Bad Feelings and Love Handles

by Sheila Marie Lane
Copyright 1997

Dedicated, with aggravation, to Chris, Judy, and Beth. And Lizbet: he is definitely "really much a lot better" in person.

Standard disclaimers apply.


"Sorry," Willow said for the hundredth time as she helped Buffy into a chair in the library.

Giles came out of the stacks, took one look, and came running. "What happened?"

"Nothing," Buffy said with disgust. "Nothing at all. Xander, quit hovering."

Xander gave her an extremely offended look and plopped into the chair next to her. "Willow's hovering. I'm just being concerned."

"What happened?" Giles repeated with some force.

"Nothing, I told you. I tripped in gym class."

"Over me," Willow said miserably.

Xander patted Willow's arm. "It's not your fault. You just happened to be there."

"And she just *happened* to take a header."

"Will! It's okay, really. I promise." But Willow was obviously not convinced.

Giles, meanwhile, was down on his knees examining Buffy's right ankle. "Yes, I'd say you definitely sprained it."

Buffy looked pained. Willow looked guilty. Xander looked confused. "Wait a minute. How is it that you fight all kinds of demons, monsters, and what-have-you and barely breathe hard. But--"

"But." Buffy said with a wince as Giles probed. "But I take a header in gym class. Gee, I'm lucky." She rolled her eyes.

"I am *so* sorry, Buffy."

Buffy reached over and tugged one of Willow's braids. "Stop it, silly. Or I'll sprain *your* ankle."

Willow looked rather as though she'd feel better if Buffy did, but she subsided.

"Well, stay off it," Giles said finally. "Slayers heal faster than most, but they still need to heal. Go home and rest."

"No slaying? Way cool." Buffy grinned. "I'm gonna go home, suck down the Motrin, and watch bad movies on cable."

"Sounds like a plan," Xander said with a grin. "Can I come?"

"Sure! How about you, Willow?"

"Uh...I don't know." Willow kept her head down and her face blank, anyway. "I'll get back to you. Bye. Sorry."

As she disappeared out the door, Buffy turned to Xander with a frown. "For no apparent reason, I have a bad feeling."

He looked down at her bag. "You might be wrong."

"About the bad feeling?"

"No, the non-apparent reason. Don't you usually carry a stake in here?"

She twisted to look. "Yeah--it's gone! Willow!" She jumped to her feet, then sank back down with a moan.

Xander sighed. Visions of semi-dates with Buffy floated above his head, then disappeared. "No. I'll go."

Giles watched him hurry out the door, then turned to Buffy.

"Now I *really* have a bad feeling," she said darkly.


Xander found Willow, as he had expected to, curled next to a tombstone in the graveyard looking incredibly scared.

"Willow, what the heck do you think you're doing?" He crouched down beside her. "It's not even dark yet, for cripe's sake."

"I know. But I didn't want to come in when it was dark."

"Uh-huh. So you decided to come in..." He checked his watch. "At two-thirty?"

She shrugged. "I didn't have anything better to do."

He scooted closer to her. "I know you better than that, Willow. You're embarrassed, and you're guilty, and you're afraid Buffy's mad at you and hiding it. So you came out here to brood."

She looked over at him in astonishment. "Where did all that come from?"

He shrugged. "We've been buds since preschool, Willow. I was bound to get a handle on you at some point."

She snickered.


"A handle on me?"


She snickered again.

"Stop that!"

"I'm sorry. It's just...the mental picture..." She trailed off into laughter.

He glared at her for a moment, then a really evil light flashed into his eyes. "Oh, really." And before she could react, he had her down on the ground as his fingers poked her sides.


"No handles here..."

"Xander, stop that!"

"And none here. Hm, wonder if..."


"Okay, there's a possibility. Hey!" And Xander collapsed on the ground as Willow found the particularly ticklish spot at the base of his ribs.


Fifteen minutes later, they were both covered in grass and completely exhausted. Willow panted several times before finding the breath to say, "Get off me, you oaf."

"Who you callin' an oaf?" Xander tried to summon the strength for revenge and failed. He propped most of his weight on his arms and looked down at Willow. He looked down at her for a long, time, in fact, until she shifted under him.


"I don't know." He kept looking. "You're a pretty girl, Willow Ann."

She caught her breath and tried to smile normally. "You haven't said that to me in a long time. Years."

"It's still true."

They stared at each other for a moment more, then Xander looked away and rolled off her. "Come on. You can't protect the world until after dark anyway, and you've already missed most of last period. Let's go get a Coke."

"Okay." Willow let Xander pull her to her feet. They brushed each other off, trying to laugh and not quite making it. Xander grabbed her hand and started off.

Willow hung back. "Xander?"


She waited until he turned back. Then she went up on tiptoe and kissed him.

He looked at her for a moment. "Oh."

"Oh?" She swallowed hard. "That's all you have to say? Oh?"

"Yeah." He smiled, slowly, then took her hand again, linking their fingers together.

Willow looked up at him. She knew she was blushing. "Oh."

"Come on."

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