bit of willpower for Willow not to flinch. Despite the fact that she had chosen Jenny's last name for herself, it still hurt to have Y2J call her that... She wasn't Miss Calendar, Jenny was Miss Calendar... And Jenny was dead. "Unfortunately, you'll have to be disappointed."

"Which of course is your way of saying that you'll be cheating again. What will it be this time? A run-in by Christian, a run-in by Lance Storm, or intentionally disqualifying yourself? Oh, wait, I know! You'll hit RVD with a chair when the ref's not looking," she said, trying to sound surprised, and Jericho smirked a little, though she could have sworn she thought she saw something resembling hurt flash in his icy blue eyes. Maybe she'd gone too far with that crack... But Lord knew that he always cheated. Well, almost always...

"And maybe it will be none of the above," Chris finally replied, turning away from her again. "And who else has the terrible burden of being walked out to ringside by the likes of you?"

"William Regal, of course, who will hopefully get his pansy ass kicked all the way back to England by Kane, and let's all hope that Kurt Angle gets chokeslammed by the Big Show... And I'd love to be out there to watch Booker T get a stink face from Rikishi. I'd personally prefer not to deal with Storm and Christian's match since I think Billy and Chucky are even freakier than those two are," she said frankly, not sure why she had come to be so blunt with this man. She hated him just like the rest of them. Hell, he acted like the worst of the lot of them, his ego large enough to swallow his home country.

Jericho glanced back at her. "Well, since you're obviously a female, I don't imagine those two will give you any trouble. They don't really seem to like girls. Of course, even if they did, they'd probably stay far away from you."

"Just like every woman alive stays far away from you," Willow responded easily, not letting him see that his remark had stung. Granted, she was completely turned off by Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo - they were jerks beyond belief with egos that actually came kind of close to Jericho's - but it still hurt to have the rather insulting comment from Y2J slung at her. She'd never exactly been one who was very confident in her looks to begin with, and statements like that didn't help. It reminded her of just how inadequate she was...

Looking at her reflection in the mirror, Jericho caught the odd look on the young woman's face, the flash of hurt or sorrow or something, but strangely enough, he felt no satisfaction at knowing his slashing words had found their mark. In fact, what he felt was quite the opposite. Shaking his head, Jericho pushed the guilty feeling away, deciding that he felt that way not because he was really sorry, but because he didn't want to lose his sparring partner. No one else stood up to him anymore, and tossing insults back and forth with this little redhead was really quite enjoyable... Not that he'd ever let anyone know he felt that way.

Sighing, Jericho turned to face Willow, noting that the sad look was instantly gone from her face, replaced by a defiant one, and he nearly smiled in approval at her resilience. While he admitted it had once been fun to taunt the likes of Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley to no end, it was much more fun to have an actual verbal sparring match with Willow, who never ran off to tell Daddy or broke into tears or screamed at him to shut up when she couldn't think of anything to say. She simply tossed back as much as he gave to her, both of them stopping on occasion, conceding that round to the other, picking it up again the next time they saw one another. Sometimes he wondered if she had any idea how much he enjoyed their sniping at each other, if she knew that sometimes he tried to be even more of an arrogant pain in the ass - which he was very aware that he was - just to get at her a little more.

"It's time for me to grace the people with my presence," he said, and Willow gave him a look.

"Twenty minutes of you extolling your virtues and praising yourself? Just let me get my earplugs," she replied, and Jericho gave her a dirty look before turning to head down the hallway, the redhead trailing after him, positioned in such a way that she didn't see the smile Y2J was trying to hide.


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Part Five

"Asshole alert."

At Jeff's words, Lita looked up at the monitor and groaned. "Oh, man. Another twenty minute promo by Jericho. Do you think Rocky will go down and stop it?" she asked, and Torrie frowned from her position sitting on the floor. She was wearing pants that night, so it was okay.

"Well, if he does, I hope he doesn't touch Willow," the tall blonde said as she noted that the little redhead was dutifully following Y2J down to the ring. Jericho held the ropes open for the woman, something he didn't often do, and for a moment, Torrie thought maybe she was going to ignore the gesture. However, after a brief pause that seemed to be something of a stand-off between the two, she ducked between the first and second ropes while he held them in place. "You know, I just don't understand why she sticks with that side."

"Neither do I," Trish Stratus, who had come by to join them a few minutes earlier, said from her spot leaning against the wall, her women's title belt sitting on the chair next to her. "I mean, she could find someone else to take care of her if she wanted to. She's a pretty little thing, got the sex appeal going with the leather-"

"Not all of us use sex appeal to get what we want, Trish," Lita said mildly, and her blonde friend smiled.

"But it works so well... And don't even try to tell me that guys don't like your thong."

"Okay, so the top of my thong hangs out of my pants. Nothing shows," the redhead protested, and Trish lifted her hand, cocking her head slightly.

"Ahh, but there's the illusion. They *think* they're seeing more than they are... And maybe it works as making them imagine what's underneath," she said, and Lita made a face, looking the other woman's outfit up and down.

"Yeah, well, at least I leave something for them to imagine," she said dryly, and Jeff shook his head, rolling his eyes.

"You know, even as friends, all you two do is bicker," he stated, and both Trish and Lita turned to grin at him.

"Well, it's just so much fun," the petite blonde said cheerfully, and Edge grinned, though he didn't take his gaze off of the monitor, where Jericho and Willow were still in the ring.

"It's pretty entertaining for us, too," he told them, tearing his gaze away from the monitor for a moment as he sent the women an imploring look. "Do you think you could throw in a cat fight or two here and there as well?"

"Your such a perve," Lita said with a shake of her head, rolling her eyes at her friend, and Edge winked at her.

"Yeah, but that's what you like about me-"

"What did Jericho just say?"

They all whipped their attention around to the monitor at Torrie's question, the tall blonde rising to her knees as she watched what was going on. There had been a flash of surprise on Willow's face at the comment, which told the other woman that the little redhead definitely hadn't been expecting Jericho's announcement.

"What? What just happened?" Edge wanted to know, and Torrie looked over at him.

"I could have sworn Jericho just decided that Willow isn't going to be walking out with Christian and Lance Storm tonight for their match-"

Jeff snickered. "Ooh, they'll be pissed, especially since Christian likes trying to use Willow as a shield."

Edge's gaze darkened at the reminder of what he considered to be unforgivable actions on the part of his younger brother. "Well, at least that keeps her out of harm's way for one match tonight-"

"None of the guys would hurt her," Jeff said, and Edge lifted his brows at the younger man.

"I saw the list of matches for Vince's regime tonight... Regal's facing Kane, who won't be a problem, Booker has Rikishi, and Kurt has Show... Now, I don't think any of them will go after her on purpose, but... Something could still happen out there. They may not mean to. I don't they would hurt her intentionally... Just like I don't think Rob will-"

"Rob will what?" RVD questioned as he entered the room, looking around at the people who were steadily becoming his friends. Tajiri was cool despite the fact that Rob could barely understand a word the man said, Edge was a little intense at times but pretty funny, and Jeff was just totally cool. Very extreme, very laid-back... And the ladies... Well, what kind of fool would object to being around three intelligent and stunningly beautiful women?

"We were talking about matches for Vince's group of buttholes tonight," Lita replied as she scooted over to make room for Rob to sit on the table with her, which he calmly did.

"So I'm a butthole?" he questioned, and the redhead rolled her eyes.

"No... Well, sometimes, actually, but that wasn't the point. Point is, you've got Jericho tonight, and we were kind of talking about Willow and how she walks out with him, and..."

RVD waved a hand. "Ahh, she's cool. She doesn't interfere."

"We realize that," Trish replied, tossing her long hair over her shoulder. "But we were just talking about how she could get hurt accidentally out there-"

"Did I miss something where we all decided we liked this chick or something?" Rob asked, shrugging innocently at the dirty looks that comment earned him. "Hey, I was just saying-"

"We're just trying to understand her is all," Torrie said with a shrug. "She actually spoke to Edge tonight-"

"You mean she can actually speak? Wasn't aware of that," Van Dam put in, and Torrie rolled her eyes before continuing.

"And we got to talking about how much she seems to hate working with those guys... It's like she's scared of them or something-"

"Or at least afraid of Regal and Vince," Lita corrected, and Torrie nodded.

"Yeah, she doesn't seem scared of Jericho-"

"Well, he's never actually used her as a shield," RVD said reasonably enough, then looked around the room. "It's true, you know. He's never used her as a shield, he's never yelled at her for taking a foreign object away from him, and he's sure as hell never gone after her. He nearly lost a damn six-man tag last week when she got knocked down by Regal. Face it, you guys. The others might not try to, but Jericho actually takes care of out there. She's his weak spot."

"Damn it, he's right," Lita murmured, a frown on her face. She hadn't realized it until Rob had said it, but now... She saw it. If Willow took a hit in a match, it threw Y2J off of his game. She saw that now.

But that didn't bother her as much as the knowledge that if RVD had noticed it, that meant other people would notice it as well. And those people would use it against Jericho...

And more importantly, against Willow.


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Part Six

Willow reached up to rub at her aching jaw, wincing as she did so. She knew Kane hadn't meant to kick her - she could tell he was horrified just by his eyes, which were all that was visible because of the mask he wore - but it still hurt like hell... And it was all Regal's fault. The bastard had thrown her in front of Kane while the two men battled outside the ring, and Kane hadn't been able to stop the motion of his leg. He'd tried as hard as he could, though, knocking himself completely off-balance in his efforts, but he'd still kicked her, laying her flat. Regal, of course, had taken advantage of the distraction to yank Kane into the ring and get the pin.

The prick.

Willow shook her head, blinking back tears of pain as she did so, wishing beyond all else that she could just throw on a fuzzy sweater and curl up with a stuffed animal and a good book, which was what she used to do when she was depressed. Unfortunately, she didn't have a fuzzy sweater here at the arena with her, so that would have to wait until she got back to the hotel. It wouldn't do for her somewhat tough image to be seen in a fuzzy sweater by the others... Her image involved more leather than fuzz now. The stuffed animal and good book were out, too, unless she found a toy store and bookstore that were open all night. Sighing, Willow started to throw her things in her bag, then cringed as she heard the knock on the door, which was quickly followed by the sound of the door swinging open.

"Damn it, Jericho. I told you I'm fine. Now leave me alone," she said in a rather annoyed voice, then almost instantly felt bad about it. While she'd been lying on the floor outside the ring after Kane's inadvertent kick to her face, she'd been completely shocked to suddenly see Chris Jericho leaning over her... Admittedly, she'd thought she was seeing things at first. But then she realized that if she were really seeing things, then her subconscious would probably choose something more appealing than Jericho for her to be seeing. While Willow was still more or less in shock, Jericho had proceeded to scoop her up in his arms as if she weighed nothing, then carried her to the back, staying with her and cursing the medical technicians while she was checked out, then declaring to Vince in a voice that brooked no room for argument that until he thought the others were capable of actually taking care of her, Willow would only be walking out with him.

