Willow kept clicking the remote, but she couldn’t find any reruns of The Simpsons or Doogie Howser. Or Bewitched. Just something light to take her mind off her troubles. Why were her parents paying for cable when more than half the channels were just running infomercials?
There was a knock at her door. Willow grabbed a handful of popcorn and stayed in her chair.
The knocking became more insistent, and Willow's conscience nagged at her. Maybe someone needed shelter from a vampire. She'd never forgive herself if she'd ignored that.
She opened the door. "Riley? Don't take this the wrong way, but if Buffy sent you, I don't wanna deal right now. Buffy already told me that Tara probably didn’t mean to hurt me, and Buffy feels bad for both of us right now. Then Xander tried to cheer me up by telling me a lot of stupid jokes, like that’s gonna fix everything. Dawnie told me I have to forgive Tara because Tara feels sooo bad and apparently that’s my fault, and Giles told me how concerned he is about me, which really means that he doesn't want me to do any magic-ing while angry."
"No one sent me." Riley said.
"Then why are you here?" She wished that the question had come out all haughty and dismissive, but instead, there was a plaintive note. Crud. She didn't want to sound pathetic.
"I hadn't seen you in a few days, and I got worried."
Willow looked for any sign of insincerity, and couldn't find any. Riley hadn't lied to her or talked down to her. He didn't deserve to bear the brunt of her sour mood.
She opened the door, waited for him to walk in without invitation (she was never making that mistake again). He sat down on the couch, and she sat next to him.
Riley said, "Since everyone else has talked your ear off, how about you talk and I listen?"
"I'm mad that Tara thought she was a demon, and lied to me about it, and no one else seemed to care. I get that it’s not something you tell someone on the first date, but we’ve been together for nearly a year! I’ve tried over and over and over to understand what her plan was. The only thing I know is that she was gonna either leave with her family, turn into a demon, or maybe even die. And no matter what, it was gonna be one big happy surprise to me, because she didn’t warn me."
Riley said, "I think you have the right to be angry about that."
Weasel words. She pounced. "But you don't think I should. I should think about poor sweet Tara and how bad she felt and be all forgiving and compassionate, because Buffy’s already decided that Tara’s part of our family now, no matter how I feel about it--"
"No," Riley said. "You should feel whatever it is you're feeling right now."
She gave him a skeptical look. That therapisty sentence still left lots of weasel room in there for him to be silently judging her.
He said, "Fine. You want to know what I think? If my girlfriend did that to me, I would be absolutely furious."
She felt tears spring up, and pushed them back. She finally, finally, had someone who understood her, and she didn't want to screw it up by blubbering all over him.
There was a silence, and she realized that he was waiting for her to say something, even though there wasn't anything else to say. But as so often happened, she started talking anyway.
“Tara kept complaining about the spells that I did. Like if she showed me an itty-bitty light spell, and I made it bigger and more useful, that was bad. There was all this stuff about whether I was living up to the perfect Wiccan ideals. And then she did that spell so she could double down on lying to me and nearly got us all killed. I think the thing that hurts the most is that I've been feeling like I'm not good enough for her. And now I find out that's she a big lying liar who lies, so how much of a loser must I be, if I'm not good enough for someone like that?"
"Jesus, Willow. I'm sorry. It sucks to be with someone and feel like you're never good enough for them."
There was something vulnerable in his voice just then, and Willow sensed that he was coming from a place of empathy rather than sympathy. She wondered what on earth could make Riley feel like he wasn't good enough. He was smart and gorgeous and funny, and instead of being all conceited about it, he was just--nice. To practically everyone. What girl hadn't appreciated that?
“And now I’m wondering if everything she did and said was a lie. Or if she was only interested in the magic, and not me. And if maybe that’s the only reason somebody would be interested in me.”
"Willow,” Riley said. “There's nothing wrong with you. There’s way more to you than magic. It wasn’t magic that got you interested in operant conditioning before you went to college. It wasn’t magic that made you put aside your own pain to help me with Buffy. If people can't see how terrific you are, well, those people are idiots."
Sp apparently nearly everybody in the world was an idiot. That was not particularly helpful.
“And anyone who’s pressuring you to forgive Tara before you’re ready is being an asshole.”
"Whoa, mister. That's your girlfriend you're talking about there."
"Yeah, well, I stand by my statement."
He sounded so bitter. Willow finally pieced it together. "Buffy's the one who makes you feel like you're not good enough?"
"Yeah," he said. "It's not like I wasn't warned. You told me it could only end badly, and I insisted on plowing forward anyway."
She'd warned him? Oh, right. “That was just me projecting my Oz-issues on everyone else. I wouldn't have helped if I hadn't thought you guys had a chance. I thought she wanted to be with a nice guy, so I tried to set her up with the kind of guy that I--um, that Buffy would have wanted to date. Or anyone would have wanted to date." Her face burned hot. She hoped he wouldn't catch that slip-up.
Riley was staring at her, and she could almost see the wheels turning in his head. "Oh my God. I'm such a fucking idiot."
Oh no. They'd had some real rapport going on. And she'd broken it with her stupid attraction to someone she shouldn’t be attracted to, and her even stupider inability to keep her mouth shut.
Riley buried his head in his hands. How badly had she screwed up if he couldn’t even look at her? Then he said, "I could have been with someone who I could talk to, someone I felt comfortable with. Someone who understood me. And I only figured it out when it was too late.”
She touched his shoulder. “Riley, it’s not too late. Not for me, anyway.”
He looked straight into her eyes, a look that burned her with its intensity. She returned it, and he moved in on her, and kissed her hard.
It was a hungry, desperate kiss, exactly what Willow needed. Tenderness or softness would have rubbed salt in her wounds. She broke the kiss and bit Riley’s neck, reveling in his groan of pleasure.
A small voice in her head told her that before she started kissing someone else, she should officially tell Tara it was over. She ignored it. There had never been Willow and Tara. There had only been Willow and Tara’s lies.
The small voice brought up Buffy, and that was harder to ignore.
Riley’s mind must have been running along a similar track, because he murmured in her ear, “I’ll break up with Buffy tomorrow.”
“Good,” Willow said. Riley’s hands slid under her bra, sending a surge of heat down her spine. “Riley, I need you--”
He shuddered, then grabbed her arms and pushed her down onto her back. Then he was on top of her, driving his hips against her in a fast, relentless rhythm.
So she was a boyfriend-stealing skank. That was ok. It felt so much better than being a gullible little pushover.