And then he had gone and fought RVD, the match ending on a count out, which meant Chris was still the Undisputed Champion.

"Um, actually, I'm not Jericho. Which given your obvious affection for the man - or lack thereof - I'm actually very happy about," a soft voice that wasn't entirely unknown to her said, and she spun around, frowning as she found Edge standing just inside the room.

"This is the women's locker room, you know. I could have been naked or something," she said calmly, and the blonde man lifted his eyebrows at her.

"And for that I would have been truly grateful," he said, then winced. "Sorry. I shouldn't have said that. I hardly even know you."

"And if you knew me, then it would be okay?"

He shrugged slightly. "Lita and Torrie know me well enough to know I'm kidding. Trish does, too. You don't. Anyway, I'm sorry for just barging in here like this-"

"Lita, Trish, and Torrie have already left," Willow informed him calmly, figuring that was what he had come in here for. He had, after all, just mentioned all three divas by name. Sighing, she turned from him, reaching up to pull the clip from her hair, shaking it out. It was a little past her shoulders now, a vibrant red-gold that Spike had once said reminded him of sunshine. He liked it because of that, seeing as how he could no longer see the sunshine for real. What she didn't know was that Edge liked it, too, though obviously for different reasons.

"I know. Jeff took Lita back to the hotel, and Trish and Torrie left with Tajiri... I uh, I came to see you, actually," he said, and Willow turned to look at him, a frown marring her expression.

"Why is that?"

"Because I saw the hit you took tonight. Now, Kane isn't one to show emotion, but I could tell that he felt really bad about what happened-"

"I know he does. He tried to pull the move back, Edge. He didn't mean to kick me. It's okay."

"Since Regal used you as a shield out there, I'm going with no, it's not okay," the tall Canadian shot back at her, frowning as he caught sight of something on the bench, reaching over to pick it up. "They gave you this so you could use it, you know."

Willow flinched a little as he pressed the ice pack to her face, high on her cheek where Kane's rather large boot had made contact with her face. The EMTs had told her she was lucky that she wasn't going to wind up with a black eye. She hadn't really felt all that lucky. "I know what it's for-"

"Then use it. It will cut down on the swelling, and maybe it'll help the bruising, too."

"I bruise easily, so I doubt it," she told him, still eyeing him mutinously as he held the ice pack firmly in place. His touch still managed to be gentle, however, especially the hand that was holding her chin as he lifted the ice pack briefly to examine her face, frowning as he ran his thumb over her injured cheek.

"You're already bruising, actually," he said, then replaced the ice. "Stupid bastard Regal. I hate that man."

"I feel about the same way about him, actually," Willow admitted before she thought about what she was saying, then flicked her gaze up to Edge's, knowing that probably wasn't the best comment to make, not considering the fact that she was technically the man's manager and had walked out there with him tonight... Maybe she could play it off as just being angry that he hadn't protected her out there.

"I kind of figured you did," Edge replied carefully, surprised only because Willow had actually admitted her feelings about the Englishman. "Are you going back to the hotel alone?"

"Jericho demanded that I ride back with him," she informed him, and the blonde man nodded slightly, figuring that at least she'd be safe with him, even if he was a creep. Rob had certainly been right about Willow being Jericho's weak spot. After tonight, you'd have to be a fool not to recognize it.

"He was pretty pissed about what happened tonight," Edge said a bit offhandedly as he took Willow's hand and put it over the ice pack, then stepped away from her, and the redhead nodded slightly.

"Yeah, he was. I think I actually heard him saying something about challenging him to match on the next show, and... I just hope it's non-title. It wouldn't be fair if Jericho lost his title over me," she said, and Edge paused on his way to the door, stopping to look back at her.

"Oh, Jericho won't be challenging Regal for the next show," he said, meeting Willow's eyes. "Because I've already challenged him."

The redhead frowned. "Jericho?" she said questioningly, and Edge shook his head.

"Regal."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Part Seven

"No, it's in no way obvious that you have some sort of thing for Willow."

Edge looked up as he finished adjusting the elbow pad he was wearing for his match that night, giving Lita a look as she entered the locker room, the diva leaning against the wall with her arms crossed over her chest. "I have no idea what you're talking about," he said before going back to his task, and Lita raised a brow at him.

"Yeah, sure you don't. Edge, 'blonde' and 'stupid' aren't synonymous, so don't play dumb with me," she told the tall man, and he gave her a wide-eyed, innocent look.

"What's synonymous mean?" he questioned, and the redhead glared at him.

"Cute. Very cute. But it won't get you off the hook. Edge, after Willow got hurt, you ran as fast as you could to challenge Regal to a match. I think that means something."

"I don't have a thing for Willow."

"Yeah, and Jeff's normal," the redhead shot back, and they both jumped when they heard a third voice.

"Who are you calling normal?" Jeff Hardy demanded to know as he entered the room, his brow raised as he looked from person to person, his blue hair sticking out of the back of a baseball cap, and Lita smiled before leaning over to kiss him on the cheek.

"Well, it's certainly not you," she told him, then nodded towards their blonde friend. "Romeo over here challenged Regal to a match after what happened to Willow last week."

Jeff shot Edge a look. "Oh, really? Well, I have to admit that I'm glad somebody did-"

"Actually, Jericho was going to challenge him, too," Edge said before thinking, and Lita gave him a sharp look.

"And just who told you this?" she questioned, and the tall blonde man sighed heavily before answering.

"Willow."

"A-ha! You sought her out!"

"I just wanted to see if she was okay-"

"You like her," Lita said, a satisfied smile on her face, then turned to Jeff. "It seems as if our dear Edge has some sort of crush on Willow."

"I don't even know her."

"But you want to," Jeff said with a nod. "Face it, man, challenging someone to a match over the honor of a woman you barely know... You've got the hots for her whether you admit it or not."

"Maybe I just didn't like seeing her get hurt," the tall Canadian said a bit stiffly, and Jeff shrugged.

"None of us liked seeing that, man. But we didn't go out challenging Regal to a match over it. You, on the other hand... You got yourself a match, and it's all because of the little redhead."

"Just drop it, okay?" Edge said, and Lita sighed, seeing that he was getting annoyed on top of being embarrassed.

"Edge, it's a good thing that you're doing. It's good that someone's willing to stick up for her... Quite frankly, I figured that if you hadn't, then no one would. I never thought Jericho would consider challenging another one of Vince's fellow lackeys."

Edge shrugged. "Neither did I, but Willow said he intended to... And we all saw how he reacted when she went down. He ran out there and got her. Rob was clearly right... Willow is definitely Jericho's weakness, whether he realizes it or not. Shallow as he seems to be right now, he cares about her. Odds are, his title would have been on the line for that match-"

"What about your title?" Lita questioned, nodding towards the Intercontinental championship belt that was laying on the table in the room. "Is it on the line?"

"I was willing to put it up, if that's what it took. But Flair talked me out of it. It's a non-title contest, and Ric's the one who made it for me."

"What happens if Vince changes it to a title match?" Jeff asked, and Edge shrugged.

"Then I guess it's a title match."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

"I'm walking out there tonight," Willow said, her arms crossed over her chest as she glared at the man, one second away from using her resolve face.

"And if I say no?" Chris Jericho questioned, glaring right back at her, and the little redhead shrugged.

"Then you say no... Of course, that's not going to stop me from doing so," she informed him, and he stepped closer to her, slightly menacing.

"And if I tie your scrawny ass down to keep you back here?" he wanted to know, and Willow gave him a look.

"You wouldn't dare," she said with a shrug, and Chris reached out for her arm.

"Wouldn't I?" he asked, and when Willow just stared at him, he sighed and stepped back, letting go of her. "Okay, you're right. I wouldn't. But only because I don't have any rope or handcuffs with me."

"Yeah, you leave that stuff in your hotel room for your *other* job," she said sweetly, and Chris had to turn away so she wouldn't see the smile that crossed his face at that. That sounded like something he would have once said to Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley. Once he was sure he had control of himself again, he turned to face her, lifting a brow at the little redhead.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" he questioned, then grew serious. "I just don't understand why in the hell you want to walk out with Regal. That bruise on your face is because he used you as a damn shield."

Willow frowned, reaching up to brush her fingertips over the rather nasty bruise she had on her cheek. "You're right, it is his fault. Not that he cares. Well, I'm going to make him care," she said calmly. She knew what she was going to do would be a risk - Regal and Vince could spill the truth about her identity if they wanted to - but she had decided that it was worth it... And she had an ace up her sleeve, so to speak, when it came to her efforts to keep the jerks' mouths shut. "Tonight's match is non-title, but we both know that if Regal wins, he'll use that as an excuse to get himself a real title shot against Edge."

"Yeah, so?" Jericho asked, and Willow smiled slightly at him.

"So, he thinks I'm nothing. He thinks I will do anything he says. He thinks I don't have it in me to do anything else but that," she said, ignoring Jericho's snort. In his experience, Willow did whatever the hell it was she wanted to do. Proof of that was what she was doing tonight... Without his blessing. "And tonight... I'm going to show him just how wrong he is."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Part 8

"The following is a non-title match scheduled for one fall. First, making his way to the ring and weighing in at 240 pounds, from Toronto, Canada, he is the Intercontinental champion...Edge!"

As had become almost expected, the crowd noise grew nearly deafening as the tall blonde man stepped through the mist and out onto the stage, the sounds of Rob Zombie filling the arena but almost drowned out by the exuberant fans, many of them female. Lita and Trish had started a pool to see who would get more of what they termed the 'horny teenage girl' yell each night - Edge or Jeff. Lately, it had definitelly been a toss-up.

After sliding into the ring and playing to the crowd as usual, Edge hopped off the turnbuckle, yanking off his jacket and tossing it down at ringside, pacing back and forth as the music changed and Lilian Garcia lifted the microphone to her lips again.

"And his opponent, being accompanied to the ring by Willow, weighing in a 237 pounds, from Blackpool, England... William Regal."

At the sound of the redhead's name, Edge jerked his gaze to the stage, where Regal was walking out, the slender redhead trailing behind him... Even from here, he could tell there was a damn bruise on her face... Her skin was so pale... Why was she out here with Regal... What was going on?

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

"What in the hell is she doing out there?" Jeff questioned as he watched the monitor, turning to glance at Lita, who was frowning as well.

"I don't know... Didn't Jericho say that Willow wasn't going to be walking out with anyone but him until he had decided that they were capable of taking care of her at ringside?" the redhead put in, coming up to stand behind Jeff, putting her hand on his shoulder, and he nodded a little.

"Yeah, he did... Maybe she wanted to walk out with Regal, though" the younger Hardy said helplessly, his tone saying he didn't really believe his own words, and Lita snorted.

"Sure she did... She hates him, Jeff. Anybody can see that," she told him, studying the other woman's face as the camera cut to a close-up of Willow's face. "She's up to something, I'm sure of it. The question is... What is it?"

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Willow made her way down the ramp behind William Regal, having to fight to keep from making a nasty face at the man's back. She sensed one of the cameramen stepping closer to her, and she flicked a glance at the camera before looking straight ahead once more, her gaze falling on Edge, meeting his eyes. She could tell he was confused, wondering what in the hell she was doing out there... Hell, he'd seen the bruise she sported on her face up close and personal, so he knew she had every reason to be ticked off at Regal... Yet here she was out here with the man, and Edge had no idea why. Watching the blonde man as she took her spot at ringside, Willow reached into the pocket of the long jacket she wore with her black tank top and dark green leather pants, her hand wrapping around what she had in her pocket, having to fight to keep from smiling.

He'd see soon enough. And so would Regal.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

"Well, it looks like Jericho has lifted his ridiculous edict that Willow could only walk out with him," King began, and JR rolled his eyes.

"Actually, I think that was the first good idea Y2J's had in the past few months, and I'm sorry he *didn't* stick to it," the seasoned announcer stated as the bell rang signaling the start of the match, Edge instantly going after the older man. "For once, the Undisputed Champion was concerned about someone besides himself, putting Willow's safety first-"

"Willow is perfectly safe out here-"

"That bruise on her cheek is evidence to the contrary, King."

"Well, that's all Kane's fault. He's the one who kicked her-"

"Only because Regal pulled her in front of him as a shield-"

"Well, you know what they say... Behind every good woman-"

"Is a sleaze ball like Regal?" JR finished for him, then turned his attention back to the match. "A great spinning heel kick by Edge, taking Regal down... William Regal might get a bruise to match Willow's after that one-"

"And speaking of Willow, why exactly is it that Edge challenged Regal to a match, do you suppose?"

"That's not speaking of Willow," JR protested, and King grinned.

"Oh, maybe I should have said *staring* at Willow... But anyway, do you suppose that she had something to do with it? I mean, Edge apparently made the challenge right after she got hurt the other night. You don't suppose there's something going on between them, do you?" the self-proclaimed puppy-lover questioned, and JR sighed.

"I guess you'll have to ask them that... And oh! Edge just tried for the spear, but Regal moved out of the way, and Edge went right into the ring post! That can't feel good-"

"Because I certainly hope there isn't anything between them... I was kind of thinking about her myself-"

"She's young enough to be your daughter," JR replied, and King gave one of his more maniacal grins.

"Well, when we were alone, I could always ask her 'who your daddy?'" he said, earning a groan from his announcing partner.

"Oh, Lord help us..."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Willow watched the match carefully, ignoring the idiot ramblings from Jerry 'the King' Lawler behind her, her focus entirely on the two men in the ring as she silently cheered for Edge to win. The slender redhead winced as Regal put Edge into a submission hold, and it took all of her self-control not to start vocalizing her encouragement that Edge make it to the ropes...

"Come on, Edge, you can do it," she murmured, knowing he couldn't hear her, though he did seem to have a sudden surge of strength as she whispered the words, the all blonde man reaching the bottom rope and grabbing onto it, forcing Regal to drop the hold. She nodded slightly then, watching as the referee went to check on Edge, then moved to hop up onto the ring apron, instantly drawing Regal's attention to her.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Edge saw the movement out of the corner of his eye, frowning as he saw the redhead get up on the apron, Regal going over to her. He felt his heart sink as he saw Willow reach into her pocket, drawing something out... Brass knuckles. Damn it, after what Regal had pulled on her, she still carried his brass knuckles for him, slipping them to him when...

And what in the hell?

Edge's eyes widened in surprise when Willow suddenly slipped the brass knux onto her own hand, then reared back and punched Regal right in the face, his nose gushing blood almost instantly as he stumbled backwards, barely able to keep his feet...

Quickly, Edge shoved the referee away from him as Willow hopped down from the apron, the tall blonde man waiting for the reeling Regal to turn around before nailing him with a spear, sending him onto his back. He hooked the leg instantly, listening as the crowd counted with the referee... One... Two... Three... And it was over. He'd beaten Regal. He'd gotten an unexpected assist from Willow, but he had beaten Regal...

And he was pretty sure Willow had broken the man's nose.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Part Nine

Damn, but that had felt good.

Feeling rather satisfied with her actions, Willow nodded a little before hopping down from the apron, slipping the brass knuckles she had into the pocket of her jacket once more as she did so. She gave a smirk as the referee counted the three, Edge's music beginning to blare over the speakers as she shot a look at the announcers' table, finding it hard not to laugh at the look of shock on Lawler's face. He'd probably been extolling her virtues all night but had more than likely changed his tune the instant that she had turned on Regal...

Shoving her hands into her pockets, the slender redhead made her way to the ramp and began to walk up it, shooting a look over her shoulder, her eyes momentarily locking with those of Edge. His expression was almost as shocked as it had been when she'd actually come down to ringside with Regal, though now it was because she'd punched the bastard in the face. At the moment, Regal was rolling around in the ring with his hand to his gushing nose, and Willow tore her gaze from Edge to take that in briefly, then turned to look straight ahead once more as she headed up the ramp and to the stage, turning to face the ring one more time. By this point, Edge was standing in the ring, his title belt in his hand, a confused look on his face as he watched her, looking as if he was trying to figure her out.

"I wouldn't waste your time on that, Edge," she muttered under her breath, a hint of sadness there before she turned and walked off the stage, going through the curtain.

"What in the hell was that?"

Willow braced herself as she whirled around, expecting to find her boss, quickly relaxing when she saw that it was Chris Jericho instead. Granted, the Undisputed champion looked undeniably pissed, his blue eyes flashing dangerously, but even pissed off, she could handle him more easily than she could Vince McMahon.

"I was making that bastard pay," the redhead told the man, and he gave her a look.

"Yeah, well, I could have done that for you-"

"I can fight my own battles," she informed him, and he arched a brow at her, reaching out and taking her arms in his hands, dragging her closer so he could look her in the eye.

"Making you can pick your own fights, but can you stay in there once the battle's begun?" he demanded to know, and she reached out and shoved at his chest, surprising him enough that he actually let go of her, stumbling back a little.

"Leave it alone, Jericho," she told him, giving him a nasty look as she went to shoulder past him, and he grabbed her arm before she could leave, whirling her back around to face him.

"Do you have any idea what you've just done out there? Damn it, Regal is dangerous-"

"You knew I was going to pull something out there," Willow reminded him, and Jericho shook his head, looking as if he wanted to shake her.

"Yeah, but I didn't know you were going to do *that.* I didn't know you were going to go that far... You attacked him with his own brass knuckles!"

"Yeah, and I probably broke his damn nose, too," the redhead replied, then arched a brow at him, giving him a looked that dared him to challenge her. "Don't you dare tell me that he didn't deserve it-"

"He did, okay? The man's an asshole, but damn it, Willow, do you have any idea what you've just gotten yourself into? He's going to come after us-"

"He'll come after me, not you, so don't worry about that," the redhead informed the blonde Canadian, lifting her chin defiantly. "He won't jeopardize your precious titles, so it's not really a problem for you-"

"If someone comes after you, then *yes*, it is my problem!" Jericho shot back. "I'm supposed to take care of you-"

"You are supposed to do no such thing! I never asked you to, and you certainly don't owe me anything," Willow informed him, then jerked her arm out of his grasp, giving him a look that said he sure as hell better not reach for her again, and, despite the fact that Chris was far larger than she and had no real reason to fear any retribution on her part - well, except for the small fact that she still had those brass knuckles in her pocket - he took the look on her face to heart and left her alone, though the anger played heavily over his face as she stepped back, glaring at him. "And Chris, whether you want to believe it or not, I can take care of myself, and I have dealt with far worse things than William Regal."

With those words, she turned and stalked off, leaving the Undisputed champion standing there with rage and something resembling concern on his face, and the blonde Canadian jumped when he heard someone speak to him from behind.

"Where is she?"

He whirled around, a dangerous glint in his eye that lessened only marginally when he saw that it was Edge and not Regal who had approached him with the question. "If you talked her into pulling that stunt out there," he began, but the tall blonde shook his head.

"I had nothing to do with that-"

"Oh, please-"

"I was shocked as hell that she was even out there in the first place," Edge shot back before Jericho could get very far at all. "Since I had no clue that she was going to be out there, there really wasn't much of a chance for me to work out a damn plan with her, okay? Geez, the girl is like a ghost and hardly speaks to anyone-"

Jericho snorted at that. Willow might have been a lot of things, but a ghost wasn't one of them. The girl was a wildcat, that was for sure... "You obviously don't know her like I do," he muttered.

Edge gave him a look, trying to stamp down the flare of jealousy he felt at Y2J's comment. "You're right, I don't. But let me tell you... When she pulled out those damn brass knucks, for a moment I actually thought she was slipping them to him, not using them on him. I never thought she'd help me like that," he stated, and Jericho opened his mouth to reply, though he didn't get to because a commotion drew their attention at that moment.

"That bloody little bitch! She'll pay-"

"He's going to be gunning for her, you know," Edge said as they watched a bloodied Regal sputter to the medical personnel, and Jericho nodded.

"I know he will. But he won't get to her," he stated, his mind slipping back to what Willow had said... About dealing with far worse than William Regal before.

He wondered what she had meant by that.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Part Ten

Edge stalked into the locker room he was sharing with his friends, glancing up to see Lita staring at him almost wide-eyed as she sat on the floor in the room. “Did that really just happen, or was I seeing things?” the redhead questioned, shoving her hair out of her face, and Edge gave a jerky shrug at the question.

“I’m thinking it really happened, but when it did... I was thinking I was seeing things, too,” he told her, raking a hand through his rather unruly blonde hair. “I have no idea what possessed her-”

“Maybe she was sick of Regal’s crap and wanted him to pay for what he’d done,” the redhead suggested, and Edge shrugged again as he slumped in a chair, briefly pressing his hands to his face before dropping them once more, looking over at his friend.

“Where is everybody?”

“Torrie and Trish are teaming up against Stacy and Jazz in a divas tag match, so they’re off talking strategy, and Jeff went to get something to drink. Tajiri’s off tonight, so he’s not here, and Rob’s match is next so he’s down by the curtain area waiting to head out there for his match... And dear God, I sound like I’m the social secretary or something, always knowing where everyone is,” she said with a laugh, shaking her head. “I think that means I need a life of my own.”

“You have a life, Lita,” the blonde man said, and the diva sighed.

“Oh, really? Then I guess it just sucks, huh? Jeff doesn’t want me walking out with him tonight,” she said off-handedly, and Edge frowned at that, obviously surprised.

“And just why in the hell not?” the Canadian demanded to know. Jeff always wanted Lita to walk out there with him... From what he knew, that had actually been a bit of a problem between the Hardys back when Matt and Lita had still been together. Despite the fact that Jeff and Lita were nothing more than friends, Matt hadn’t wanted Lita walking Jeff out to his singles matches, irrationally jealous of it, convinced something would somehow happen between the two of them while Jeff was fighting in a match inside the ring and Lita was standing outside of it...

Lita sighed, picking at the polish on her nails for a moment before replying. “He just... He’s fighting Matt tonight, and with everything that’s happened lately... Matt called me a few times this weekend, just saying nasty stuff. Really crude and... Hurtful, you know? Jeff doesn’t want me anywhere near him-”

“Which is understandable,” Edge said softly as he left his chair and went over to his friend, kneeling in front of her. “He just wants to protect you, you know? Jeff doesn’t want to put you in a position where Matt can hurt you. And I have to admit that I agree with him there.”

“I know... I just... I wish I could be out there to support him. I want people to know that I’m on Jeff’s side in this, but... If I’m out there, Matt will go after me in some way, and then I’ll be a hindrance to Jeff instead of helping him,” she said, then sighed. “I hate it.”

“I know you do,” Edge stated, reaching out to give her a hug, and Lita rested her head on his shoulder for a moment. When they broke apart, the tall blonde man looked down at himself, making a face. “Sorry about that... I probably just got you all sweaty.”

“Not a big deal... But I imagine you do want to clean up from your match, so I’ll go wander around to give you some privacy,” she told him, giving him another quick hug before heading for the door, flicking a glance back at him as she paused. “Good match, by the way.”

She smiled when Edge rolled his eyes at that, knowing that the Canadian felt that the win was due as much to Willow’s actions as his own, and then Lita left the room, closing the door behind her as she headed off down the hallway. She figured she could find Jeff and walk around with him for a few minutes, or maybe try to find Torrie and Trish and listen in on their strategizing session.

“Oh, well, look who we have here,” an all-too-familiar voice said, and Lita cringed before carefully schooling herself to an impassive expression as she turned around to face Matt Hardy.

“What do you want? Or, actually, I don’t care what you want, so why don’t you just leave?” she suggested, arching a brow at him, and he smirked.

“You used to care what I wanted. Or don’t you remember? I could make you scream my name in-”

“And now you do nothing for me. Do you think it was the change in you, Matt? Or was it me? Did you became an asshole, or did I outgrow you? Hell, maybe it was both,” Lita stated, crossing her arms over her chest as she spoke, very proud of herself for remaining so outwardly calm and collected.

“You little bitch,” he began, reaching out to grab hold of her arm, and Lita tried to pull away, her eyes flashing with anger when he didn’t let her go.

“And speaking of *little*,” Lita stated, letting her gaze drift pointedly downward, and Matt’s eyes narrowed as he slammed her against the wall.

“You thinking of walking out there with Jeff tonight? Showing everyone what an idiot you are by choosing him over me? Showing everyone what a little whore you are by going from one brother to the other-”

“Get bent, Matt,” came the reply as the pissed off redhead slammed her knee upwards and straight into his groin. The elder Hardy brother gasped at the contact and let go over her, nearly doubling over. “Looks like you’ll be the one having trouble walking out there tonight. Remember this little lesson here Matt... And stay away from me.”

“And if that lesson doesn’t work, I’ve always got some brass knuckles you could borrow,” a soft voice said from several feet away, and Lita turned to meet Willow’s gaze, smirking slightly before looking back at Matt, who was still doubled over.

“Now that sounds like a plan. Do you mind if I ask you to keep that offer open?” she questioned, and Willow shrugged.

“Not a bit. I like to see the bad guy get what he deserves,” the former witch said calmly before turning and walking away, none of them aware that one of the cameras had caught everything that had just happened and broadcast it to everyone watching at home.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

“Oh my God.”

She’d chosen to watch the show just by chance, but then... Damn it, she couldn’t believe it. She watched it once more, shaking her head in disbelief as the close-up came again. The red hair, the green eyes... Even the voice were the same, as was the first name. It was her. It was undeniably her, the same person who had just taken off so many months before.

Willow... She’d finally found Willow.

Now she just had to decide what to do about it.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Part Eleven

She made it all the way back to her hotel room before she started shaking.

Willow chewed on her lower lip as she closed the door to her room, marveling at how calm she had managed to be, even offering Lita use of the brass knuckles she still carried with her after the other woman’s run-in with Matt Hardy, but now... Now she was falling apart.

Damn it, what had she done?

Vince would blow a gasket after what happened out there... And Regal... Regal knew who she was, or at least had an idea. He could tell everyone where she had gone, where she had run to when things in Sunnydale had gotten to be too much for her... She had screwed it all up just because she hated the damn Englishman, and now...

Willow shook her head, surprised to find herself almost laughing through her tears at the thought that came to her - the thought that maybe Chris Jericho would keep her as his manager, because lord knew that Vince wouldn’t let her within twenty feet of any of his lackeys now, not after she had quite literally broken William Regal’s nose.

Not that he hadn’t deserved it.

The redhead knew good and well that Regal had deserved what he got out there; not only because he had used her as a shield back in his match against Kane, but for all the pain he had caused so many of his colleagues as well. She knew the things he had said and done to so many of the others... She wasn’t stupid, nor was she blind. The nastiness within the man was easy to see... And that nasty, horrible man knew Wesley... and if Wesley found out where she was, then everyone else would, too.

Willow didn’t want that to happen.

“What in the hell was I thinking?” the redhead whispered, part of Jericho diatribe on how stupid her actions had been starting to sink in. She knew she’d gone out there on emotion, hitting him because she had wanted to for so long, and she knew that she’d told Jericho that she could handle his wrath, that she had handled much worse than William Regal before... And she had. Truly, she had.

She just hadn’t been alone. And now... Now she was unmistakably, undeniably alone.

“It’s your own fault,” the slender redhead told herself in a whisper as she moved towards the bathroom, looking into the mirror, taking in the sight of her own face, pale and drawn... Well, pale except for the bright mark of color that was a bruise. Regal hadn’t even apologized for using her as a shield in his match against Kane, for pulling her in front of the Big Red Machine’s boot. Not that she had really expected him to. He didn’t worry himself with her... Or he hadn’t. She supposed he would after tonight. “I could always turn him into a rat... Or not. No magic, Willow. You promised yourself. You saw what it did to Tara... You saw...”

Shaking her head harshly, as if she were trying to dislodge the thoughts in her mind, Willow shoved herself away from the sink, turning from the mirror, not wanting to see the tears as they streamed down her face, trying so hard not to think of the blonde witch... Things had been so damn different after the whole debacle with Glory. She had been so sure that she’d managed to put the other woman’s mind back together, that she had given back what Glory had taken from Tara, and maybe she had... And maybe whatever it was that had been taken from Tara had simply been tainted by being within Glory, even though it was only for a short time. The woman had been, after all, a hell god bent on destroying the barrier between dimensions... Not a nice place for a part of your mind to reside.

But that wasn’t the point. The point was that Tara had been changed by the events, and Willow couldn’t blame her for that, it was beyond her control, but... Tara was just so different, and Willow hadn’t been able to watch the other woman self-destruct. She turned to magic so heavily afterwards, almost consumed by it, and there had been less and less of the real Tara as each day passed. Finally, Willow had to go to Giles and together with the help of Anya they had bound Tara’s powers... And she had lost it, growing violent, so very violent...

Shaking her head, Willow clenched her hand slightly, looking down at the scar that marred it, her other hand touching her abdomen. Yes, she had learned never to turn her back on a pissed off former witch, a witch who no longer had her powers... A witch who had access to a knife.

The redhead bit her lip against the tears that were threatening to overtake her completely, taking gasping breaths in order to prevent the sobs, and she jumped at least a foot at the knock on her door, whirling around to face it, willing the person to go away.

“Willow, I know you’re here. I spoke to the doorman, and he remembers seeing you come up... Please, Willow, open the door. I’m not leaving until you do...”

What in the hell was he doing here?

Half in shock, the redhead made her way over to the door, her hands shaking as she opened slowly, keeping her head down. “Go away,” she said as firmly as she could, trying to jerk out of the man’s grasp when his hand came down to lift her chin, but he would have none of it, and soon Willow found herself looking up into Edge’s concerned eyes.

“I came to make sure you were okay after... After what you did out there for me tonight. Obviously you’re not,” he said quietly, and Willow took a step backwards, trying to free herself from his grasp.

“This has nothing to do with you or your precious match, damn it! Let me go!”

“Willow-”

“Leave, okay?”

“No, not when you’re so upset,” Edge said firmly as he stepped into the room, ignoring the fact that Willow was shoving at his chest. “I don’t know what’s wrong, and I’m not going to make you tell me, but I’m not leaving you like this-”

“Just go, damn it! This has nothing to do with you!” the redhead yelled, anger over how screwed up her life had become, of what that bitch Glory had left in her wake rollinh over her, and she lashed out, swinging at him, a fist connecting with his jaw before Edge managed to catch her flailing limbs, ignoring her struggles as she tried to pull away from him, kicking at him. “Let me go! Just... Damn it, let me go... I just want to be left alone...” she managed brokenly before tiredly collapsing against him, and Edge wrapped his arms around her, still clueless as to why she was so torn up inside, but discovering that he was determined to do whatever he could to make it better. As Willow gave in and sobbed into his chest, he tightened his hold on her, leaning down to rest his cheek on the top of her head, his voice quiet when he spoke.

“Can’t do that, Willow. I think you’ve been left alone far too long already.”


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Part Twelve

Lita groaned at the sound of the knock on the door, opening one eye to glare at it, then rolling out of bed. Damn it, it was just her luck, wasn’t it? Get settled in for bed, and suddenly someone shows up at the damn door... And she knew it wasn’t Jeff. It couldn’t be him, seeing as he and Rob had gone out for a late dinner, taking Trish with them... If Rob didn’t suck it up and actually ask Trish out on a date soon, then Lita didn’t know what she was going to do with that boy. And speaking of dates, Lita was pretty sure that Torrie and Tajiri had gone out after the show as well, and who knew where Edge had disappeared off, to, so... She had no idea who was at the door.

Or maybe she did.

Thinking of her little confrontation with none other than Matt Hardy earlier that night, Lita made a face and shoved herself up and out of bed, reaching out and grabbing a robe to put on. False modesty, Matt would call it with a sneer, seeing as how he had seen it all anyway... He could make her feel so dirty when he looked at her now, that look that told her he knew exactly what she looked like underneath her clothes. He did it on purpose, of course... Knew exactly what he was doing.

“I guess it’s time for the second round. Guess I should have taken Willow up on that offer of brass knuckles,” Lita muttered, then headed to the door, swinging it open with an annoyed look on her face. “I thought I told you to stay the hell away from you, you stupid bastard-”

“You’re not Willow.”

Lita blinked at the sight that met her gaze, more than a little surprised to find Chris Jericho standing there. When she registered what he had said, and lifted her brows, looking down at herself. “I think that much is obvious. I’m several inches taller than her, Jericho-”

“Yeah, and she doesn’t have your spiffy tattoo, either,” Y2J said, though his voice was more tired than snide, and Lita cocked her head a little, taking in the expression on his face. Could it be? Did Jericho actually look... Yes, he looked worried.

“Did something happen to her?” the redhead wanted to know, and Chris gave her a disbelieving look.

“Yeah, like you would actually care-”

“Maybe I do. Maybe I like people who offer to let me borrow some brass knux to use on Matt Hardy,” Lita said quietly, her voice calm and completely nonchalant, and it took Jericho a moment to register what she had just said. When it did, he didn’t really look surprised, he just nodded.

“Yeah, that sounds like Willow. When did this little offer to help you maim your former boyfriend occur?”

“Right around the time she found us having an... altercation of sorts in the hallway. It was at the arena. Why did you think this was her room?”

“Because I... Damn it, I know what I did. I asked for the number of the room registered to the name you use, not the one Willow uses. Considering his rather low opinion of me, I didn’t want to just ask JR for it, so I called the front desk, and...”

“You remember the name I register under?” Lita said quietly, and Jericho shrugged.

“Not too many people register under the names of characters from Scooby Doo, Daphne my dear. You and Willow are the only ones I know. She’s Velma,” he told the redhead, and Lita lifted her brows.

“Somehow I really don’t see her as that,” she replied, and Y2J shrugged.

“Yeah, well, people don’t really see you as a self-involved clotheshorse, so what’s with you being Daphne?”

“’Cause Trish is already Jessica Rabbit. Besides, I got sick of being Nancy Drew,” the redhead told him, then stepped back, gesturing with her head for him to enter. “Come on, you can call down to the front desk from here and find out which room Velma is in.”

Jericho gave Lita a look of surprise as he slowly stepped inside, wondering if this was some sort of a setup. After deciding that it wasn’t he made his way over to the phone in the room, looking over at Lita. “Why are you letting me use your phone?”

“Because I have nothing against Willow, and for some strange reason, I actually believe that when it comes to her, the Living Legend himself still has a heart,” she told him, and Chris had to fight not to cringe at the snide way she said the words living legend. He thought about saying something rude in return, but instead just nodded slightly.

“Well, thanks for letting me use the phone,” he told her as he picked it up to call down to the front desk, frowning when he heard another knock on the door. He saw Lita tense up as the knock sounded again, but his call was answered at that point, so he busied himself with finding out Willow’s room number instead of listening to what was happening around him. Because of that, he got quite a surprise when he finished his call and returned his thoughts to his surroundings.

“Go away, Matt!” Lita was saying, and Jericho could see the strain she was under in trying to keep the door closed. Damn hotel... Didn’t have a peephole in the door, so Lita wouldn’t have been able to see who it was before answering.

“Oh, come off it, Lita. I saw Jeff leave the arena with Rob and Trish. You took a cab, so I know you’re alone. How about letting me in for old time’s sake? We both know how quickly you spread your legs-”

“I told you to stay away from me, you asshole! Now go away!”

“You never had it better than with me-”

“I think she told you to leave,” Jericho ground out as he pulled Lita away from the door and stepped into the opening, blocking Matt Hardy’s entrance to the room, his blue eyes flashing angrily. Matt’s dark eyes widened in surprise, then darkened in anger.

“Oh, what? Is the Living Legend bored and looking for some action? Well, let me tell you something, Jericho - just a little friendly advice - the bitch isn’t worth it-”

Matt was cut off when Jericho lifted his fist and planted it right in the other man’s mouth, sending the elder Hardy brother to the floor. “If she isn’t worth it, then why are you trying so hard to get some of her? Face it, she’s the best thing that ever happened to you, and it kills you to know that you screwed up. You gave her up. And you’re not going to get her back. Now stay the hell away from her-”

“Or what?”

“Or *I’ll* be the one getting the brass knux from Willow,” he replied, slamming the door on the other man’s face, then turning the deadbolt and locking the chain before turning back to find Lita. She was sitting on the floor, leaning up against the bed, and it was obvious to anyone that she was crying, her shoulders shaking harshly. Sighing, Jericho went over to her, wondering how in the hell he had ended up in the middle of this mess, then shrugged as he went to sit down beside her putting an arm around her. Lita stiffened at first, but Chris was persistent, leaning in to speak softly to her. “It’s okay, Lita. I’m not gonna hurt you. And I'm not going to let Matt hurt you, either,” he said, drawing her into his arms.

And Chris Jericho held Lita while she cried.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Part Thirteen

Anya groaned as she rolled over in bed, slapping at her alarm clock, figuring that would make the noise that had awoken her stop... No such luck. Frowning, the former vengeance demon lifted her head from her pillow, looking over at the numbers on the clock, squinting a little.

“I do *not* get up at six in the morning,” the currently blonde woman muttered, then groaned as she realized what the sound she kept hearing was. The doorbell.

“Who in the world would come over at this time of morning?” the woman wanted to know as she climbed out of bed, wishing beyond anything that Xander hadn’t gone to Los Angeles to help with a case so she could make him go get the stupid door instead of answering it herself. In her opinion, he’d been a stupid choice to go anyway, but Angel had said they needed a male to go undercover - a younger one - and well, despite Xander and Angel’s mutual hatred of each other, Spike hated Angel even worse than Xander did, and well, there was that whole sunlight issue as well... So Xander it was.

“I have got to find a way to manage a curse or two, just for this person,” she grumbled as she made her way to the door, pulling her robe on as she looked through the peephole, then opening the door, a frown on her face. “What are you doing up and about at this time of morning?”

Dawn Summers gave the annoyed woman a weak smile. “I really am sorry for just popping in like this, Anya, I really am. Truly. But something sort of happened last night, and... Can I please come in?” she asked, and Anya nodded, stepping back to allow the girl entrance.

“Yes, of course. I’d offer you coffee, but I haven’t made any yet, seeing as how you woke me up-”

“Anya, I’m sorry.”

The woman sighed. “I know you are,” she replied as she closed the door behind Dawn, leading the girl into the kitchen. “It’s all right, I suppose. Just don’t make a habit of it, okay?”

“I won’t, I promise.”

“Anyway, I’m going to make myself some coffee now, but since you don’t drink it... I’ve got soft drinks, if you want. Not really morning stuff, but-”

“I’ll take one. And thanks, Anya. I mean that,” Dawn said earnestly as she sat down at the kitchen table, accepting the drink from the woman.

“I know you do,” the blonde said as she started her own coffee. “However, I’ve got to wonder why you came here... And how you even got out of the house without anyone knowing-”

“Giles was still asleep, and I think Buffy had a pretty rough patrol last night. She came in really late, and I heard her tell Giles that she didn’t want to get up until at least noon. Anyway, something kind of happened last night-”

“Was it supernatural? Because-”

“No, no. Nothing bump in the night-ish, I swear. It was really surprising, though, and... I just really needed to tell someone.”

“Well, not to be rude, but... Why didn’t you tell Giles or Buffy?” Anya asked, genuinely curious. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Dawn - she really did - but they weren’t exactly the two closest people in the world, no matter how one looked at it. Still, it felt kind of neat to be the one Dawn came to with... Well, whatever it was that she had come to her with.

The younger Summers girl bit her lip, obviously contemplating what to say, then took a sip of her drink. After a long moment, she spoke. “I... I just didn’t think they were the people to tell. You’re more... objective on the situation. I mean, Buffy would just run in and try to play hero-”

“And I’m not capable of doing so-”

“I didn’t mean it that way, Anya. I just... I don’t think Buffy’s approach is really the best thing, and Giles... You know the things he said about it all.”

“What things?” Anya asked. Giles said a lot about a lot of things. He was very verbose on occasion, in her opinion, so she really had no idea what it was that Dawn was referring to at the moment.

“You know what he said about Willow,” Dawn replied, her expression solemn. “That perhaps it was best that she leave, that she needed the time to herself, to put herself back together or whatever. I see where he’s coming from, but... It hurts to much that she’s gone.”

“You came here about Willow?” Anya questioned, her eyes widening. “This has something to do with Willow? Did she... Did she talk to you or something? Email, or... She discontinued her old email address, so I haven’t been able to get in touch with her, so... Dawn-”

“I saw her last night. On television.”

“What? Like on the news-”

“I was watching this television show... It was wrestling, believe it or not, and... Willow was there, Anya, I swear it. There was this lady backstage, and this guy attacked her, and the woman kicked the guy really hard to get away from him - he was really mean - and... Willow offered to help her get back at the guy or something like that.”

“Wrestling, though? Dawn, not to be rude but... Are you sure it was her? I just don’t see Willow as the type-”

“I never did, either, but... I swear it was her. I went to the website, and it’s got to be her. She manages a bunch of the guys, she doesn’t actually wrestle,” the young woman explained, and a contemplative look came over the face of the former demon she was sitting with.

“A manager, huh? That... that I can see, I suppose. She’d be good at something like that, I would think. I mean, she’s Willow. And no matter what Giles says-”

“She’ll always be Willow. And I miss Willow,” Dawn said softly, her voice a little wistful. “I mean, I know things got majorly whacked out Tara and everything, but... I want her to come back, Anya. She balances things out, you know. She’s not all gung-ho like Buffy, and she was always sort of a moderator or something between me and Buffy. I needed that. I needed her.”

“But she needed to leave, Dawn. After what happened, what Tara did to her... Willow needed to leave.”

“But does she need to stay gone? I’m not saying we should run after her or anything, try to make her come back, but... Do you think maybe we can contact her?”

“We can try.”


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Part Fourteen

Willow rolled over in bed, rubbing at her eyes. They felt heavy and they hurt like hell after that crying jag she’d had all over Edge the night before... Oh, poor Edge. He must be so confused now. What happened on the show last night was not worth a crying jag quite like that. That was worthy of something more along the lines of a party. It wasn’t everyday that a girl got to break William Regal’s nose.

Groaning, the redhead shoved herself up and looked around, shoving at her hair, quickly noticing that she was still dressed in exactly the same thing she had been wearing the night before. The only thing missing was her shoes.

And then there was the small fact that Edge was sacked out in one of the chairs, his head resting on his arms, which were crossed on top of the table. “Good Lord, he actually stayed here last night. He’s either really sweet, or completely loony. Possibly both,” she muttered as she stood up, putting her hands on her hips as she looked down at the blonde man. After a long moment, she reached out, gently shaking his shoulder, and Edge just made some muttering sound and tried to bat her hand away.

“’Mm sleeping. Go ‘way,” he told her, and Willow couldn’t help but smile as she looked down at him. He was actually kind of adorable when he was all asleep and not being a pain in the ass by not leaving like he had been the night before.

”Not going away. Time to get up, Edge. Trust me, your back and neck will thank me for cutting your time sleeping in a chair short. Now wake up,” she told him, shaking his shoulder more firmly this time, and the blonde man’s eyes fluttered open, quickly spotting her. He frowned in confusion for a moment, then sat up, looking at her.

“Why am I here?”

“I’m going with ‘cause you fell asleep here last night. Apparently, it was sometime after I cried myself to sleep, ‘cause I really don’t remember it. Since I am fully clothed, though, I guess I should thank you for being a gentleman.”

“I didn’t want to leave you. You were crying so hard, and... I just didn’t want you to be alone last night, so I stayed here and watched you. That sounds kind of creepy, doesn’t it?” he asked, running a hand through his hair, and Willow shrugged.

“Shockingly enough, I’ve heard far creepier than that, and watching over me when I’m upset is very different than just you know, watching me. You weren’t being creepy stalker guy or anything. You were just trying to help.”

“All I did was let you cry. Not a lot of helping there,” Edge said softly, and Willow shrugged.

“Sometimes all you can do is let people cry, and I needed that. It had been building up for a long time, so... Thank you for being there and letting me sob all over your shoulder instead of crying alone,” Willow said, then pressed her lips together, giving him a sideways look.

“What?”

“Go get dressed. Or, change clothes or whatever since you’re actually still dressed. I’m taking you to breakfast. Kind of as a thank you, I suppose.”

“You don’t need to do that-”

“Yes, I do,” Willow said, then point at herself. “This is my resolve face. You’ll learn soon enough that you should never try to argue with it. Go change.”

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

She was lying on top of someone.

It was the first thing Lita was aware of when she woke up, and she frowned at the sensation, running her hand over the T-shirt covered chest she seemed to be lying on, feeling the muscles underneath the material jump slightly, and then a hand came up to grasp hers tightly, the person beneath her - obviously a man - shifting a little as he squeezed her hand.

“Just stay here a little while longer,” the man said, and Lita shot up straight as she recognized the voice, her eyes opening wide.

“Jericho! What are you doing here?”

“Huh? What?” the blonde man sputtered, his eyes coming open as well, and he looked up at Lita in confusion for a long moment.

“What is going on here? Why-”

Chris Jericho pushed himself into a sitting position as well, looking around them to find that they had apparently been asleep on the four of Lita’s hotel room. Frowning, he let his gaze go back to Lita, who looked decidedly confused and a little scared. “You let me use your phone last night.”

“And we ended up sleeping on the floor?” the redhead sputtered, then seemed to deflate a little as it came back to her. “Matt came by. And he... He...”

“He said some really nasty things that you didn’t deserve,” Chris told her, unable to resist reaching out to tuck some hair behind the diva’s ears. She just looked so lost and sad suddenly that he hadn’t been able to keep himself from doing so, and now... Now she just looked surprised and uncertain and completely vulnerable. It made him want to take care of her... And why did he care about her again? He wasn’t supposed to care about Lita anymore... But suddenly he did.

“You helped me make him leave,” Lita said quietly, reaching up to catch his hand, and Jericho squeezed her hand just a little.

“He had no business being here, and...”

“And I cried all over you, and you took care of me. I’m not entirely sure why you did it, but you did. And I am grateful that you helped me make him leave,” she stated solemnly, and Chris sighed.

“I’m just glad I was here, I guess. If he’d gotten in... I’m just glad that I was around to help you out.”

“Well, thanks... You didn’t have to stay all night, though.”

Jericho shrugged, moving to stand up, using the grip he still had on the pretty redheaded diva’s hand to bring her up with him, giving her a slight smile. “You, uh, you cried yourself to sleep last night, and you were kind of... You were leaning against me, and I was afraid that if I moved you too much, you’d wake up. You were so exhausted, and I didn’t want to risk waking you up-”

“So you spent all night sleeping on my floor with me on top of you.”

“I’ve been through worse,” he told her, and Lita sighed, cocking her head a little as she looked at him.

“Still, I feel... Look, I know we’re not friends anymore, but I feel I should thank you or something, so... How about breakfast? It’s on me,” she said, and Jericho smiled at her again.

“I think I can handle that.”


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Part Fifteen

“You know, me taking you out for breakfast doesn’t really work when you try to pay,” Willow informed Edge, and the man sighed, giving her a slightly embarrassed smile as he shrugged.

“Old habits die hard and all of that. The gentleman in me or something. Besides that, you really don’t need to take me out to breakfast in the first place,” he told her, and the redhead arched a brow at him.

“Have we already forgotten my resolve face? Don’t make me use it again. Besides, I do owe you after how wonderful you were, staying with me and making sure I was okay-”

“And I was just being nice. You don’t owe me anything for that. Can’t you just let me be nice to you and not have to do something back?”

“I don’t like owing people,” Willow told him with a sigh, and he frowned.

“But you don’t owe me a thing. I just told you that. I don’t expect anything from you because of last night. I just wanted to make sure you were okay,” he said, then added at the woman’s look, “Hasn’t anyone done something for you and not expected you to do something for them in return?”

Willow heaved out a long sigh. “See, what you’re saying... Being nice and not really expecting something back, that kind of makes me think of a friend. What you did last night was something that a friend would do-”

“And you have way too many friends already,” Edge said with a knowing nod, the picture of seriousness. “You most assuredly don’t need to add me to the list, considering the sheer number of people you’re constantly surrounded by.”

“Cute.”

Edge grinned. “I thought so. Being a smartass will probably be my downfall. At least, that’s what Lita tells me. I think that means that if I’m a smartass at the wrong time towards her, she’s going to kick my ass,” he informed her, and Willow grinned, making Edge’s smile widen as well. “I think that’s the first time I’ve seen you smile... No, don’t stop... Although the blush replacing it is pretty adorable.”

“You’re an evil man,” Willow huffed, then smiled again, unable to stop herself. God, he could actually make her smile, and laugh, and... She felt real when she was around him, not like just a shell of herself. The only other person who had made herself feel real since she left Sunnydale was Jericho, and that had been mostly ‘cause he pissed her off at first. Now she was actually pretty sure she was reluctantly beginning to like the guy. And Regal made her feel real, too, she supposed, but only because she wanted to break the bastard’s nose. No, it wasn’t just that Edge made her feel real. He actually made her feel happy as well.

“Hey, earth to Willow,” Edge intoned, waving a hand in front of her face, and she jerked slightly, focusing on him once again, scrunching up her nose.

“Sorry. Just thinking. I kind of do that too much on occasion,” the redhead informed him, then frowned, her eyes widening. “Well, that’s weird.”

“What’s weird?” the blonde man questioned, and when Willow gestured to something beyond his shoulder, Edge turned his head to see what she meant, and his eyes widened at what he saw. Confusion in his expression, he turned back to the woman sitting across from him. “Am I seeing things?”

“I don’t think so. And, uh, if you are, I’m going with it’s some sort of a mass hallucination or something, because I see it, too. At least, if it’s Chris Jericho and Lita walking in together... And now sitting at a booth together. Okay, is this an alternate reality, because I swear he just smiled at her,” Willow said, and Edge frowned, shaking his head a little as he looked over at the unlikely pair.

“I think he did. And it wasn’t with any malice, either. That’s weird...” An odd expression on his face, the man turned back to Willow. “Did you... After smashing Regal’s face in like you did, did you, uh, did you happen to whack Jericho upside the head as well and maybe give him a concussion?”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s just... I haven’t seen Jericho and Lita talk to one another since before Survivor Series. Not only that, but I haven’t seen him actually be nice to someone in... Well, at least that long. And oh, my God, she just smiled at him. Okay, *I* must have been the one hit in the head, because I am surely seeing things,” he said, shaking his head, and Willow laughed delightedly.

“Oh, you are just so cute!” she said before she could stop herself, grinning at him, and the Canadian arched a brow at her as he returned his attention completely to her, giving her one of those killer smiles she’d heard people talk about. She’d seen it in the ring a time or two when the fans were really going wild, but it had never been at this close a range or directed exclusively at her. It was, quite honestly, devastating to the senses. Oh, yeah, this guy was definitely hot, and...

“So you think I’m cute, do you?” he asked her, that killer grin still in place, his comment yanking Willow out of what was about to become some major self-flagellation for having the thoughts she had been about to have about the man across from her... Now, she was blushing instead. Again.

“Well, uh-”

“I have to admit, that’s kind of a relief,” he informed her, reaching across the table to cover her hand with his, and Willow couldn’t help it, she turned her hand over and twined her fingers with his. She hadn’t meant to do it, but she just hadn’t been able to stop herself. “I mean, now I don’t have to wonder about it, considering how I think you’re pretty cute yourself.”

“You... You do?” Willow managed a bit dumbly, part of her feeling as if this couldn’t possibly be real, but the feel of Edge’s thumb rubbing over the back of her hand felt pretty real.

“Yeah, I-” Edge broke off then, frowning as he turned Willow’s hand over, tracing over the scar that marred the soft skin, then looking back up at her. “This looks... It’s not a very old scar. What happened?”

The redhead bit her lip, trying to figure out what to say to him - anything but the truth - but she was saved when she felt eyes on her, on them, and she looked over at where they were coming from, Edge following suit when he noticed the change in her attention... It seemed that Jericho and Lita had finally noticed their presence as well.

And Jericho was on his way over.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Part Sixteen

Edge heaved out a breath as he looked up at Jericho. “Is there a problem?” he wanted to know, and Y2J arched an eyebrow as he looked down at them both, carefully placing his palms on the table. Edge kind of got the feeling that Jericho wanted to ball those hands into fists and pound them into his face but was fighting the urge, mostly for Willow’s benefit rather than his.

Jericho looked from his little redheaded manager to the man she was sitting with, then back again. “What exactly is going on here?”

“I’m buying Edge breakfast. Or at least, I’m trying to. He’s being difficult,” she confided, then arched a brow at Chris when he didn’t leave or even seem in the least bit placated. “Is there something else you want?”

“Can I ask why you’re having breakfast with him?”

“Well, it’s my version of payment for the fabulous sex we had last night,” the redhead shot at him, then reached out and grabbed his wrist before he could plant his fist in Edge’s face. “I was lying to you, Chris. Put your fist away before you cause a scene.”

Jericho did just that, letting his hand drop to his side, keeping his distrustful gaze on the man Willow was currently sitting with, mildly surprised that the man hadn’t even moved an inch, not even when he’d raised his fist at him, and he didn’t seem inclined to move even now.

Willow reached out and patted Chris’s arm. “Good boy. A few more weeks, and I may actually let you out of the laundry room when we have company,” she told him, and Jericho sent a look her way.

“I’m not a misbehaving pet.”

“Then stop acting like one. If you insist on knowing what’s going on here, why don’t you tell us what’s going on with you?” the little redhead suggested, gesturing with her head towards Lita, who was still seated in the other booth, though her attention was focused on the three of them. Willow smiled and offered the woman a wave, to which Lita responded with a wave and a tentative smile of her own.

Jericho flashed a look over his shoulder at Lita, wondering what he should say. After all, the events that had brought him to being here and having breakfast with the pretty diva weren’t really his story to tell. He didn’t think Lita would take too kindly to having him announce that Matt had come by to harass her yet again the night before. And that also led him to believe that maybe Willow didn’t want to talk about how it was that she and Edge had ended up having breakfast together, and...

“You *were* just joking with the whole ‘sex’ comment, weren’t you?” Jericho questioned suspiciously, and Willow rolled her eyes before exchanging a look with Edge.

“Yes, I was joking. Puh-leeze. I’m not the type to have sex with someone I hardly know. I mean, I’m not a slut like you,” she said charmingly to the man she managed, drawing a scowl from Chris. “Besides, Edge here is too much of a gentleman. Unlike you.”

“Actually, Chris can be a gentleman when he wants to be,” Lita said as she walked up, stopping beside the blonde man, offering a smile to both Willow and Edge. “Good morning.”

“’Morning, Red,” Edge told his friend with a wink, then frowned a little. “So, what brought you here with this jerk? Anything I need to kill him for? ‘Cause I really will kill him for you if you want me to. Painfully.”

The redhead made a shrugging motion with her shoulders. “It’s not... I let him use my phone, and he repaid me by helping me keep Matt out of the hotel room,” she said, trying to keep her tone light, but Edge’s gaze darkened considerably at just the mention of Matt Hardy’s name.

“What did he do?” the blonde man snapped out, his gray eyes flashing dangerously, the look in them more intense than they were when he was kicking the crap out of William Regal.

“He didn’t do anything,” Lita told him, shaking her head slightly, and it didn’t skip Willow’s notice that Chris Jericho had reached out to put a hand on Lita’s arm, seemingly for support. It surprised her a little to see him show any sign of concern for anyone - well, anyone besides her or himself - but it was nice as well.

“But he tried to,” the smaller redhead said knowingly, then added, “The offer of brass knuckles still stands, you know.”

“She knows. And I may be taking you up on that offer,” Jericho spoke up, causing both Edge and Willow to lift their brows in surprise, and Edge was the first to speak.

“Since when do you care?”

“Excuse me?”

“I asked when you started caring again, because from what I remember, it’s been awhile,” the younger man said, eyeing the Undisputed champion, and Jericho sighed, looking over at Lita, who looked distinctly uncomfortable. He knew that Edge would probably understand what had changed, why he cared, if he had seen the redhead last night, crying her eyes out like she had been, how upset she’d been after Matt said to her, but...

“Maybe I changed my mind, okay?” he finally said, his eyes challenging the other man to press forward with his interrogation, and Willow looked up at Lita exchanging an exasperated look with the other woman.

“Are you two done?”

“What do you mean, done?” Chris asked, and Lita rolled her eyes, answering for Willow.

“She means are the two of you done with all of the male posturing, because it’s getting kind of old. I don’t know why Edge and Willow are here together, and they’ve been given all the information I’m willing to give at the moment about why we’re here together. So the whole overprotective big brother thing the two of you have going on can really just stop now, and we can all just have a pleasant breakfast.”

“We could even have it together,” Willow put in, then frowned. “Though that may not be entirely pleasant.”

“It’s either that, or these two will keep shooting nasty looks at each other across the room,” Lita stated, and after a brief pause, the other redhead nodded and slid out of her seat, moving around to join Edge on his side of the booth, then gestured to the bench across from them.

“Here, have a seat. Join us.”

Jericho shot Lita a look, then gestured for her to slip in first, sliding in after her, and Lita offered Willow as cheerful a smile as she could manage. “This should be an interesting meal,” she said, trying to be positive.

She’d call it a successful meal if the two men didn’t come to blows.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Part Seventeen

“So, Dawnie, what are we doing?” Anya asked as she joined the teenager at the kitchen table of the apartment she shared with Xander. The former demon had called and left a message at the Summers’ house to let Giles and Buffy know that the girl was with her, not wanting them to worry when they woke up and Dawn was gone.

Dawn glanced up as the former demon sat down, scooting her chair closer so that she could see what the girl was doing on the laptop. It was technically Willow’s but the redhead had given it to Xander and Anya when
she had left town. With any luck, it would now help them track Willow down.

“I’m at the WWF website right now, actually. They have archives of stuff
that happened, with pictures and everything. It’s definitely our Willow,”
Dawn said as she pointed to a picture that she had brought up, and Anya
frowned.

“Why is Willow being carried by that large and muscle-y man?” she asked, and the younger Summers girl heaved out a sigh.

“Apparently, that man is Chris Jericho, and he’s one of the men Willow
manages.”

“Oh, well, he’s really quite attractive. Do you think Willow’s had sex with
him? Or maybe she doesn’t even notice how attractive he is,” the woman
said, then added at Dawn’s look, “And my question as to why he’s carrying
Willow still stands. When is this picture from?”

“Last week, apparently. Um, according to the summary of the show for that
night, Willow walked out a guy named William Regal, and he pulled her in
front of him as a shield. His opponent, Kane, tried to stop himself, but he
still kicked Willow in the face and knocked her down. He tried to check on
her, but that horrible Regal guy pulled him in the ring and pinned him. Chris Jericho came out and took care of her. It’s all that Regal guy’s fault,” Dawn told her, and Anya frowned.

“Well, I don’t think I like that at all,” she commented. “What a nasty man.
That was really very rude of him. I’ve punished men for less than that
during my time as a vengeance demon-”

“But I think he’s already been gotten back for that,” Dawn replied, looking
over at Anya. “I only watched part of the show last night since I was all
flipping through the channels and everything, but they do have a summary up already. No pictures yet, but oh, well. Basically, it said that this guy
Edge challenged Regal to a match. Edge is the Intercontinental Champion,
which is pretty major. Anyway, during his matches, Regal seems to use brass knuckles a lot, and well... Willow walked out with him again and when the time presented itself, she hit Regal with the brass knuckles, which she was supposed to be carrying for him. Don’t think he intended for her to give
them to him in quite that way.”

“Well, good for Willow,” Anya said with a firm nod of her head, then frowned, looking at the much younger girl. “This really isn’t helping us, is it?”

“Not really. But it’s letting us know what she’s been up to. That’s important, too, isn’t it?” Dawn offered, then pointed to the screen. “Plus, they have this schedule up where you can see where they’re about to go. That means we know where the WWF is heading, and...”

“And if we really wanted to, we could be there when she got there,” Anya
finished up, and Dawn gave a decisive nod.

“Exactly.”

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

“We almost died this time-”

“We almost die a lot of times, Riley,” Graham Miller replied, rubbing his hands over his face. “The good news is that we didn’t.”

“But it’s-”

“It’s what? Not what you signed up for? Come off it, Finn, it’s exactly what you signed up for, and you know it. We go after demons, and that’s dangerous. That’s the way it goes,” Graham reminded him, and Riley sighed.

“I know that, it’s just...”

“Just what? You miss your girl? Well, I’m betting Buffy is over missing you by now.”

“I have Sam, and she’s all I need. I’m over Buffy Summers,” Riley Finn stated, and Graham just barely managed to keep himself from responding to that with a roll of his eyes. Since Riley had left and come back, Graham
was actually the higher ranking officer of the two, and Graham knew that it
sometimes annoyed the hell out of his friend to have to take orders from
him.

“Whatever you say, man. I mean, it’s only how often that you mention the
Slayer? And first thing when we got back on American soil, you tried to
find out what she was up to out in ol’ Sunnydale. Sunnydale holds nothing
for you, man. Maybe it did once, but not anymore. And I don’t suggest you
let your wife know you’re still hung up on your old girl,” he stated, and
they both froze at the sound of someone approaching. Within moments,
Samantha Finn was walking through the door, and she arched a brow at both men.

“Am I interrupting something?” she asked, and Riley shrugged, going over to his wife.

“Just some old college talk.”

“Oh, Lord, the frat boy stuff. Not what I really wanted to walk into,” the tall brunette replied with a roll of her eyes, then turned to Graham. He was her commanding officer as well, but he never really insisted on the whole stand at attention thing. He’d pull rank when he needed to, and everyone knew they had damn sure better listen to his orders when they were out there, but in situations like this, they had a tendency to be pretty informal. “They’re talking about this new demon of ours. It’s a dangerous one, and with no shamans here in the States to help us track it...”

“We’re kind of screwed,” Graham finished for her when she trailed off. He
figured he may as well be blunt in this thing. “So, we need someone who can do magic?”

“Yeah, we do. Someone good. Locator spell that is able to keep tracking
this thing until we find it. From what I hear, that will take a lot of magic,” Sam stated.

Riley frowned. “Well, I know a witch-”

“You’re talking about the redhead, aren’t you?” Graham asked.

Riley was still for a moment, then he nodded slowly. “Yeah, Willow. But um, when I got back here, I tried emailing her. The email’s discontinued, and-”

“We can go to Sunnydale, can’t we?” Sam asked, frowning as she saw Graham typing something into his laptop, and she lifted her brows as he turned it around to show her and Riley the screen.

“We won’t need to go to Sunnydale, because the little redhead isn’t there,”
he told them, pointing to the screen, where her picture was prominently
displayed, then tapping the logo at the top of the screen. “She’s here.”

“The WWF?” Riley asked, confused. “Why would she- And how would you-”

“I’ve always been a fan of wrestling, you know that. A couple of times
between missions I caught a show or two on television, and I saw her. She’s
been there awhile.”

“Well, she’s our witch,” Riley told his friend, still shocked about where
Willow was. “Which means... I guess we go to the WWF.”


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Part Eighteen

Willow tucked her hair behind her ears as she and Lita made their way back
up towards their rooms, flicking a look back at the taller of the two
redheads. “Well, I have to say that breakfast went well. There were no
punches thrown, despite the fact that the guys may have wanted to throw
some.”

“True enough. But the barbs were kept to a minimum,” Lita added with a nod
of agreement. “All in all, it went very well. I thought Chris was going to
throw a fit when he saw you sitting there with Edge.”

“Yeah, and I’m pretty sure Edge wanted to do the same to Chris when he saw
him walk in there with you. Looks like we’ve both got us a couple of
protecto guys,” the former witch said, feeling slightly odd talking to the
other woman. Two weeks ago, they wouldn’t have even said hello, though that
was more Willow’s choice than Lita’s. Willow had kept her distance from
everyone... Except maybe Chris, and then Edge came along and now... Well,
things had definitely changed, and Willow definitely felt that it was for
the better.

“Yeah, well, after the whole thing with Matt, I guess I’m grateful that
Chris went protecto for me last night,” Lita said on a sigh, making a face,
and Willow gave a shrug.

“I suppose... You can still have the brass knuckles if you want them. If
I’m capable of breaking William Regal’s nose with them, then it would be
really interesting to see what you could do to Matt Hardy with them,” the
redhead said with the slightest of smirks, her brow arched, and Lita
couldn’t help but smile in response.

“I suppose you’re right about that,” the former women’s champion replied,
reaching into her pocket for her keycard as they made it to her room.
“Breakfast was nice... I’m actually glad we got to talk and stuff.”

“So am I. It’s been awhile since... Well, it was just nice. I’ll see you
later,” Willow said, starting to continue on her way, then looking back at
Lita. “Do you think it was safe to leave the guys alone with each other?
There might be violence.”

“Possibly. Which kind of makes me wish I’d stuck around. It could be fun
to watch,” Lita said with a smile, then slipped through her door, giving
Willow a little wave. “Later, Willow.”

“Later.”

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

“Okay, are we getting to the part where you’re going to act like a complete
idiot and try to attack me, or are you just going to keep pacing
indefinitely?” Edge wanted to know as he continued to watch Chris Jericho as
the other man paced the length of the room they were in - Jericho’s hotel
room.

Y2J shot a look at him. “I haven’t decided yet. I’d really like to know
why you went to Willow’s room last night, though. And don’t feed me some
crappy line of bull, Edge. I have one hell of a BS detector.”

“Hey, she broke Regal’s nose last night. She helped me, whether you want to
admit it or not, and I figured she got yelled at for it. I wanted to make
sure she was okay, that’s all. I didn’t know she would break down like she
did. I just stayed to make sure she was all right.”

Chris paused in his stalking, pinning the other man with a look. “What do
you mean, break down?”

“I mean exactly what I said. She was a mess, and I don’t think it had
anything to do with last night. What do you know about her Chris? About
her past, about... Anything? I mean, she’s Willow. Little bitty thing, red
hair, apparently got some spunk, but... That’s all. What do any of us
really know about her? Where is she even from?”

“I think she’s from California, but I don’t know for sure,” Jericho finally
admitted, hating that Edge was right. There really wasn’t a lot anyone knew
about Willow. She’d just kind of shown up out of nowhere and... Well,
everything that Edge had just said was the sum total of what most people
could say they knew about her. “Not exactly a lot of information, I know,
but... There’s just something about her. Makes you want to protect her or
something.”

“Yeah, I guess... And what about Lita? Do I even want to know why you were
there for her last night? Yeah, you used her phone, but why in the hell
were you in her room in the first place?” Edge demanded to know, arching a
brow at the other man, and Jericho heaved out a sigh.

“I was trying to find Willow. I asked for the wrong name - the name Lita
books herself a room under instead of the one Willow does. That’s all. I
happened to find her room, and she happened to be nice enough to let me use
her phone. Thankfully. How long has Matt been treating her this way?”
Chris wanted to know, and Edge shrugged.

“Since the break up, I guess. Jeff does his best to keep Matt away from
her. Doesn’t even want her walking out with him when he’s fighting Matt.
Of course, with Lita being Lita, that doesn’t sit too well with her, but-”

“But Jeff has a point. Matt Hardy shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near Lita.
The things he said to her-”

“Oh, and is he any worse than you’ve been lately?” Edge wanted to know,
giving the other man a look, and the Undisputed champion heaved out another
sigh, raking a hand through his long hair.

“Maybe I haven’t been a prince, but I’m no Matt Hardy. I’m not going to
hurt Lita, okay? Whether you believe me or not, I have no evil intentions
towards her.”

The taller of the two blonde men arched a brow, then stepped closer to
Jericho, keeping his eyes on those of Y2J, his arms crossed over his chest.
“You don’t have to have evil intentions to hurt her, and you know it. You
could hurt her without meaning to, and I don’t want to see that happen.”

“I don’t want it to happen, either. Maybe a few days ago I didn’t care or I
told myself that I didn’t but... You weren’t there last night, Edge. You
didn’t see how torn up she was. I did. I’m not going to hurt Lita.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Yeah, and you don’t know that you won’t hurt Willow even worse than she has
been in the past. I don’t know much about her, but I know she’s hiding
something, and it has to do with pain,” Chris told the other man. “I don’t
want to see her hurt, and I’ll kill you if you hurt her.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll kill you if you hurt Lita,” Edge shot back, not backing
down as the Undisputed champion glared at him, and Jericho finally just gave
a sort of shrug, still meeting the other man’s eyes.

“Well, then I guess we’ve finally found some common ground.”




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Part Nineteen

Willow heaved out a breath as she looked over at Chris. “And why is it that
you’re insisting on taking me to the arena with you?” she wanted to know,
and he arched a brow at her.

“Are you forgetting that little incident a few days ago on RAW when you
broke William Regal’s nose? Because I can assure you, he hasn’t. I doubt
Vince has, either,” he informed her, and the redhead made a face.

“Does this sudden protectiveness have anything to do with those papers you
had me sign and took to Linda McMahon yesterday?”

“The protectiveness isn’t sudden, no matter what you might think, and might
I remind you that William Regal has knocked out grown men with those damn
brass knuckles of his? It’s not going to happen to you, okay? And those
papers were important. They may save your job. They make you my manager,
and take you out of Vince’s control. With Linda being the one to sign them,
it means Vance McMahon can’t fire you without board approval, and you know
that’s not going to happen,” he told her, and after a long moment, the
slender redhead nodded. That did, after all, make sense. Of course, that
didn’t change the fact that Vince could suddenly decide to put her in a
match versus the Dudleys or something for pissing him off. She wouldn’t put
it past the bastard to do so, either.

Willow made a face. “Fine... But I still think you’re insisting that I
arrive with you to keep me away from Edge,” she said with a pout, and he
sent her an innocent look.

“Would I do that?” he asked, putting a hand to his chest and attempting to
look slightly affronted that she would even ask that question. Willow
didn’t buy it.

“Yes, Chris, you would. And I’m betting that Edge is thinking of all sorts
of ways to get back at you for that by making sure you can’t get near Lita,’
she tossed back, knowing she had hit a chord and proud of it when that
comment earned her a scowl.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Yeah, sure you don’t, oh great champion,” she said in a deadpan voice, then
added, “You know, if you let me near Edge, he may very well let down his
guard long enough for you to get near Lita. Of course, then you’ll still
have Jeff and Rob and probably several others to deal with, but hey... I’ve
seen the way you keep your hands on those titles. You’re resourceful.”

Chris sent her an annoyed look, reaching out to put his hand over her face
and lightly push, drawing a giggle from the young woman. It was the first
time he’d actually heard her giggle. Because of that, he was unable to keep
from smiling at her. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re a pain in the
ass?” he wanted to know, and Willow frowned slightly, pretending to think as
she cocked her head to the side, then shrugged.

“Can’t say that they have. Though I’m sure many, many, *many* people have
called *you* a pain in the ass. In fact, I’m willing to be that Lita has...
Within the last week,” the redhead said, drawing another look from Chris.

“I personally think Matt Hardy is higher on her hit list than I am,
especially now. I think she might like me,” he said haughtily, and Willow
smiled, reaching out to take his arm, starting to head for the door so they
could head out to the arena.

“You just keep thinking that, okay?”

“Willow?”

“Yeah?”

“Bite me.”

“You know, that’s really not something you would want to say in my
hometown.”

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

“I’m not sure I like this,” Edge commented, earning an arched brow from the
pretty redhead across from him. She rolled her eyes as she began swinging
her legs back and forth, perched on the end of the desk in her hotel room.

“I don’t recall asking you whether or not you liked it. And I have a pretty
good memory,” Lita informed him, sticking her tongue out with Edge gave her
a slightly annoyed look.

“Well, I’m telling you what I think anyway, okay?” was his reply, and then
he softened, stepping forward and putting his hands on his friend’s
shoulders. “I just don’t want to see you get hurt, Lita.”

“Hey, I don’t want to see me get hurt, either. But he helped me out the
other night, and he was nothing but nice the next morning. He was actually
a perfect gentleman when he stayed in my room. And somehow I doubt he could
hurt me any more than I’ve already been hurt in the past,” she informed him,
and Edge sighed, shaking his head at the woman.

“I don’t think *that* is going to be the winning argument, my dear Lita.”

“How about, it’s my life, and you don’t get a say in it?” was her next
offer, and she sent him an arched brow as she poked at his chest. “Because
I think that’s a winner.”

Edge sighed, shaking his head as he stepped back from her, then flopped down
on her bed. “Look, Lita, I’m not arguing that you can’t make your own
decisions or something like that. I know you’re a grown woman and
incredibly intelligent, but... You’ve had a rough time as of late, and I
just don’t know if I trust Jericho’s intentions, especially after the way
he’s behaved since Survivor Series.”

“You do realize that all of your negativity is just making me want to hang
around with Chris more and more just to prove you wrong, don’t you?” Lita
wanted to know, and the blonde man rolled his eyes.

“So, what? If I went on and on about how great he was, you’d run screaming
in the other direction? Well, if that’s the case-”

“Too late to attempt reverse psychology to get what you want, Edge. And
besides, it’s not like I’m going to go and jump Chris, tear off his clothes,
and take him to bed-”

“Okay, bad imagery.”

“It was intentional,” Lita allowed, then smiled at him. “Look, I’m not
trying to rush into anything. I just want to give Chris a chance to prove
he’s human again.”

“Yeah, well, Jeff wouldn’t like it.”

“He’s my friend, not my keeper, and he doesn’t know.”

“And if I told him?”

“I’d be forced to disclose that you spent the night after RAW in Willow’s
room, and he’d be so busy ridiculing you about that he would forget about
me,” she told him, and Edge frowned at her.

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Oh, but I would.”
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The authors own nothing. Joss, UPN, WB, etc. own Buffy, the show, the characters, the places, and the backstory. The authors own any original plots.